He always did his best thinking in the sweet spot.
Legs crossed and hands interlocked behind his head, Travis Mayweather stared at the small porthole Commander Tucker had installed several months after they left Earth the first time. Beyond it, Travis could see part of the Kreetassan homeworld as Enterprise slowly crossed the planet’s terminator and into the nightside. Beyond the brown and white orb, a glittering field of stars burned and twinkled like a billion diamonds, each as precious as the other. A feather of red and blue and green from a distant nebula drifted into view as the starship continued her silent journey, and Mayweather blew out a soft breath at the beauty of the sight.
This was why he had joined Starfleet.
At the moment, he needed every reminder he could find. In the month or so since Ambassador Soval joined the crew, Travis had found himself the unwilling prize in a constant tug of war between the Vulcan and Captain Archer. At first, Mayweather rather enjoyed the newfound attention, especially since he’d often felt like little more than a glorified chauffeur, but in recent weeks, it had turned positively stifling. The limited free time in his schedule vanished as Captain Archer began scheduling new duties for him, or the ambassador cornered him with quizzes about his experiences as a Boomer. Even worse were the breakfasts that had become a routine occurrence; nothing in his short life had prepared him for the sheer discomfort of sitting at a small table with a Vulcan and a captain talking at him rather than to him. Only the glint of sympathy in Commander Hernandez’s eyes kept him from going completely mad.
And he still didn’t understand what either of the two expected to get out of driving him up the damned wall.
To his utter lack of surprise, Travis found most of his fellow officers and crewmen did not envy his position in the slightest, no matter how much personal instruction he was receiving from the commanding officer of the ship. More often than not, his crewmates would cover for him when he was desperately trying to keep out of sight of either Archer or Soval. Some, like Hoshi or Petty Officer Rostov, had become veritable life savers as neither would hesitate to sweep in and rescue him if they found him cornered by one of the two crazy people stalking him; Rostov especially was good at creating engineering problems that only Mayweather could help him solve and Travis had already promised to name his firstborn after the petty officer. Unfortunately, there were also those who would intervene only to egg the insanity on – Lieutenant Commander Reed was especially bad about that, though Travis suspected it was mostly due to the armoury officer’s lingering annoyance at an especially humiliating practical joke Mayweather had played on him some months earlier involving a snipe hunt for imaginary ship components.
Tonight, though, the troubles Travis had with his captain and a grumpy, old Vulcan were barely a blip on his internal radar. Tonight, every gram of his being was focused on a letter he’d received from his mother.
Tonight, he was grieving for the loss of his father.
There weren’t any tears at the moment though Travis suspected that when they did come, they would cripple him – he had never been good at dealing with loss, and could still remember how he completely shut down when his grandmother passed away so many years ago. So instead, he stared at the starfield as he struggled to comprehend a world without his father in it. Part of him understood that he was in shock, that it wouldn’t last forever, but he honestly didn’t know what to do that didn’t involve curling up in a ball someplace cold and dark or crawling into a bottle of something that would normally be used to clean engine parts. He didn’t have anyone to talk to right now – Hoshi was still on the planet with the captain, Rostov was busy trying to keep Enterprise from eating Commander Kelby alive, and Trip, the one person he really wanted to talk to, was dead – so Travis had retreated to the sole place aboard the ship that still felt like someplace safe so he could simply turn his brain off. Life could be dealt with later, once he was able to start thinking straight again, once he wasn’t on the verge of sobbing like a baby.
Travis didn’t know how long he floated there, untouched by the harsh constraints of gravity or the terrible truth that he would never be able to apologize to his dad for the last argument they’d had. He lost himself in the endless blanket of stars that stretched into infinity, a sight so perfect, so pure, that he couldn’t help but to smile. The only thing that would make it even better, he mused, is if he was out there now, in only an environment suit or a tricked out shuttlepod, dancing through the darkness without a single care in the world.
“You stood me up.”
The unexpected voice caused him to jump in surprise, and he half-twisted in place to find Hoshi slowly drifting up from the hatch, a bemused expression on her face. She was dressed in exercise clothes, and her hair was damp with sweat. Her face was glowing from recent exertions and it gave her a sensual appearance he doubted she was even aware of. Swallowing hard, Travis jerked his eyes away from her; she hated it when men leered and he didn’t want her to think of him as merely another guy.
Well, that wasn’t exactly true. Just mostly true. Mind out of the gutter, Mayweather, he reminded himself.
“Did we have a date?” he asked with a forced smile. Her sudden appearance made him realize that he couldn’t hide in here forever. Already, his mind was starting to recover from the state of shock he’d been in since reading that damned letter, and soon, the tears would come.
“You, me, the gym,” Hoshi retorted as she held out a hand and caught one of the protruding ledges to arrest her momentum. “You were going to help me with my aikido throws?” At his continued silence, she grimaced. “I had to get Tomlinson from the Armoury to help and he gets … grabby when I’m tossing him around.” Travis grunted in amusement at the mental image of her beating up the ex-linebacker in question. “When you didn’t show up to dinner,” she said, “I figured Soval must have cornered you somewhere since the captain was with me.”
“I’ve successfully dodged Ambassador Cranky all day,” Travis said. His eyes instinctively sought out the viewport and the stars beyond. “Any news?”
“We should be breaking orbit tomorrow,” Hoshi replied hesitantly. Though she didn’t say it out loud, Travis could hear the unspoken ‘finally’ in her tone. He completely agreed; they’d already been here for a week longer than planned, and everyone was itching to get away from this planet. The captain particularly seemed to be on the verge of a mental breakdown as he carefully navigated the minefield that was Kreetassan culture, especially as the story about how he saved the minister grew out of proportion. At last count, the story was that there were twelve Klingons and Archer fought them single-handedly before completing the greeting ceremony. Twice.
Out of the corner of his eye, Travis could see Hoshi studying him with a worried frown. “Starfleet Command wants us to check out a trinary system about three weeks away,” she said slowly.
“The stars are supposed to be orbiting a black hole or something.” She placed a hand on his arm. “Is something wrong, Travis?” The concern in her voice nearly broke him and he closed his eyes.
“Got a letter from Horizon with the morning data dump from Earth,” he revealed after a moment. Hoshi’s fingers tightened around his bicep, a reminder that she was here and willing to listen. The fog that had enveloped him began to lift. “My dad died,” Travis finally said. His eyes watered and his nose burned. I’m not going to cry, he told himself.
“Oh, God,” Hoshi said with a gasp. She pulled him closer and wrapped both of her arms around him. Her warmth seeped into him but still he shivered. “I’m so sorry, Travis!”
“I didn’t even know he was sick,” Travis admitted, fighting for control as his spoke. A fat tear trickled down his face. “And now he’s gone and I can’t tell him how much...” He trailed off, unable to continue as his throat closed up. Hoshi tightened her hold on him, her own eyes gleaming wetly.
It was too much.
The tears came before he could fight them down, and he clung to Hoshi. She whispered soothing words as he lost it, speaking in a language he didn’t need to understand. Her arm stroked his back while he wept silently.
“Oh,” a masculine voice said from the open hatch, “I’m sorry.” Travis didn’t look up from where he embraced Hoshi – he was only vaguely aware of the comments in the first place – but Hoshi shifted slightly, as if she were craning her neck to see who had interrupted them.
“Travis,” she whispered, “we need to get out of here.” There wasn’t any censure or embarrassment in her voice for being caught in such a compromising position no matter how innocent it may have actually been, and for that, he gave silent thanks. The one thing he did not need right now was for her to remind him that she saw him only as her best friend on this damned ship. “You haven’t eaten,” she pointed out when he didn’t move, “so let’s hit the mess hall and you can tell me all about your dad.”
“Okay,” he replied. Forcing himself to let go of her, he wiped his eyes with the palm of his left hand and blinked away errant moisture. They pushed off together, landing lightly near the now closed hatch, and Travis gestured for her to take the lead. He followed a moment later, surprised to find the corridor empty. “Who was that?” he wondered aloud.
“Commander Kelby,” Hoshi answered. “He likes to visit the sweet spot when he’s working on engineering problems. Helps him think.” Travis tried not to frown.
“And you know this how?” He thought he was successful in keeping the jealousy from his voice, but Hoshi gave him a sidelong look so he probably hadn’t done as good a job as he thought.
“He told me,” she said before giving him a discreet shove in the direction of the nearest turbolift. “Food first,” the communications officer ordered, “and then we talk.”
“I don’t want to talk,” Travis groused as she fell in step beside him. “I think I’d rather get drunk.”
“And when has that ever helped the situation?” Hoshi asked. He shrugged.
“It’s not supposed to.” A thought suddenly occurred to him, slicing through the guilt and sadness churning in his stomach. “Do you think,” Travis wondered, “if I showed up for duty plastered, they would leave me alone for a couple of days?” He didn’t need to identify the ‘they’ he spoke of, and Hoshi smiled, the expression momentarily wiping away the pain.
“It might,” she conceded slowly, “but it might also get you a week in the brig.”
“I could use the sleep.”
“Food first,” Hoshi repeated. “Then we can think about getting drunk and swapping stories about your dad.” She linked her arm with his. “I’m pretty sure Commander Reed has some premium hootch in his quarters we can steal.”
“I don’t think he’ll give it up easily,” Travis muttered. Hoshi grinned.
“Then we’ll have to kick his ass,” she declared. “I think I can take him.” Travis couldn’t help it.