Pineapple flavour still lingering in his mouth, Malcolm carefully carried the remainder of the cake back to his cabin.  As delicious as it was, it was far too large a cake for four people to consume, particularly four exhausted people.

To say he was surprised to have the cake would be an understatement. Listening to Hoshi's story of contacting his friends and family, her increasing annoyance, and her ultimate triumph had left him slightly stunned and bewildered.  That the captain would order her to do this and that she had persevered during the latest alien crisis, was almost too much to believe.  It spoke volumes that a shipmate, a recent acquaintance, would go to such an effort for his birthday when his family remained uninterested.

He winced slightly at his earlier assumption that she was inviting him to dinner.  It had been a blunder, but at least she had not taken any offence.  Hoshi was a lovely woman and a gifted communications officer, and he had no wish to make enemies so early in the voyage. Or preferably, at all.

He realised that while he'd been woolgathering, he'd stopped in the middle of the corridor and was currently gazing at the cake.  It was late, and people were either sleeping or working on repairs, which meant that no one had stumbled across him yet.  And good thing too. He probably looked somewhat deranged at this point, exhausted, unshaven, dirty, cake-laden and grinning vaguely.  Crewmen would probably scurry at the sight of him.   Not the impression he needed to maintain as armoury officer.

Shaking his head slightly, he moved towards the lift.   Bed.  Perhaps with a little more cake.  In the bed.  And then sleep.  He catalogued the steps in his plan.  It was a good plan.  Tomorrow's plan: Repairs and weapons tests.  More cake.  Rest.

He had a head for planning, he'd always been told.

* * * *

The next day was a whirlwind of repairs and retrofits.  He started the day in engineering, after ensuring that he was not needed on the bridge.  The phase cannons were his priority, according to both Tucker and the captain, so that was where he went.

Hours later, once again dirty, but not nearly as exhausted, and actually quite pleased with the day's work, he popped into the mess for a meal.  It was quiet, although a few engineering staff nodded at him.   He nodded back, and after picking up some tea and a sandwich, moved to an empty table near the window.  The stars made a good excuse to stare blankly.

Birthday.  Family.

Aliens.  Crewmates.

It really was foolish to get maudlin at this point. Maudlin was not part of the day's plan.  He'd long ago come to terms with his family relationship, and birthdays in the past had been much worse than yesterday.  Nevertheless, here he was, staring at the stars and just...wishing?  Idiot.  Indulging in feelings of loneliness was absurd, given the efforts Archer, Hoshi and Tucker had gone to yesterday.  No doubt a larger gathering would have been planned, had the aliens not caused such a problem.

"Happy birthday.  Well, late, but still."

What?  He looked up.  Mayweather was smiling at him, tray in his hand. "Hello, Ensign.  Thank you."

"You mind if I sit?"  Still smiling, looking slightly eager and shy. Malcolm smiled back, and wondered at the enthusiasm of youth.

"Not at all."  Mayweather's grin widened as he slid into the seat.

"So, I hear Hoshi's quest was successful.  Pineapple, huh?  That's great.  I remember the first time I had pineapple.  I was 11, and we got this spiky thing, and I thought 'I have to eat this thing?'  My mom laughed and made me eat a piece, and wow!"

Wow indeed.  "Was it difficult to get?"  Stupid question, really, but he wanted to keep the conversation going.

"Oh yeah. I mean, a lot of fresh Earth fruits were.  That's the life on a cargo ship,right?  But sometimes we'd get great fruit from other places.  Things you'd never see on Earth, or would only see once every few years.  I've eaten things that look stranger than pineapple."

Mayweather interested him.   He was more experienced and levelheaded than some of the junior crew, while at the same time, he carried an air of non-jaded enthusiasm with him.  The combination was rare, and it was quite -- attractive.   Malcolm wondered if the others saw the similarities between Mayweather and the captain.  Mayweather was much like a younger Jonathan Archer.

Mayweather paused in his eating.  "I'm sorry I couldn't join you for the cake."

"That's understandable.  It would have been inappropriate to leave only one person on the bridge.  I'm sorry you had to remain on duty."

The grin was back.  "Well. Someone had to keep T'Pol company."

Ah.  T'Pol.  She was certainly exotic enough to interest a young ensign.  Had Mayweather volunteered to stay on the bridge?  "Was she good company?"

"Oh, you know it."  He switched to a monotone voice. "Ensign, please correct our course .23 degrees.  Ensign, wishing to be at a birthday party is both illogical and a waste of on-duty time.  Lieutenant Reed will doubtless have a birthday again next year.  The current party will likely be quite uneventful, given the exhaustion of the human crew. Moreover, the confection they plan to serve is nutritionally deficient."

Malcolm laughed briefly.  The impression was quite good, but no doubt it would be bad for crew morale and cohesiveness if others heard them poking fun at T'Pol.  "Nicely done, Ensign.  Not entirely appropriate in this setting, however."

Mayweather's face fell briefly, then closed off.  "Sorry, sir.  You're right."

Damn.  He hadn't meant to kill that enthusiasm.  He wasn't certain what to say.  The silence dragged while Mayweather went back to eating.

"I think it must be hard for her."

"Excuse me?"

Mayweather shrugged.  "Well, she's alone in an alien culture.  People make fun of her.  Some don't trust her.  And then there are those who think they can change her, give her some emotion.  You know, trying to woo her or something.  The whole 'I can change her through the power of lust' thing."

Malcolm tried not to choke on his tea.  "Yes.  I imagine it must be difficult."  He thought about his own experiences, his family convinced they could change him if they just found the right woman. Ridiculous, really.  Sometimes he thought his parents were throwbacks to an earlier time.

"Where I come from, it's called cultural imperialism."


"Growing up on a cargo ship, you meet lots of different cultures. Assuming you can change a culture for the better by imposing your own standards, that's cultural imperialism."

Smart.  He'd always liked smart.

"So I guess I'm a jerk and a hypocrite for making fun of her just now."

"Nobody's perfect, Ensign.  Certainly not me."

"That's not what the engineering people are saying."

Malcolm rolled his eyes.  "Really?  I was unaware that perfection was demonstrated by losing one's temper when the crew isn't working to one's desired speed."

Mayweather grinned.  Again.  "You got the cannons working, didn't you? You blew those aliens away, right?  You stopped us from having to go back home, remember?"

"We all did that.  We worked together."

"Whose idea was it?  That's what people remember, Malcolm."

Malcolm.  Few called him by his name.  His tendency towards the formal ensured that.  Maintaining a distance was something he did well. "Perhaps.  I have no doubt that the engineering staff will be relieved to see less of me from now on."

"Well, it'll be nice to see you back on the bridge."  Abruptly, Mayweather stood.  "I need another drink.  Anything I can get you?"

"Thank you, no.  My tea is fine."  Malcolm watched as Mayweather walked away.  Was he mistaking the signals he was getting?  He thought back to their time on the comet together, and the signals he'd decided were simply enthusiasm for a unique situation.    He'd brushed aside any personal interest, berating himself for wishful thinking.  Hmm.

When Mayweather returned, they sat silently for a few moments.   It was hard to ignore that the ensign was having difficulty looking at him.  Once again, the stars made a good excuse.   Eventually, taking a deep breath, Malcolm took the initiative.   "Ensign.  Are you attempting to convey an interest in me?"  Damn.  That sounded much too formal and really rather stern.

"Um.  Sir.  I'm sorry if I've been inappropriate."

It was impressive that he didn't try to deny it.  "I see.  Well."  His own nervousness was quite ridiculous.  "I think we should take this conversation somewhere else.  Others might want this table."  It was a weak excuse, the mess being close to deserted.  Another deep breath. "Travis."  The name felt good.  "Have you ever had pineapple cake?"

Grinning widely, Travis shook his head.

"Excellent.  I have leftovers from last night.  Why don't we go get some?  Cook did an excellent job with it."

"Sounds good."

New plan: Put your tea down.  Stand up.  Walk out the door.  Cake. Share.



He smiled.


                        continued in Viable

Rating: PG-13
Pairing: Reed/Mayweather 
Spoilers: Lets say everything up to Silent Enemy just to be certain. 
Feedback:  Much appreciated.  This is my first Enterprise fic.

Disclaimer:  Seriously, if they belonged to me, we wouldn't be talking about 'sub' text.

Notes:  I'd really like to thank the two people who beta read this for me.  Kim encouraged and pointed out some errors, and T'Lin picked out some awkward wording. Thanks guys! :)

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