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In Good Company

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Jack woke as the sun was sinking. There was a yellowness to the air, to the light, as if a storm were in the offing, and it caught the angles of Stephen's face and brought out the hint of green under his skin. In profile, squinting against the sky through their small window, he felt remote. Jack made to reach out, but his arm was bound up, held to his chest with Stephen's tricorder strap as a sling. He grunted, and Stephen turned, resolving once more into a familiar aspect.

"Slowly, brother. How do you feel?"

Jack felt as if he had been shot full of spines by an alien plant, but for all that rather better than he might have expected. His muscles ached, and his head, but color and focus had come back to his sight. His upper arm, shoulder, and the side of his face where the spines hit felt swollen, and Stephen's hands on them were cool. Jack allowed the inspection, and turned his own focus to their surroundings. Grey-washed walls, grainy with mineral deposits, and a dirt floor unevenly strewn with dry vegetation- fortunately looking nothing like the sort that had so objected to Jack's encroachment.

"Are we arrested, then?"

"We are."

"The ship?"

Stephen released the edge of Jack's eyelid, having ascertained that both pupils now responded in their proper fashion. "An ionic something or other, I believe. Tom intends to send down when it's blown itself out. Or did when last I spoke to him, before they took our communicators. And my medikit. And my tricorder, the villains!"

Jack felt a surge of affection as well as sympathy at Stephen's indignation. "Did they take all your lovely samples, then?" For himself, he regretted more the loss of their phasers, but Stephen had taken particular joy in some of the local fauna.

"Every bit. And our window does not even afford a view of the ground! I've seen scarce three avian species the whole afternoon."

"Still, it's a better sort of lock-up than that Vulcan separatist desert."

"The desert," Stephen said severely, "was warm. Though I concede we are better placed than the last time we attempted first contact. There are no outraged priestesses to be seen."

Jack laughed, and it pulled at his swollen cheekbone. By mutual accord, neither of them spoke of a small interrogation-house just beyond the Romulan Neutral Zone.

"I have been contemplating a publication on the commonalities between the local arthropods and the extinct human body louse."

"Have you indeed." Jack eyed the ground with a wary eye and his good hand went to his ponytail. The arthropods in question were a pale violet and Jack had no desire to harbor them on his person.

"Alas, neither of us appear to be a recognisable or compatible food source."

They fell into silence after that, but it was an easy one. Captivity, like most things, bore better in good company.

They were not visited again. Sounds and smells drifted in from the rest of the settlement, and Jack's stomach growled at the alien spices. He paced, and watched the sky, wishing he could see above it to where the Surprise would be holding geosynchronous orbit under Pullings' capable hands.

The chill deepened and seeped up from the ground once the sun had set, and Jack watched the rigid stillness of Stephen's silhouette; beckoned him closer and opened his good arm. Stephen grumbled, but curled willingly against Jack's body, bony elbow narrowly avoiding Jack's ribs.

Hybrid babies were said to be beautiful; and many of them were very beautiful indeed, having had to be designed in every particular in order to survive the combination of alien genetic profiles. That Stephen had not been so designed explained rather a lot, Jack reflected, and rebuked himself for the uncharitable thought. And, it occured to him, it made perfect sense for Stephen to be an accident- he was stubborn enough to survive regardless of beauty or probability, even as a little collection of Stephen-cells. Resourceful.

It was a pleasing thought, and Jack sent the impression of it through their skin contact as well as his low psi score allowed. The flash of Stephen he got in return felt very like a blush.

***

So close, Jack smelled of familiar skin, human sweat, pain. His arm about Stephen's shoulders was a band of welcome warmth, and Stephen tucked Jack's hand under his own and watched the shadows as Jack fell easily into natural sleep. There was a touch of fever in the heat of him, constant but not so high as to be of worry. They had been left no water, and even with his chin down on his chest Jack's dry throat managed a grating snore with every breath. Stephen set his hand to that throat, counted the beats. It was beyond regret that they had taken his tricorder, but of all things he had rather been able to keep his medical supplies.

He tucked his hand between their bodies, and disposed himself to remember as much of the data from his exploratory scans as he could, returning to the task he'd set himself during Jack's earlier unconsciousness.

Jack woke at the noise of the transporter and was on his feet in an instant, leaving Stephen swaying sleepily where he sat, until distant phaser fire brought his gaze to razor sharpness. Footsteps sounded, closer, and Jack positioned himself with his good side to the door, grinning back at Stephen in the darkness.

"Shall we, my dear?"

"With all my heart."