A Gentlemen's Bet
See the Story Disclaimer for more information.
* * *
"Here you are, gentlemen," Ensign Ian Young said, placing a bottle of beer in front of the three other men at the mess hall table. He sat down and immediately raised a bottle to his lips, but paused before he took a drink. "I should warn you guys, this is Canadian beer. You Americans should be careful."
Ensign Ari Cohn looked at him. "Ian, I'm from Toronto."
"I'm a Boomer," Ensign Travis Mayweather laughed, "the longest I was ever in the states was when I was at Starfleet academy."
Crewman Michael Rostov stretched his legs out in front of him. "We lived in Russia until I was 15," he shrugged. "This stuff is water compared to Russian Vodka, anyway."
"My mistake," Ian said, giving them all a mock salute with his bottle. "I just didn't want to get blamed if you all were too hung over to make your shifts tomorrow." He turned to Michael. "You're Russian?"
Michael grinned at him. "What part of ‘Rostov' was confusing for you?"
"But you're English is so good!" Ian said with feigned surprise, "Like you actually know what you're talking about!"
"Poshyel k chyertu." Michael gave Ian a blatantly false smile.
"Well, fuck you too," Ian replied, a tiny edge in his voice. "Or whatever it was you just said."
Before Michael could answer, Ari spoke up, "Have you guys ever noticed how many Canadians there are aboard Enterprise?"
"Why?" Travis said, taking a pull of his beer. "Are there a lot?"
"Well," Ari said, putting his bottle down and counting on his fingers, "there's me, Ian-"
"Wild Horse, Alberta," Ian interrupted, raising his bottle. "Thank you very much."
"Bonnie's Canadian?" Michael asked, turning towards Ari. "I thought she was from Alaska, or something."
"Inuvik," Ian cut in, "Northwest Territories."
"So, you and Stephanie are both Canadian?" Travis asked, looking at Ian. "That seems like a lot for such a small department."
Ian grinned. "The Lieutenant likes us better than you Yanks."
Travis rolled his eyes. "Boomer, remember?"
"I think Mae's Canadian, too," Ari continued. He looked at Travis. "Isn't she?"
Travis shrugged. "I don't know. Liz doesn't tell me that much about her friends."
"Too busy, I'll bet!" Ian smirked.
Travis clinked his bottle with Ian's, "Too right."
"Speak of the devil." Michael pointed towards the mess hall doors with the lip of his beer bottle. A group of four women had just entered the large room, laughing and chatting together. Ensign Stephanie Cormack was ahead of the group, walking by herself. Her mouth was set in a grim line and she looked pissed-off about something. Behind her, talking seriously, were Ensigns Hoshi Sato, Mae Lawless, and Liz Cutler.
"Hey, Liz!" Travis called, waving. Liz turned at the sound of her name, and visibly relaxed when she saw it was Travis. She waved, and blew him a kiss before joining the other women at their table.
"Awwww." Ian poked Travis. "That's so sweet!"
Travis was grinning widely. "You're just jealous."
Ian sighed. "Probably." He watched the four women sit down, then turned back to Travis. "Hey, where's Stephanie's girlfriend tonight? I thought it was ‘girl's night out' or something."
Travis shrugged. "I didn't see Bonnie when I left the bridge at end of shift today. Maybe she's got a night shift in Stellar Cartography."
"Maybe," Ian agreed noncommittally. He shook his head. "I just can't get over the fact that Stephanie and Bonnie are going out. What a waste!"
Ari shot him a look, "I don't think they think so."
"You know what I mean," Ian turned towards Ari, "two of the most beautiful women on the ship, and who do they go for? Each other."
Michael smirked. "Can you blame them?"
"Not really," Ian laughed. "Lord knows, if I were a girl, I'd still want to go out with one of them!" The other three men joined him in his laughter, nodding their agreement.
"Hey, speaking of going out," Travis said, leaning forward and lowering his voice conspiratorially, "you know who I think are now officially living together as a couple?"
Michael and Ian moved closer to Travis. "Who?" the Engineering Crewman whispered.
"Who?" Ian echoed. "Spill!"
Travis raised his eyebrows at Ari, who was still leaning back in his chair. "You're not interested?"
"You know how I feel about gossip," Ari said, taking a drink of his beer.
Ian waved his hand dismissively at Ari, "Don't worry about him, Travis," he said, "you know he's dying to know as well."
Travis frowned at Ari. "It's not gossip," he explained. "I just want to get your guys opinion on this." He took a quick look around to make sure no one else was in earshot. "I think that Lieutenant Reed might have moved in with Commander Tucker."
"No way!" Michael and Ian exclaimed at the same time.
"Shhhh!" Travis admonished. He moved his hands in a ‘quiet down' gesture. "Not so loud!"
"Sorry," Michael whispered back, "I know those two are a couple and all, but there's no way it can be that serious!"
"I think it might be," Travis continued. "I saw Reed going into Tucker's cabin with a box of stuff, and when he left, the box was empty. What else would you call that?"
"I'd call it Reed leaving a box of stuff in Tucker's cabin!" Ian laughed quietly. "No big deal. For once I agree with Mike," he continued. "Lieutenant Reed is all ‘stiff-upper lippy,' and the Commander is so ‘aww-shucks.' I just can't see them wanting to take it to the next level." He shook his head. "Hell, I don't understand why they're going out in the first place!"
Michael turned towards Ian, eyes narrowed. "What do you mean by ‘aww-shucks'? You'd better not be insulting the Commander."
"I mean," Ian said, pointing with the hand that held his beer bottle, "that the Commander is too informal, too casual, and too cowboy for Mr. Reed." He took a swig, shook his head again. "I just don't get what the Lieutenant sees in him."
"Too ‘cowboy'?" Michael glared at Ian, "I'll have you know that my C.O. is one of – check that - the best warp drive engineer Earth has ever produced! Mr. Reed is lucky to go out with him!"
"So what?" Ian sneered, "the Lieutenant developed our phase-pistols, an actual working force field and the tactical alerts! Hell, he must have saved Tucker's butt a hundred times by now!" He drank from his nearly-empty bottle. "'Call me Trip' Tucker is the lucky one."
Michael started to rise out of his chair, "Where you get off-"
"Whoa! Slow down!" Travis interrupted, standing and putting a hand on both Ian and Michael's shoulders. "It's just a rumour, boys! No need to get this worked up."
"And that's why I don't like gossip," Ari said, "it makes people upset, and usually it's not true anyway." He took a pull from his bottle, and then looked at it, making a face. "Empty."
"Mine, too." Ian sighed. "Travis? Michael?"
"I'm okay," Travis said.
"I could use a second," Michael replied. "Any takers?" Ari and Ian both raised their hands. "Will do," Michael said, getting up. He nudged Ian as he walked by. "You're lucky I'm in a good mood, Young, or I'd be using that red-hair of yours to clean out the plasma manifolds."
"Say that to me next time we have combat training!" Ian called after his retreating back. He looked at Travis. "The Commander and Reed, living together?" he said, incredulous. "Really?"
Travis shrugged. "Just what I've heard."
"I still would've figured that the Lieutenant would've left Tucker by now …" Ian's expression became thoughtful for a second, then he broke into a wide grin. "Hey, guys," he said, "I got a question for you. If you could go out with any man on the ship, who would you pick?"
Travis raised one eyebrow. "You mean if Liz were totally out of the picture?"
"Yeah," Ian agreed, "like she were in love with Hoshi, or something."
"Well then, that's easy!" Travis laughed. "It'd have to be Captain Archer. No question."
"The Captain?" Ian looked incredulous. "He's old enough to be your father!"
"Maybe," Travis replied, "but he's handsome, and smart, and in a position of power which is always a turn-on. And he's got an amazing body for a guy his age. I mean, I've never been in decon with him, but the way his uniform fits, you can just tell."
Ian was nodding his head. "Okay, I can see that."
"Plus," Travis continued, "you should see his eyes up close! They are this incredible green colour-"
Ari raised his hand, making Travis stop talking. "Is this something I should warn Liz about?"
"Warn Liz about what?" Michael asked as he returned to the table. He put fresh beer bottles down in front of Ari and Ian, then slid one over to Travis. "I figured yours would be empty by now." Travis raised his bottle in silent thanks.
"We were just discussing which guys on board we would go out with," Ian replied. He gestured at the helmsman. "Travis here was just mooning over the Captain, so Ari got a little worried for his girlfriend."
"Uh huh," Michael said as he sat down. He turned to Ari. "So, who does it for you?"
Ari's cheeks were a faint pink. "Come on, guys!" he said, starting to peel the label from his bottle. "This is weird."
Ian bumped him with his shoulder. "No one's gonna make you ask him out, Ari!" he exclaimed. "We're just curious, is all."
"I don't know," Ari stalled. He looked up at Ian. "Well, I've always thought my roommate was cute."
It was Ian's turn to blush. "Thanks. I think."
"No, really!" Travis said, leaning forward to push at Ari's shoulder with his hand. "Who?"
"Honest!" Ari insisted. "I've never thought about any of the guys on the ship that way. I mean, most of the guys on Enterprise are good looking, and smart and stuff, but, well…" He let the sentence trail off.
Ian patted his back. "I know, I know. You've already got your crush picked out."
Michael raised his eyebrows. "Oh? And who's the lucky girl?"
"Oh no!" Ari shot back, "I'm not telling you guys!"
"So, Ian," Travis said, turning the attention away from Ari, "you're the one who asked the question. Who would you go for?"
Ian settled back in his chair, took a long drink from his bottle. He swallowed and smiled broadly. "Lieutenant Malcolm Reed."
"What?" Ari looked surprised.
"Your C.O.?" Michael asked. "No kidding?"
"Yup," Ian said. "He's smart, he's sexy, he's got that killer accent. And I've trained with him in the gym, so I know how good his body is. He's really graceful, too," Ian smirked, "so you know he'd be good in bed." He winked at Travis. "He also looks like he wouldn't want to talk too much after, eh?"
Travis laughed out loud. He gestured at the crewman, "Michael?"
"Actually," Michael said, staring intently at both his hands wrapped around his bottle of beer, "there is a guy, but I don't know his name."
"Really?" Ian asked, raising both his eyebrows. "A mystery man, eh?"
Michael glared at him. "He's hardly a mystery, Ian. I know he works with Liz."
"Crewman D'Angelo?" Ian asked. "I thought he was going out with someone from stellar cartography."
Michael shook his head, "No. He works with Liz at her other job, in exobiology."
"Oh, oh, oh!" Travis snapped his fingers in quick succession. "I know the guy you mean! Tall, curly black hair, dark eyes-"
"Yeah!" Michael smiled, "you know him?"
"Curly black hair-" Ian paused, thinking. Suddenly, he turned to stare at Michael. "Do you mean Novakovich?" He asked, expression disbelieving. "The guy who got transported off that planet and ended up with all those twigs in his face?"
"Hey!" Travis protested. "Don't rag on Ethan because of that transporter thing. I was on that planet too, and it was a completely unfunny situation."
Ian was sniggering into his hand. "He had bits of leaf and crap coming out of his skin for days!"
"Shut up, Young!" Michael growled menacingly. "He's fine now."
Travis cuffed the still-giggling Ian on his head. "Ethan is a great guy."
"I know, I know. I'm sorry." Ian wiped a tear from his eye. He waved vaguely at Michael, "Go on."
Michael looked slightly mollified by Ian's apology. "I've just seen him around, barely talked to him, even," he said with a half-smile. "But every time I look at him-" He raised his hands. "Well, let's just say there are definite sparks."
"Great!" Ari slapped Michael on the back. "You gonna ask him out?"
Michael looked back at his hands again. "I don't know. What if he's not really interested? Or he's already taken or something?"
"Tell you what," Travis said, "I'll ask Liz to find out. Sound like a good idea?"
Michael flashed him a wide grin. "That'd be great!"
Ian raised his beer bottle to his lips, looking at Ari out of the corner of his eye. "You want Travis to ask Liz about your crush, too?"
"What?" Ari looked up at him. "No!"
Ian chuckled. "Just checking."
"How about you, Young?" Michael said, leaning his forearms on the table. "You know that Ari has a mysterious crush on some lucky lady, and you've heard all about my guy-"
"Bark-boy!" Ian burst out, collapsing into a fit of giggles again.
"That's it!" Michael stood. "You're going out an air lock!"
Ian, Travis, and Ari jumped up. The four women turned to look at them at the same time.
Ari immediately put his hands on Michael's shoulders. "Easy, tiger," he said, "Ian's just being stupid."
"I don't need to come over there, do I?" Stephanie Cormack called from her table.
"No, no, everything's fine," Travis said with a wide grin. "Michael was just explaining something to Ian."
"Sit down," Ari hissed to Michael. "You wanna get us kicked out of here?"
Michael sat, crossed his arms, and glared at Ian.
Ari went back to his chair and dropped into it. Travis and Ian both sat down as well. Ian eyed Michael warily. "It was just a joke," he said. "Lighten up."
"I'll lighten you up," Michael muttered.
"So," Travis said, "who do you like, Ian?" He poked the security officer in the shoulder, "Besides Lieutenant Reed, that is."
Ian sat up in his chair and pointed the lip of his beer bottle towards the table of women sitting a few feet away. "My future wife is sitting right over there."
"Who?" Ari said quickly, "Not Ensign Lawless?"
"Nope," Ian said, not taking his eyes off the other table. "The beautiful, incredibly sexy and intelligent, Hoshi Sato."
"What?" Michael said.
"Hoshi?" Travis said at exactly the same time. "You have a crush on Hoshi Sato?"
"Not a crush," Ian replied, turning his head towards Travis. "No, my friend, this is a carefully planned operation in covert courtship."
"So covert that she doesn't even know about it!" Michael laughed.
Ian glowered at him. "Trust me, Rostov," he said, "she knows."
Travis furrowed his brow. "She's never said anything." He watched as Ian looked back at Hoshi. She was sitting with Stephanie, Liz, and Mae, chatting happily, clearly oblivious to the boys' conversation. One of the women said something funny, and Hoshi leaned her head back as she laughed. She calmed, and as she straightened her head her gaze connected with Ian's. Their eyes held for an intense moment. Ian curled his mouth up in a half smile, bottle hovering near his lips. Travis saw Hoshi's eyes widen slightly, and a faint blush stain her cheeks. Quickly she looked away.
"Oh yeah," Ian smirked. "She knows." He took a drink.
"So," Michael said after a moment. "You going to ask her out?"
"As soon as Ari asks Mae," Ian said, looking at his roommate.
Ari's eyes grew wide. "How did you know?"
"Trust me," Ian grinned, "I'm in security for a reason."
"He figured it out when you asked him if he was crushing on Mae," Travis said sympathetically.
Ian shrugged one shoulder. "You made it pretty obvious."
"Just – Just don't tell her, okay?" Ari looked crestfallen.
"I promise," Ian said. He yawned. "Well, I don't know about you gentlemen, but I have an early shift tomorrow. Think it's time I turned in." He stood and turned to Ari, "Walk a sailor home, big boy?"
Ari laughed and got to his feet. "I might be going that way."
"Yeah," Michael agreed. He grinned. "Besides, Ethan goes for coffee first thing." He stood as well.
"I think I'll see what Liz is up to," Travis said as he got up from his chair. "Perhaps I'll get a walk home, myself."
"You bridge officers with your private cabins," Ian moaned. "If only I wasn't a lowly Armoury officer."
Ari punched him in the shoulder. "That's why you like Hoshi, isn't it? Because she has her own cabin."
"I bet she doesn't snore, either," Ian said, and jumped aside as Ari aimed for his shoulder again.
They all waved at the women's table as they passed on their way to the exit. The four Ensigns waved back, then immediately returned to their conversation, heads bent close together, voices quiet.
Travis looked over at them. "Uh, I don't think I should disturb them," he said. "That conversation looks serious."
"What do you think they're talking about?" Ari asked as they walked through the mess hall doors.
"Us, for sure," Ian replied. "No question."
Ari brightened at the thought. "Seriously?"
"For sure!" Ian agreed. He looked at Michael. "Except for Rostov. He's too ugly."
"I'm gonna kill you, Young." Michael said, continuing to walk towards the lift, "I'm just biding my time."
They all laughed as they piled into the lift and keyed it for ‘D' Deck. "Same time next Friday?" Ari asked as the doors opened and they got out.
"Sorry," Travis said, "I've got a date with Liz that night."
Michael grinned. "I hope to have a date that night."
Ian snapped his fingers. "That's it!"
The other three men looked at him suspiciously. "What's it, Ian?" Ari asked.
"That's the bet!" he exclaimed, "You, me, and Rostov! Whoever goes out with their crush first – by next Friday, say - wins." He turned to the helmsman. "Travis gets to be the judge in case of a tie-breaker."
"I don't know…" Ari said.
"Win what?" Michael asked, a gleam in his eye.
"A week of the losers cleaning the winner's quarters." Ian replied, grinning.
Michael stroked his chin. "Make it a month, and you're on!"
"A month it is!" Ian said, sticking out his hand. They shook, and Ian turned to his roommate. "So Ari," he said, "you in?"
Ari grimaced. "I don't think-"
"Oh come on!" Michael cajoled. "What harm could it be? And if you win, Ian will have to clean your quarters for a change."
"And," Travis joined in, "it would give you the perfect excuse to actually talk to Mae."
Ari smiled ruefully. "Okay, I'm in." He looked hard at the other guys. "But only because I wanted to ask Mae out anyway. Not because I care about Ian cleaning our cabin."
"That's lucky!" Ian laughed, "Because I don't do it now!"
"As the official judge," Travis said, "I think the winner should be whoever contacts me first by midnight on Thursday with the details of their first date, and then sends me a follow-up description on Saturday, telling what actually happened." He raised his hands. "Don't get the wrong idea. I don't want to know if it went really well, if you catch my meaning!"
"Sounds good," Michael nodded. He clapped Travis on the back. "I'll talk to you Thursday then." He winked.
"Not before I do!" Ian laughed.
"I'll call you Wednesday," Ari said to Travis. "How's morning for you?"
"This should be interesting," Travis smiled. "Good luck, boys." He turned and started walking towards his cabin.
"Good night!" Ian called as Ari and Michael waved.
"Time for me to return to the barracks," Michael said as he went down the hallway in the opposite direction from Travis. "See you guys at breakfast."
"See you," Ari called as he and Ian headed off towards their quarters. He looked at Ian. "That was fun."
"Yup," Ian agreed, "and it looks like this week just got a whole lot more interesting."
Ari bit his lip. "I hope it goes well."
Ian put his hand on Ari's shoulder. "Don't worry, son," he said. "I'll help you out."
Ari looked at him. "Isn't that cheating?"
Ian grinned at him. "I just really like the idea of Rostov cleaning our quarters. And you going out with Mae, of course."
"Thanks," Ari laughed. He grew serious. "Are you going to ask Hoshi out?"
Ian's eyes narrowed. "You bet," he said, "you bet."