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Intersections - #2

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  • G. Garcia
    [Note: This log contains adult situations.  Viewers be advised.] INTERSECTIONS by Gabriel Garcia [in-ter-sek-shuhn] – noun 1.  a place where two or more
    Message 1 of 1 , May 3, 2009
      [Note: This log contains adult situations.  Viewers be advised.]


      by Gabriel Garcia


      1.  a place where two or more roads meet; junction.
      2.  any place of intersection or the act of intersecting.
      3.  Mathematics.  The set of elements that two or more sets have in common.


      TWO: Atherton
      (or: What Brought Horatio Back)



      It wasn't particularly late aboard Deep Space 9, nor was it that early.

      In this sort of in-betweenish time, Horatio Atherton found himself deeply invested in conversation with a dabo girl.  Recently off duty and more than a little lonely, she had been charmed by his dashing good looks, and seemingly endless bar tab.  While they certainly had been enjoying each other's company, the noise and hubbub of Quark's had been getting to both of them.  

      Arm in arm, Horatio and the dabo girl slowly made their way out of the balcony at Quark's and onto the second tier of the Promenade.  They were loud, boisterous, and of course, obnoxious.  Quite a number of dirty or evocative words were dropped by both of them as they made their way to one of the turbolifts and down to one of their rooms.  Or both.

      At the same time, leaning against a large oval window on the second level of the Promenade and gazing pensively out at the newly de-mined wormhole, enjoying the sight of it opening once again to let a Ferengi cargo freighter head into the Gamma Quadrant, Carlos Ruiz smiled slightly. The captain enjoyed the first quiet moment of peace in some time where no agenda forced itself into his thoughts.

      Unfortunately, the peace was disrupted by the loud cavorting couple exiting Quark's.  Ruiz heard a sensual laugh he recognized as belonging to one of the dabo girls, and a matching baritone alongside it.  After a particularly crass exchange, Ruiz finally turned and said sharply, "Do you mind keeping it down just a bit?"

      Horatio stopped in his tracks, and being just drunk enough to have a false sense of bravado, turned to address the rapscallion.  "Oi! You got a problem there, lonesome dove?" He turned to the girl, and not knowing her name, or perhaps never having heard it at all, he promptly laid a sloppy kiss on her lips.  "You know, you don't need to be Al Capone, you could bunk up with us.  Always room for another set of German Bands."

      "I think I'll pass." As he was about to comment about their inebriated state and recommend they get some help to their quarters, Carlos began to focus on the man, whose voice had sounded familiar.  It was a voice he'd grown ... used to? No, that wasn't it ... had enjoyed hearing? Ruiz maneuvered to get a look at the man's face. "... Horatio? Is that you?"

      A smile crossed his face as he slowly, now that his eyes had focused on the face in front of him, recognized the person in front of him. "Carlos? Ah, hell, that is you." Realizing he was looking a bit, too drunk he straightened himself up, slowly relaxing his arm around the dabo girl.. "'Hang on a mo, lass. Old friend."  Horatio let go of her completely and he moved forward, placing his hand out for a shake. "How long's it been, Carlos?"

      Seemingly forgotten and feeling more than a little annoyed that she was being ignored, the dabo girl stormed off, though Horatio seemed to not take heed.

      Carlos raised a finger at the retreating Dabo girl. "Ah -- hm."

      Horatio turned back to look at the dabo girl. "Ahh, hell." He turned back with a smile and shrugged. "I'll ring'er later." A wink let Carlos know all there was to know about the entire situation. Which was surprisingly only a little less than Horatio knew himself.

      Turning back to Horatio, Ruiz accepted the handshake, smiling warmly.  "Horatio Atherton. It's been ... a little over half a year.  Since you transferred after Pegasus got back from its deep space mission." Carlos pointed to his collar with his free hand. "I'm the captain now."

      "Captain, you say? Brilliant, Carlos. Bloody brilliant. Uhhh... sir."

      Carlos crossed his arms. "What, no jaunty salute?"

      "You've seen my jaunty salute. No freebies." He let out a light laugh.

      Eyebrow still raised, Carlos turned and motioned for Horatio to follow him. "Are you here on shore leave, away from your new billet? Not that I'm not glad to see you ... but what exactly brings you to Bajor of all places?"

      He followed after Carlos, tugging at his shirt tails, and making sure all the buttons on his vest were clasped. "I'm on a bit of an extended furlough, actually." Clearing his throat and sounding a few shades more sober than he had been minutes earlier, he continued. "I was on the Khaldun doing extended research on the outer planets.  Mostly archaeological, ever so often a fun little skeleton pops up.  We were caught in a plasma storm, shorted out her deflector.  Had to be towed back to Federation space." Horatio was idly playing with his fingernails now.  "So, the crew was given a three month shore leave. We're due back in a week or so.  But I may be reassigned.  As for Bajor... fond of the people actually."

      Ruiz nodded, listening to Horatio's story. "The Bajoran people and culture are definitely easy to become fond of. I've come to enjoy Bajor as well. I'm sorry for what happened to the Khaldun, but ... I'd be lying if I said it wasn't a pleasure to see you again."

      Nodding, Horatio found himself with a faint smile on his face.  "Oh, that's very sweet of you Carlos. I can't believe I bumped into you of all people here." Stuffing his hands in his pockets he glanced at Ruiz.  "I don't suppose you've gone and grown up in other ways, now have you? Seeing anyone? Any kids I should know about?"

      Ruiz shook his head. "No, no ... as a captain, you have even less time for things like relationships, I've found.  Not that I've really been looking."  Ruiz paused slightly.  "And you?"

      "Ha! How little you remember of me." He accentuated these words with some wild gesticulating.  "Me settle down? A laugh, Carlos."

      Carlos shook his head, laughing quietly.  "I always thought rather highly of you ... I wanted to give you the benefit of the doubt, I suppose."  Carlos looked out the window once more, out at the Bajoran stars.  "Do you have something planned for the rest of your shore leave? Or ... might you have some free time?" Closing his eyes, Ruiz shook his head. Stupid ... don't start being evasive now, of all times.

      Turning back to Horatio, Carlos said rather quickly, "What I mean to say is that if you have some free time, and would be open to spending a little of it here, we could ... find some things to do."

      "No, no. I'm living this shore leave fast and loose."  He turned with a coy smile.  "But if you've got something planned, and it's your credits that are paying, I don't see any reason not to join up." Horatio smiled a bit wider.  He thought it was rather cute that Carlos, now a seasoned Captain, had a hard time asking Horatio out.

      "It turns out I have a couple of days off as well.  Bajor's only three hours away by shuttle, and I happen to know someone who might be able to swing us one.  There are quite a few places on Bajor I haven't gotten a chance to visit yet.  I can think of a couple that would qualify as a nice vacation spot."  Ruiz grinned in earnest.  "Of course ... I never forget when I'm owed a rematch on the mats. I believe the last time we ...."
        Ruiz almost blushed, then said, "… sparred, I believe you won. I'd like to even up the score, if that suits you."

      "Did I win? I have to say, if I can't remember it, must been a rather easy win."  

      Carlos scoffed. "Oh, easy was it? I hope I've gotten better since, then, for your sake."

      A devilish smile now crossed Horatio's lips.  "But vacationing with a Captain? Why it makes me feel rather like a character in a bad holonovel. So then, why not? As for this rematch, I guess I could stand to test me skills. It's been a while."

      "We'll make it interesting ... I win, I pick our first destination on Bajor. You win, you pick. Either way ... I suppose I can spare a few credits for an old friend."
        Carlos smiled.  Having said the word, Carlos wondered whether it was really the best descriptor for what Horatio was to him. Were they even anything to one another? No time like the present to find out, he mused. Walking towards the turbolift towards the docking pylon Pegasus was at, Carlos said, "Shall we meet up tomorrow morning, when you've sobered up? Or do you think a simple hypo will suffice?" He grinned at Horatio.

      "If you think I'm drunk, now, Carlos. Wait till you've seen me at one of the famous Bajoran Kassa halls."  He tried to act serious for a moment.  "But 'old friend?' Carlos, I'm disappointed. You know how sensitive I am about my age."  Shaking his head a bit, Horatio rummaged around in his pockets for his combadge.  "And friend? I would have thought 'old crush' would have been more accurate."  Horatio did always love to push buttons.

      Ruiz closed his eyes, shaking his head.  "I'm still quite a few years older than you. And I am definitely going to make you pay for that last comment.."  Ruiz motions for Atherton to step onto the turbolift.  "Shall we head to Pegasus' gymnasium, then?"

      Horatio rolled his eyes.  "You really are dead set on me teaching you a lesson, no?" With a flourish he produced his combadge from his pocket and clipped it to his vest.  "Just wait till the man in tweed and a linen shirt cleans the floor with your old... but delightfully salt-and-peppery... head."  Still got it, he thought to himself.

      Carlos pulled at his short-cropped military haircut. "More pepper than salt here.  My father didn't go gray until he was sixty-six." He turned to tug at Horatio's collar.  "It's a snazzy outfit. I wouldn't dream of ruining it by throwing you around the mats. We'll replicate you a gi, on me.  I have some pull with the captain of the ship."

      "Believe what you want, Carlos, but the chair tends to make some grayer than others. I happen to know a Bajoran XO who lost all of his hair... before he even got the big seat." Horatio smirked. "And I imagine I'll look fairly smart in a nice gi."

      "Reminds me of someone I used to know .... that Bajoran you speak of."  Ruiz stepped off the turbolift and onto Pegasus, heading down the corridor briskly towards the 'lift to head to the gymnasium, after checking with a wall console to confirm it was empty.  Turning back to face Atherton, he smirked. "And I will say, at the risk of sounding boastful, that however you look in a gi, it'll pale to how I look in my hakama."

      "My, my... it appears the Cowardly Lion has got his courage after all."  Horatio suppressed a laugh.  However, his attention was quickly turned as he saw a nurse passing in the hallway..  He was so enraptured by her presence he stopped dead in the hall.  Once she ducked around the corner, he sighed and caught up with Ruiz.  "But, errm, as I was saying... you're a horse of a different pallor, now.  Oi, wait... I was on about the Cowardly Lion first, right?" He sighed; sometimes his libido got the best of him.

      Carlos stepped onto the lift and called out for Deck 8. "You're still the same old 'Ratio, that's for sure.”  The turbolift took the two men to deck 8 as requested,
      and they then walked towards the gym.  Entering it and crossing into the changing room area, Ruiz opened a locker marked with his name.  "There's a replicator on the other side of those lockers." Turning back to his locker, Ruiz pulled out a white hakama, laying it down on a small bench, then pulled out a black gi top and began to take his uniform shirt off.  “Exactly when did I become cowardly?"

      "I seem to recall a time when the merest inference to your... manly predilections... caused such a blush on your cheeks that you put to shame many red dwarfs."  Horatio made a clicking noise with his tongue, before shoving his hands back in his pockets as he stepped behind a screen to change.

      "I probably blush a bit less, yes. But ... it's still been known to happen on occasion."  Carlos smiled, thinking about just how much he’d changed, even in the few months he’d been captain.  Hopefully, a change for the better all around..

      "I have to admit, I'm not sure I'll ever figure myself out when it comes to things like romance, or whatever you want to term it.  It’s not like I’ve had much experience; I’ve only had three real relationships.  My parents, certainly my father, raised me to be open-minded, though.”  He smiled slightly. 

      “Well, romance... is a very dated term, Charles." Horatio stepped forward wearing a dark blue gi with a black belt and black piping. "Though I imagine you'll be blushing quite a bit in a few minutes."

      Carlos finished tying his hakama on, cinching it tight with a black belt with two red stripes. Already having stripped out of his socks and boots, he feinted a high roundhouse kick that stopped just a couple of inches away from Atherton's face. "You think so, huh? Looking forward to testing that theory."

      Horatio sighed, "Did you imagine you'd scare me with your high kicks?"  He let out a small laugh.  "Though you may want to get those pants let out a bit, all that weight from that big head of yours has to go somewhere!" With that Horatio abruptly turned to make his way to the mat.

      The captain shook his head as he headed out towards the center of the mat. "Hey, I thought a guy who swaggers as much as you do would appreciate a bit of showing off." 

      "I'll let that one go," Horatio said with a wink.

      Carlos began some light stretching, sitting down on the mat for a moment. "This rematch has been a long time in coming."

      Horatio set about his own unorthodox stretching techniques. "I suppose, though, you have a thing for being beaten by smarter, more attractive men?" Horatio was not sporting a devilish smile.

      Carlos stood back up, bringing one knee high up to his chest, then the other knee, no longer smiling either.  "I have no idea how rusty you've gotten in your time away from Pegasus, so tell me, Mr. Atherton: how much should I hold back?"  He looked at the other man in blue. "I don't mind losing to better opponents, no matter what. But I am not going to lose this time."

      The other man made a tsk-tsk noise with his tongue as he faced forward. 
      "Carlos, Carlos, Carlos... never hold back." He leaned his head from side to side, cracking his neck bones. He shook his hands loose. "Trust me, I won't be."

      "I was thinking you'd say that."  Bringing his heels together, the captain offered his opponent a bow.  "Ready when you are."

      Horatio squared his feet and bowed to Ruiz. "Always ready."

      Waiting just until Horatio started to come up from the bow, Ruiz stepped forward, aiming a low kick at Horatio's right thigh, and a ridge-hand chop at the side of Horatio's neck, letting out a kiai as he aimed the strike, stepping close into the man in blue's space.

      Anticipating Ruiz's early action, Horatio quickly shifted his right leg behind him by a few inches. The breeze of Ruiz's foot passing by the only sign he hadn't been struck.  However, Carlos's hand cracked across the side of Horatio's neck.  He fell with the momentum, trying his best to brace himself.  Carlos brought his kicking foot down hard and solidly onto the mat, having missed Horatio's leg, but feeling the chop land and seeing Horatio fall to the mat was somewhat reassuring: First blow to me.

      Rechambering his left arm from the chop, Carlos clenched his left fist and punched down, lowering himself without dropping to a knee, but instead shifting into a horse stance, aiming a punch for Horatio's exposed abdomen. 

      In a very oddly shaped straddle, Horatio sat with his legs wide and his left hand bracing against the floor. He had nowhere else to go... but up.  Gathering his strength, Horatio pushed up with his feet, angling his right hand palm up. Before he committed to the thrust, he leaned slightly forward, to ensure his hand was closer to Ruiz's jaw.

      Not expecting Horatio to push himself so effortlessly off the mat, Carlos saw his target rush towards him, but before the punch was about to connect, took the unseen palm to his jaw with more force than he would have, due to his own downward movement. The palm rocked Carlos' head backwards, eliciting a grunt from the man in white.

      Horatio stepped back for moment, inhaling sharply. "You're getting slow in your old age." Horatio trotted forward, feinted with a low leg kick with his left leg. He touched ground with it, moved another step forward and brought his right foot up in the beginnings of a roundhouse kick aimed for Ruiz's head chest.

      Carlos shook his head, offering a low block with his arm at the perceived kick to his left leg, but brought both hands up quickly to catch Horatio's foot before it could connect, moving his upper body back a couple of inches while remaining in his horse stance, utilizing the extra balance it offered. "No, Horatio. But I never claim to be perfect. It's not about who takes the most hits." Carlos twisted Horatio's foot in his hands, standing up and stepping towards Horatio, thrusting a foot behind his support leg. "It's about who wins in the end."

      Reaping Horatio's leg forward rather than backward, Ruiz brought the sweeping leg up and planted his foot on the ground, intending Horatio to fall forward to connect right into his upraised thigh.

      Horatio was of two minds: either hit Ruiz's leg and win no minor victory, or score a minor victory and hit Ruiz's leg.  He decided he would try for the latter in the split seconds before his face met leg.  Horatio threw all of his weight into an elbow jab placed between Carlos's ribs and armpit.  It wasn't enough to cause damage, or pain, but it should disorient Ruiz.  After throwing the elbow, and unsure of whether or not it connected, Horatio slumped across Ruiz's leg with a loud "Ufffff.”

      Carlos grinned as he brought up his nearest forearm to block Horatio's attempted elbow strike and knock it down and to the side, shaking his head.  "See, not as slow as you thought.  Nice try though.  Now then, what to do with you?"  With Horatio still momentarily helpless and lying chest-first across his thigh, Carlos grabbed the wrist of the arm Horatio tried to elbow him with, and a handful of his foe's blue gi collar.  He dropped the leg Horatio was laid across and brought it back quickly, dropping to his knee as he thrust Horatio down into the mat.  

      About to have his face put into the mat, Horatio closed his eyes and raised his head ever so slightly, to keep the blow from the mat mainly on his chest.  And while that hurt, it didn't hurt nearly as much as if his head had been down.  However, he felt Carlos's grip on his gi loosen as the other man prepared to deliver a strike, and he decided to try something.  With all his strength, Horatio rolled away from Carlos, whose hands, one just now free of the fabric, but the other still clenching his arm, would be tangled with Horatio’s rolling form.

      Still kneeling on his right leg with his left foot flat on the mat, Carlos felt Horatio suddenly roll away in a direction bad for him. Unwilling to lose control of the captured wrist, Horatio's roll pulled the captain almost directly sideways, his knees together and balance completely broken by the unorthodox procedure.  At the end of the roll, Ruiz's arm was fully extended out to the side, still on Horatio's wrist, his cheek almost flush with the mat, his other arm planted on the mat to try and regain his equilibrium..

      Horatio scrambled to get to his knees, doing his best to shake off Ruiz's grip.  With Ruiz on the ground, Horatio delivered two quick punches to the abdomen, before he rocked back onto his feet. Ruiz lost his grasp on the other man’s wrist after the two punches, noting that Horatio was not at all holding back as he coughed a couple of times. 

      Deciding it was time for something risky, Horatio began to free fall on top of Ruiz with an elbow extended downward.  Carlos came back up to a stable kneeling position, and realizing what Horatio was attempting, rolled out of the way quickly, kicking out one leg from beneath his hakama, thrusting it straight up and aiming to connect with the ball of his foot into Horatio's lower abdomen as he fell forward.  The force of Carlos’ kick knocked Horatio to the side, where he sprawled unceremoniously to the ground. For a few moments he laid face-down, not moving.

      Carlos came back up to his knees, moving forward to Horatio's side, and rolling him onto his back. "Hey ... you okay? Did you fall badly?" For the moment, his mind was not at all on the fight, but on Horatio's well-being.

      Horatio blinked his eyes open. "So naive."  He brought his legs up to his chest and, lying on his back, kicked out into Ruiz's chest.  Carlos let out a surprised "ufffff" of his own as he slammed into the mat onto his back a couple of inches back, his knees together and curled to the side slightly.

      "Bastard ... that was dirty pool." Carlos slowly pushed himself off the mat by planting his hands behind him, coming up to look at Horatio angrily.

      "All's fair, Charles," he said as he quickly rose to his feet. Looking Ruiz in the face, Horatio frowned. "Or have my unorthodox moves so flustered you as to have you declaring the fight mine?" Horatio smiled, but took a slightly defensive stance. He expected Ruiz's response to be just and swift.

      Carlos came up quickly in a sitting position, his legs coming down on the mat perpendicular to Horatio's body and his chest a couple of feet away from Horatio's hips. He kicked his feet out fiercely, doing his best to scissor Horatio's legs and take the man in blue face-down on the mat. "I'll have to remember that the next time I show concern for you."

      Horatio fell with the scissor to his legs and grunted loudly as he hit the mat. "Touché." He frowned as he contemplated what to do next.  Their legs entwined, Horatio turned his body to the left, catching Ruiz's right leg between his, blindly reaching for Ruiz's ankle. He was hoping to pull off a sloppy but effective leg lock.

      Carlos pulled his other leg up and free of the tangle, realizing his right leg was trapped, and brought his knee up towards his chest quickly, aiming the foot in a snap kick at Horatio's head.  Catching sight of Ruiz's knee moving back, Horatio immediately let go of Ruiz's right foot and brought his hands up to easily catch Ruiz's left foot before it got to his head.  Now with a slight advantage, Horatio twisted his legs to the left and his arms to the right.  In a way, he was using Ruiz much like a wishbone.

      The captain let out a wince and a quick yelp of pain, bringing his upper chest down onto the mat and doing his best to bring his legs together and untwist them. There was little he could do about being quite vulnerable to any follow-up attack; if he didn't end the unorthodox stretch he would be in even more trouble in short order.  "I'd forgotten ... how good you could be," he said through clenched teeth.

      Horatio let out a little laugh, as he slowly untwisted his legs, making sure to apply more pressure to the leg he held in his hands.  "You'd be surprised how often I heard that, Carlos."  Bringing his feet under him, Horatio shot up to his full height, still twisting his foe’s left leg.  Knowing this hold wouldn't last much longer, Horatio let go of Ruiz's leg at its apex and took a step back, once again in a fighting stance.  He didn't like to kick, or elbow, a man when he was down.

      Carlos drew his leg back and under him as he came up to his knees, shaking his head.  "Letting go of your momentary advantage is a mistake, though."  

      Coming up on his right knee and planting his left foot strongly on the mat after stepping forward, Carlos brought a ridge-hand strike with his left arm aimed squarely for Horatio's stomach, while crossing his right arm in front of him to strike the back of Horatio's left leg to reap it out from under him.  Horatio puffed out his stomach to absorb the blow of the strike, and quickly stepped to left of Ruiz, barely missing the reap. "You really need to come up with a new move. It's been how many years and still you use that reap?"

      Carlos scoffed, feeling his arm get grabbed by Horatio. "I seem to recall you trying to throw me all over the place, too. Sometimes, what you're used to is what you go with. But I'm not above trying new things."

      Horatio quickly slammed his hands down on Ruiz's arm and swung around underneath it. Squatting a little, Horatio butted his hip into Ruiz's stomach and attempted to flip Ruiz onto the mat.  Countering the attempt, Carlos sat down onto the mat, lowering himself more towards the mat, throwing Horatio off-balance and making him lose his grasp on the arm.

      With his back still to Carlos, Horatio was an easy target for a kick.  Bringing both legs together, Carlos lashed out with both heels squarely for Horatio's side in an attempt to stun Horatio long enough to regain the upper hand.  Horatio was moved forward by the force of the kicks, but caught himself from falling flat on his face by falling to a knee.

      "Cunning."  Horatio quickly rose from his knee and turned back to face Ruiz.  He took a quick sprint and jumped, hoping to deliver an elbow and end the match.  Sometimes, morals had to be compromised.

      Carlos rolled deftly up to his knees and out of the way of the quickly descending elbow, waiting until his opponent had fully committed.  "That wasn't." 

      "I had to give up something for my dashing good looks," Horatio said.  Carlos brought a knee sharply into Horatio's upper chest while letting out a kiai, and struck with a backfist at the side of Horatio's head.

      "Omph!" The man in blue hit the mat, and hard.  He was quite a bit dazed.  He took a few moments to breathe in as he came up on all fours, having had a good amount of wind knocked out of him.

      Carlos took full advantage of his foe’s dazed status, standing and walking around to face Horatio, looking down upon him before kneeling about a foot in front of his head.  "You shouldn't rely on your looks too heavily.  What will you do when you run into someone who's completely immune?"

      Reaching forward, Carlos grabbed each of Horatio's wrists, then pulled them inward, crossing Horatio's arms in front of him and taking out his support to force him to drop flush with the mat. Carlos then came up on the balls of his feet as he brought his knees home into Horatio's temples, applying sharp pressure and doing his best to keep hold of Horatio's arms, leaving only Horatio’s legs free behind him as he lay prone on the mat.

      "No one's immune to my ch--." He was cut short by Ruiz's tactics. Horatio struggled to get out of it, but was admittedly still winded from the second time his chest hit the mat.

      "Now this, I'd like to see you get out of."

      Horatio was doing his best to the stay in the game -- he had so wanted to handily beat Ruiz -- but that was not to be. So, he tapped with his foot.

      Carlos applied more pressure with his knees. "You tapping out already, 'Ratio?"

      "Better part of valor and all that."

      Carlos released Horatio's arms and grabbed his blue gi jacket in the front, hoisting Horatio's upper chest off the mat enough to allow him to look into Carlos's eyes, with Horatio's legs and waist still dragging on the mat behind him. Applying a basic scarf hold, though with only minimal pressure, Carlos said after a moment, and with a sudden grin, "It's a shame you left Pegasus. I've missed this."

      The other man chuckled quietly.. "I believe this is the first time you've won against me. So I can only imagine you've missed having your hands all over me." Horatio smiled.  He was banking on Carlos being made slightly uncomfortable by the exchange.

      Carlos sighed, but not in a way that showed alarm or discomfiture.  "I'm pretty sure I've whooped you in the past. In fact, the image of you laid out on the mat underfoot is quite vivid in my memory."  Carlos let go of Horatio's gi and brought an arm around the back of Horatio's neck, bringing the other man chest to chest with him.  With the other, he reached down, seeking out Atherton's knotted belt, giving it a tug to let it fall loose.

      The man in blue smiled wider.  "Ahh, I see those Captain's Pips came with a sense of adventure. I've never known you to be this forward."

      "You're not a part of my crew anymore." Carlos pulled the belt loose, letting Horatio's blue jacket drape open slightly, and bringing the belt around the back of Horatio's neck, using it to keep Horatio close. "And I was interested when you were, but I didn't think it would be appropriate, me being the second officer and all."

      "My, my.  You mean all this time you've been harboring the urge to rip these clothes from me? I'm not sure how to take that, Carlos.  As second officer you're allowed to have feelings. Same with a Captain."

      Carlos took on a pensive look, pondering something he’d obviously given prior thought to.  "I'm not sure everyone at Starfleet Command would agree with your viewpoint, Horatio. There's a reason why married officers often serve on different assignments." Carlos shook his head, taking in the moment, and realizing where he was and what he was talking about. He caught Horatio's gaze. "So, what do I get for winning?"

      "Satisfaction you beat me? A small modicum of my respect? Were you expecting something more?" Horatio smiled, he did love to come on both hot and cold to Ruiz. Indeed, he treated Ruiz much like a game of Risk.  Not every turn meant conquest; sometimes you had to forgo gaining a territory to win a continent.

      "How about something that makes both of us happy?" Carlos smiled a very different smile than he'd shown at any point during the match, as he leaned in and kissed Horatio on the mouth.  He kept the contact for just a second before breaking away and looking back at Horatio to gauge the other man's reaction.  Carlos had fully expected Horatio to fight for the dominant position, but during the match; after he tapped out rather easily, Carlos had definitely dropped his guard, and he was about to pay for it.

      "Oh, Ruins..." Horatio brought his knee up fiercely into Ruiz's chest, stunning Carlos and doubling him over.  Horatio quickly grabbed the lapels of Ruiz's gi and, with all the force he could muster, rolled over, so that he was on top of Ruiz.  Horatio smiled.  "You should always know I come out on top."

      Carlos found himself thrown down hard onto his back, Horatio now atop him. Offering a mock scowl, Carlos laughed, "You're going to have to do better than THAT, ‘Ratio!" He brought an arm up to chop at just under Horatio's jaw, as he bridged his body upward, trying to toss Horatio off to the right side.

      Horatio sighed. "You don't learn." He caught the arm easily enough, but was a bit thrown off when Carlos started to bridge his body.  Horatio brought his own arm holding Carlos’ arm forward, pushing it as far as he could.  Struggling to stay atop Ruiz and realizing he was losing ground, Horatio spurred his heels into Ruiz's flanks and shot out a quick jab underneath Ruiz's left armpit.

      "Ow!" Carlos sat up involuntarily at the sharp dig into his flanks and the hard jab, his head coming to rest against Horatio's shoulder for just a moment, blinking the pain as best he could. 


      Horatio quickly pinned Carlos’ arm over his head. He lowered his head and looked into Ruiz's eyes. "I told you, I always come out on top." He leaned in and kissed Ruiz quickly. "Lesson learned?"

      "I'm a slow learner. Try that last part of the instruction again."

      "Pfft. You haven't earned it."

      Carlos chuckled. "I think I have a lot to learn about you." He made no move to get up, or change either of their positions, his arm still pinned above his head.  With his free hand, he traced one finger down Horatio's slightly hairy bare chest, very briefly, before withdrawing his hand.  "So where do we go from here?"

      "How about a few drinks and then we'll retire to my place?" He grabbed the wrist of Ruiz's free hand and slowly pushed it over Ruiz's head, pinning both his hands. He lowered his face again, just inches from Ruiz's face.  "Your treat."

      Carlos playfully struggled, grinning widely. "This and the vacation on Bajor too? You really cleaned up this shore leave.  Done."

      Horatio moved to plant a kiss on Ruiz's lips, but then suddenly pulled back and let go of Ruiz's hands.  "I tend to have good luck in saving credits on leave.  Never quite understood why."

      "I think I'm starting to figure it out."  Carlos got his elbows under him as he pushed against the mat and scooted himself cleanly out from under Horatio.  Standing quickly beside the still-kneeling Horatio, Carlos offered him a hand to help him rise, with a gallant flourish.

      Horatio gladly accepted the hand and rose to his full height.  "Well, then. If nothing else, shall I lead the way to the bar?”

      "After we change, of course." The two men were exactly the same height, so they were always at the same eye level.  Carlos started to turn away, then turned back towards Horatio quickly and said out loud in a run of words, "I want you to consider transferring back to the Pegasus, instead of going back to your current assignment." He was a bit surprised it came out like that, but his inhibitions did seem to melt away in Horatio's presence, and there was a chance that was for the best.

      "Isn't it a bit early to be moving into each other? Don't I have to ask your father for permission first?" Horatio smiled. "I'll... take it under consideration."

      "My father'd like you, actually. But I know where this is going, and that this is definitely not the moving-in type of situation.  Doesn't mean it isn't still pleasant."

      "Heh."  He shook his head.  "I'll consider it. I do have a plum assignment on the Khaldun..." He paused.  "But let's take this one step at a time."

      Ruiz nodded.  "After you."  This was nearly uncharted territory for the captain; slow and steady was definitely going to be the way to go.  But there was a difference between slow and scared.  Having lived most of his life being too shy to approach anyone, male or female, for a relationship hadn’t gotten him anywhere. 

      "Now then, tonight should be an interesting time."

      Carlos smiled. "I hope more than just interesting. It's been a long time since I've done anything like this." He shook his head. "Too long, in fact."

      You never know who you’ll run into on Deep Space Nine, someone had one told Carlos.  Looking over at Horatio as the two men changed and headed towards an evening of enjoying one another’s company, Carlos mentally amended that rule: You never know who you’ll run into, or how it may make your life far more interesting.

      Three days later, Pegasus headed out into the Bajoran Wormhole, and Horatio Atherton returned to the U.S.S. Khaldun.  And by the time Pegasus returned from the Gamma Quadrant, Horatio Atherton’s request for transfer to the Pegasus had been approved.

      *   *   *

      This sim takes place before the events of the Season Seven episode, "One Very Bad Week", and Atherton's return to Pega

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