More Than Gold

It's been a long day. If one can call 24 hours of non-stop glitches, problems and outright catastrophes in the middle of the star-speckled darkness that is uncharted space, light years away from the nearest sun, a day.

Oh, and then there was the one not-so-diplomatic brawl.

I say it's been a long day. And night. And maybe creeping into the next day, I'm not sure. All I am sure about is I need some sleep before I crash and maybe fall on my nose in the Admiral's synthesized cup of coffee.

Ah, home sweet home. Cabin, sweet cabin at least. But what's the matter with the light? Can't a guy get lights that work in the 25th century?

You know what? It doesn't matter. I don't need lights to sleep after all. In fact, a soothing darkness, broken only by flickering candlelight was starting to sound pretty good right about now. More than worth it's weight in gold…

Waitaminutehere…candlelight? Who lit candles in my bedroom? And where did they come from in the first place?

"Lie down before you fall down, Buck," a smooth, deeply amused voice came from my left, all but whispered in my ear. Sure hands quickly took my jacket from my lax grip along with the gun holstered at my hip before I could get past the presence of the candles.

"Someone forget to pay the power bill?" I ask absently, my eyes blinking in the soothing golden light; the warmth of the multiple little flames only added to the lure of sleep already pulling me toward the messed up tangle of blue blankets and silver space comforter. Right now I can't remember when was the last time I actually made the dang thing. I vaguely know it's been a while. No rest for the weary and all that.

Speaking of rest…

I blink, coming back to myself again and the owner of that dark voice is at my side and I instantly relax at the familiar overly-warm presence; the spicy-musk scent of his feathers lulling me further into the firm grip of the arm wrapped around my waist. Probably making sure I don't stumble over my own feet crossing to the viewport and the inviting nest waiting there. I blink again. Nest?

How long have I been away from my cabin anyway?

Grateful for the steady support, I look sideways at Hawk and sure enough, the brown eyes are alight with amusement, his steps guiding mine until we're at the side of the bed-turned-nest and I collapse, falling forward on my nose in a heap of pure, unadulterated gratitude. I am so not moving for a least a week.

I can hear the exasperation in the fond tone and I imagine the sharply contrasting cap of white and black feathers ruffling as my birdman shakes his head at me. Ha. My birdman. Has a wonderfully comforting sound, doesn't it? I smile happily at the resulting warmth, almost asleep, when I feel the side of the bed dip with another's weight, Hawk's warm grip light on my shoulder.

"Not really," the soft rumble washed over me and I'm fighting the seductive pull of sleep in favor of listening to that voice, trying to remember what the question was. "However, when the Admiral mentioned he was ordering you to your quarters, I had thought you would appreciate some – assistance – in reaching your nest unscathed by objects that might perhaps attempt to deter you by throwing themselves in your path. And perhaps a more soothing light once you arrived."

"Very funny." Despite hearing the dry humor in the teasing I can't help but think he might have been right. I'm pretty sure that one wall hadn't been there this morning when I first made my way to the bridge… "And birds nest," I argue vaguely, just…well because I can. "People don' nest…"

"Ah but you, my friend, are not just any 'people'," Hawk mocks me sternly and I grin into the pillow. "You are mated to a birdman and we, nest."

"'z true. 'thanks…" I yawn large enough to crack my jaw and despite the dull ache in my shoulder that promises all sorts of hell for me in the morning, or whenever it is when I finally get up, all I really want to do is close my eyes and conk out, just for a little while…

"We also know when our lovers and partners need to rest and recuperate."

"mmhmm…" I try to stay awake, I really do, but it's a battle I'm quickly losing…

"Sleep, Buck," he tells me gently and I'm already three quarters of the way into following that advice when I feel his hands removing my boots before moving on to the belt of my black jumpsuit and it's not long until Hawk has me down to my underwear, nestled in the soft, dark blankets.

The bed rises a bit as he leaves, only to return a moment later. I crack open one bleary eye to see he has removed his own boots and the black body armor he wears, the only thing left saving him from indecency being the – well – indecently tight black pants that cling like a second skin to the strong thighs and calves, and flair out a bit at the ankle. I'm suddenly a little more awake.

Hey, when Hawk is half naked, I notice. I'm tired, not dead.

Maybe too tired, actually…still, the view is nice…

I hear that rough silk chuckle and groan because, despite where my mind has currently gone – that being straight into the gutter – I know I'm in no shape to do anything about it. Good thing Hawk is as much, if not more, of a warrior than I am.

"Sleep," he repeats, once more sitting by my hip on the bed. "You need your rest, ku'aou'i. But your shoulder should not wait; even now I can feel the heat rising in protest of your earlier…accident."

I snort; Hawk knowing as well as I do it was no accident that injured my shoulder. He should, he was the one to pull the Keerkin ambassador off me. And then me off of him before I tore the sneaky little bastard a new airhole. Diplomat or not, I hate being hit from behind…

"Accident my foot," I snort, mumbling into the blankets pressed against my face as the strong hands and fingers start rubbing warm, soothing oil into my shoulder. The palm nut abstract is already seeping down through skin to ease and relax the muscles underneath. Ah, bliss. "It was a good thing you were there, ku'aour," I admit, content for the moment to just lie back and enjoy the sure manipulation of my shoulder from talented hands. "Not sure sending the good ambassador home on a med-shuttle is the best way to start diplomatic negotiations."

"Neither is ambushing the senior officer in charge of the first contact mission, from behind, over a minor dispute in seating arrangements, " the dry voice refutes, holding leftover anger from the attack.

"'ztrue." And then because I still find the small, mousy squeak Leerit gasped out when he finally saw Hawk behind me extremely funny, I add, "Thought he was gonna faint when he saw you, though."

"Yes, well everyone knows that birdmen generally eat buckets of mice for breakfast…" Hawk intones and the chuckle I start out with ends up a groan as he hits a bad spot down my spine I didn't know I had. "Relax. Keeping you from going after him again, in turn prevented me from killing the little rodent."

"…mumph…" Sleep is dragging me further away from the conversation, and all hope of intelligent response is gone. I realized vaguely that I've once again forgotten what the question had been… "Glad I could help…"

No return is forthcoming though Hawk does lean down to whisper in my ear, "Holding you in public is always my pleasure," before placing a light nip at the back of my neck with his teeth. I briefly wake at that before Morpheus instantly regains his prize, insistently dragging me down into the depths of sleep, this time kicking and screaming, metaphorically speaking…

It was the first time in days that there was no one there needing something of him. Asking for his advice, an opinion on this or that or demanding some sort of decision on God only knew what. Who had decided he was the one to be in charge anyway? What did he know that others didn't?

There were always voices in his ear, asking, coaxing, demanding, pulling at him for answers, for authority, for attention…'zwas nice to just lie here and be touched in the darkness and the silence. Ok maybe not total silence, not with his partner's deep voice rumbling hypnotically in his ear, still…'zwas nice…

Giving into the inevitable, Buck relaxed into the strong, gentle hands that urged him to rest even as they firmly coaxed out the last of the tension and strain from his overworked body, finally falling asleep to only the low stuttering hiss of the candles and Hawk's soft humming following him down into darkness.