Captain Matthew Gideon lay asleep in his bed, asleep and dreaming, though he did not know that he dreamed.

In the dream, he was standing on the bridge of the Excalibur, as he'd been every day for how long? He was reading a report, when suddenly he became aware of another presence nearby.

"Hello, Matthew," Galen said. "Interesting reading, I take it?"

"Just Rangers' reports. They've found a few planets we might want to check out."

"Oh?" Galen asked, leaning closer. "Where?"

He was about to answer, when he noticed, really noticed, how close the technomage's face was to his own. Suddenly, it seemed like the most natural thing in the world to kiss him.

He brushed his lips against Galen's, just the slightest of contact. Galen didn't pull away; he let out what might have been either a gasp or a sigh, and his lips parted gently-

Which was when Gideon jolted himself awake, not just awake, but sitting straight up in his bed. His heart was pounding, his breath was coming in harsh gasps, and-he was horrified to notice-he was partly erect.

Kissing Galen? What the hell was that all about?

He got out of bed, and staggered to the shower; turned the sonics on as high as they would go. He wished they had water; he wanted nothing more than a cold shower, right now. But no, they had to be efficient.

So he stood under the sonics, trying to come to terms with that dream. Of all the crises he'd faced in his life, questioning his sexual identity had never been one. He'd always been unabashedly (if not as actively as he might have wished) heterosexual.

He took a deep breath, and scrubbed his hands on his face. "It was only a dream. Just a dumb dream."

He remembered, now, a woman he'd dated back in his Academy days. They'd only been together for a few months, and part of the reason had been her fascination with dreams. She'd insisted on telling him all of her dreams, in detail, and tried to pry his own dreams out of him. It had come close to driving him crazy; every date they went on was like attending a workshop on dream interpretation.

But on thing she'd been obsessed with was finding out what the symbols in the dreams meant. She'd said that dreams rarely meant what they seemed to on the surface, you had to dig deep to understand them.

So what that meant was that, hallelujah, he hadn't really been dreaming about kissing Galen; he'd been dreaming about something else entirely, and kissing Galen had just been entirely symbolic. Symbolic of what he had no clue, but he figured that he could think about that in the morning—assuming that he even remembered it.

He shut off the sonics, stepped out of the shower, and padded back to bed.

He had no more dreams that night.
* * *

In the morning, the dream was still clear in his mind. So, while he ate his breakfast, he downloaded a few books on dream interpretation to a data crystal, and stuck it in his pocket.

The morning passed uneventfully; he even managed to get some paperwork done. Soon it was lunch, and he took his data crystal with him.

He'd just pulled up the contents page, when Doctor Sarah Chambers walked up to him. "What're you reading?" she asked.

He looked up at her, feeling inexplicably guilty. Like he'd just gotten caught.

"Uh, just a book. On dream interpretations."

She shrugged. "I've never really paid all that much attention to dreams; they're supposed to be just the subconscious junk we all pick up during the day." Then her expression turned curious. "Why, have you been having strange dreams?"

"Uhh-why would you say that?"

"Because you don't strike me as someone who'd obsess over their dreams. So it must have been something."

"Well..."

"Let me guess-it was the one where you show up on the bridge naked."

"Naked?" My god, could that be next? On the bridge, kissing Galen, naked?

"When I was in medical school, I kept dreaming that I showed up to give an oral presentation naked. It always happened right before a test."

"You're kidding."

"No. It's actually pretty common; most people have at least one dream during their lives of showing up somewhere naked."

"I've certainly never dreamed of showing up anywhere naked," Galen said, from just behind Gideon's left shoulder. "Hello, Matthew, Doctor."

"Galen." Gideon didn't turn around, feeling suddenly awkward. He had to act normal, couldn't let the technomage see how aware he was of his presence. "When did you come aboard?"

"I just arrived."

"What brings you here?"

Galen sat down beside him. "Why does there have to be a reason? Can't I just stop by to see my friends?"

"I suppose it could happen. Maybe."

"Why, Matthew. I'm hurt."

"I'm sure you'll get over it." Had that been too harsh, too dismissive? He had no desire to hurt the mage's feelings, not over a dream that, after all, hadn't really been about kissing Galen.

"On the contrary, Matthew, I may never recover!" Galen's eyes were wide and innocent-looking, though Gideon knew better than to trust that expression.

Chambers laughed, and pushed herself to her feet. Gideon said he'd talk to her later, and she walked away.

"So what were you dreaming about, Matthew?"

"None of your damn business."

"I see."

"I mean, haven't you ever had bad dreams?"

"No." His voice turned soft. "Usually, I dream of Isabelle."

"But that's good."

"Yes. Until I wake up." He shook his head. "Sooner or later, I always wake up."

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to bring it up."

Galen looked at him, his expression bleak. Gideon thought he could see the tears sparkle in his friend's eyes. Though of course, it could have just been a trick of the light.

"Maybe-maybe you'll find someone else."

"No. There could never be another woman."

Well, he hasn't ruled out anyone that's not a man-ack, what did I just think?

"Matthew, are you all right?"

"I'm fine." He noticed that Galen was staring at him. "Really-stop looking at me like that!"

"Like what? Matthew, something is wrong."

"No, I'm fine."

"You're acting quite strangely."

"I just didn't sleep well last night."

"The dream you had." Galen leaned closer. "Somehow, we keep coming back to that dream of yours."

"No. You're being silly."

"Hardly. Matthew, I'm becoming concerned."

"Dreams are dreams. They don't mean anything."

"Oh, hardly. They often carry quite a bit of meaning—though not necessarily what they seem to, on the surface."

"Well, good. I'm glad. So we don't have to worry."

"Well, I wouldn't quite go that far."

Gideon hurriedly scooped up the last of his lunch, and stuck the crystal in his pocket. Then he retreated into his office, to read the books.

He looked up kissing in the first book; it said that it was an indication of erotic desire. No, no, it's not. Not for Galen. It's symbolic.

The second book told him pretty much the same thing. Frustrated, he pulled up the third one.

This one was better. It started with the same old explanation about erotic desire, but went on to say that kissing someone often meant the desire for qualities exhibited by the person or object that was being kissed.

Well, that was better. It made a lot of sense, too; Galen had a lot of good qualities. Not only the power he had access to, but he was unflappable, and he'd sacrificed a lot to help humanity.

Yes, lots of sense. He shut the screen down, and wiped the data crystal. Lunch was over; it was time to go back out onto the bridge.

But when he looked up, Galen was standing in front of his desk. The door, of course, had never opened.

"Don't you ever knock, before you walk through someone's door?" Anyone else he would have ripped into, but what would he do to Galen? Maybe that was what he envied about the mage; he got away with more than Gideon ever could.

"I was concerned."

"Well you can stop worrying. I have."

"If you're certain."

Gideon walked to the door-being certain to give Galen a wide berth-and walked back onto the bridge. Lieutenant Matheson saluted him, and surrendered the chair. Galen followed Gideon out, and began to roam around the bridge.

Gideon picked up a stack of reports, and Galen wandered over to him. "Interesting reading, I take it?"

"Just Rangers' reports. They've found-aargh, no!"

"You may not be concerned, but I am."

"No, I just-I forgot I was going to check in with the Doctor, after lunch. Lieutenant Matheson, the bridge is yours."

"Yes, Sir."

He hurried off of the bridge, and took the core shuttle to see Dr. Chambers. She looked up when he came in.

"Is something wrong?"

"No. Galen's just being more of a pain than usual."

"Enough to chase you off the bridge?"

"I wasn't chased; I just left before I had the chance to tell him off in front of the whole bridge crew."

"Uh huh."

"What is it with everybody today? I'm just under a lot of stress, is all. You know, the whole 'save the world' thing can weigh on a guy."

"Weight of the world on your shoulders." She sounded sympathetic, now, not skeptical.

"Yeah."

"So was I right-I mean about the dreams?"

"Not in the details, but yeah, pretty close." If it would get everyone off his back, he was perfectly willing to let them think that he'd been dreaming of walking onto the bridge in his underwear, or something. That was a whole lot more benign than dreaming of kissing Galen.

Even if it was only symbolic.

He walked back to the bridge. Galen was gone, though his ship was still docked onboard. So Gideon was sure that he would reappear soon. In the meantime, he hoped he'd have plenty of time to read the Rangers' reports undisturbed.
* * *

The rest of the shift passed uneventfully. Gideon read the reports, prioritized them, and prepared the agenda for the next morning's meeting. Then he went and had dinner. He started out alone, but people were drifting in and out all the time. He was working on dessert when Dr. Chambers joined him. They made small talk until he was done, and then he went to the gym to shoot baskets. Some of the crew members were doing the same, and eventually it turned into a 3-on-3 game. Gideon's team lost, but he actually felt good about it-it meant that at least his crew was comfortable enough that they knew they could outplay the Captain with no repercussions.

Finally, pleasantly tired, he walked back to his quarters. He used the sonic shower and went to bed.

Again he dreamed that he was on the bridge, reading reports.

"Hello, Matthew," Galen said. "Interesting reading, I take it."

"Just Rangers' reports. They've found a few planets we might want to check out."

"Oh?" Galen asked, leaning closer. "Where?"

He was about to answer, when he noticed, really noticed, how close the technomage's face was to his own. Suddenly, it seemed like the most natural thing in the world to kiss him.

He brushed his lips against Galen's, just the slightest of contact. Galen didn't pull away; he let out what might have been either a gasp or a sigh, and his lips parted gently-

Not this again.

But then he gave a mental shrug. After all, it was just a dream. And everyone knew that dreams were just symbols, he reminded himself, as he slid the tip of his tongue between Galen's lips.