Title: A Different Wilderness

Author: Arctapus

E-mail: arcpus@yahoo.com

Date: 12/08/01

Type: M/M slash

Pairing: Tucker/Reed, many

Rating: NC-17

Disclaimer: Paramount owns the concept. I own the story. No copyright infringement is implied.

Summary: An away mission goes awry.

Comment: Violence. This features strong content. I don't know where it came from either but here it is. Be forewarned.


If I hadn't seen the sun, I could have borne the shade, But light a different wilderness, my wilderness has made…


Captain's Ready Room…

"So…I would like you to tell me what happened down there."

Charles "Trip" Tucker stared at his captain and wondered how he could ever put into words the past three days. It wasn't something he himself had assimilated completely and here he was, asked to articulate what he could barely call into his mind.

"Captain," he began, hesitating, his discomfort clear on his boyishly handsome face.

Jonathan Archer, Captain of the NX-01 Enterprise watched the discomfort grow on his chief engineer's face and cursed himself once again. They had returned from a bad mission, he himself injured and this was the first time that he could talk to the default commander of the away team.

Trip stood uncomfortably before him and Archer rose, limping to a cabinet where he kept a bottle of whiskey. He seldom drank, the whole idea of losing control of himself not part of his strong and disciplined outlook. Pouring a couple of glasses, he turned and handed one to Trip, nodding for him to sit down.

Trip hesitated and moved, sitting on a chair nearby. Archer sat, rubbing his arm absently. He noted Tucker's pale features and wondered once again what had happened while he was unconscious. For two days he had been delirious, lying on his side in a cage while god only knew what happened to his officers.

He had been the most injured, at least on the surface. The other two, Tucker and his chief tactical and armaments officer, Lt. Malcolm Reed had returned without noticeable surface injury. However, it was apparent that something terrible had happened to all of them and their pale-faced silence was getting him nowhere. He needed to know.

"I could order you to tell me what happened," Archer began, sipping on the sour liquid.

Tucker stared at his glass. "You could. I know that."

"I would prefer that you tell me without that," Jonathan said gently. "Something terrible happened to you and Malcolm. I can't help you…I can't help you with the burden of it if you don't tell me what went on. You have to trust me, Trip."

"I trust you, Captain," Tucker said, his eyes searching Archer's face. "I hope you know that."

Archer nodded, waiting. Anguish crossed Tucker's face and he set his glass down, rising and turning away. He rubbed his face.

"I just don't know…I'm trying to figure it all out," he said.

"What happened, Trip?" Archer gently probed. "I know that it was bad. I know what Sajak is. I know that he hurt you. I just…you have to unburden yourself."

"Have you talked to Malcolm?" Tucker asked quietly, not trusting himself to turn around.

Archer considered his earlier interview. Malcolm had stood before him and denied that anything untoward had happened while they were held by the pirates that had overtaken their shuttle. He had stood ramrod stiff, his face a pale mask of non-emotion and lied.

"He's not talking."

Trip's shoulders sagged, his whole demeanor caving in. Turning, he looked at Archer, flashes of their ordeal filling his mind. With effort he pushed them away.

"I have to sort it out yet," he said, licking his dry lips. "I'll tell you but I have to sort it out."

"Do you need help?" Archer asked. "I can ask Dr. Phlox to assist you. There's things he can do, things he can use if your memories are blocked."

"No," Tucker said quickly, shaking his head. "I have to do this myself."

Archer nodded. He rose and drained his glass. "I want you to know that I'm here twenty-four, seven."

A weak smile formed on Tucker's lips and he nodded. "I know."

They stood together a moment and then Tucker turned, walking to the door. He paused and stared at Archer a moment, then he turned and walked out, the door closing behind him. Archer stared at it and sighed, searching his mind again for any clue to what had happened to the three of them before they were found.

It was a futile exercise as usual.


Late that night…

He stood in the weak light of the window, dressed in shorts and t-shirt. He wore them anticipating the visit that had almost become a nightly happening. Outside, the stars raced by, uncaring and unseeing. Inside, he stood in bare feet, waiting with nervous agitation for his visitor.

It had begun right after their rescue. The first time he had been taken aback. Now it was something he needed, a much awaited interlude. As he stood there, the chime sounded. He turned, staring at the door through the gloom of his cabin.

"Come in," he said, watching as the door opened.

He stepped in, dressed as always in sweats. He paused and the door closed, the two alone together. For a moment nothing happened and then he stepped closer, moving nearly nose-to-nose with the silent waiting figure. Without a sound they would embrace, kissing with a pent up desire that had rocked him that first time.

They would touch, stripping off clothing and fall to the bunk nearby, two bodies twisting together in passion. Then the visitor would turn over and give himself up, taking into his body the hard driven thrusts of his partner. They would move against each other until they were spent and after lying together a moment, he would rise and dress silently.

Not a word would be exchanged, not a sound. It was almost as if they would evaporate if reality intruded. He would dress and stand a moment, staring at his partner and then he would turn, leaving as quietly as he came. Tucker would watch him go and wonder again what they were doing. He would anguish once the spell was broken and marvel once again that his partner never got hard from their encounters. It was only him.

Sighing with pained emotion, Tucker would rise and shower, wondering once again what he was going to do. He would dress in clean clothes and sit at his desk, silently anguishing over himself and Malcolm and their ordeal.


Two weeks before…

"We'll meet you at the rendezvous point," Jonathan Archer said, nodding to his science officer, Sub- commander T'Pol. She nodded and watched as the three men left the Bridge. They were dressed in denim-like clothes, coats and pants, boots and side arms. Blending in would be necessary if they were to observe the people on the nearby class M planet that their sensors had discovered.

It was going to be a split mission. The ship would be going on to observe a natural phenomenon, a star going through birth throes nearby, while they would be heading in a shuttle to the planet to watch people who had just discovered the combustion engine.

All in all, it would be a fruitful mission and so he chose people who could handle the details. Trip would observe the technical side of things and Malcolm would provide security and piloting skills. He himself would go along for the joy of learning and seeing something new for the first time. They would be coming back in three days, rendezvousing with the ship.

Entering the shuttle, they disengaged from the ship and began their journey. They would wend their way through the asteroid field that separated their destination from the rest of the solar system that sustained it and then they would find a secluded place to land.

What they hadn't expected to find were the pirates that had been using the asteroid field as cover. Flashing along toward their destination, they only too late found out they were being followed due to the ambient radiation that surrounded them.

"We're being pursued," Malcolm said, his normally calm voice tense.

"Got them," Archer said, manning the sensors. "Polarize the hull. I'm firing up the phasers."

Tucker turned from Engineering after the first bolt of energy hit them. "We've taken some damage. Try and evade them."

"I'm trying," Malcolm said, slipping through floating debris as the ship gained on them.

"We're not going to outrun them," Archer said grimly, watching as their own shots had no effect on the ship. "Turn back. Take us out of here. I've sent an S.O.S. to Enterprise."

They swung in a tight turn, heading out toward open space where their ship hopefully was coming to their rescue. As they did, a hit rocked the shuttle and they spun, their systems shutting down in bursts of sparks and flame. Smoke filled the cabin as they struggled and then a jerk indicated that a tractor beam had them. Archer turned, pulling out a phaser.

"We're going to be boarded."

Malcolm shut down unnecessary systems and released his harness, rising with his phaser in hand. Standing in the rising smoke, the three waited tensely as they heard someone outside. Beating on the door, it gave and then figures entered. They fired and some went down. Then there were more and one by one, they were subdued.

Archer felt the blow and fell, landing on his side. As he did, he saw two dark figures dragging Malcolm off through the smoke. He was struggling mightily but futilely. Tucker was nowhere in sight and as he rose another blow struck him. He fell, falling into unconsciousness.



"Commander," Hoshi said, turning slightly. "I have a distress call from the shuttle."

"Put it on," T'Pol said, turning at her own station.

Hoshi complied and a crackling message from Archer sounded over the Bridge.

"Mayday, mayday, Enterprise. We're under attack by unknown vessel. I'm sending our coordinates. I repeat, we're under attack by unknown vessel. Mayday, mayday."

Then the message ended and the Bridge was silent. T'Pol rose and stepped toward the helm.

"Did you get the coordinates?" she asked.

Ensign Travis Mayweather, chief pilot, nodded. "I have them."

"Take us there, maximum warp. Sensors extended."

"Aye," Travis said, his fingers moving.

The ship turned and jumped forward, disappearing into the darkness of space.


Mess Hall…

Malcolm Reed sat by himself, eating a light dinner. He was of sufficient rank to dine in the officer's mess with the captain but that would be difficult. Archer had tried to find out his secret and he was vulnerable enough right now to fly apart. He used his discipline and iron will and the reserved dignity that usually informed him to keep things distant.

Since their rescue, he had been coping the best way he could. The doctor had not caught on to the real cause of his injuries. His knowledge of human anatomy and peculiarities wasn't refined enough, thank goodness he considered. Most of them were internal anyway, scars that only showed on his psyche. All the rest could be explained away with well made lies. Phlox, though curious, had not asked many questions, accepting his explanations.

He was aware that Archer had Phlox' report. He was aware that some of his physical problems were listed but he had lied, saying that they weren't received during their captivity. He had glanced at Tucker, the other man staring at them both silently. Archer had turned at him for confirmation.

Tucker had nodded. "We were together the whole time. I would have known."

Archer had sighed and looked at the two of them, wondering. Reed knew it had marked him as different, as outside the norm but he couldn't help it. It beat the truth. Archer couldn't know the truth. It was his secret and Tucker's. Tucker would never tell. He could hardly contain it himself.

They would bear it alone and together. It would be theirs and no one else's. No one would be able to intrude on their private horror and no one would ever be able to get either of them to tell. It would be their own private hell.


A day after returning…

It was late and he was unaccountably nervous. Pacing in his bare feet, he considered what he should do. Only one other person knew. Only one other person understood. Turning, he caught his reflection in a mirror. He paused, the pale face and wild eyes of his own reflection startling. Taking a deep cleansing breath, he turned and walked to the door.

Exiting, he walked down the corridor, pausing finally before the door that called to him. Pressing the chime, he waited. A voice called out for him to enter and he did, stepping inside and waiting as the door closed behind him. Sitting on his bed, dressed in shorts and t-shirt, Trip Tucker looked at him with surprise.

He stood up, profoundly uncomfortable. Biting on his lower lip, he sighed with sorrow.

"Malcolm," he whispered. "I'm so sorry. I don't know what to say to you."

Malcolm stared at him, at the sorrow on Trip's face and knew in a moment what he had to do. Moving to where Tucker stood, he embraced him, kissing him on the lips. Tucker stood a moment staring at him and then without even a thought, he slipped his arms around Malcolm.

At that moment, at that break in their psyche, there was only the two of them and together they fell to the bed, their bodies moving together in a mad rut. Malcolm turned and offered himself, groaning softly as Tucker took up the offer. They moved together, moaning and sweating and when Tucker was through, fell together onto the bed in exhaustion.

Lying spooned, Tucker reached around and felt for Malcolm, his hand touching Reed. There was nothing. Tucker raised his head and peered downward, staring at Reed's penis. It lay limp against his thigh. He took a ragged breath and lay back, considering what they had just done.

"Malcolm," he whispered.

Reed lay silently for a moment, then he rose, crawling over Tucker and stepping down onto the floor. He gathered his clothes and began to pull them on, ignoring Tucker's concerned face.

"Malcolm, we have to talk," Tucker persisted.

Reed ignored him and walked to the door. He paused and looked back silently, staring at Tucker. Then he slipped out and the door closed. Tucker stared at it for a very long time as he struggled to understand what they had just done.


Mess hall…

Reed watched the door, evaluating everyone who entered as to threat. When he was nearly finished, Tucker entered, pausing as he saw the slender form of Reed sitting alone at a table. Hesitating nervously, he moved, walking over and sitting. Leaning on his elbows, he studied the impassive figure before him.

The night before had been like many before it, a miasma of sweat and pleasure followed by silent withdrawal. They had begun to play their game in earnest and they had done so without a word exchanged. Sitting together, they stared without speaking.

The door opened and Archer entered, pausing and walking toward them, pulling out a chair and sitting. Tucker nodded and looked back at Reed. Reed stared at his cup, silently willing Archer to withdraw.

"Gentlemen," Archer said, folding his hands together.

"Captain," Tucker replied. Reed sat silently.

"Malcolm?" Archer began. "Are you all right?"

Reed looked at him, his eyes unreadable. He nodded. "I'm fine."

Tucker glanced from one to the other, his anxiety rising with every passing second. An unaccountable feeling of protection rose in him and he wanted to spirit Malcolm away.

"I was hoping we could talk about what happened," Archer said, a gentle smile on his face. He looked at Reed and then Tucker, his eyes questioning the silence.

"I imagine you do," Tucker replied, nervously tapping his fingers on the table.

"I don't," Reed said, his voice devoid of emotion. "There's nothing to say." He rose and gathered his things.

"Sit down, Lieutenant," Archer said, halting Reed in his tracks.

The younger man paused and then turned, staring at his commander. Images flashed through his mind, terrible humiliating images and he felt the reality around him falling away. Putting his tray down, he looked at Archer, unaware of Tucker rising from his chair. Then, without warning, he picked up a knife and drew back a sleeve, slicing into the skin of his wrist.

Around him, sitting and standing, people froze as Archer rose, moving swiftly. He grabbed a towel and Reed's arm as Tucker pulled the knife from Reed's hand. Wrapping the towel around Reed's arm, he called to the ceiling.

"Archer to Sick Bay! Medical emergency in the Mess Hall! Get down here now!"

As the room erupted into chaos, Malcolm Reed swung his arm and clipped Archer on the chin. Blood flung over the three of them as the towel fell away and Malcolm turned, mindless fury in his eyes as he backed up, standing between Trip and three other crewmen, walking toward him with care. As they came closer, he threw himself forward, bringing the battle himself.


Sick Bay…

He lay on the bed, sedated and strapped down. Fighting everyone who tried to hold him down with an abandon that had exacerbated the skills he held as a security officer, he had inflicted a great deal of damage to himself and others by the time Phlox had subdued him. Blood covered the floor and several people who had helped. Archer and Tucker had blood Malcolm's blood on them too. Transporting the unconscious figure to the Sick Bay, along with the three injured parties that helped subdue him, Phlox had his hands full for about an hour.

Surgery to Malcolm's arm had repaired the damage he had inflicted upon himself and the bruises and sore spots Tucker, Archer and a crewman eating nearby were perused and attended to. Archer stood by Reed's bed, staring down at him with concern. Turning, he fixed his heated gaze on his chief engineer.

Tucker was pulling his sleeves down, fixing the cuffs with their fasteners. Lowering his gaze, he moved to stand next to Archer, his worried expression clear to see.

"What the hell happened down there?" Archer asked. He turned and stared at the silent man before him.

Tucker shook his head. "I don't know. I don't know," he repeated.

"Did you forget? Did they block your memories somehow?" Archer asked. He stared at Tucker, at the fear and pain on his face. "Tell me. That's an order, Commander."

Tucker turned to him, looking at Archer with a puzzled expression. "You're ordering me to tell?"

"Yes," Archer replied, surprised by Tucker's question. "Trip…tell me what happened."

Tucker stared at Malcolm as images too horrible to think about pressed at his conscious mind. He shoved them away, pushing them back until they receded, allowing him to breathe again. He sighed and shrugged helplessly.

"Trip, I have Phlox' report. Something happened to Malcolm didn't it. Something you witnessed."

Tucker listened and then the room faded away, the arena taking the place of the safe familiarity of the Sick Bay. It was filled with noise, the image in his head so real he could taste his blood and he felt his pulse race again. All around him were faces of strangers and they were shouting and jeering, taunting him.

In one corner was a figure, a person he knew and they expected him to go to him. They expected him to do something to him, to the person standing there. He didn't want to but it was out of his hands. Moving closer, he watched as the figure coalesced. It was Malcolm Reed.

Tucker stopped, his pulse racing and the pounding in his ears raging. Malcolm stared at him, his eyes wary and he moved back, falling into a defensive stance. The crowd grew louder and then it was too much. His blood boiled and he moved closer, ever closer, Malcolm stepping away from him as he did.


The sound of Archer's voice pierced the terror of his memories and he turned, finding himself leaning against the bed, sweating and panting with fear. It was the Sick Bay but it wasn't. The image of the arena was still with him and as he stood by the bed, he could feel the hatred and self-loathing filling him again. Jerking free, he moved back, sliding along the bed as he put distance between them. Archer stepped forward, following him.

"Trip. It's me, Jonathan Archer. Listen to me."

The voice was low and soothing, just like the other one and he found himself falling into the abyss once more.

"You will do what I tell you to do. You will go and fight for me," the voice said as a needle was withdrawn from his arm. "You will give me a show and if you do very, very well, in a few days you will be set free."

Tucker looked up through the drug haze that cocooned him into the eyes of a stranger, someone alien to him in every way possible. Archer and Reed were nowhere to be seen and as he swayed in the grip of two large men, he found himself nauseated and pain-filled.

"It hurts, doesn't it?" the soothing voice asked. "Yes," Trip groaned, gasping for air.

"I can make it feel better but you have to do what I tell you. Are you ready to do that?"

Tucker considered his words as the bile crept up his throat. Nodding his head, he whispered around the roaring in his head. "Yes."

The entity smiled and reached for another syringe, sliding it into Tucker's arm and emptying it. The relief was immediate and Tucker was relieved, the anguish of his internal torment receding.

The entity, Sajak, stared at him and smiled, reaching for yet another syringe. Tucker looked at it and jerked back, his restrainers tightening their grip on him. He looked at the needle and then Sajak, panting with fear and outrage.

"What's that?"

"It's the only thing that will make you feel better. It will also make you obey me. The first drug is a disciplinary measure, a control. The second was a temporary antidote. This one will give me control of you. If you want me to continue to relieve your symptoms, you have to do what I want you to do."

"What? What's that?" Tucker replied, struggling futilely as Sajak slid the needle into his arm. He groaned with pain and stood tensed as the syringe was emptied into his veins. The needle withdrew and he stood shivering, a sweaty sheen breaking out all over his body.

"There," Sajak said with a smile. "That's much better. In an hour, once the drugs have had time to truly circulate, you will feel better. Then you will be taken to the arena."

"Arena?" Tucker gasped, swaying on his feet.

"Yes," Sajak said softly. "When you get there, you will follow your instincts, instincts that have been channeled by my ministrations. You will meet someone there and you will do what you have to. In the meantime, you will be taken someplace to lie down."

He nodded to the guards and they turned, dragging Tucker off. As he went out the door, he noticed Malcolm sitting slumped in a chair, staring at the floor with glassy eyes.

"Malcolm!" he shouted, struggling futilely with his guards. The other man didn't look up. He just sat and when they were ready to turn the corner, Tucker saw two men haul Reed to his feet and drag him into the room he had just exited. Tucker's shouts echoed down the corridor as he disappeared.

For a moment he was in the arena, stalking Malcolm like a trapped animal and then he was here in the Sick Bay, gripping the edge of Malcolm's bed, staring wildly around. Archer was there and so was Phlox and two orderlies. A couple of security guards were standing by, their eyes following him as he slowly moved away from Archer.

Malcolm stirred, moaning softly and Tucker froze, staring at him with complete concentration. It was as if everyone in the room had disappeared, the two of them the only beings left in creation. He sighed and stepped forward, taking Malcolm's uninjured hand into his own. Holding it tightly, he stared at Reed, a kaleidoscope of images filling his mind.

Archer stared at him, watching as the world seemed to telescope down for Tucker. He watched as Tucker moved to hold Malcolm's hand and he felt fear. He didn't know what he would do but he knew that somewhere in the focus of what happened, he himself figured greatly. Moving closer, he touched Tucker. "Trip? Can you hear me?"

For a moment Tucker didn't move, his gaze fixed firmly on the silent figure on the bed. With a deep sigh, he turned and looked at Archer, at the fear in Archer's eyes.


"I'm here."

"Don't worry."

"I am, Trip. You're not yourself. Malcolm tried to kill himself."

"He wouldn't," Tucker said with a sigh. "It was the game."

Archer paused, staring at Tucker with a frown. "What game?"

"The arena," Tucker whispered, almost as if he didn't want anyone to hear. "He's doing what he has to. I know that now."

Phlox stepped closer, touching Archer on the arm. He stepped back, moving into a corner with the doctor.

"They appear to be programmed. They seem to be reliving an event that happened to them during your captivity. Do you know what they're talking about?"

Archer shook his head. "No."

Phlox shook his head. "Then we have to do some digging."

They turned and Phlox walked over to where Tucker stood, standing and watching over the now silent figure on the bed. He touched Tucker's arm and the younger man flinched, glancing up sharply, a wary and defensive look on his face.

"Mr. Tucker, I think we need to talk."

"We can't," Tucker replied, sighing. "We aren't supposed to."

"That's all right. You can talk to me. I'm confidential."

Tucker stared at him and then Archer. "Who will look after Malcolm?"

"I will," Archer replied, moving to the bed himself.

Tucker stared at him for a moment and then nodded, looking at Phlox with an expression of fear and hopefulness. They turned and walked to a corner of the room where Tucker sat on a chair, his hands folded on his lap.

Archer stood beside Reed, staring at the figure before him. He wondered what horror he had endured, what pain he had suffered and the full burden of command felt oppressively heavy. The feeling that he had not done something important permeated him and he waited as he watched Phlox and Tucker nearby with a combination of loathing and worry.


The rescue…

Three days of searching had revealed little until the morning of the third. T'Pol sat at her station when the distress beacon of the shuttle was finally picked up. Turning, she instructed them to approach a small asteroid, hidden from their sensors by the pulsating radiation surrounding them.

Moving in, they detected no other ships and a rescue team was sent to find out what had happened to their crew. A message from the surface indicated that they were all there, groggy from drugs and injuries but well. By the time they were retrieved and the shuttle secured, the ship was back on track and in the relative safety of open space.

T'Pol stood in the Sick Bay, watching as Phlox and his technicians worked on the away team, scanning and repairing as needed. Archer had head trauma, a concussion that would require a couple of days of light duty and rest. Tucker appeared to be battered, bruised and shocked, dehydrated and confused. The same prescription would take care of him. Reed was another matter.

Phlox studied the scans of the silent man sitting on the diagnostic table before him. He had been bruised and battered too and there were other signs of trauma. He didn't know quite what to make of it, his understanding of human physiology and the ways of their interactions still a dim and evolving mystery.

He had asked Reed questions, the silent figure giving nothing away as he fobbed off answers that seemed reasonable but explained little. Standing before Reed, noting his shuttered eyes and dulled responses, he knew something had happened but he also knew he would get next to nothing in explanation.

Turning, he walked to the terminal to write his report, ordering all concerned to their quarters for rest for two days. Watching as they filed out, he turned to his computers, working on the samples of blood he had extracted from each. There was something in Reed and Tucker's samples that was strange and unexpected. A complicated enzyme, he knew he had a problem to solve that would elude easy detection. Glancing up at the men as they walked out the door, he knew he had to make it a priority.


That night…

Malcolm had come and they had sex, hard driving sex, something Tucker had never shared with a man before. He had been attracted to women all his life and men had never entered the equation. Yet here he was, sleeping with Reed and enjoying it.

Maybe enjoy was too big a word. He craved it. He needed it. The sense of power he had over the other man was exhilarating. He felt the most intense sense of sexual feeling he had ever experienced when the door would open and the silent figure would enter, ready and waiting for him to take from him what he wanted.

Malcolm was always silent, always passively receiving. He never made an aggressive move, leaving that part of their strange encounter to Tucker. Before this, they had been merely friends, each enjoying the other, their disparate personalities compatible. Now, in this situation, it was clear that one was dominant and one passive.

For some reason, it had helped Tucker. He had been able to swim out of the miasma of anguish that had swallowed Reed. Of course, the anxiety that their situation had generated in him put lie to this but in his current state of mind he didn't notice. All he did see was the strange symbiotic relationship that he had with Reed, something they both needed and exercised.

What had been a recurring theme between the two of them was Reed's submission, Tucker's dominance and the fact that Reed was impotent in their encounters. Maybe he felt that way emotionally and this was a physical reaction to that. Tucker didn't know. That kind of thinking was best left to professionals.

He did know that he craved their clandestine encounters just as passionately as Reed did and the idea that they would end or be prevented made the knot in his stomach tighten.

Phlox had been talking to him and he hadn't heard a word spoken. It was disconcerting, he considered, strange and unsettling. He would have to be careful if they wished to continue their relationship.

At no point in the internal dialog that he was having with himself did Tucker consider just how twisted their 'relationship' was.


He lay on the diagnostic bed, the bindings on his arms and legs secure. He had been trained to get out of them and they were aware of that, fastening them so securely that it would take either superhuman strength or intervention to escape. He was lying in a darkened area of Sick Bay, the curtain sheltering his privacy drawn around him.

It was mostly silent although he could hear things from time to time as someone came and went. When Phlox or a tech would come in, he would close his eyes and pretend to be asleep. Phlox knew he was pretending but Reed didn't care. Only one thing mattered and he wasn't here.

It was getting dark and he needed to find Tucker. The two had their routine, a routine that quenched the raging fire within him. He would pace until it was nearly mid-night and then walk silently to the Commander's cabin, entering at Tucker's command.

Commands were necessary. They were essential. They gave him balance and direction. Having the Commander take care of him, not just in bed but the emotional side of things was necessary. It was absolutely essential. Those words rang in his head and he tested his bonds once more, tugging at them as the evening wore on.

Soon it would be the right time and Tucker would be waiting. Soon he would be needed. But here, locked in this room, on this bed, he wouldn't be able to do what he had to. It began to frustrate him and he could feel the tears rising in his eyes. Frustrated tears. It had been years since he had expended that emotion.

Years since a child, years spent in the public schools, living on the campus in dorms and going home on the weekends. He hadn't thought about that in a long time, not consciously, but they had come to him unbidden in his dreams and he struggled with them. There were bad memories woven into the good and he preferred the here and now over the past.

It had been part of his desire to be the best soldier he could be and qualify for a ship like Enterprise. He could go to space and remake himself, forgetting the events in the past where he had no control, no ability to overcome. He sighed, looking at the wall panel. It was nearly 2100, the best time to meet Tucker. He knew Tucker would be in his cabin, dressed in shorts and t-shirt, waiting for him to come and pour medicine over his tortured soul. He was a healer, he believed, healing the breaks in Tucker's heart. He was essential and their ritual kept them both going. When he gave himself, he could forget the past. He could be outside of his own body, taking from Tucker even as he gave him everything.

Now he was caught in this trap and he had to break free. The only way he could do that, he considered, was giving them what they thought they wanted. The truth? Not likely. But a reasonable facsimile of it out to be enough. Of course, Tucker would understand and he would assist with the big lie.

Then, when all the big questions were 'answered' they could pick up where they left off. Sighing, he lay staring at the ceiling, waiting for Phlox to come so he could begin the next part of his subversive evasion of the truth.


Commander Tucker's Cabin, 2110…

He paced in agitated circles, rubbing the bare skin of his chest with his hands. It felt crawly, like it was going to step off his body and he knew that tonight would be endless. Malcolm wasn't coming and they wouldn't be together. The idea of it spent alone was deadly and unnerving.

The evening had been nerve-wracking anyway, Archer insisting that they spend some time together. Playing chess had been the best of all possible worst case scenarios and he had lost over and over, his concentration gone. Archer had watched him, another unnerving experience and by the time they had called it quits for the night, he was visibly jittery.

Pausing to stare outside of his window, he considered going to Sick Bay to see Reed. No one had told him not to and so he turned, pulling on sweats. Walking to his door, he waited until the corridor was empty and walked to the lift, calling for the proper deck. He made it there in no time and soon he stood before Sick Bay, the door between him and what he really needed to feel well.

His heart was pounding and he considered a day in his youth, a day when he had stepped over the line, bullying another child who had never done anything to him before. It had been shameful, one of those hopelessly mean learning experiences and even though he had never done it again, he had never forgotten the almost sexual thrill dominating another had given him.

That was sort of the payoff with Malcolm, the passivity with which the other man received him. They were always in clearly defined roles and if he had been clearer in his thinking, it would have occurred to him that topping the smaller, more slender man was something he always did in their encounters. He topped him with a fury that could only match that moment in his memory.

He listened and then stepped in, slipping into the room where Malcolm lay. Reed looked up, shocked to see Tucker and then he tugged at his bonds, the overwhelming urge to be with the engineer overcoming his restraint. Tucker hurried up and covered Malcolm's mouth, listening for anyone to come. No one did and so he removed his hand, leaning down and kissing Reed with almost a savage intensity. Reed sighed, part of his internal torment stilled and he tugged at his bonds, glancing up at Tucker.

"Get me out of here."

Tucker shook his head. "I can't. You're supposed to be here. You have to let them think you're well, Malcolm or they'll never let you out of here."

"I *have* to get out of here," Malcolm hissed, pausing as the sound of footsteps was heard. Tucker turned and hurried into the shadows, crouching just as Phlox entered the room.

"Good evening," the cheerful alien said, smiling. "You've finally decided to greet me have you?"

Malcolm looked at him, nodding. "I feel a lot better."

"Do you," Phlox replied, gazing at him with interest. "You were in a terrible state for most of this day. Frankly, from what I've learned about you, you've been going through the motions of wellness since your return from the away team mission."

Malcolm swallowed. "I'm sorry. I was…tired. I feel a lot better. I don't think these are necessary."

"Maybe they are, maybe not," Phlox replied. "Doctors orders that they stay for just a little bit longer. What I would like to do is find out what happened to you when you were gone. Something terrible must have occurred for you to try to kill yourself."

"I didn't mean to do that. It was a…an isolated incident. It's been taken out of context," Malcolm stammered, tugging at the bonds.

"How could slashing your wrist be 'out of context'?" Phlox asked, genuinely interested.

Malcolm was silent for a moment and then he sighed. "I'm tired. This whole thing…I just need to sleep in my own bed."

"That will be up to the Captain to decide as well as me. You trashed the Mess Hall and scattered not only your own blood but that of others all over the room. Frankly, I would like to keep you here for observation while we devise a treatment for you."

"Treatment?" Malcolm asked, visions of needles flashing through his mind.

"Yes," Phlox replied. "We have to get you well, Lieutenant. We have to make sure that you don't hurt yourself or anyone else again."

"Commander Tucker," Malcolm asked, hesitating. "Can I see him? Can he come here?"

"I don't think that's a good idea at this time," Phlox replied, turning to check a monitor.


He turned, surprise on his face.

Malcolm composed himself with difficulty and then replied reasonably. "What I mean…I…I'd like to talk to him. I don't see what harm that would cause."

Phlox stared at Reed and shrugged slightly. "I'll talk to the Captain. As it stands now, you are not permitted any visitors."

Phlox turned and walked out, tugging the curtain in place. For a moment there was nothing but Malcolm's agonized breathing and then Tucker stepped from the shadows, moving to stand next to him. Reed rose against his restraints, tugging hard and Tucker pushed him back, shushing him as best he could.

"Malcolm, don't."

"I can't stay here. I need to be with you. Take me out of here."

"I can't," Tucker said, gripping Malcolm's hand. "I'll be back." He turned and slipped out, the sound of the door closing behind him.

Malcolm lay on the bed, listening hard for Tucker's presence and when he didn't hear it, he lunged against his restraints. He began to shout and call and yell and a tech stepped in, watching. Phlox came shortly with a hypo in hand and over great resistance, delivered a sedative to the thrashing man on the bed. Malcolm stilled, panting hard as he drifted off into the darkness. Phlox checked him and shook his head. Turning, he walked to the comm link and made a report to the captain.


The next day…

Trip Tucker entered the Captain's Mess, taking his usual place. Archer and T'Pol were already there, dining together quietly. He sat, apologizing for an engineering problem that made him late. He began to eat, avoiding eye contact with the others.

"How are you this morning?" Archer asked.

He glanced up, forcing a smile. "Fine. A little tired is all but fine."

"Good." Archer sipped his coffee. "Lt. Reed had a rough night and had to be sedated. You wouldn't know about that would you?"

Tucker looked at him, composing his face. "Why would I?"

"Because the Sick Bay sensors detected someone with Malcolm and that someone turned out to be you."

Tucker sat a moment, considering how completely busted he was and then he sighed, putting down his fork.

"I went to see how he was. Is that so bad?" he asked.

"Dr. Phlox seems to think it is." Archer sat down his cup. "I would like for you to level with me. I am not the enemy, Commander."

T'Pol stared at them silently, watching the by-play with interest. The whole business was unsettling and she wondered what they could do about it, this dangerous problem of two essential people basically unhinged and out of commission.

"There's nothing to it, Captain. I was worried about Malcolm and so I went to see him."

"You were told that he's off-limits for now," Archer replied.

"I don't think that's such a good idea," Tucker said. "I think I can be very helpful in getting him back on his feet if you'd just let me try."

"Phlox says—"

"I don't *care* what Phlox says!" Tucker burst out. He caught himself and gathered his emotions with difficulty. "I'm sorry. I…permission to leave, sir."

"Denied," Archer replied. He looked at T'Pol. "Commander, could you leave us alone?"

She nodded and rose, leaving with dignity and Tucker watched her go, his own emotions on the ragged edge. He sat sullenly in his chair, sprawled on it as he waited for the combat to begin again.

"What happened to me when we were there?" Archer asked.

Tucker glanced up, caught off guard. "You were hurt. They…someone brained you with a weapon stock. You were out cold most of the time that the three of us were together."

"And then what?" Archer persisted.

"And then…" Tucker paused, images filling his mind, images of Archer helpless, a pawn in a ruthless game. He sighed. "I…"

"What happened, Trip?" Archer persisted. "What happened?"

Tucker rose and walked to the door, pausing and putting his hands against the wall. Standing there, he considered what he could say and what he couldn't. They couldn't find out about the compact, the agreement that Reed and he had made to save Archer. It would be too terrible to consider and he knew Archer would be crushed by the weight of it. He turned and looked at his superior, the man who was his friend. "You were taken away and we didn't see you until Enterprise came."

"Are you telling me the truth or are you telling me what you want me to know?"

Tucker considered his words. "What makes you think there is more than that?"

"Reed trying to kill himself. You lying to me."

Tucker's expression hardened. "I haven't lied to you."

"You haven't told me the whole truth," Archer challenged. The whole truth, the sound of it buzzing in Tucker's head like a swarm of bees. Archer wanted the whole truth and he knew that the older man couldn't handle it. He could hardly hand it himself. He shook his head.

"No. I can't talk about it."

"You *won't* talk about it," Archer challenged, moving to stand in front of the younger man.

Cool blue eyes met his own and Archer saw something in Tucker that hadn't existed before, something that was feral and dangerous.

"May I go now, sir? I have work to do," Tucker replied smoothly.

"No, you may not, Commander. You are confined to quarters until further notice," Archer said.

"I have responsibilities to this ship. She *needs* me," Tucker protested.

"You have a responsibility to me to prove that you're fit and I can trust you. Right now, that's impossible."

They stared at each other a long tense moment and then Tucker nodded, straightening stiffly.

"Very well," he said, turning and stepping out.

Archer followed and called to a crewman. "Mr. Colby, escort Mr. Tucker to his quarters. Post a guard. He's not to leave his cabin without my permission."

Colby rose and nodded, moving to follow Tucker out. Archer watched him until he had disappeared. Then he turned and stepped back into his dining room, his stomach churning as he considered the bind they were in.


Sick Bay…

He lay on the bed, fastened and unable to move more than a tiny bit here and there. Sedated, his mind was filled with terrible dreams, bits and pieces of events of the recent and distant past. Sighing, he groaned slightly, drawing Phlox and Archer's attention.

"He's dreaming," Phlox said soothingly. "The drugs he's on sometimes distort dreams."

"We need to know what happened," Archer stated, his frustration building. "We're going back to look for this Sajak. What I need to know right now is what we can do about finding out the truth."

"There is a lot," Phlox replied. "I've been studying this problem and there is a combination of drug therapy and hypnosis that is fascinating. Given that combination, we can coax the Lieutenant to give up his secrets."

"Is he programmed not to divulge them?" Archer asked, staring with concern at the sleeping figure before them.

"There is a very good possibility that he is. He certainly is affected by the toxins that were placed in his system, much more so than Commander Tucker. Perhaps its because of their different personalities or perhaps Tucker can tolerate drugs better than Mr. Reed."

"Any progress on that toxin?" Archer asked.

"It's a psychotropic drug, something that affects the mind and the mind's sense of reality. It distorts it. I'm not sure how it works or even how long it will remain in their systems. Perhaps it will break down and they'll be free of its influence. No matter what, it *is* influencing them."

Archer nodded and moved closer, considering their options. He turned and nodded again to Phlox. "Very well. Do it."

"Mr. Reed or both?" Phlox asked.

"Malcolm and Tucker," Archer said. "Reed first."

"And you, Captain?" Phlox asked, a curious look on his face.

"Me?" Archer asked with surprise.

"You were there. Aren't you the least bit curious what happened to you down there?"

For a moment Archer didn't reply and then he nodded. "Yeah. I am," he said slowly. For a moment it was silent and then he looked Phlox squarely in the eye. "Me first," he said quietly. "Then we'll go to the others."

Phlox nodded and turned, walking into the other room, readying the combination of tools he would need to make the interview work. Archer watched him go and turned to Malcolm, watching the younger man's troubled sleep. He sighed and squeezed Malcolm's hand. "What happened to you, Malcolm?" he asked, dreading to know the answer.


It was dark where he was and he lay on his side, his head aching in a way he had never felt. Part of it was bloody and he couched it gingerly, looking at the red wetness of his fingers with the sure realization that he was in trouble.

Sleep. It wasn't good and so with great pain and a sickening lurch of nausea, he sat up and leaned against the stone wall that ran along the side of the room where he lay. He was cold and clammy, a sign of concussion and Archer wondered how long he had lay on the cold hard floor.

No one was with him, the other two of his party gone and he wondered what had happened, the memory of how he had been hurt gone forever from him. He sighed and looked around again, finding himself alone without any sign of creature comfort.

"Hello?" he called out, the sound of his voice echoing in the chamber. No one answered and he sat there, shivering, hurt and alone.


Two hours later…

He woke up on a bed, Dr. Phlox standing next to him holding a scanner. Sitting up slowly, he licked dry lips.

"That's a side affect of the drug I gave you for your lost memories," he said, smiling.

Archer nodded and rubbed his eyes. "What did you find out?"

The doctor shrugged. "You were injured when they took over the shuttle. You saw Commander Tucker and Lieutenant Reed in passing as they took you to a stone room where you spent the entire time you were in captivity. Then you were put back in the shuttle when they gave you up after about three days, give or take a few hours. You weren't very clear."

"So, we didn't find out what happened to Malcolm and Trip?" Archer growled with frustration.

"We found out a lot. Just not what you had hoped for," Phlox said regretfully.

"What about Tucker and Reed? Can you do this with them?"

"I would prefer to start with Tucker. Reed right now is in a dicey condition. He's been sedated and I would like for some of the medication in his system to wear off before we go through this therapy."

Archer nodded. "Then we'll bring Trip here. I want to know now what's happening to them."

Phlox nodded. "I'll get ready."

Archer nodded and walked to the wall comm. Punching a button he called to security.

"Harris here."

"Harris, take three men and escort Commander Tucker to Sick Bay. I don't want any incidents along the way."

"Aye, Captain. Harris out."

Archer turned and walked back to Reed who was sleeping deeply on his bed. What was eating at him wasn't apparent then but the report of his initial physical after return played through his head. Tucker had stepped in, turning the information around and he knew it. It didn't fit either man. He would find out now what it was all about, what the nature and circumstances of Reed's injuries were all about. He had to know.

The door opened and a strained, pale Commander Tucker entered, four men escorting him. He stopped before Archer, a defiant look on his face.

"You wanted to see me?" he asked sarcastically.

Archer nodded. "Yes. We want to get to the bottom of this. Dr. Phlox has a plan to help us do that. It involves drugs and hypnosis. I just underwent it. It's your turn now."

Tucker's expression hardened and he nodded defiantly, his body tensing. "Just like that?"

"Something like that," Archer said. "You can either cooperate or you can fight all of us."

Tucker glanced around, noting overwhelming numbers against him. He turned to Archer and swung on him, catching the unprepared man in the jaw. Archer staggered as the four security officers jumped on Tucker. Kicking and screaming, he was dragged to a bed and strapped down, struggling and cursing all the while.

Phlox stepped back in, a hypospray in his hand. He moved to Tucker, gripping his head as he sought to sedate the enraged engineer. A hiss sounded and he lay still a moment, gasping and groaning before he fell into a sleep. Phlox glanced up at Archer, noting his bruised chin.

"Do you need treatment for that?" he asked.

"No," Archer said ruefully. He turned to the security men. "You're dismissed. This is to be kept confidential." They nodded and turned, leaving them alone in the room. It was quiet a moment and then they turned, staring at Trip as he slept fitfully. Phlox scanned him and then nodded to Archer, watching as he pulled up a chair to sit and watch. Technicians moved in to assist and they began an exploration that would occupy them for the next three hours.


Somewhere else…

"Malcolm…are you all right?"

He moved to where the Brit was sitting coiled in a ball. Touching Reed's shoulder, he got a shuddered response. Tormented eyes looked up, noting the familiar face peering down at him with concern.

"Tucker?" he asked, his voice quavering.

"I'm here," Trip said, moving to sit next to him. The floor was stone, hard and cold, and he put his arm around Reed's shoulders, holding him against his own body for warmth and comfort. He was afraid but he had a responsibility. He had to be strong for both of them. Reed looked in a bad way. "Did they hurt you?"

Reed stared into space a moment and then looked at Tucker, his eyes bleary. His shirt was torn and his jacket unfastened. Tucker turned and knelt beside Reed, staring into his glassy eyes.

"They drugged you, didn't they," he stated, knowing full well they did. He took hold of Malcolm's arm, shoving the shirt and jacket back. Staring into the gloom, he found a whole line of needle marks, more than his own, and he cursed. "Fuck. What did they put into you?"

He gripped Malcolm's face, tilting it up and from what he could deduce, noted that Reed was heavily drugged with something that was causing him pain. His own experience was short lived and Sajak had given him the antidote. It had killed the crippling nausea and joint pain that he had demonstrated with the first injection. Whatever Reed had been given was different.

"Malcolm…here," Tucker said, moving to sit next to him. He pulled Malcolm down, settling his head into his lap. He patted him, unsure whether to let him sleep or keep him awake. He could die if he sleeps, Tucker considered. They both could.

It was dark and cold and then the door opened and a figure stepped in, large and indistinct, followed by two more. They walked over to where the two men sat and pulled Reed to his feet. Tucker rose and lunged, the other two men pulling him back. Reed was dragged out, only minimally aware of his predicament and then they left, closing the door behind him. Tucker spent a good ten minutes trying to get out before it was clear that trying was a waste of time.

Stopping before the door, he felt an odd sensation come over him, a desire to tear the door from its hinges and find Malcolm. The passion of it swirled in his gut with an almost sexual intensity and he rose, pacing back and forth, his eyes never leaving the door. It built and built until it nearly choked him. He didn't know how long he was alone when the door opened again. He stepped back, clenching his fists to fight when the figure who opened it stepped back, disappearing into the corridor beyond.

Tucker stood for a moment waiting and when no one came back in, he walked to the door and noticed that there was a lighted corridor and an open door beyond. He could hear voices from some place and he knew that leaving the room was a fool's mission but Reed needed him and he needed Reed. The intensity for Tucker to find him was so great that he stepped out and walked down the hallway, pausing before the door beyond.

He stepped closer, looking warily into the room. It was a circular courtyard inside a big covered room. People were sitting around it, none of them making a sound when they saw him there. They all paused and watched. In the center of the courtyard was a pole and hanging on it, tied like some kind of scarecrow, Malcolm Reed stood, half standing, half sagging from the effect of the drugs that raged through him.

Tucker gasped and stepped in, hurrying to where Reed stood and as he did the doorway closed and he was inside with no way out. He stood beside Malcolm, struggling with his bonds when another door in the wall, one he couldn't see, opened up and an alien stepped out. He was about Tucker's size and rather nondescript, green in color and lizard-like. The alien walked toward Tucker, his demeanor signaling his willingness to fight.

Tucker looked at Malcolm, at his helpless state and then he knew what the whole purpose of their situation was about. He looked all around him, at the people that watched silently and then the alien sprung. The crowd roared as the two fell into the sand, rolling around as they struggled with each other. The alien broke free and moved toward Malcolm, reaching out to bite him.

Tucker tackled him and they struggled, each man getting their licks in as they fought for domination and the prize of the captive hanging helplessly on the pole behind them. No one in the arena made a sound, their gazes fixed on the men fighting viciously in the sand before them. It was more evenly matched than Tucker had expected and when he had the opportunity, he twisted the alien's head, the sickening sound of a snapping neck giving cold comfort to his victory.

He slumped on his hands and knees, panting and bleeding from cuts and bruises before he rose shakily and turned to Reed. For a moment he just stared and then the adrenaline that flooded him activated the drug that he had been given last, the one that made it possible for him to continue. He moved to Reed, freeing him from the bonds that held him and then half carrying him to the door he had come out of, he moved from the view of the crowd.

It was only then that they burst into a wild and thunderous applause.


Sick Bay…

Archer listened to the soft whisper of Tucker's words, his stomach churning. They had been brutalized and drugged and god only knew what else. And sitting and listening, the memory of Reed's physical exam fresh in his memory, he knew that he didn't even have the half of it yet.


In the corridor…

Tucker paused, pressing Reed against the wall. He stared at him, at the prize he had won and a tidal wave of emotion rushed through him. He tugged at Malcolm and pulled him into the stone room, sitting him down on the floor. He stood over him, staring at him with chest heaving from pain and exertion.

As he did, the door opened again and the alien who had captured them, Sajak, entered and smiled at him. "You did well. Better than I expected. Of course, you had the proper motivation."

Tucker glared at him, at the smirk on Sajak's face and he stepped toward him, swinging. Sajak stood quietly and Tucker's fist swiped through his body. Tucker swung again to no more effect than the first.

"You're a damned hologram," Tucker snarled, moving back to stand in front of Reed again.

"No, I'm quite real." Sajak smiled. "You entertained me and you will some more. The fever in your veins, it's drug induced. Soon it will enflame your mind and you'll do what your impulses demand."

"What do you mean?" Tucker replied, his hands balled into fists.

Sajak glanced down at Reed, lying on the floor in a stupor. "That one. You won him fair and square. Now he's yours to do with what you will. The only caveat is that I get to watch you."

Tucker stared at him uncertainly. "What are you talking about?"

"This one," Sajak said, pointing to Reed. "He's yours and you'll take him. When you do I will be watching." He smiled. "I like to watch."

The look on Tucker's face was ferocious, his revulsion intense. "Fuck you," he whispered, his blood boiling with fury. "Never."

"They all say that," Sajak replied. He sighed. "I do love the games. It gives me something to do with my free time." He smiled. "They all say never but they always do. Besides, if you don't, I'll cut your captain's throat."

Tucker paused, swallowing hard. "You have Archer?"

"I do," Sajak said, turning toward the door once more. He paused and looked back, a smile forming on his pouty lips. "I do get so bored out here. Entertain me or your captain will." With that, he turned and left, evaporating before he cleared the door.

Tucker stared at the door for a long time before he dared to turn and look at Reed. Malcolm slowly sat up, the drugs that filled him with drowsiness slowly dissipating a bit. Tucker backed off, the intensity of his emotions rising as he stared at Reed. The alien was right. He could feel it emerging and he moved back, trying with faltering effort to curb the terrible thoughts that began to fill his mind.

"Commander Tucker," Malcolm whispered, sitting quietly, his head in his hands.

"Sit there, Malcolm," Tucker replied, his voice tense with emotion. "Don't come near me."

"What?" Reed asked, blinking as he stumbled to his feet. He looked at Tucker and paused, a strange rush of adrenaline-like intensity flashing through his mind. Tucker was pacing, turning in circles with his fists clenched. Reed watched him, his eyes following Tucker as he paced. "Trip…"

For a moment there was nothing and then Tucker turned, moving across the room almost as it drawn by a magnet. He stopped before Reed, the slender man standing before him passively. He was waiting, something in him stilling him as Tucker gripped his arms. Then without a protest, they both knelt onto the cold floor, Tucker pushing Reed down onto his back. Staring at him for a moment, conflict in his mind burning away in the heat of the desire that raged though him like a brush fire, he leaned down and put everything out of his mind but the body beneath him.


Sick Bay…

Archer was pacing, the horror of the tale unfolding before him irritating what was left of his nerves. He turned and paused, looking at Trip as his monotone told a tale of abuse and defiance. Sajak had watched, the games continuing for two more days and when it was over, they were gathered up, indifferently treated for injury and put onto an asteroid aboard their shuttle. Enterprise arrived shortly afterward and they were rescued, only two of them remembering anything that had happened to them in their captivity.

Phlox sighed and turned, staring at Archer. "I don't know that there is more that is new we can glean here, Captain. Lt. Reed can give us the other side of this puzzle."

"I don't think that's necessary now. We know what happened," Archer said, moving closer to his second.

"We know what Mr. Tucker knows. We know that the drug he was given made him sexually aggressive and that he did things under its influence that he would never have done otherwise. That doesn't explain Reed. His passivity is troubling."

Archer rubbed his chin and nodded. "He was programmed to accept whatever happened to him. He wasn't in the fighting. He was just the bait."

"It would seem so but I think it would be helpful to know what happened to him from his point of view."

Archer sighed deeply and nodded reluctantly. "All right."

Phlox pressed a hypo against Tucker's neck, the engineer relaxing into a deep sleep. He would remain that way for hours. Walking to the other bed nearby, Phlox began to prepare a solution for Reed. Archer watched him and wondered as he did what they could do to make this right. He also wondered how long it would take to find Sajak and kill him.

Phlox turned and nodded and Archer moved over, leaning against the wall as Malcolm began to recite his tale. It would take an hour and by the time it was done, Archer would know more about these two men that he ever wanted to know.


The floor was hard and he lay on it, limp and ill, the cold leaching into his body. They had taken him from Sajak, the alien finished with him for now. It had been almost more than he could endure, the endless questions and the drugs.

He had been trained to resist, the Academy survival courses rigorous. He had been given techniques as a security officer that were above and beyond typical training. Tactical had its own demanding requirements and his controlled disciplined soldierly personality had supplied the rest.

What had happened here was planned for and he had held out longer than anyone else had in a long time, Sajak informed him with something akin to pride. That was why there were more needle tracks in his arm than usually given.

Now, after the last two injections, he was taken here and left to suffer. Curling into a ball, he shivered through contractions of his muscles and the fire that blazed in his head. Groaning softly, he didn't notice the door opening and someone entering.

A voice spoke to him and he could hear it as if at the end of a long tunnel. Turning, looking through the haze that filmed his eyes, he saw a familiar face. Gentle hands moved him, settling him against something soft and for a moment it was all right. Then the door opened and he was dragged away, the distortion of someone yelling like that in an echo chamber.

He was half carried a distance and then he was stood up against a pole, rough ropes fastening him into place like a caricature of someone on a cross. He sagged, his head hanging and for the entire time that Trip was with him he didn't know it.

A battle had happened, swirling at his feet and he was too sick and drugged to notice. He remembered in a haze that he was released and that hands gripped him as he was half-carried back into the corridor. The light was too bright and he closed his eyes, moving as best he could with the figure that had him.

They entered a darker place, probably the room he had been in and then the hands gently settled him, moving away and leaving him alone. He lay in a stupor, half asleep and half aware and after a moment he felt his head clearing. Sitting up, he noticed another, furiously pacing, his clothing torn and bloody.

"Commander Tucker?" he asked weakly, watching as the figure stopped.

"Sit there, Malcolm. Don't come near me."

He heard the words and something changed inside of him. He felt them and heard them and they twined their way inside of him. Rising unsteadily, he repeated the name that burned inside his brain. "Trip…"

For a moment it was still and then Tucker came across the room, stopping before him, a strange helpless fury on his face. Reed was mesmerized, standing silently, a strange passivity rushing through him. At that moment it was all clear. He was for Tucker and whatever the engineer wanted he would have. Reed wouldn't resist his demands no matter what they were and he would submit willingly.

Tucker gripped his arms and the pain of it thrilled Reed, the groggy man closing his eyes. Then they knelt and Tucker pushed him back, moving to straddle Reed as he did. Reed looked at him, staring into his face and as he did a memory of his childhood surfaced.

He sighed deeply, giving no resistance as Tucker tore at his clothing and then it began, the ruthless desire of the commander taking precedence over all other things. He acquiesced, giving Tucker access to all he wanted and as he lay flat on his stomach, the commander moving on top of him as he took fiercely that which he had fought for, he felt that his purpose for being was complete.

Nothing was said, no comment, no words and when Tucker was spent, he lay on Reed's back, gasping for breath, his fingers entwined with Reed's. For a moment there was nothing and then Tucker raised his head, whispering into Reed's ear.

"You belong to me."

Reed nodded, closing his eyes.

"No one else can have you. I will fight for you. I will die for you. No one else."

Reed nodded again, sighing. Tucker rose, pulling himself together and as he did, Reed remembered Tucker staring at him as he lay on the floor disheveled. Finally, with infinite care, he helped Reed pull himself together. As they sat side by side, Reed's head resting on Tucker's knees, he considered the ghosts from his childhood that still shadowed him.

A room in a boarding school shaped itself in his memory and he sighed, thinking of the torment he had suffered there, a small younger boy among older ones, left by parents who had their own work to do. He remembered the loneliness and the fear of the nights when the older boys would come and taunt him. He closed his eyes and thought of Tucker, of their afternoon of pain and suffering. Tucker had saved him and Tucker had claimed from him what he owed him. For that, Reed would never betray him.

It would be hours before the show would begin again and for two more days they would play it, fighting and fucking, entertaining everyone in their stupor. After that, given their physical nature, they would be useless to Sajak, the drugs reaching their threshold of usefulness. Then he would gather them together, including their injured captain and leave them where they could be found.

It was what Sajak did when he was bored, the pirate lord of this sector of space and when the Enterprise came, they would be well hidden away.


Captain's Quarters…

Archer sat in his cabin, his breakfast untouched. Porthos lay on his bed, sleeping like a creature without dreams and at that moment he envied the small little dog. He wished he could lie on the bed and sleep just a little but it was impossible after what he had found out.

Reed and Tucker were locked in some sick dance, each using the other and each abusing the other. There were alien drugs floating through their systems that was making possible the situation as it existed to continue. That would have to be solved. Then there was the problem of what would happen when they were both in their right minds. Each man was his friend and each was essential to the functioning of the ship.

Then there was the problem of Sajak.

If he did this to them, he was doing it to others. The alien that Trip had killed was probably in the same position as they were, used and abused, taken from his people. Sajak would have to be addressed. Rising, he lay down on the bed, pulling his dog along side of his body. The warmth of Porthos was comforting as was the thwap-thwap-thwap of his tale in greeting. He fell back to sleep, his master lying alone once more.

It would be a long night for him as he considered the days ahead.


Next morning, Sick Bay…

Archer entered, peering in at Malcolm. The munitions officer was sleeping, his face calm in repose. Turning, he noted that Trip was sitting in a chair nursing a cup of coffee. He looked exhausted and miserable, his face reflecting the night he had endured. Archer pulled up a chair and sat, watching Trip as he was studiously ignoring him.

"How do you feel?"

"Like shit," the younger man replied honestly. He glanced up. "So…you know things do you?"

Archer nodded, considering what to verify to the tense man before him.

"We know that nothing that happened to either of you was voluntary. You were under the influence of drugs. You still are."


Archer shrugged. "We're working on it."

"I suppose that we can't even speak to each other?" Trip asked, nodding in Reed's direction.

"The doc doesn't think it's a good idea right now. Until we understand the toxins in your systems, we think it wouldn't be wise."

Trip looked away, the fire that simmered in him banking for now. He was clear in his mind what he needed. If the others thought differently that was their problem. He had his own ax to grind and he wasn't going to be told. However, that was his secret to hold. He looked at Archer evenly.

"Am I on duty or not?"

Archer nodded. "You are. However, I'm assigning a security officer to you as a precaution. We don't have a clear idea of what is happening to you but the doc has a theory that it's triggered by proximity to Malcolm."

The sound of his partner's name flared inside Trip and he shifted, his need rising. It had been a couple of days since they had been together and he needed Malcolm in a very deep and serious way. Of course, how to get him would be priority one for the next day or so. Tucker rose, putting the cup down.

"Permission to go to my quarters and get ready for duty. Sir."

Archer considered the edge in Tucker's voice and nodded without comment. Tucker nodded back and turned, walking out of Sick Bay. As the door closed, Archer rose and walked to where Reed lay. He had been worn out by his confession and was dozing. Archer took Reed's hand, squeezing it. Reed's eyes fluttered open and he whispered a name. Archer leaned down, listening.


For a moment he just stood staring and then he leaned down again, whispering back.

"I'm here, Malcolm," Archer lied.

Reed sighed. "I need you. I need to be with you."

"You're here and you're safe." Archer stared at him, a loss for words and sighed. "You're safe, Malcolm."

"I need to be with you." The anguish inside grew and he moved restlessly, his exhaustion holding him down. "Archer."

"He's not here," Jonathan lied.

"He won't let us."

"Let us do what?" Archer asked, smoothing Reed's hair back from his forehead.

"Be together," Reed replied. "He's with them. He's one of them."

"Who?" Archer asked. "Who is he with?"

"The enemy. The others," Reed whispered before falling into sleep, his exhaustion overcoming what strength he had left.

Archer stared at Malcolm, considering his words. He was the enemy, placed there with the others and Archer wondered what it meant. He didn't know but it couldn't be good. He didn't know how long he had stood there before he noticed Phlox. Turning, he nodded and they walked out to the computer station where Phlox had been working earlier.

"Captain, we're beginning to understand the drugs that have been used on our people."

"Tell me," Archer commanded. Phlox nodded. He turned and picked up a padd. "This combination of drugs works together to suppress normal impulses of behavior. The combination makes it possible to have people do things that they ordinarily would never do, things that might be against their very being."

"Such as rape and murder?" Archer asked.

"Yes. It would appear that the parts of the brain that control conscience, that control the ability of a person to make a good decent choice are being neutralized by this protocol."

"Is it permanent?" Archer asked, glancing up sharply.

"I wouldn't think so. The brain itself appears to be intact. What's affecting it is the drugs and their combination. The interesting part of all of this is the persistence with which the drugs hang on. Most would have dissipated and broken down by now but these appear to be very much determined to linger."

"What can be done?" Archer asked.

"We're trying to isolate the chemicals that are responsible for this and find an antidote. I would suggest in the meantime, given Mr. Tucker's different slate of chemicals, that he be allowed to work. It will keep his mind occupied. However, I would keep him under supervision just in case."

"And Malcolm?" Archer asked, glancing in the direction of his tactical officer?"

"Oh, he has to stay here. He appears to be a catalyst of some of the chemicals affecting Mr. Tucker. He sets him off if you will. His own passivity, which I believe is a combination of his rather retiring and discreet personality and the drugs in his system, is a danger to him as it allows things to happen to him at the hands of Mr. Tucker that aren't exactly healthy, if you know what I mean."

Archer nodded.

"I would think that if we could find the place where this happened we could find the source of these chemicals. I believe that they are toxins of plants, Captain. They don't appear to be very much refined. They appear to be measured doses combined uniquely together to create the effect that is plaguing these two men."

Archer considered the information and nodded, turning to go to the Bridge. "I'll see what I can do."

The doctor watched him go and then sighed, curious at the odd passions of the human species. Turning, he picked up his padd and considered the problem before him, the problem of two men and drugs he only barely understood.



It was quieter than usual on the floor of engineering and Trip fumed even as he schooled his face into his usual good humored expression. The men and women around him eventually relaxed, moving about as usual. He was glad. A part of him cared about the skuttlebutt that surely was circulating about himself and Reed. What it was he didn't know but it couldn't be good judging from their reaction to him.

A near suicide and brawl in the Mess Hall and the brawl in Sick Bay that he himself had been involved in surely were making their rounds as people peered at him when they were sure he wasn't looking. He didn't care, his concern lying directly elsewhere but he was glad nonetheless when the curiosity began to subside.

Turning and leaving Engineering, he walked under escort to the Bridge, entering as always and taking his station. People glanced up and he ignored them, sitting and beginning his work as usual. Archer watched him a moment and then turned, staring at the star field disappearing past them.

They were on their way back to where they had been when the party had been taken. It was the best way to find out what was happening and the only way they would get hold of the plants and drugs that had been used. It might take too long to find an antidote and he didn't care to consider any other options. He missed his officers and the ship needed them now.

It was a long silent ride to the rendezvous.


He sat in his cabin, the schematics of the ship in front of him. He studied them, constructing a route from his cabin to Sick Bay and from Sick Bay to the Shuttle Bay. It would take a lot of planning and he would have to disable or redirect a lot of instruments before his plan could be implemented.

By the time he was detected, they would both be gone and no one would be able to interfere in their relationship again. Malcolm would be his and they would disappear. Sighing with aggravation, he sipped his coffee, unaware of the foolhardiness of his actions in relation to their mission.

Rising, he walked to the desk and picked up some specialized tools he had been tinkering with since the beginning of their journey. They would help him he considered as he stared at the conduit that opened into his cabin. It would take nothing to remove the cover and crawl inside. Faking his presence here would be simple. By the time that the two of them were in a shuttle and jetting away, the ship would know. But by then it would be too late.

Smiling, Trip Tucker considered his plan, glad once again that he was an engineer.


Sick Bay, late at night…

A figure dropped to the floor, couching and listening. It was silent and dark, the man on the bed nearby sleeping silently. Rising, he walked over and peered at the sleeper, Reed looking rested and well as he slumbered. It pleased Tucker, the idea of Malcolm being stronger much improving his pessimistic attitude.

He reached over and covered Reed's mouth, leaning in and hissing for him to be silent. Wide surprised eyes stared up at him as Reed came awake. Then Reed relaxed, silently watching as Tucker turned and handed him clothing.

Malcolm climbed from the bed and took them, pulling on pants and sweatshirt, shoes and socks. Tucker watched, his eyes flickering from the pale skin of Reed's chest to the room around him. He had redirected the sensors that scanned the area they would travel, relooping earlier scenes of tranquility so that no one would detect them. Gathering Reed to his side, they moved to the duct, climbing inside and reseating the cover. clambering along as silently as they could they exited into a Jeffries tube and began the long climb down to the deck that housed the Shuttle Hangar.


Officer's Mess…

Archer sat with T'Pol and Phlox, the conversation rotating around the quest for a cure. In a day they would be at the point of contention, the place where they had parted company and their nightmare had begun. From there they would search for Sajak and his pirates, a loose conglomeration of different aliens that worked under his leadership and who had terrorized the area for decades.

"Archer to Tucker," he said, sitting back in his chair. Tucker's place was still empty and as he called he had a feeling that things weren't as they should be. "Archer to Harris."

"Harris here."

"Check Mr. Tucker."

"Aye, Captain."

For a moment there was silence and then Harris spoke.

"Harris to Archer. He's not in his cabin, Captain."

Archer rose and made it to the door in seconds, T'Pol and Phlox behind him.


Hangar Deck…

They dropped into space, the beeping of the hangar doors blaring through the hangar. It was relatively easy for them to make it to a shuttle. From a control device in Tucker's hand, he was able to open the doors and allow them to slip away.

Flying away, they jumped to warp, continuing onward toward the asteroid field that informed this part of space. Behind them, they could detect Enterprise as she began to scan for them. In a second, Tucker considered, the ambient radiation and boulder strewn field of space debris would help them to hide.



Archer and T'Pol burst through the door of the lift, Phlox following and they took their stations. A bright spot on the view screen indicated where the shuttle was, at least for now.

"Report," Archer asked crisply.

"The shuttle won't respond to our hails, Captain," Travis Mayweather replied, following the speeding light into the static and clatter of the field ahead.

"Open a channel."

"Channel open," Hoshi replied.

"Trip, this is Archer. Respond."

There was no sound for a moment and then a crackle broke across the Bridge. "We're not coming back."

"Trip…think about what you're doing. This isn't you. It's the drugs that are talking. Come back. We'll help you I promise."

"You won't let me talk to him. I have to be with him."

"That's the drugs. Please…please come back," Archer pleaded. "You have no place to go and the pirates are all over the place."

"We'll get by. Tucker out."

Archer slammed his fist down on the arm of his chair, rising and turning to his tactical officer, a crewman he knew slightly.

"Can you fire on the shuttle without damaging it too much?"

"In this static it's hard to get a firing lock, Captain," he said apologetically.


Archer turned and watched as the shuttle slipped into the field, moving agilely among the great blocks of dust and dirt that roiled around them. Enterprise followed, polarized hulls bouncing them off, the occasional big one hitting them hard. It was tough going and they followed, charting the direction of the shuttle by the exhaust of its warp signature.

Finally, after a tense twenty minutes, they lost them. Archer paced on the deck, watching as his crew frantically worked. He cursed himself for underestimating Tucker's resolve and his ability to do this very thing. Now they would have to do a search and hope that they found their crewmen before Sajak did again.


On a small planetoid…

They had set the shuttle down, moving her under an outcropping of rock that would shield her location from visual sightings. The rest would have to be covered by the radiation that permeated the upper atmosphere. There was no breathable atmosphere here but it offered shelter until they could decide which way to go.

Tucker studied the map, Reed standing behind him, his hand resting on Tucker's back. The gesture was simple but it ignited emotions in Tucker that threatened to overtake the gravity of their situation. He turned and looked at Reed, the passive expression falling into place as their eyes connected.

He stared at him and then turned, pushing him against the wall. Tucker kissed him, pressing himself against Reed with little thought to the other man's comfort. Reed absorbed it, his arms wrapping around Tucker's neck. Their mutual need was powerful and Tucker felt his control slipping away.

He turned Reed, pressing him against the wall as he ran his hands over the other man's body. Reed sighed and closed his eyes, the pleasure of Tucker's hands engrossing. Reed stood silently as Tucker pulled down his pants and made him ready for what they both needed so badly.

When Tucker took him, pressing him against the bulkhead with each needy thrust, he felt the turmoil of the past few days slipping away as the rightness of the moment superceded all of it. Reed grunted, spreading his legs wider and braced himself as Tucker took him, his eyes closed and his hands gripping Reed's hips painfully.

Over and over he thrust, possessing Reed with all his determination and when he came, he growled, the sound of it echoing through the small cabin. Reed sagged, leaning against the wall as Tucker leaned into him, sucking on the soft skin of his neck. Marking him, leaving behind his signature was intensely satisfying to Tucker and when he stepped back, he stared at the rows of bruises and bites that he left on Reed with satisfaction.

He turned the Brit around and pressed against him again. "We're not going back."

Reed nodded, sighing with relief.

"We're not going back to Enterprise. We have to find a place where they can't find us."

Reed nodded and watched as Tucker cleaned up and dressed. Taking the wash cloth from his partner, Reed cleaned up and pulled his clothes together. Walking to the co-pilot's seat, he sat gingerly and continued to monitor the sensors. No one was out there that they could discover and he felt better than he had in a very long time. With a smile, he turned and watched as Trip began to plan where they would go next. At no point in their business up to this moment did they understand the danger of their decisions.



Their grid search was well underway when they received a hail from another ship. They opened a channel and a tall dark eyed man with reptilian features appeared.

"I am Chiva. What are you doing in our space?"

"I'm Captain Jonathan Archer of the Star Ship Enterprise. We're looking for a lost shuttle from our ship that made a detour into this area. As soon as we retrieve them, we'll leave."

Chiva stared at him for a moment. "We have a report of a shuttle of unknown origin passing this way a few jepthas ago."

Archer turned and Hoshi looked up. "Hours." He turned back. "It could possibly be our shuttle. We have reason to believe that they are in distress. We would appreciate any help you could give us. We are on a mission of exploration and peace as representatives of the planet Earth."

Chiva paused, as if listening to a translation and then he nodded. "We are not unreasonable. We are aware of your passing by. You have not made any hostile intentions."

"We have none," Archer replied, smiling slightly. "We just want our shuttle and our people back. We would appreciate any help you could give us."

Chiva nodded. "They are headed for a planet near here, a small habitable place that is sort of an open world. People go there to ship and trade and to start over."

"That sounds like a place they would go to. If you could point us in that direction, we would retrieve them and leave your territory."

"We'll take you there. Follow us please," Chiva said, the comm link cutting off.

Archer turned and glanced at T'Pol. "Commander?"

"I don't know of this species, Captain. I suggest that we proceed with extreme caution."

"Agreed," Archer replied. "Mr. Mayweather, follow that ship."

"Aye, Captain," Travis replied, falling into line with the small but deadly little cruiser that Chiva flew.

Archer turned and sat, considering their break. He wondered what Chiva knew about the pirates. Maybe nothing, maybe a lot. He would ask when they arrived at their destination.


At Celo…

The small planet was hospitable to strangers and so they landed and disembarked, walking along the hard pavement of the shuttle port toward a town whose lights glittered beyond them. Aliens of all sorts walked here and there and they stared all around them, waiting for danger to assert itself.

The shuttle port had delivered a pre-recorded message about rules, currency and customs of Celo and they had replicated what they could, dressing in clean clothes that would allow them to blend in more. They had gold, the local currency, a metal that was with little value nowadays but esteemed here it seemed.

Moving along the street, they hunted for a restaurant, a small place to slake their hunger before finding a hotel to sleep in. Entering a bistro, they sat and ate hot but strange food and then after paying, stepped out once more. Continuing on, side-by-side, they were unaware of a shuttle landing at the port nearby, one that contained a party from Enterprise, armed and ready to take them into custody once more.


Three hours later…

Tucker lay on the bed, staring at the ceiling. They had found a small hotel on a side street, registering under a false name as they marveled at the lack of concern over identification. Malcolm lay beside him, sleeping contentedly. The hour or two of sex that had preceded this moment were enough to break the fever that burned in both, a side effect of the days of deprivation that had come before.

He had expended his energy, Malcolm absorbing it and between the two of them they were focused and at a modicum of peace. For now. The cycle of need that rose in him was mirrored by the cycle of passivity and submission that Reed fell into. It was like two parts of a whole and they complimented each other perfectly, the giver and the taker, the transmitter and the receiver. It satisfied the symmetry of his engineering mind.

Sighing, he turned and spooned behind Malcolm, the proximity of his body soothing to the fire that always burned in him. He felt better being this close, being able to protect him. Malcolm was so silent and so withdrawn that it was his responsibility to make sure nothing happened to him. It was his duty to make sure that they were never parted.

He would do that if it meant that he had to kill. He had already done that in the arena. Here in this place, it would be no different.


On a street nearby…

Jonathan Archer walked along the street, casually dressed as was the rest of his team, his sidearm hidden by his coat. They were searching for the life signs of humans, a dicey issue in a place filled with mostly humanoid species.

It was all they could do, walking along the busy streets of a city that apparently didn't differentiate between night and day. As they walked along, they passed a side street, one that housed a hotel that sheltered newcomers, newcomers with the name of Tucker and Reed.


He walked along a corridor, heading to his room in the small dormitory that he shared with three other kids, his bathroom break carefully timed to prevent detection from others. Slipping inside, he slid into his bed, pulling the covers up to his chin. Curling into a ball, he listened for any sign that he had been detected.

He heard the floor boards creak and then the door opened, someone slipping in. He closed his eyes tightly, hoping against hope that the figure would by-pass him. It did, moving to the bed of another, the seventeen year old head boy of his group.

He listened as they talked quietly and then the sounds began, the ones the disturbed his peace of mind. At first he didn't know what it was and then he had finally figured it out, knowing that the boys in the next bed over were having sex. He lay buried under his covers not daring to move as the boys in the next bed moved against each other, giggling and talking softly together, the sound of kisses and the bed creaking filling the room.

He, himself had just turned sixteen and was painfully shy, hiding behind a facade of personal reserve and a brilliant mind all that he truly was as a person. His life had been a series of boarding schools since his seventh year and he had endured them and the loneliness of being 'loaned out' as best he could. But it had marked him, changing him from a gregarious small child into a very serious and reserved young man.

Going into Star Fleet and training to be an officer on a star ship was the culmination of the dream of a lifetime. He wanted to be free of the bonds of the Earth, moving into a world where he could be an equal, where the others around him could appreciate him for what he could do and where he could have some modicum of control over his life and its contents.

The military resolved the issue of direction and structure. The military kept him in the milieu of men that he had grown up in. The military was exact and demanding, asking of him to do his best even as the boarding school life he had lived had. This world he knew and it fit him, his reticent nature not with- standing. He fit it and it fit him.

He had taken to aspects of star ship training that were fitting for someone who had grown up as he did. He was gifted in the mathematics of destruction, the ability to use weapons, to coordinate hand and eye very highly drawn in him. He had learned to defend himself physically even as he had always defended himself mentally and emotionally.

When he had graduated, his parents had been there, two familiar strangers acknowledging his triumphs as ever even if they missed his quiet sorrows. They were well- meaning people, moving through their lives even as they provided for him, their only child. They were professional people with professional responsibilities and when their precocious and loving child had become too time consuming in their schedules, they had turned him over to the system that had been there for their parents and their grandparents ad infinitum.

Weekends and holidays had been awkward after a while, the boy growing into a teenager that preferred his own company and that of a few trusted friends over the companionship of the relative strangers he called mum and dad. The time came to choose a career and when he told them formally that he was heading for Star Fleet they stared at him like he had grown horns.

He had persisted and when he graduated with honors, making his way into the service of ships traveling far distances and opening the universe to mankind's understanding, they finally acknowledged acceptance with their presence. Pictures were taken, the three standing together, pictures that were seldom seen outside of the box where Malcolm kept them and then they parted ways, Malcolm moving to his new life and the two of them back to their own.

Venn diagrams that never crossed, paths running parallel, that is what his life felt like until he found Star Fleet and now he was part of something bigger than himself and the pettiness of his family. He was part of the grandest adventure mankind would ever have and he gave his all to the effort.

He sighed and turned over, the dream capturing him once more and he tensed, waiting in his bed for the door to open and the dreaded monsters to arrive. As he did, he felt someone touching him and he opened his eyes with a start. Tucker was there, peering down at him and he relaxed, kissing him back even as he was kissed.

"You all right?" Trip asked, brushing hair from Malcolm's eyes.

"Yes," Malcolm lied. "Bad dream."

Tucker nodded and sighed, nestling himself against Malcolm once more. They settled and lay together, spooned and warm and comforted.

"He'll come for us."

Tucker nodded. "I know. He has to. It's the way he is. I suppose I would too."

"If they take us back we won't be allowed to be together." Malcolm swallowed hard, the thought of it repulsive to him.

"He won't take us back," Trip said, pulling Malcolm closer to his body. "I've killed people to keep you with me. I can do it again."

Malcolm nodded, comforted and as they lay there, neither of them considered that they were discussing their captain and their friend. He was just another threat to be considered and defended against. With a sigh, Malcolm fell into a light sleep. Behind him, holding him possessively in his arms, Trip Tucker lie awake, staring into the darkness.


On the street…

They exited the restaurant, the first confirmation of Trip and Reed's presence known. The restaurant had served them dinner and so they must be nearby. Logic dictated it. Breaking into teams, each with pictures of their missing people, they began to canvas the hotels and boarding houses that lined the area. It would take two and a half hours of walking and asking before they would find someone who had rented them space.

Gathering together outside the door of their quarry, Archer and his people put their weapons on stun. T'Pol and a guard were behind the building, watching for escape from the window when Archer kicked in the door. Rushing in, he caught a flash of someone and rushed to the bathroom, pushing the door open before it could be locked.

Shoving in, he ducked a fist and struck back, catching Malcolm Reed in the abdomen. He fell backward against the sink and gagged, swinging wildly. Archer caught his arm and twisted it, swinging him around and forcing him down over the sink.

Outside in the room beyond, security was checking for any indication where Tucker could be. Archer turned and steered Malcolm out, releasing him to security men who manacled his arms behind his back. They moved him to sit on the bed and he did so sullenly, his face pale from the blow he had taken in the stomach. Archer turned from T'Pol and pulled a chair over, sitting down facing Reed, a concerned look on his face. "Malcolm," he said softly. "Where's Trip?"

Malcolm sat dejectedly, his stomach aching as he considered with despair his position. He looked up, pained eyes staring into Archer's.

"Let me go," he said, tugging at his bonds.

"Malcolm, where's Trip? We have to take you both back to the ship."

"No," Malcolm said, glaring at Archer. "You mean to harm us."

"No," Archer replied gently. "We want to help you. We want you to be well. You've been infected with alien drugs. You and Trip could be in real trouble here."

"You're lying," Malcolm said stiffly. He stared at Archer with intense hatred. "You just want to split us up. You want Trip to leave me."

"No, no, Malcolm," Archer replied patiently. "Think. When you and I and Trip were taken prisoner, they filled you with drugs and made Trip fight to save you. You were in the arena."

Flashes of silent people and desperate struggles filled his mind and he shoved them away, shaking his head. "No. You weren't there," Malcolm said resolutely.

"I was. I was there but I was too injured to use in the arena. You and Trip, you were put through hell in my place. Let me help you. I owe you, Malcolm," Archer said with conviction.

Malcolm stared at him a long time before he sighed tiredly. "All right. You owe us." "I do. Let me help you get well."

"Then let me go."

Archer sighed and shook his head, frustration rising. "I can't do that."

"Trip will never come near you if you don't let me go," Malcolm said, his eyes bright with emotion. "Let me go and I can lead you to him."

Archer stared at him, unconvinced by his words but stuck with little more than what Reed offered. He nodded and rose, removing the restraints himself. Malcolm rose and rubbed his wrists, staring with wariness at Archer. He turned and Archer caught his arm.

"I'm going with you."

Malcolm pulled his arm free and turned, staring defiantly at the taller man. "No."

"Then the deal is off," Archer said, reaching for the restraints again.

Malcolm shoved him, turning and rushing the door. Bowling through two guards he grabbed the latch before a phaser blast caught him between the shoulder blades. He slammed into the hard wood of the door, crying out in pain. Sliding to the floor, he sighed and slipped into unconsciousness.

Archer cursed softly and turned, nodding to the security guards. "Take him to the shuttle and back to the ship. Give him to Phlox. Be gentle. He's not responsible for his actions."

The guards nodded and moved, gathering the limp figure into their arms. Following T'Pol, they walked out and when they reached the street, they caught a transport and headed for the shuttle port on the edge of town. As they did, standing nearby in the shade of an awning, Trip Tucker watched the whole thing happen. The rage he felt was the most volcanic of his life. Turning, he put down the bag that held their breakfast and slipped into an alley way nearby.


Sick Bay, Enterprise…

He was back where he started, strapped down and filled with rage and fear. Trip was nowhere to be seen and his body ached with the pain of their separation. He needed Tucker like he needed the basics, food and water, sleep. All of him.

Phlox stood over him, scanning him and attempting to dialog but Reed was too angry and too overcome by the turnaround in his freedom.

"Let me go," he pleaded.

"I can't do that, Lieutenant. You're a very sick man and I have orders to hold you."

"I'll be good. I promise you I won't try and leave. Just let me up from here. Please."

Phlox shook his head, a sympathetic expression on his face. "I cannot." He turned and walked out, the cries of his patient echoing in the room behind him.


Hours later…

They sat and waited but Tucker didn't return. Archer was broiling with frustration, his options limited by the difficulty of tracking a human in a sea of humanoids. He opened his communicator.

"Archer to Phlox."

"Phlox here, Captain."

"How is Malcolm?" "He's very upset and becoming agitated. There appears to be a build up of one of the toxins in his body and it is causing great anxiety and distress in him. I have had to sedate him to keep his blood pressure from becoming too high."

"This is escalating? The toxin's affect is increasing? Why now? Why not before?"

"They weren't separated before. Apparently, proximity is essential to the balance of toxins in Mr. Reed's system. I think it's imperative that Mr. Tucker return to the ship and stay here until we can sort this out. I have isolated the basic cellular structure of most of the drugs we are dealing with. It's only a matter of time before we find out how to treat this."

"We may not have time. Keep me informed about Malcolm. Archer out."

Jonathan Archer rose from the chair he had been sitting on and turned, ordering a couple of security to stay. Then, with the others in tow, he walked from the hotel to the street below. They divided and went separate directions, scanning discreetly as they did. They were back to square one and now they had to find Tucker the hard way.


Near the shuttle port…

Tucker walked along, moving toward the shuttle that had brought him down here. As he approached it, he noticed that it was now in the control of Enterprise. There were two security guards standing by it, working on something in a panel. He ducked back and waited, noting that they had left and walked to a nearby shed, moving behind it out of sight.

He considered his options, knowing that he couldn't approach it without them seeing him. So he knelt down, minimizing his profile and waited, wondering if he had a better chance in the dark. It would be better than now with the overhead sun shining brightly. Swallowing his impatience, he waited as the sun slowly moved across the blue sky above him.


Nearing the shuttle port…

Jonathan Archer and his team walked along the tarmac, heading to the shuttle that was parked at the end of a row of alien vessels. The men behind the shed came out at his call and the whole group talked together for a moment. Tucker watched from the shadows, standing back so he wouldn't be seen.

After a moment Archer turned and all of them walked to the shuttle nearby. Climbing inside, it rose up and disappeared into the dark sky. Trip stepped out and watched it go, turning his gaze on the shuttle that was left.

It had to be a trap of some kind. He was expected to board it and then they would have him. How, he didn't know. He just knew that is what they wanted. Edging over, he pulled the cowling off the panel and stared inside, noting the tracing device that had been left behind. Smiling, he dismantled it and climbed inside the shuttle. Going through systems, he ignited the engines and the ship rose, moving through the atmosphere into the darkness of space again.

On Enterprise, sitting in his command chair, Jonathan Archer turned to T'Pol. She glanced at him and nodded back.

"Mr. Mayweather, do you have a fix on the shuttle?"

"Aye, Captain," he replied, tuning in on the transmitter that Tucker didn't find.

"Good," he replied grimly. "Follow him."

With that, Enterprise moved out of orbit and made its way into the night.


Sick Bay…

He lay on the bed, his head pounding. All around him was blurry, as if he were looking through gauze. He knew he had been drugged, the struggle when he was brought in was testimony to that. Lying quietly, he tried to figure out what was happening around him.

Phlox came and went, frowning and scanning, thinking about him but not talking to him. He knew he wasn't making sense, the babbling that he could produce the by-product of the fever that was beginning to wrack him. He didn't know that the drugs in his body made it imperative that they stay together. Tucker didn't know it either.

Flying through the night, circling back to the last known location of Enterprise, he was absorbed with the same thoughts as Reed, getting together again. How it would be accomplished after all of this neither man knew. They just knew they had to be together. It was an imperative, like swimming upstream and they both suffered from the absence of the other.

He tugged at his bonds, futile exercise that it was and sighed, calling out. He listened, hearing footsteps nearby. He called out again, listening as the footsteps got closer.

"Mr. Reed…is there something you need?"

Phlox stood before him, staring at the fever that gleamed in his eyes. It was worrisome, this escalation of symptoms and he hoped that they would be able to find Tucker soon.

"I need these off," Reed said.

"You will hurt yourself," Phlox replied, checking the bonds holding Reed's arms. "We can't have that."

"I won't," he pleaded, tugging at them again. He tried to sit up, straining against the band over his chest and then he lay back, exhausted and furious. "LET ME GO!"

"I'm sorry," Phlox said with finality. "That won't be possible for now."


"I know," Phlox said, scanning him again. "I'll give you something to relieve your anxiety."

"No! No…don't…" Reed gathered his tattered emotions together, pulling as much of himself back into place as he could. "I don't need it."

"I beg to differ," Phlox said, turning with a hypo in his hand. He stepped toward Reed and over his shouts and screams administered another sedative. For a moment Reed struggled and then with gathering feebleness, he relaxed into sleep. Phlox looked at his monitors and shook his head, sighing with concern. Turning, he walked to his computer in the next room to update his report on Lt. Reed.



Archer sat quietly, the professionals around him performing with consummate skill as they tracked a small shuttle through the scattered remains of an unformed planetoid. It was obvious that he was tracking the ship, intent on getting to Reed.

Archer considered what they could do and decided to let Tucker be the one to make a move. They would be clear if he tried to get on the ship. It would be traceable for sure. However, he wanted to try and talk him in. That part of his hope wasn't totally lost yet. Turning to Hoshi, he sighed.

"Hoshi, open a channel to Tucker."

She nodded and complied. Archer considered his words carefully.

"Trip, this is Jonathan. I need you to talk to me."

It was silent. He glanced at Hoshi and she nodded. "He can hear us. He just isn't responding."

"Trip, Malcolm needs you. He's sick. He's very, very sick. The doc tells me that you have to be in proximity to each other or the drugs in Malcolm's blood will rise to toxic levels. He's in Sick Bay and he's burning up with fever."

For a moment there was nothing and then Tucker's voice filled the Bridge.

"It's a trick."

"No. It isn't. I wish it was. You have to come back. It's the only way he's going to live."

"No. You're lying. You just…you want me to come back and this is a trick to make it happen."

"No. Listen…I'm going to send you data. I'm sending Malcolm's medical data to you now."

He turned to Hoshi. "Tell Phlox to send Malcolm's condition and the data on it to the Bridge now. When he does, transmit it to Tucker."

Hoshi nodded and her fingers flew. For a moment it was silent and then she turned, nodding. "It's sent."

Archer sat and waited, his heart pounding. "Trip?"

It was still silent and then Tucker's anguished voice filled the room. "You're lying. This can be faked."

"You know me better than that."

It was silent again and then a soft sigh could be heard.

"I don't trust you to let us stay together. We have to stay together."

"I know that, Trip. I know that now. Come back and I'll take you to Sick Bay myself."

It was silent a moment and then the tactical officer spoke up. "The shuttle is coming around, Captain."

Archer rose and walked to Tactical, watching as the small shuttle come closer to Enterprise. After a moment the docking mechanism was activated and the little ship was taken in. Archer turned and hurried to the lift, making it to the Hangar Deck just as the hatch door opened. Tucker stepped out, haggard and ill-looking. Archer reached out and took his arm.

"Come on, Trip. Let's go to Sick Bay."

Tucker looked at him, the paranoia rising. He quashed it, glancing around for security. There was none and so, without a word, he allowed himself to be led to the lift and Sick Bay beyond.


Sick Bay…

They entered together, Tucker making a beeline for Reed's bed, taking the silent man's hand into his. He leaned down and kissed Malcolm, the tender gesture lost on the unconscious man. Archer sighed and rubbed his face, the unaccustomed sight of two sick men embracing slightly disturbing to what he had become used to.

Phlox turned from scanning Tucker and caught Archer's eye. "Mr. Tucker is in a bad way himself. I think it would be wise to have him lie down and let us check him out."

Archer nodded. He moved to Tucker, touching his arm. Tucker jumped, so completely was his concentration on Reed and glanced at his captain.

"Phlox would like to treat you, Trip. His scans show that you're not much better off than Malcolm."

Suspicious eyes met Archer's concern. "You want me to lie down and be tied in like Malcolm? I don't think so. I'll take my chances on my feet."

"We won't restrain you."

"Then let Malcolm out of restraints."

Archer sighed and turned to Phlox, who shrugged helplessly. He turned to Tucker. "I don't know what kind of condition Malcolm's in. He was out of control when we brought him in."

"I saw how you brought him in," Tucker said defiantly. "You shot him didn't you."

"I'm not going to argue with you, Trip. We need your cooperation," Archer demanded.

"What else can I do?" Tucker asked bitterly. He turned and squeezed Malcolm's hand. "I'm your prisoner."

"You're my first officer and my friend," Archer said forcefully.

For a moment Tucker ignored him and then he turned anguished eyes on him, sighing deeply. "You'll take these off him?"

"If the doctor figures he won't hurt himself and if I have your word you won't escape again."

"I have to have your word that we'll be allowed to be together."

"You have it, Trip," Archer said honestly.

Tucker sighed, fatigue permeating him on every level. He nodded and turned to Reed, staring at him as he slept. Archer squeezed Tucker's shoulder and shook his head.

"We're going to get through this. We're going to find out what happened and how we can rectify this, Trip. I promise."

Tucker nodded, blinking back tears. Archer turned and passed the doctor, heading for the Bridge once more. Inside him, a fire raged, a fire of anger and worry that propelled him forward. He was going to find Sajak and find a cure for this. Then if they were lucky, they would blow his operation out of the water forever.


Near the rendezvous point…

Enterprise held to one spot in space as her sensors did a grid search of the area. Many warp trails mingled with the ambient radiation and it would take a lot of detective work to find the one they sought. It would be decayed to a great extent but still attainable if they worked very carefully.

Five days before, three of them had flown through this part of space in a shuttle bound for a class M planet. They had every intention of peaceful scientific study. What had happened to them was almost beyond the pale and they had an obligation not only to their two sick comrades but to the area to end the evil that had overtaken them.

Archer split his time between Sick Bay and the Bridge, consumed with finding the alien that had so perfectly disrupted his ship. Trip was better, still wary and still waiting for deceit but Reed wasn't improving. He had a fever that drew him in and out of consciousness and a wracking pain that circulated among his joints.

Phlox had isolated the active ingredient of the drug that was causing the pain. He was working on an antidote but was leery of using it because all of the four drugs in Reed's system were interdependent and the idea of neutralizing one meant that three would have to work without it. What the consequences of that could be, he didn't know.


Archer glanced up, noting that Reed was absent from his post once more. It was disconcerting, that absence.


"I have a warp signature identical to the shuttle. I have traced it to these coordinates."

He put the image on the screen and a long yellow line traced across space to a point where it ended and three others began. They had been hidden behind large floating chunks of rock that were a part of this area of space. The site was an ambush and they had been taken there, overcome by aliens and captured.

Archer shoved the images from his mind and rose, walking to the helm. Glancing back at T'Pol, he turned to the screen once more.

"Polarize the hull. Bring weapons online. Take us alone the same path, sensors extended to maximum."

"Aye, Captain," Travis said, easing the big ship into the asteroid field.

It was slow going for a moment and then they entered a clear zone, moving forward toward the place where the attack had happened. As they did, they detected small ships that moved away from them, pulling back even as they came forward.

Cat and mouse, Archer considered. They want to play cat and mouse. Fine, he thought. Two can play at that game.


Sick Bay…

Malcolm Reed sat up, staring at the figure slumped in the chair beside his bed. His face felt hot and his eyes burned. He looked at his hands and saw that he was no longer bound. Looking around, he noticed that they were alone and so he slipped to the floor, steadying himself as the room spun around and then he moved forward, kneeling in front of Trip. Tucker was sleeping, slumped and exhausted and for a moment he didn't move. Then his eyes opened and he sat up, gripping Malcolm's arms tightly.

"You're awake," he whispered.

Malcolm nodded, compulsion rising in his throat. He felt choked by his own neediness and he rose, pulling Tucker to his feet. They looked around and then walked to the head, closing the door behind them. Tucker stared at Malcolm, at his pale and ill face and pulled him into an embrace.

"You look sick, Malcolm."

"I am," he whispered. "I'm so ill."

"I'll take care of you," Tucker whispered, his heart beating wildly. "Just rest and I'll take care of you."

Malcolm nodded and then he knelt down, fumbling with the fasteners to the jeans that Trip was wearing. Part of Tucker was appalled and part of him was elated, the dominance that drove him rising through the haze of his fatigue and worry. Malcolm freed him and began to suck, making the world go away. He worked on Tucker, bringing from him muffled groans as he sought the relief only Tucker's body could give him. For a few moments there was only the tight tension of sex and then Tucker released, coming in suppressed agony.

For a moment they just huddled and then Reed rose, watching as Tucker pulled himself and his clothes together. When he was dressed once more, he pulled Malcolm into a hard and possessive kiss. The slender young man sighed, embracing Tucker tightly. A rap came on the door and they froze, turning to stare.

"Who is it?" Tucker asked, anger in his voice.

"Dr. Phlox. Is there anything wrong?"

"No." Reed licked his lips, his heart pounding in his chest. "Mr. Tucker just helped me to come in here."

"I see. Well, I'll be right outside, gentlemen," Phlox said, checking the data on his scanner once more. Reed's vital signs were already leveling out. Fascinating, he thought as he stepped back to wait. The sexual activity that he had just detected was the antidote to their immediate crisis. He would have to tell the captain when he had a moment.

Malcolm leaned against Tucker who leaned against the sink, holding Reed in his arms. They stood together, each drawing comfort from the contact. Malcolm rubbed his face against Tucker's cheek, his body content with the contact. He felt immediately better, the fever receding and the pounding in his head fading. He didn't want to end their contact but he knew it was inevitable.

"I needed this," Reed whispered, sighing.

"I know. You scared me you were so ill."

"Don't leave me."

"I won't," Trip promised, the fury of his intentions clear in his voice. They would never be parted again. Trip hugged him tightly and kissed him with almost a painful intensity. "Let's go. He's out there waiting."

Reed sighed and nodded, moving to the door. Tucker paused behind him, his hand rubbing Reed's ass possessively. Then they opened the door and walked out past Phlox, neither man speaking. Malcolm walked to his bed, climbing in and lying back wearily. Tucker took his place on the chair next to the bed, settling in as he watched Malcolm. Phlox stared at them a moment and then turned, leaving them alone. He had a lot to do and more data, gathered just now, was just the thing he needed.



They followed the ships, each of them fleeing the bigger and better armed vessel. It was in the open and they were chasing. The smaller vessels broke apart and then Enterprise fired on them. They sputtered and one rolled but none of them blew up. They were disabled and listing in space.

"I want them boarded. Shoot anyone on board that resists. Bring them to me in the brig."

Archer rose and with T'Pol at the conn, walked to the lift beyond.


They sat behind the barrier, sullen and silent. They were a mixed bag of aliens, some of them humanoid and ratherhuman looking and others more reptilian and sinister. As he stared at them, Archer considered his options.

"I need some answers. If you give me what I want to know you'll live. If you don't tell me, you will be of no use to me and I will have you thrown out an airlock. Are there any questions?"

They stared at him, various expressions of disbelief and arrogance on their faces. Archer nodded to a security officer and he stepped inside, pulling an alien to his feet. Dragging him outside, he sat him on a chair.

"I want to find Sajak. You will tell me what I want to know or you'll die. It's that simple."

The alien sat silently and for a moment they all waited. Then Archer turned and nodded to his team. Two guards grabbed his arms and turned with him, hauling him out the door. They dragged him away, through a door and out of the sight of the group.

For a moment there was no sound and then a cry and a loud hiss was heard. The aliens sitting and standing behind the barrier shifted nervously. Archer stared at the door and then turned to them. Without looking at a security guard, he nodded. "Get me another one."

The guards nodded and two stepped in, dragging another alien out of the confinement area. They dumped him on a chair and Archer stared at him for a moment.

"I want Sajak. Tell me what I want to know or join your friend in the vacuum."

For a moment he didn't speak and then he sighed, glancing nervously over his shoulder.

"I can give you the coordinates."

The others shifted but didn't make any move to prevent the information from being given. He told Archer about the location of Sajak's base camp as well as defensive measures he employed and other pertinent details. He even told him the codes that would allow them to pass the security beacons that had to be acknowledged as approved ships entered Sajak's personal domain.

When he had finished the interrogation, Archer nodded to the guards and they put the alien back in his cage. Turning, he walked through the doorway and passed the guards who held the alien taken earlier. He smiled and walked on, content with the information tricked out of his prisoner.

He would be returned to the cell and they would move on, heading toward the only place that could give them any hope of finding a solution to their problem. Archer rode to the Bridge, walking to his chair. He sat and turned to T'Pol.

"We're going to a planet that might hold the key to our problem," he said. He turned to the panel on the arm of his chair and programmed into it the coordinates that the alien had given him. Then he entered the codes that would allow them to pass and enter the space that Sajak controlled. "Take us forward, Mr. Mayweather. I want our sensors out there. Be ready for anything."

"May I ask how you managed to get access to the codes and coordinates that you just input?" T'Pol asked, moving to her station.

"Ingenuity, Commander," he replied with a grim smile. "Good old human ingenuity."

They slipped through the night of space like a shark moving through water.


Sick Bay…

Malcolm lay on his side, resting on the bed. Sitting sprawled in a chair near to him, Tucker dozed. He watched Tucker sleeping, noting his handsome boyish profile. He memorized the planes of his face, the upturned nose and the short thatch of hair that needed a good combing.

Sighing, he rolled over onto his back, folding his hands on his stomach. The Sick Bay was quiet, the lights low and people faraway if the softness of their murmuring was any indication. The aching of his bones had settled from their brief interlude and the monitors looked more normal to him as he scanned their less spiky and more contoured data lines.

Considering their time together, he had never once thought that he had been with a man. It was only Tucker to him…Trip. Trip was the only man he had ever had although the school boy existence of English boarding schools had made the idea of man-on-man sex less of a mystery to him than it might be for others, Trip even. He wondered what Trip's sexual experience was. Had he always had women or had men been a part of his sexual portfolio?

He certainly didn't seem to need any coaching when they were together. He always knew what to do and did it with aggressive and concentrated enthusiasm. He had the bruises, bites and sore ass to show for it. But it didn't matter. He needed it to keep his balance, to keep his internal gyros spinning, and when he didn't have it he hurt like he never had before.

A brief interlude in the head was only a stop gap, not the real thing, and he needed to know what Trip had in mind for the rest of their evening. Surely he would be ready and able to find a place for them to be alone.

He sighed and glanced at Trip, watching with intensity as he shifted in his chair. Blue eyes opened and he looked in Malcolm's direction, meeting his blue-eyed gaze evenly. He smiled slightly, winning one from his passive and reticent alter ego. Rising, he walked over, stretching cramped muscles and rubbing his face with his hands. He leaned down and kissed Malcolm hard on the lips.


"Hi," Malcolm replied, his eyes never leaving Tucker. "When are we going?"

"Shortly," Trip replied, a plan to leave formulating even as he rubbed Malcolm's belly with his hand. "I have a few details to work out."

"Like the guards?" Malcolm asked, licking his dry lips.

Trip nodded, sliding his hand slowly up Malcolm's chest until he could grasp Malcolm's throat. He rubbed the soft skin of his neck, sighing as he did.

"I need you. I need you soon." Malcolm nodded, swallowing hard. "I know."

"We have to get away from here," Tucker said, sliding his hand down Malcolm's chest and resting it on his groin. Malcolm's eyes closed in pleasure but his cock didn't stir. It was unmoved by Tucker's hand and the engineer considered the phenomenon again. "How come I can't get you hard no matter what I do?"

Malcolm sighed. "You do."

"I don't feel anything," Tucker said, reaching into Malcolm's pajama pants. He gripped Malcolm's penis, massaging it in a way that he knew would make it respond but he got nothing. That is, he got nothing from that flaccid organ. Malcolm on the other hand was nearly writhing with pleasure. He squeezed and Reed arched his back, gripping Tucker's wrist as he helped move the engineer's hand.

Tucker smiled and let go, watching as Reed bit his lip in disappointment. He leaned down and kissed Reed, lingering on his mouth. Sighing, he tapped the Brit, moving him over a bit. Then he lay down and Malcolm turned over, settling himself along Tucker's body, their arms and legs entwined. Sighing with pleasure, they both settled.

"This feels good."

Tucker smiled. "I'll make you feel better later."

It was quiet in Sick Bay after that and as Dr. Phlox turned away from the curtain with the tray of food still in his hands, he went to the desk top nearby and made another entry into his computer.


Nearing the open city of Caro…

They pulled into orbit, satisfying all the proper protocols required. Archer and three security people, followed by T'Pol walked to the shuttle bay for the trip below. Sajak had a fortress but he lived in town, a penthouse of a place in a large hotel. They were headed there, determined to beat out of the pirate whatever it took to reverse the poisoning of his officers.

It was a short trip down and they parked in a commercial lot, walking along the broken pavements to the city beyond. It was wide open, a blaring bastion of commerce, both licit and illicit as well as the usual conglomerations of bars, whore houses and places to eat and sleep on the cheap. They moved together, heading for a big hotel, the one where Sajak lived. How they would get in was anyone's guess. He wasn't clear that it was secured but if any of the other places they passed were an example of the way things were done here, it would be. There were fights and hollering, people coming and going, staggering and ambulating under assistance and everywhere the edge of danger asserted itself.

They rounded a corner and in the distance was the lighted facade of the hotel, a place called Celin. Archer felt the phaser in his pocket and felt better as they broke into two parties, each of them moving down their side of the street. Scanners in their hand told them that there were few barriers of any degree to the hotel. Security appeared to be hired, men sitting and standing around expressing with their faces and bodies varying degrees of boredom.

At that moment they approached the hotel, they determined that the best entrance was from the back. It took longer to get there but when they did, they could see that the door was open and several people who apparently cooked there were lounging around drinking and talking together as if on a break.

Moving in the shadows, they crept close and with as much speed as they could muster, they jumped the crew. They were overcome in a moment and dragged away, the element of surprise on the dark alley street the edge they needed. Archer and his men slipped into the hotel and joined by T'Pol's party, began to make their way inside.



He sat by the monitor, watching as the men and woman made their way into his building. He had anticipated this moment and as such was prepared. Sajak rose, his long legs carrying him across the room quickly. He checked his little gift and then turned, smiling at the grim-faced figures moving along the corridors of the hotel three floors below his own.

Turning again, he picked up his weapon and walked to the door, gazing back at his home with fondness. Then he stepped out and disappeared into the long corridor beyond, his retinue of hangers-on and security following him slavishly.


At the door to the penthouse…

T'Pol scanned the door and found that it was clean. A well placed kick at the weakest part, the door handle, opened it and they flew in, armed and ready to drop anything in its tracks. Pausing by the entryway, Archer peered in, T'Pol scanning with her tricorder. She looked at him and shook her head.

"I can detect no one in these apartments. Nor can I detect anything that might be set as a trap."

Archer relaxed slighting and stepped in, looking around at the almost oriental sumptuousness of the room. It was a common area, chairs and couches everywhere. Beyond it was the open doorway to a bedroom. He walked to it, poised to fight and when he entered, he saw a large bed with silk coverings and large windows overlooking the brilliant lights of the city below. Above the bed, mounted into the ceiling, there was a large mirror.

It revolted him for a moment, the concept of a mirror to watch churning his anger. It was part and parcel of the torment that Malcolm and Trip had survived, the watching. He turned and started to leave when a monitor flashed on. Pausing, he stared at it and across the large screen he could see two men fighting.

Moving closer, he watched and as he did he noted with horror that one of them was Trip. He was hurt, blood oozing from scratches all over him and his face was a mask of maddened rage. He was struggling with a being about his size, a reptilian-looking creature that was trying to kill him.

As he stood watching, he knew what all this was and yet he couldn't look away, the horror of it holding him as fast as any rope or chain. They fought and in the end Trip killed the other, strangling him with his arm as they lay sprawling on the ground. He held his arm fast and the alien suffocated, falling limp across Trip's body.

Trip fell back, resting a moment and then he rose, turning toward a figure tied to a wooden pole in the middle of what was an arena. All around the edge of it aliens of every kind of description watched him without a sound, their eyes never leaving as he struggled to free the limp form on the pole.

Malcolm sagged into Trip's arms, half conscious and covered with his share of scratches. Trip turned and carted Malcolm away, disappearing into a door in a wall as the crowd suddenly erupted into thunderous applause. The door closed and then the scene changed, showing a room made of gray stones and a pile of straw on the floor.

Trip lay Malcolm down, kneeling to inspect his wounds. Wincing as he rubbed his arm, blood smearing with each rub of his hand, he stared at Malcolm as if waiting.

Malcolm sighed and moaned, opening his eyes as he came to his senses. He saw Trip's face and stilled, his expression becoming immediately impassive. Archer swallowed, willing himself to move but he couldn't. He watched as Trip pulled Malcolm's shirt apart, pressing his face onto the pale skin of Reed's chest. Malcolm sighed and slipped his fingers through the soft hair of Tucker's head, moving slightly so that the engineer could reach between his legs.

Malcolm didn't resist when Tucker removed enough of his clothes to take him, forcing him down onto his stomach as he edged his way inside with little preparation. They just lay quietly together for a moment and then Tucker began to fuck him, hard and swift, his own guttural noises breaking the tense stillness of the moment. Archer stared at them, at the impassive expression on Reed's face as he lay still, arms and legs sprawled, his eyes staring into space without emotion.

Tucker's face was contorted with effort and pleasure, his body moving without a care on top of Reed's and when he came, he groaned, a plaintive sighing sound. He settled on Malcolm, resting his head on Malcolm's shoulder. He sighed and closed his eyes, the image fading from view. It was dark a moment and then another image emerged.

A face stared at Archer, an alien face. It was like a human but not, his eyes dark without whites, his smile speaking of hideous things. Dark hair framed his pale face and his lips were like red gashes on his mouth. A hood covered his head, trails of thin hair wisping out of its scarlet folds.

"Archer. I am Sajak."

Archer flinched, surprised. The door opened and the others entered, moving to stand next to him. T'Pol scanned the image and glanced at Archer.

"He's not there. It's not a transmission. I don't know how this is being broadcast."

The demonic image smiled. "Of course, Sub-commander. You wouldn't. It's not logical how I am appearing before you."

She gazed levelly at him, her demeanor unchanged. "You are a holographic image mostly likely."

"Yes…and no. I recorded this but some time ago."

"What did you do to my men?" Archer demanded, cutting to the chase.

The figure smiled. "I played with them. You were too injured. It was only my great sense of mercy that kept you out of the games."

"Tell me how I can remove the toxins," Archer persisted.

For a moment the alien didn't speak and then he smiled. He nodded. "All right. In the cabinet behind you. Take the bottle with my blessing and give it to your men. They amused me for a while. The one…Tucker…he's quite the lusty one. But for now I have to go. I will give them back to you since you came so far and perhaps in another place we can spend some time together." He sighed and smiled almost apologetically. Then he pulled back his hood and Archer swallowed. On his head, on each side, was a horn. They were small and sharp, rather like those of a goat and Archer felt all the images of his past, those attached to evil welling up inside of him. "Take it with my compliments. Now if you will excuse me. I have another home to visit." The broadcast faded and they stood together silently. Then without warning, Archer raised his weapon and fired at the screen, melting it into nothingness in seconds. Turning, his face grim, he walked to the cabinet and opened it. A single bottle rested on a shelf beside a syringe and he took both gently into his jacket pocket.

Turning and walking forward, he led the way out. They came back the way they came in, no one stopping their progress. In less than an hour they were on the ship and the medicine was in the hands of the doctor. Two hours later, after being subdued to their beds after a bitter fight, Dr. Phlox administered the first of a series of three injections that would neutralize the toxins in their bodies.


A month later…

He walked down the corridor, nodding to passing crew with a smile. Entering his cabin, he tossed a padd to his desk, stretching his tired muscles. It had been a long day and the work had worn him out. Musing on an engineering problem, he stripped off his uniform and walked to the head, stepping into the shower.

The hot water was good, washing over him as he braced himself against the wall. Their journey had taken them a month away from the entanglement that had nearly killed them, moving them forward in their quest to find new life and new civilizations.

Malcolm looked well, fit and together and they worked on the Bridge as normally as ever. Separate counseling sessions with the doc, rigorous exercise and lots of rest had taken them from wrecks to reinvigorated and he seldom thought of what happened before. It was like watching someone else's life.

The water ended and he stepped out, drying himself off. Slipping on shorts and t-shirt, he walked to his desk and sat, considering the problem on his padd. It was late and he should be asleep but he didn't feel like it. He liked the quiet and he sat absorbing it……he toweled off and combed his hair, staring at his reflection in the mirror. He was a lot healthier looking he considered, all things given. Turning, he walked to his bed, slipping on the sweats that he usually wore in the evening. Sitting down, he rubbed his sore arm.

Since coming out of his drug-induced stupor, Malcolm Reed had thrown himself in his own form of therapy comprising of exercise, work and sleep. It had made a difference, even Phlox had noticed and he had been put back into the duty rotation without reservation.

Archer had been relieved, the two of them coming back better than he could have thought possible. The fact that most of the ordeal appeared to them as dreams or dream-like helped, Phlox had said. It was removed and detached, sort of like music playing in another room.

Malcolm rose and shut off his lights, stretching out on the bed for a moment. He felt the ease of his muscles and sighed. Lying here a few moments would be good…

…Archer petted his dog, the burden of worry lessened by two magnitudes. He felt responsible for what had happened to Reed and Tucker and it weighed on him. All of them were his responsibility and these two were friends. Malcolm was someone he had personally chosen, as was Trip and their incapacitation had been tough on the ship as well.

He stretched out, calling down lights. It was late and he was tired. Time to check out…

…Malcolm rose and walked to the window, considering some late night exercise. He felt up to a lot lately and he often went out, working out his muscles and bringing on deep dreamless sleep in the doing. Turning, he walked to the door, calling down lights, and made his way down the corridor to the lift. Hardly anyone was about and he entered without interruption.

It was a short ride to his deck and he walked along, whistling softly to himself…

…their first day on the Bridge was slightly awkward and Malcolm seldom looked up at any comment or sound of the lift door opening to discharge anyone. He had eaten his meals in his cabin until Archer 'invited' him to dine with him in the Officer's Mess. He had gone reluctantly, the air of tension during the interlude high.

Trip had sat making his usual continuous conversation, filling the silence as best he could. Reed had nodded, barely eating his food as Archer did his best as well. It was clear to both that they believed his personality had suffered the most, his dignity and shy rectitude dented by the horrors of their experience. Both wanted him comfortable again, as comfortable as he was before and he wished it too if for nothing more than to be treated no differently than ever.

Reed had made due with his lot, a lifelong habit and by the time a few days had passed, he was more relaxed and more himself. Even being around Tucker in the glare of public scrutiny had become easier. Few things ever felt easy, at least in the public realm, but Reed soldiered on. So did Tucker. Peace in view of others would come slowly…

…Tucker sat on his bunk, considering the ordeal that they had survived, the few things that Archer could tell him about Sajak chilling. He had been raised in a traditional religious southern family, one with practices and thoughts of the past firmly in place even as they considered the great future ahead. Visions of Lucifer came into Tucker's mind and he felt that they had been in his clutches. It had been harrowing, his treatment of Malcolm and the more Tucker learned about it the more he sorted through the ramifications. He hoped life would return to normal as soon as possible. He was tired of the solicitous or curious stares that were part and parcel things for now.

Stretching his muscles, he rose and walked to the window, staring into space. It was good to be back, to be working and on his way. They had been sidetracked by this whole matter and the sooner it was over in the conscious memory of the ship, the better. He turned and walked to his bed, sitting once again…

…he paused at the door, a smile on his face. Malcolm Reed was ready to work out and the time to do it was perfect. He reached out and pressed the chime…

.. Jonathan Archer slept soundly, a portion of his burden lifted. His men were progressing and the ship's family was made whole again. They were on their way to a system with possible class M planets. Their odds were good that they would find out something new, something they hadn't known before. He could hardly wait…

…the light flickered as she sat meditating. The whole unsettling process of the past month and a half had been totally unnerving. She sat quietly, centering herself as she sought to put it all into some kind of order. The savage passions of these people were so alien to her experience that it took effort to find some sort of definition of it so that she could file it away in her psyche. The light flickered as she stared, her mind going through the familiar mantra of her nightly meditations. When she was finished, she would retire to her bed and sleep…

…he walked from Sick Bay, heading for his quarters. Things were secure and he was making progress with his charges. Reed was more reticent but willing to try to express the inexpressible. Tucker, a more voluble person, had less trouble and they edged around the big unspoken carefully together. It was hard, the concept of force and he didn't confront it easily. It was against the Commander's well defined moral code and so he considered how they would approach this delicate taboo in a way that would be productive.

He entered the lift and called for his deck, the door closing on him…

…the door opened and Malcolm stepped inside, a smile gracing his face. He stood still for a moment, relishing the workout he was going to get and then he stepped forward, embracing Commander Tucker with all his strength.

Tucker embraced him back, rubbing Malcolm's ass with his hands. He grinned, staring into Malcolm's deep blue eyes. With a smirk of triumph, he kissed Reed as savagely as he ever did, his hands gripping Malcolm's ass possessively.

"You're late."

"Sorry. I suppose you'll have to punish me," Malcolm whispered, tilting his head so that Tucker could bite the pale flesh with more ease. "I wouldn't miss my workout for anything."

Tucker snorted, staring at his personal trophy with smug assurance. "Me either."

Turning, they fell on the bed together, the dance continuing as the stars flew past. Some place else, well aware of what was happening, Sajak smiled.

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