TITLE: Unfinished Business

AUTHOR: Shamrock

EMAIL: CopterCrasherInc@aol.com

DATE: 02/22/02

FEEDBACK: Like pineapple to Malcolm.


PAIRING: Archer/Tucker

SPOILERS: "Shuttlepod One"

SUMMARY: Trip has some unfinished business after nearly dying. (Well with THAT title, what did you expect? <G>)

DISCLAIMER: Not mine. If they were, Archer would never have actually wondered about who was handling Engineering while Trip was gone. (I STILL can't get over that—the captain of a ship not knowing who was taking care of the engines!)

NOTES: I never meant to write this story. I was halfway through the first page before I realized I was actually writing another non-QL story. Darn, that bunny got me good! Before someone asks, no, Archer's middle name is probably not Samuel. And most of you probably know where it DOES come from .

SPECIAL THANKS: To Kylara Ingress for (once again) the beta and (once again) the help with the title. Don't know what I'd do without ya!

"Trip? You okay?"

The form on the bed grunted in answer.

"Trii-iip," came the voice again, insistent, almost playful.

"Jeez, why don't you go bug someone else, Cap'n? And how'd you get into my quarters, anyway?"

"Well, being the captain of your own ship has its advantages," Archer explained. "Now, you want to tell me what you're moping about in here for?"

Trip rolled over to glare at his friend. "I'm not mopin', I'm tryin' to *sleep*. Now, if you *don't* mind…." He gestured impatiently at the door.

This time it was a sigh. "Trip…" the captain started. "I'm starting to worry about you. You get off duty, you come here, you sleep. In your uniform, no less. I almost never see you at mealtimes anymore—you're always 'too busy'."

"Yeah, well, bein' the chief engineer means some strange hours sometimes. Don't hafta tell you that. Should be grateful to have someone as dedicated as me holdin' the post."

"Oh, I am. There's no one I'd rather trust Enterprise's engines to. You know that. However, it's not the *engines* I'm worried about just now."

Trip snorted. "Well, *a'course* you're not. You've got *me* to worry about that for ya."

"Talk to me," came Archer's softly-spoken plea. It caught Trip off-guard. "We're friends, right? And something's bothering you. Isn't that what friends do, Trip? Listen to each other? Let me listen. Maybe I can even help." Trip wouldn't look at him and refused to speak. "Ever since you and Lieutenant Reed were trapped in that shuttlepod, you've been different," Archer said musingly, almost to himself.

"Well, it wasn't exactly Shangra-La, if you know what I mean, Captain."

Archer thought carefully about his next words. "What—what *was* it like?" he finally asked, hoping to get his friend to open up a bit.

"Shoot, what do you *think* it was like? We were freezin' our butts off, and we thought all of you were *dead*, not to mention thinkin' we were gonna be next. It's not exactly what I'd call a barrel of laughs."

"Of course," Archer said quietly, sensing there was more.

"An'—an' Reed kept—he was leaving *messages*, Cap'n. Of the 'fare-thee-well' sort. Of the 'by-the-time-ya-get-this' sort."

"And…and that *bothered* you?"

"Well, damn straight, it bothered me! Bad enough to be thinkin' it's your time an' all that, worse to have someone sittin' next to you waxin' poetic about some girl he hasn't seen in God-knows-when."

Archer released a brief chuckle. "I can kinda see where that might get annoying."

"But then…I snapped at him. An' he said that the people on this ship…they were his family. He was just startin' to trust us, to open up, and then…well, we thought everyone was gone. An' I realized when he said that…that I had some unfinished business myself." Trip sat up in his bunk, looking anywhere but at Archer. "That there was somethin' I needed to say. But I couldn't, 'cause I needed privacy to say it…I—I mean, not that I wouldn't trust Malcolm, he's a great guy. Got on each other's nerves quite a bit out there, but he's a good guy and I'm honored to serve with him. Naw, I'd have trusted him." He turned pained eyes on his captain, trying to figure out how to put it.

"But you still didn't want anyone to hear it, even Malcolm," Archer intuited, finding the needed words.

"Right. Exactly," Trip agreed, nodding. "And then," he continued, wondering how he'd gotten this far into it, how Captain Archer had gotten him to lower his guard this much, "we heard Hoshi's voice. Man, Jon, I gotta say, I never felt so much sheer relief. The voice of an angel, I kid you not." The two men smiled at each other, one reliving the relief and the other sympathizing. "And then—then we realized that you guys weren't going to make it time. That you were all alive an'—an' I'd thought I was gonna get a second chance to tell this person how I felt, and then it was snatched away again."

Trip sighed heavily. "And then we woke up in sickbay, and it felt like I had a *third* chance to—to tie up loose ends, if you will." He turned pained blue eyes on his friend. "And I chickened out. Repeatedly."

"Must be pretty special. I've never known you to back down like that before. The Trip Tucker I know sees what he wants and goes after it."

"Yeah, well, this person…'special' doesn't begin to cover it," he almost whispered, looking down at his fingers where they picked at the blanket that covered him.

"It's not too late," Archer pointed out. Trip snorted. "It's not. You're hopefully not going to die anytime soon, and I'm assuming this person's on Enterprise, so they're not going to die anytime soon, either." He grinned down at the engineer. "Not under my command, anyway." That drew a reluctant smile from Trip. "So why don't you haul your sorry ass out of that bed and go hunt her down and tell her how you feel?"

Trip flushed. "I, uh, well, Captain…it's not a 'her'."

Archer was only slightly taken aback. "I see. And would that be part of the reason you've been…'chickening out'?"

"Kinda. I mean, I know the guy—know him real well. This wouldn't change his opinion of me, I know that for a fact. But he hasn't exactly shown interest in what the dark side of the moon's like, if you know what I mean."

"You know," Archer said slowly, "that doesn't mean that…he doesn't ever think about it. Could be that something else has held him back."

"That is, assuming he's even interested," Trip snorted.

"Don't sell yourself short, Trip," Archer said, taking a step or two closer to his friend. "You're…you're attractive. I think you know that already," he finished with a smirk.

"Hey, you're not making some kind of remark about my *ego* there, are ya, Jon?" he teased. They both chuckled, some of the tension broken. "Seriously, Jon—an' you don't have to answer if you don't want to—have you?"

"Have I what?" Archer grinned, knowing exactly what Trip was talking about.

"C'mon, Captain, work with me here. You ever wanted to be with another guy?"

"Seriously?" Trip nodded. "Seriously…I'd have to say…I've thought about it. But really, truly *wanted* it?" He shook his head. "Not really. Not except with one particular guy." Archer looked down at his hands where they were joined in front of him. "He's…very important to me, I've known him for years, and if I were ever to…have that with someone, I'd want it to be him."

"So? What's stopped you from approachin' him? You're not exactly a wallflower yourself, ya know?"

"It would be…*inappropriate*. I mean, a captain has to maintain…" he trailed off as he realized he'd just admitted that he had feelings for someone under his command.

Trip's mind raced to process his captain's words…*very important…known him for years*….As far as Trip knew, *he* was the only one on Enterprise who would fit that description—he and Jon had been close for a long time, and had a very deep friendship.

Archer swallowed hard as he saw Trip's eyes light up with realization. "Well, I, uh, I guess I'd better go, before I make things even worse…" he managed, turning away and heading towards the door.

"Wait!" Trip cried, jumping out of bed like there was a scorpion in it.

Archer froze as he reached for the door controls, closing his eyes. He knew his career was safe—Trip would never report him for attempted fraternization. He was much more concerned about his friendship with the engineer. "Trip, I—I never meant for you to find out like this…" he said quietly, painfully.

"Jon," came Trip's voice in a hush, whispering over Archer's skin and tickling his heart. "Jon, look at me." One of the engineer's skilled hands was on his shoulder, gently urging him to turn. Reluctantly, fearfully, he did so.

And gazing into those blue eyes, he saw the same deep friendship and concern he always saw when he looked at Trip. Friendship and concern and…

…and love. Yes, and love.

Trip's hands came up to cup his captain's face. "Now, why the hell didn't you ever say anything, Johnny?" he asked, gazing into Archer's intoxicating hazel-green eyes.

Archer let himself step forward and wrap his long arms around Trip's waist. "Well, now, I think I could ask you the same, now couldn't I?" he shot back with a smirk. "At least *I* have the rank issue—you may be my best friend, but you are also my subordinate."

Trip's eyes darkened for a moment, but he didn't release Archer. "How are we gonna deal with that? I mean, assumin' anything's gonna happen here. Somethin' is gonna happen, isn't it?"

Archer's arms tightened around him. "I want it to."

"Well, then, I guess we're gonna have to come up with some ground rules, eh, Jon?"

"Guess so. Okay, first one. This," and he released Trip with one hand to gesture at both of them before returning his hand to the engineer's back, "never leaves our quarters. On the Bridge, in Engineering, we're still Commander Tucker and Captain Archer. No playing footsie at the breakfast table," he said with smirk. "No pet names over the comm link. No ditching duty to stay in bed."

"Aww, you're no fun," Trip said with grin. "All right, try this one on for size. We don't actively try to hide this, but we don't broadcast it, either. Don't want the crew thinkin' we're keeping a secret, an' I think they deserve our trust, anyway. But we don't want to be the talk of the ship, either. So no groping in public. No holdin' hands in the shuttlebay."

"Damn, you're no fun either," Archer grinned. "Now, as we have established that this," again he pointed at the two of them, "doesn't go out there, " he motioned to the door, " we also have to keep out there," he waved at the door again, "from coming in here," he motioned at them both again. "So, we leave the captain and the commander on the Bridge and in Engineering."

Trip's eyes gleamed with mischief. "Let me get this straight: you can't order me around in here?"

Archer froze with his mouth agape and eyebrows halfway up his forehead for a moment. "Ahh…maybe I should…*reword* that a bit."


"As your captain, I can *always* issue orders. But as your *lover*, orders are equal-opportunity."

"You mean I can order your ass around for once?" Archer realized he might have bitten off a little bit more than he could chew and started to backpedal, but Trip cut him off before he could utter even one syllable. "Uh-uh-uh-uh, *Captain*. You clearly said orders were equal-opportunity. I plan to take full advantage of that, starting riiiight now." He moved his hands to the back of Archer's neck. "Kiss me, Johnny," he whispered, not ordering so much as pleading—a small demon of doubt was lurking in the back of his mind, and only the touch of Jon's lips on his would get rid of it.

"That's one order I have no problems following," Archer breathed, and leaned forward to capture Trip's mouth in a soft kiss.

"Mmm. You know, you're pretty good at that," Trip murmured with a grin when they pulled back, gazing at Archer through half-lidded eyes.

"Never had any complaints," Archer smirked.

"Well, now, aren't *we* smug? And we haven't even gotten to the *good* part yet."

Jon pretended to be dense. "There's *more*?" For an answer, Trip reached down between his legs.

"Much more," Trip purred over Jon's gasp as Trip's oh-so-talented hand started to fondle him. Then Trip took away his hand, causing Jon to moan in disappointment.

"Shh, love," Trip crooned in his ear. "We'll get there."

Trip's breath was warm in Jon's ear as he murmured the words, but what sent the electric jolt through the captain's bloodstream was one word in particular: love. Trip had called him 'love'. Pulling his friend close, he whispered in his ear, "I do love you, Trip. Everything about you. I never thought I would get this lucky, never thought you'd want this, too."

Jon's words triggered something in his new lover. "Wait a sec…Jon, how long have you felt this way?"

"More or less? Since the day we met." He shrugged. "You?"


"Been in love with you for years now. That's right." Jon's hands were moving up and down over the engineer's back now, and Trip couldn't help a little moan as his body tried to decide whether to lean back into those strong hands or to lean forward into that broad chest. "What about you?"

"I, uh, don't really know. But I know when I realized it." He tangled his hands in Jon's short hair, caressing. "It was when you saved my life—you know, when I had the nitrogen narcosis and you talked me out of breathing vacuum?"

Jon shuddered. "I have nightmares about that," he revealed. "Nightmares where I can't talk you out of taking your helmet off, where you pull it off and die right in front of me." Trip pulled him close, so their chests were touching. They could feel each breath the other one took, so reassuringly alive. Trip started to mouth Jon's neck, causing a low groan to escape the captain.

"But I didn't," he murmured against the soft skin. "I trusted you. I've always trusted you. Always loved you, too, even if I didn't always know it."

"Trip," Jon whispered as he felt the warm wetness of Trip's tongue against his neck. Turning his face, he found an earlobe to nibble on, and he grinned as he felt Trip's shudder. "Jon?" Trip panted.


"Bed. Now." He leaned back to grin into Jon's face. "And that's an *order*."

"You're never going to let me forget that, are you?" Archer asked dryly, reaching for the zipper of Trip's uniform.

"Not in this lifetime," Trip replied, unzipping his lover's uniform in turn.

Soon both were standing in Trip's quarters buck-naked, gazing hungrily at each other.

"Damn, but you're gorgeous," Trip breathed in awe, gazing at Jon. It wasn't as though the two had never seen one another without clothes, but they'd never seen each other in quite *this* state.

Jon chuckled self-depreciatingly. "Was just thinking that same thing about you. Now, come here," he said with a note of command evident in his voice, reaching out to take Trip into his arms.

They settled into the embrace like they'd stood naked in each other's arms hundreds of times, not a shred of embarrassment or discomfort. Hands were lazily exploring new territory, mapping out the places that made each other gasp or moan with pleasure.

Jon lowered his head slightly to kiss Trip again, the flavor already marked as belonging to his lover, and he knew as Trip's tongue invaded his mouth and slid along his own that this was how he wanted it to be forever.

Trip's arms were possessively wrapped around Jon's waist, and Jon brought his up to wind just as possessively through his partner's dark golden hair. Their tongues sparred for dominance as the kiss took an intense turn. One (or maybe both) of them was moaning loudly, but the sound was muffled by the tight seal of their lips. It vibrated through their mouths and echoed in their lungs as the desire sang through their spines to settle in their groins. Unthinkingly, their hips started to seek out that pleasure, very slowly grinding into each other.

Finally, suffocation became an issue, and they separated. Jon took to nibbling on his lover's ear as one hand traveled down to toy with his nipples, causing an almost-comical stream of groans to pour from the engineer. "Jon…oh, God…Johnny!" he gasped, head thrown back, sweat trickling down his neck.

Jon pulled back. "Too much?"

"Too much. Not enough. You name it," Trip panted. "I feel like I've been thrown into the heart of a supernova!"

Jon's voice deepened. "You mean…like you're gonna burn up?"

Trip groaned. "I'm thinkin' it's time to move this party to a more…*horizontal* location," he said, eyes gleaming as he thrust into Jon a little more forcefully than they had been. Jon bit his lower lip to keep from crying out and nodded.

They settled onto Trip's bunk, facing one another. It was a tight fit, but other than Trip's mumbled, "Next time we do this in *your* quarters," they barely noticed. "You've…you've never done this, have you?" Trip asked.

Jon shook his head. "Like I said, never wanted to with anyone but you. What about you?" Now, Trip shook his head and grinned.

"Well, Jon, we're a couple of…*industrious* guys. I think we can figure things out."

"Oh, I don't think that'll be a problem," the captain smirked, reaching down to grasp Trip's evident arousal. Trip arched into him releasing a sharp cry of surprise as the hand started to move on him.

From somewhere, Trip found the capacity to return the favor, running his hand up and down his lover's shaft. Jon felt a low, shuddering moan be dragged from deep in his throat. "Trip…" he panted as his partner's free hand ran through his copious chest hair to tweak his nipples. And his mouth…his mouth was latched onto his throat, tongue lapping at the hollow at the base of it. There were too many sensations to focus on, and it was rapidly sending him towards maximum overload. "Ah…Trip…please. Please, yes, oh God, don't stop, don't ever stop," he gasped, starting to thrust into the tight grip.

The Southerner was in a similar state: Jon's hands weren't exactly idle. One was lovingly grasping and massaging a shapely buttock, the other was exactly where Trip needed it most. Trip felt cradled somehow, and safe, which allowed him to lose all shred of control. He bucked hard against his lover, wanting everything Jon could give. "More, Jon," he moaned against the heated skin. "More…so close," he managed in a strangled voice. His eyes were half-closed, and his hair was practically dripping with sweat.

Trip suddenly stopped mouthing Jon's neck and moved up to gaze into his friend's hazel-green eyes. Jon gazed right back, gladly losing himself in the ocean-blue orbs. Their movements remained frantic and wild, but a strange sort of serenity descended on them, a sense of rightness. "L-love you," Jon managed to whisper, and what little breath Trip had possessed was yanked right out of him with the sound of that voice and, more importantly, the words themselves.

Jon was there, right there, leaving himself open and vulnerable, more vulnerable than even Trip had ever seen him before. They were a heated, tangled mass of need and desire as they rocked and thrust franticly into one another, but there was a deep calmness in the very center of Trip's soul, and he knew himself to be just as open and vulnerable as Jon was. "Love you," he gasped back, just before releasing a wordless cry and pulsing into his lover's hand, shuddering so hard Jon was nearly knocked clean off the bunk.

Jon threw one long, golden leg over Trip's to hold himself in place, and then his mouth opened in a soundless scream as he tensed and exploded.

The two slumped together, boneless and satiated as they panted, slick with sweat and semen.

"Damn," came Trip's breathy voice a few moments later. Jon chuckled. "*Damn*," he repeated a second later, sounding thoroughly wiped out. Jon chuckled a little harder and stretched, cat-like. "*Double* damn," said Trip, drinking in the sight of Jon's elegant movements. "How can you be so darn graceful after *that*? I doubt I could reach up to scratch my nose if it itched!"

Jon gazed adoringly at his lover. "Doesn't take much for you, does it?" he asked, eyes sparkling with love and amusement.

"Well, *look* at you! All sleek muscles, smooth skin…jeez, who *wouldn't* be in awe?"

That drew a laugh from the captain as he rolled over on his friend, trapping him beneath his body. "I think my chief engineer needs to start getting out a little more."

"Aww, you're too modest, Johnny," Trip said, wrapping his arms around Jon, stroking up and down his back. "'Sides, why go out when I can stay in?" And with that, he leaned up to claim his captain's lips in a soft, loving kiss.

When they parted, Archer rolled off and gave Trip an appraising look. "About that…I don't have to worry about you becoming some sort of hermit anymore, do I? I *am* going to start seeing you during meals and such again, right? No more work-sleep-work-sleep-work-sleep?"

"Lovers for one day, an' you're already startin' to tell me what I can and can't do," Trip groused playfully. "Next you'll be tellin' me what to wear!"

"Well…you look good in cream. And in blue, and in gray, and in black…." Trip thumped him lightly, then yawned, only to hear it echoed by Jon. Wordlessly, Jon pulled him close, both silently agreeing to go to sleep.

"Love you, Jonathan Samuel Archer," Trip mumbled. *An' someday, I'll tell ya my 'last request' was to have Reed tell ya it was an honor to serve with you!*

"Love you, Charles Tucker the Third," Jon mumbled back, both of them already half-asleep, locked safely in each other's arms.

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