Title: Siren's Song

Authors: Macx and Lara Bee

Authors' e-mail: macx@nexgo.de and lara_bee@lycos.com

URL: http://home.arcor.de/macx/enterprise/enterprise.html and http://home.arcor.de/macx/enterprise/enterprise.html

Date: 07/14/02

Pairing: Tucker/Reed

Type: Slash M/M

Rating: PG-13 to R-ish

Series: Relived

Parts: Complete, 8 parts

Archive: after all parts have been posted

Feedback: empty inbox seeks emails!

Disclaimer: Don't own a single one of 'em. All Paramount's.

Author's Voice of Warning (aka Author's Note): English is not our first language; it's German. This is the best we can do. Any mistakes you find in here, collect them and you might win a prize <g>

The spell-checker said everything's okay, but you know how trustworthy those thingies are…

Authors' Two Cents: all of you who read By The Book might think we copied some ideas, but I, Macx, just read over it in a hurry and discovered that there are similarities there, especially the telepathic communication and the side effects. I was kinda dumbstruck when I read it. Lara hasn't even had the chance to look at the novel in question.

This is no copy! Siren's Song was started before I even had the novel!

Malcolm almost laughed out loud as he watched his lover get dressed. Trip Tucker was close to bouncing around in eagerness and joy. His eyes glowed, his whole being radiated happiness, and he was moving with the speed and grace of someone who had to be somewhere in a very short amount of time.

"Slow down or you'll twist something," Reed teased, laying back on the bed, dressed in his sweats and a t-shirt already.

He had for once foregone shaving to give Trip the necessary space and time to do so. Their shower had eaten up the most time and Malcolm had to smile as he remembered the passionate moments under the warm water. Nice way to start a morning.

"I can't wait to set foot down on that planet!" The engineer grinned from ear to ear. "Have you seen the images from the probes?"

"Yes, like everyone else," Reed answered patiently.

"Isn't it a beauty?"

"It's a chunk of ice in space."

"Ow, Mal, you are such a realist," Trip chastised with a chuckle. "It's an alien world, with all kinds of new life, an' it's the first ice planet I get to set foot on!"


Trip stuck out his tongue and zipped his jumpsuit up. "You're just jealous I was picked an' not you."

"Definitely not. Reeds and the cold don't get along."

"I thought the British are used to cold weather."

"Not this Brit."

"Yeah, right. I do remember a certain armory officer running around on a snow covered comet, building snow men. With pointed ears."

"Only if I may blow them up afterwards."


Trip grinned and walked over, bending down and stealing a kiss. "I'll bring ya back a snowball—and a firecracker."

"Get your own skinny butt back here and I'm as happy as can be." Malcolm answered the kiss and poked Trip into the ribs.

"Skinny?" Trip echoed, outraged. "I'll have you know that my lower back was rated perfectly shaped by independent and reliable sources."

Reed raised a skeptical eyebrow. "Oh really? Your 'lower back'? Do I know those sources?"

"They wish to remain anonymous."

"I see."

Trip shot him a mock glare. Malcolm smirked. "Just get back and we'll see what we can do about another…reliable rating of your butt."

His lover laughed. "You got it." Tucker pulled him towards him and gave Malcolm a kiss. "See ya."

The dark-haired man smiled warmly. "I hope so."


Dawn rose over the strange new world and a streak of red tinted the horizon. It dribbled color over the moving sea. The planet was beautiful. And that was an understatement. It was breathtaking, humbling, awe-inspiring, a vision of pure fantasy and imagination, something a painter might have banned onto canvas, something people saw in dreams.

A frozen world, a world of ice. But not mere whiteness. It was awash in light blue and shades white, ice and crystal, glittering in the sun. Water lapped at the icy crust wherever it was broken, or waves crashed against the cliffs and reefs farther out in the sea. It was a water planet that had been partially turned into a giant glacier, with a breathable atmosphere but so cold that the away team had been forced to bundle up in thick clothes that left them looking like the Michelin man. Eyes protected with heavy duty glasses gazed in wonder at the towering mountains, the spires, the columns, the arches, the crevasses.

Trip turned a full 360 degrees, his breath almost crystallizing in the cold air as he released it. Ice crunched under the soles of his boots.

"Wow," he murmured. "It looked impressive from above, but this is…wow…"

T'Pol wasn't far away from him, not even looking at the ice formations or the distant horizon of water and sparkling pieces of ice that had broken away. Icebergs floated in the gentle waves, green and blue against the horizon, like precious jewels, glittering in the morning light. With her were two crewmen, already setting up the necessary surveillance and drilling equipment.

Trip shook his head. All work and no appreciation for the beauty, he mused. And this was beauty. He couldn't put it any other way. An unending landscape of water and ice, hostile but strangely touching.

T'Pol claimed she had been to five ice worlds already, which was an impressive number, but to Tucker each planet was unique. And it was his first all-ice planet. Enterprise had arrived three days ago, had conducted orbital scans and sent probes down, but except for some larger, underwater life forms that pointed, no other biosigns had been registered. Then again, the sensors reached only so far beyond the ice and the water's surface. About ten meters, to be exact, which was pitifully little. Something in the ice, water and the atmosphere blocked their normally so reliable equipment. The communicators were problematic, too. Tucker had set up a booster, but even with it, receiving and sending was a matter of trying to decipher Hoshi's voice through static that was worse than what you got days away from Enterprise with a barely workable radio!

Walking across the mass of ice, Trip took out his camera and started snapping pictures, moving away from the science group.

There was a gentle yet bitingly cold breeze, and the ever-present waves created a background of calming sound. Not far from here, spires of ice rose into the azure sky, gleaming and glistening under the sun.

There was a soft creaking of ice.

Trip ignored it. Ice always shifted and made noise. He zoomed the camera in on the display of pastel colors. White and blue ice, the rose-colored sea, the azure sky with its touches of peach and red. It was surreal, strange…otherworldy.

A cracking followed.

Trip stopped, frowning, lowering the camera. The creaking continued and one foot suddenly sank into the ground.

"Holy shit!" he whispered as he discovered the fine web of cracks around his feet.


And then he fell.

T'Pol had been busy surveying the set-up of the scientific equipment, but when she heard the loud crack of ice snapping in two, her head came up. She saw Commander Tucker stop where he was, barely thirty meters away from them, then the Human suddenly disappeared from sight as if he had been whisked away by an elevator. There was a startled exclamation, ripped away by his rapidly falling body.

"Don't move!" she commanded as the two men with her, Vasquez and Jorgensen, were about to run to the place where Tucker had been. "The ice could be unstable."

The men stopped obediently, their wide eyes on the jagged hle in the smooth ice not far from them. There was no estimate as to how far the commander had falen. He might just be in a pocket a few meters underneath the surface, but it could also be much worse. T'Pol had had her share of experience with ice planets and she had studied them thoroughly. A huge drawback to this mission had been their inability to measure the ice's thickness from Enterprise. Only now it had been possible no weak spots had been discovered by the equipment. Until now.

"Commander Tucker!" she called. "Can you hear me?"

There was only silence.


He was either unconscious or to far down. Or both.

"T'Pol to Enterprise," she tried the communicator.

"…prise," came the garbled reply.

"Commander Tucker fell through the ice," T'Pol reported, voice clear and emotionless. "Apparently part of the island we landed on was unstable."

More crackling. "…peat…ker…T'Pol."

Mild annoyance passed through her, then she turned to the two men. "It is no use. We have to return to Enterprise and inform the captain."

"But what about the commander?" Jorgensen wanted to know, clearly worried.

"We need equipment from Enterprise to stabilize the area. Until then, no one can approach the site."

"One of us should stay," the scientist argued.

T'Pol regarded him silently, then nodded. "I will return to Enterprise."

With that she walked to the shuttle and took off a few minutes later.


They circled around the icy barrier between the sea and the air bubble that separated them from the newcomer, dark shadows against the luminescent blue ice. There were two, both about the same size, their streamlined bodies easily gliding through the water. High-pitched noises penetrated the barrier, but went unheard by the newcomer.

They had heard the arrival from Above, but since the four newcomers had stayed on the frozen world Between, they hadn't bothered with them. Between held no appeal to them. It was a wasteland, without food, without shelter, without them. But then one had broken through Between, had fallen and ended up in the air bubble. He was in their world, Below, but still so much part of Above. They were curious, but there was no way of getting to him.

A third shadow appeared and the noise level increased, but to no avail. Fruitlessly swimming up and down the barrier, two broke away and disappeared, leaving the third like a lonely guard as it kept watch over the newcomer behind the ice.


The response to Commander Tucker's accident was prompt and efficient. A shuttle landed not one hour later, carrying with it enough equipment to raise the Titanic—if the proud ship had been on this planet and under meters and meters of ice. Captain Jonathan Archer had accompanied the team of engineers and now stood at the edge of the staging area of the rescue mission.

No contact with Trip had been established so far. Currently, one of the engineers was remote controlling a probe, letting it crawl across the ice. It took readings as far as it could and would determine if Trip had fallen into a hole or deeper. T'Pol had vetoed a fly-over with the shuttle. More ice could be disturbed, break off, and maybe injure Trip.

"The wider area around the accident site is stable, but the a circle of maybe five to six meters if breaking off," Ensign Carver reported as he read off the data from the probe. "I wouldn't risk anything heavier than this probe." Lieutenant Jaeger stepped forward, a thoughtful frown on her face. "We could start with the rig now, sir. We'd have to secure it far outside the immediate danger zone, but I think we can drive the supports deep enough to hold the weight of at least two grown men."

Archer nodded. "Do it."

A cold wind blew across the ice field, bringing with it flurries of snow. The captain frowned and looked at the sky. It was late afternoon and growing dark faster than he had expected. The thought of bad weather wasn't helping with his general mood.

With a sigh he walked back to the shuttle, watching everything from a distance. The engineering team under Jaeger was working quickly and effectively. Carver was running the probe back and forth, taking more readings. By the time the rig was secured, the weather had deteriorated badly. Jaeger jogged over to the shuttle, her face hidden by a respirator and the thick thermo suit. "Sir, we have to break off the rescue attempt," she called, raising her voice to be heard over the wind. "The weather."

He nodded. "No sense in risking everything," he agreed.

"My men and I would like to stay here for the night, wait if the weather lets up," the engineer went on, ignoring the ice crystals battering against her protective clothing. "We brought along the extreme conditions tents. With your permission?"

Archer looked at the five men and one woman. He didn't like the fact that they would be completely without comms down here, but Jaeger's reasoning was right on. If the weather let up, they could continue. The extreme weather tents were robust constructions that could last through a tornado and they were heated.

"Agreed, Lieutenant. Do you want the shuttle to remain here?"

"I doubt we'd need it, sir," she answered confidently.

"All right. Good luck, Lieutenant."

"Thank you, sir."


Malcolm sat in the quiet mess hall, staring at the PADD on the table, not seeing anything. He had come here to escape the quietness of his quarters, the boxed-in sensation, the uselessness he felt. His last shift had been over for three hours, but he hadn't been able to face the emptiness of his own space aboard the ship. Some of his own staff had asked if he wanted to join them for a get-together, a movie, early dinner in the messhall, but he had insisted that he had everything under control. The truth of the matter was that he needed to spend some time alone. So Malcolm had declined every offer, had buried himself in work, then sought out the empty mess hall. His thoughts were focused on a single point in his mind: Trip Tucker. The fate of his lover down on the alien planet where currently a snow storm was hindering rescue attempts.

What was he thinking right now?

Was he awake?

Was he hurt?

No one knew. All attempts to get a probe through the hole had failed, mainly because of the snow storm and interference from the particles that obstructed communication at greater distance.

Reed sighed and shut down the PADD. He hadn't read a single page in all those hours. The tea was cold and the Danish looked downright unappetizing. Malcolm swore to himself that he wouldn't lose it. Just because Trip was in a dangerous situation, life-threatening at that, he wouldn't go around showing his worry openly. He was a professional. He had a duty to perform here. He was supposed to be an officer of the senior staff, people looked at him for guidance. So he would bury all his personal feelings and be just that: the guidance.

"Is that seat taken?"

The soft voice catapulted him out of his musings and Reed looked up, momentarily caught off guard.

Hoshi gave him a gentle smile as she gestured at the empty seat across from him. She held a mug of something hot and a plate of cookies.

"Uhm, yes, of course," Malcolm murmured, cursing himself.

Hoshi sat down, placing the snack in front of her. "Are you okay?"

It was a blunt question, granted, but Malcolm appreciated it more than any subtle inquiry that would yield the same results. He met the compassionate gaze and fought the first reaction—get up and leave.

"As okay as one can be," he answered finally.

Hoshi nodded. "They're doing everything they can, Malcolm."

"I know."

"It must be hard."

You have no idea, he thought. It's unbearable! He didn't say it though.

"I have to get going," he mumbled.

Malcolm pushed back the chair. He was supposed to be back on duty in two hours. He had traded for a double shift just yesterday, before the accident, and despite the crewman's offer to pull his shift and let Reed off, the Englishman had insisted. He had traded, he would honor it.

It would take his mind of things.

At least for a while.

Hoshi watched him go, silent, as the door closed after him.


The night brought with it a snowstorm of tremendous proportions. The engineering team was forced to stay in their tents and Archer was tempted to send a shuttle down more than once. In these deteriorating conditions, though, it was not advisable. The storm abated around early midday and Jaeger's team reemerged from their tents, only to find the rig partially destroyed.

Flying down to the surface again, Archer found himself in the company of Lieutenant Reed. Malcolm's expression was one of stoic calm, a mask of complete control. Nothing showed, except to those who knew him. The captain was one of those people. For three years he had gotten to know more and more of his British armory officer. He had seen the ups and downs, the good times, the bad times, had witnessed his performance under pressure and stress. Malcolm Reed could be calm impersonate, but he could also lose that cool.

Currently, though, he wasn't even close to losing it. Archer couldn't begin to imagine what it took out of the younger man to be like this. His lover and partner of years lay, probably hurt and unconscious, somewhere under the planet's surface. They had no way to determine where exactly and what had happened due to the planet's interference.

Malcolm had followed his superior's orders and only now requested to be part of the team down planetside. Archer hadn't found it in himself to deny it the man. Malcolm was an engineer by title as well, though his specific area of expertise lay with tactical and weapons, and maybe he could help out Jaeger's men.

The shuttle set down effortlessly and the moment the hatch had opened, Archer climbed out while Malcolm secured the engine. Then he followed. Cold air hit the small portion of exposed skin in his face and he scanned the white wasteland around him, no eyes for the beauty and serenity. His lover lay trapped beneath this impressive display of mother nature.

Malcolm was about to follow Archer when it happened. He dropped to his knees screaming, slamming his hands over his ears, desperate to shut out the infernal high pitched noise, while at the same time trying to keep the contents of his roiling stomach. He didn't succeed—either way. Reed ended curled up on the ice, senses overloaded by a blast of sound that left him nauseous, blind and deaf and whimpering, pleading with all he was worth for someone, anyone, to just make it stop, end the agonizing skull-splitting resonance.

There was nothing but this world of shrill, eardrum-shattering, agonizing sound. A migraine of noise and burning pain that left all his other senses dead, that wiped out his world to exist only in this pain.

Archer had met up with Lieutenant Jaeger when he heard the agony-filled scream. He stood shell-shocked, watching in horror as Malcolm went down into a boneless heap, crying out in pain. He started to throw up almost immediately, bending over, until he was nothing more than a whimpering, trembling bundle lying on the ice, hoarsely whispering for someone to please make it stop within mere seconds.

Jon was at the younger man's side immediately, dropping to one knee, one thickly gloved hand touching the hooded face. He turned it to face him, horrified by the slack, pale features.

"Jaeger!" he commanded.

The lieutenant understood immediately and she grabbed the armory officer at the upper arms. Between her and Archer, they dragged the stricken man back toward the shuttle. They barely managed to hold him upright. Malcolm was obviously not longer able to realize what was happening around him. Archer swore softly. They weren't able to use the transporting device and transfer Reed directly to sickbay because of the atmospheric interference that already scrambled their com lines.

To turn Malcolm Reed into—this, it had to be bad. More than bad, because Archer knew under ordinary circumstances Malcolm would have fought the devil himself to get Trip back safe and sound. And he would most likely succeed. Now all his armory officer seemed to be capable of was a plaintive whisper, eyes either squeezed shut or roaming around unfocused and bloodshot behind the protective glasses, dry heaves wreaking the slender body when nausea hit again.

"Sir, do you want me to accompany you?" Jaeger asked as she settled Reed down with Archer's help.

Jon nodded. "Thank you, Lieutenant."

She gave him a tight smile and started to free the stricken armory officer of the hood and thermo jacket. Reed was trying to curl in on himself and Jaeger had trouble to get him to cooperate.

Archer piloted the shuttle back with as much speed as he could risk, mind awhirl, ears peeled for the slightest hiccupping moan of pain from the lieutenant.

What was going on here?


Trip woke with a terrible headache. It seemed to split his skull, radiating from his forehead to his back and he groaned softly. His eyes were closed—or it was night because he didn't see anything—and every move hurt. Nausea rose inside of him and he swallowed several times. His head was throbbing and he felt bruises all over his body.


That seemed to be the only thing left existing in his small world. Pain, and cold.

Sheesh, why did it always have to be either freezing cold or blazing hot when he got lost?

His head ached more and his stomach lurched, threatening to spill its contents. With any luck he could avoid the embarrassment and keep it down. He opened his eyes a slit, groaned, and lifted his arm to cover his face. His breath clouded the frigid air.


What had he gotten himself into this time?

Trip tried to focus on something else than blinding dazzling white. The splitting headache seemed to subdue a little and he turned to move. He felt dizzy and nauseous as he sat up and tried to figure out where he was.

With a gasping scream Trip sank back onto the ice as another pain rushed through his left leg. Panting, he waited for the world to stop spinning, so he could take a look at his leg. The unnatural way it was twisted and the searing pain told him enough, and Trip fell back, groaning. He had managed to break his leg in the process of falling down here—wherever here was—along with cutting his insulated suit up in a really bad way, he saw, sighing. There were huge tears and cold was seeping in already. He shivered.

What a ride, he thought as the world stopped spinning around him for a second.

Carefully groping around he tried to find his communicator, but almost managed to cut his hand at the sharp edge of the broken device.

Great, real smart move, Tucker, he thought wryly. Lost on an ice planet, somewhere in the middle of nowhere, with a busted leg, most certainly a concussion he mused, the pounding of his head and the nausea hitting his stomach every now and then a dead giveaway. And a broken communicator, his colleagues having no idea where he was nor being able to locate him.

"Stupid, stupid, stupid," he muttered.

Could things become any worse?

A splashing sound at his left caught his attention, and Trip turned his head carefully.

He looked directly into a large eye.

"Geeez," Trip started, trying to crawl away from the creature that was half laying on the ice, the other half of its body still hidden in the water.

He cried out in pain, when he twisted his already broken leg even further, and stayed still, panting, waiting for the pain to decrease. Sweat broke out on his forehead. He watched the creature carefully, getting the odd feeling he was being watched himself. It was large, grayish white, and somehow Trip got the impression of a large whale like shape, like a killer whale he once saw on earth. The part of its body laying on the ice next to him was definitely the front part, because it had a mouth. And said mouth held two rows of very impressive, sharp looking teeth that indicated it was a predator.

Carnivore, at least. And from the intense way it was eyeing Trip it seemed to try to figure out whether he would make its next meal or not. Tucker stayed as still as possible, his breathing kind of erratic from the pain, and the cold was still seeping through his damaged suit.

His head continued hurt and there was also the nausea. He moaned softly.

And the alien whale wasn't moving.

It kept on watching the injured, concussed human.


Archer looked at Phlox, waiting for an explanation, a guess, whatever. Malcolm Reed lay on a biobed, white as a sheet, tremors racing through his body. He had been stripped of the thick coat and warm protective garments underneath, and lay curled up on one side, eyes screwed shut, fine lines of pain around his mouth and eyes, his lips thin white lines.

"Doctor?" he inquired when Phlox continued to take scans, gaze at them, type something into his PADD, and then consult the medical data base.

"Lieutenant Reed's brain is under incredible stress, as is, as a result, his whole body. His EEG is off the chart and I can't explain it, captain," the Denoblian finally answered. "It appears that something is stimulating his brain above and beyond his capabilities to handle it."

Archer's eyebrows dipped into a deep frown. "What?"

"I don't know, captain. I have seen similar signs among people who have been in contact with empathic or telepathic cultures, trying to adapt to the sudden input, but this is far more powerful than anything the database ever recorded. From the impact it had on the lieutenant's brain, I'd categorize it close to a telepathic attack." Phlox looked rather disturbed. "Imagine Enterprise getting broadsided by a much stronger ship," he added. "Continuously. Even the best of shields cannot protect the delicate systems."

Archer looked shocked. "A telepathic attack?"

"I cannot describe it any other way. It isn't stopping either. It has lessened somewhat and the painkillers are helping, but it's strong medication and the highest doses I dare give Lieutenant Reed. Any more or any stronger and his system might collapse."

The man on the bed moaned softly.

The captain stared at his officer in mutual pain. "But what is causing it, doctor? There is nothing on that planet!"

Phlox met the distraught gaze. "Maybe there is and your sensors just haven't found it yet. But it has found Mr. Reed."


The headache had increased in the last hours. If it had been hours at all. Could have been minutes, Trip mused. He had lost track of time, had dozed off fitfully…had passed out.

He was cold.

So damn cold.

Shivers coursed through his body and his teeth were chattering. He couldn't get warm at all.

So cold.

Trip raised his head, his slashed suit crackling with frosted ice as he did so. The fish was still there.

A small smile crossed his frozen lips. The great, white fish that was watching him out of black eyes. It swam in the cave's lake, now and then surfacing or peeking over the rim of the shore. Or it hoisted itself up to lay next to Trip, always silent.

The shivers increased and Trip moaned softly as his broken leg was jarred over and over again.

A high-pitched noise echoed through his underground prison. He turned his head and watched the alien fish come back onto the ice again, squealing once more.

"Checkin' if dinner's ready?" he joked weakly. "Sorry, still twitchin'. Then again, ya might like it like that. Nevah know."

Trip let his head sink back, but his eyes never left the creature. What did it want? Why wasn't it leaving? What was it waiting for?

As if to answer the question, another one appeared. It was of a darker white and slightly larger.

"Company for dinner, huh?" he mumbled. "Don'tcha think I'll go down without a fight."

The second fish peered over the rim of the ice, then gave a squeal and boosted itself up. Both gazed at Trip as if they were trying to say something—without talking.

"Whatcha want?" Tucker demanded, his mood swinging to angry all of a sudden. His head was throbbing now, a loud, aching pain behind his forehead. "Waitin' fer me ta die? Well, keep on waitin'! Ah'm not ready yet!"

His anger spent, he curled up again. He didn't want to die here. Alone. On some alien planet. His thoughts turned to Malcolm again and he felt tears threaten. He didn't want to be without his lover.

The fish creatures squealed again, but he ignored them, wrapping his aching mind around the one good thing in his life.


The newcomer was a receptive. They could feel it, but there was no way to actually communicate with him. Something blocked him. One couldn't get through and two had tried already. The group had tried as well, but nothing had happened.

<The injury>, one whispered.

They agreed.

The despair and pain of the newcomer was almost palpable as he curled up, moaning softly.

<Touch his partner>, one said softly. <Urge him on>

<It will hurt him again><He will die if this one does. Feel it. Feel their sharing>

The others agreed.

The connection was clearly visible, as was the still untapped source deep inside them.

And they touched the only one of the newcomers they could talk to.

Malcolm's scream echoed in the closed confines of sickbay. The armory officer curled up against the base of the biobed, eyes screwed shut, head held between clawed hands.

"Make it stop," he whimpered, pleading with the voices on he could hear. "Please!"

Jonathan Archer felt something inside of him break at the sight and he knelt down next to the badly shaking man.

"Malcolm," he whispered softly.

"Oh lord, make it stop," Reed repeated, breathing becoming erratic, panicky.

Phlox crouched down on the other side and pushed the hypo against the pale neck. Malcolm moaned and slumped against his captain, who shifted to take on the additional weight.

"It won't last long," Phlox said calmly, eyes full of worry and fear. "I can't go on giving him painkillers in such high doses much longer."

Archer held the shaking man in his arm, soothingly stroking the tense shoulders.

Malcolm had no idea where he was. He only knew it was painful to be here, a pain that was far beyond his limit to control it, to shove it away. It was there, cutting him like blades whenever he moved, and all he could do was float motionlessly in this space. Suddenly something invaded the world of pain he was in. It was like a massive shadow, swimming toward him with such grace, it was nothing but fascinating to watch.

The noise that greeted him was almost deafening, like a million chitters collapsing upon him, crushing him down. Malcolm screamed, a sound that was lost in the noise. He fell, plunged deeper, feeling the world outside disappear behind a curtain of thought. Waves of uncontrolled thoughts crashed down on him, drowning the hapless man.

And then he seemed to break through a cover of clouds, hovering in a complex, three-dimensional air space over what looked like a weird island. It was as complex as the air he floated in, but also very simple. He could distinguish interlocked patterns of spirals and curves that stretched away into the distance. The island had grown into infinity, no longer confined and small, but endless and vast.


Malcolm couldn't really hear the word itself, but from what he received, from what he felt, it was just that.

It jolted through him with an agonizing bolt of power, catapulting him away from the world he had just seen, back into the chaos that was his own pain.


There it was again.

"What for?" he just asked, pushing the spike of pain it caused aside.

<Pain. Communication is pain. Apology>


That wasn't the other voice. It was one he recognized. It came from the outside, inevitably pulling him ever closer to the pain outside. He blinked his eyes open, the blurry image of Captain Archer hovering in front of him. Through the haze the medication caused and the pain throbbing in his head, Malcolm managed to find his voice.

"They are apologizing, Captain."

Each word resulted in a dull throb behind his eyes.

"They?" Archer inquired.

Malcolm looked confused. He hadn't thought asking who exactly 'they' were.

"I'll ask," he whispered.

came the ready answer, as if whatever it was that talked to him listened to the others as well.

The speech was almost stilted, as if they were looking for words, taking the first one they found and thought fit what they needed to communicate.

"We are not able to pronounce their name, sir. They said we may call them 'Orca'," Reed told the world outside.

"Orca, hm? Like whale? They're living in the water?"



Archer was silent for a moment. "Why are they contacting us? You?" he then asked.

<Friend/Love missing. Location identified>

"You know where Trip is?" Malcolm blurted.


"They know where Trip is?" Archer echoed.

"Yes, sir."

Malcolm had to fight hard to keep the contents of his stomach with him by now. He was onboard Enterprise and the noise had subdued, thanks to Phlox's drugs, but on the planet it had been one voice, now, up here, it sounded like at least a dozen.

<Necessity synchronization. Distance. Importance of acceleration. Friend/Love disappearing>

"Disappearing?" he repeated.

<Friend/Love life vanishing>

This time Malcolm had nothing left and he gave in to the heaves wreaking his body. When his stomach had settled a little and his vision focused again, he looked at Archer from blood shot eyes, only halfway registering that the captain was wiping the sweat from his white face.

"We have to hurry up," he whispered, grabbing Archer's forearm desperately. "Trip's dying down there."


Jonathan Archer looked at the pale shadow of his armory officer. The man was fast reaching the end of his endurance. Phlox had repeatedly warned him that if he continued to keep Reed under heavy painkillers, the lieutenant wouldn't just develop an addiction to the strong drugs, but his system would be irreversibly damaged. But without the painkillers, Malcolm was suffering from the onslaught of what he called 'noise', the telepathic communications of the Orca on the planet. The man looked definitely wasted. Pale, rings under his eyes, cheeks holding a hollow look, eyes almost feverish.

"We have to find another way," he murmured. "Something to talk to these Orca."

But Hoshi hadn't been able to discover this solution yet. Whatever she had tried, even going down onto the surface and trying out underwater microphones, it had no success at all. Apparently the Orca were telepathic, but only a select few could actually hear them. Well, it was only Malcolm.

A moan came from the exhausted armory officer and his eyes cracked open, the dull gray color visible through the thin slits.


"I'm fine," came the automatic answer.


What else?

The doors to sickbay opened and T'Pol entered, her face as impassive as always.

"Anything?" Archer demanded.

"We have been unable to raise the Orca so far," T'Pol answered. "Ensign Sato is continuing in her efforts."

The captain turned to look at the suffering lieutenant. "Why you, Malcolm? If they are a telepathic race, why not…not T'Pol, for example. She's trained!"

Archer paced through sickbay. This couldn't continue, considering the condition the communication with the Orca left him in. Reed had rapidly lost weight, his body demanding energy as his brain tried to work out the signals it was receiving, tried to jump-start forgotten abilities, tried to use parts that had been dormant ever since birth. Of course humanity didn't use the brain's full potential, and telepathy wasn't unheard of, but Malcolm had been forced to develop abilities no human had ever shown at light speed.

Dark circles lay like bruises under the dull, gray eyes. Smudges against pale skin. Reed looked ready to collapse should the slightest breeze hit him, and he was still trembling, unable to even hold a glass of water. Phlox had started to give him nutrition shots to keep his body from simply burning up.

Malcolm felt the presence of the Orca as they heard the question through him. Part of him had grown used to the steady, though agonizingly painful presence of the group on the planet. Whatever he thought or felt or saw, they did. Not in any way a human would, though. They didn't really talk. It was like a mixture of images and emotions, something his brain valiantly tried to force into English.

<Impossibility>the group now sent.

"They can't take her instead," he translated.

"Why? Because she's Vulcan, or what?" Archer demanded.

<Impossibility. Deficiency>

Malcolm's brow wrinkled in thought. "Obviously something's missing with T'Pol, sir."

Archer's eyebrows shot up and so did T'Pol's, thought much slower and not as high. "What would that be?" the captain asked.

<Lack adoration for Friend/Love>

Malcolm couldn't help laugh despite his splitting headache which in turn made him wince and swear. He suddenly understood what the Orca were telling him.

"Something like it, captain. They can't use her because—she doesn't love Trip."

T'Pol didn't show a single reaction, but it was clear that the words still drew something from her. Malcolm didn't know why, but he thought he could read her confusion. The Vulcan science officer was trained, he knew. She could endure more than him, might not even feel the discomfort, the migraine of immense proportions he had been suffering from ever since his breakdown on the planet, but she wasn't him. She had no feeling like he did for Trip.


Archer fought down the grin that threatened to appear on his lips as he discovered a faintly undignified expression on T'Pol's almost stoic face.

"I can't really explain it, but I think they're using my feelings for Trip to communicate with me, sir," Reed explained.

"An emotional band between two people tends to make them susceptible for increased empathic reception," T'Pol said calmly. "If they are capable of it." A mild frown appeared on her forehead. "I have to say that I would have seen it as unlikely for Mr. Reed to be receptive to such a form of communication."

"Yeah, well, he is," Archer grumbled.

"His mind wasn't trained for this form of intimate contact," the Vulcan argued. "There could be permanent neurological damage."

"They didn't ask me!" Reed snarled, his pale face drawn into a grimace of annoyance, pain and newly risen anger. "I didn't ask for it either! And I don't care if it should be possible or not! It's happening in my brain." He drew a shuddering breath. "Trip's down there, alone, hurt…We have to help him!"


They kept on watching over the newcomer, listened to his heartbeat as it slowed down, trying to contact him every now and then. He didn't react, at least not in a way they would understand. Then he didn't react anymore at all, drifting in and out of consciousness.

<Touch his partner again>

<It hurts him deeply><Not knowing will hurt even more. Just look, watch, learn. This one has not much time left. If he goes, his partner goes. We can't accept that. He is needed. Both are><Agree. He has questions><Then answer them>


<Weapon Master?>

Malcolm started every time at the title the Orca had given him. Names like humans had were a conception they couldn't really catch on. They understood, on the other hand, that he was armory officer, therefore the 'master of the weapon', so they simply called him that. Trip was the man he loved, so for the Orca he was Love.

<Supplement to Weapon Master and Friend/Love. No supplement in Companions. Urgency, weapon master. Friend/Love fading away rapidly. Urgency!>

Supplement? he thought fuzzily.

"What is it, Malcolm?" Archer realized the Orca were communicating with his officer again, from the looks of the man.

"We need to speed things up a bit, sir." Malcolm muttered, exhausted, while trying to get up from the biobed. The earlier anger had given him a boost of adrenaline.

"And where do you think you're going?". Archer inquired, grabbing Reed at the arms when his knees gave way.


"Malcolm, you're in no condition…"

"The bloody hell I will just sit here, puke my fucking guts out and simply wait…sir!" Malcolm swayed, eyes blazing. "I am needed down there. The Orca will be able to better communicate with me, lead me to Trip."

Archer watched Malcolm closely, took in the way the outburst had worn out the man. He had to hold him, or Malcolm would just crumble onto the floor, for Christ sake! On the other hand—this was Malcolm Reed he was talking to, his friend and the lover of his best friend.

"Even at the cost you yours?" he asked calmly.

"Even then, sir."

Archer sighed. "Doctor?"

Phlox had watched everything silently and now met the worried gaze of the captain with an unreadable one of his own.

"Under any other circumstances I would protest Mr. Reed's movement. He is far too weak to be moving about and his body might give out any moment."

Malcolm glared at him, not giving a damn about it.

"Even with the strongest painkillers, the communication with the Orca is sapping his every strength," the Denoblian went on. "He has no defense against their invasive method of holding a conversation with us."

"I'm going, doctor," the armory officer hissed through gritted teeth. "One way or the other."

Phlox gave a soft sigh. "That is only too true, Lieutenant, because one of those ways would have you flat on your back and probably dead. Give me a minute and I'll give you something to handle the stress of moving. It'll wear off soon, I'm afraid, but communication should ease up on the planet."

Malcolm nodded, sinking against the biobed, still held by Archer, who wasn't about to let go. Phlox injected Reed with something that made the younger man shiver once.


He sighed softly and shook his head, weariness in every move. "Define better, sir."

Suddenly he flinched and screwed his eyes shut, breathing becoming a panting.


"I'm fine."

There was no further explanation. Archer couldn't hate the Orca for what they were doing. There was no other way of communication than Malcolm Reed, who was bearing it with an incredible strength.

"Doctor, maybe it's best if you come along," the captain said softly, meeting the blue and white eyes of the ship's physician.

Phlox nodded. "I'll pack up the emergency kit."

"T'Pol, the ship's yours."

The Vulcan met Archer's gaze levelly, then transferred it to the man barely standing upright next to him. Archer waited for a moment, then guided Malcom out of sickbay. He knew his armory officer was right. And he would do his best to protect him for a change; because should Trip survive this and Malcolm not, Tucker would never forgive him.


<His partner is coming>

<Good. He won't be able to stay with us much longer><You take care of him, bring him down here?>

Freezing water splashed over the ice, threatening to drain Trip's torn suit as the huge Orca slipped from the ice into the water and dove, while his companion remained. A huge dark eye rested on the still form curled up on the ice, shivering every now and then. But the shivers had lessened. The Orca felt his worry grow when he registered how far away the newcomer already was. Should he go, his partner would as well; too strong was the bond, the union they shared. They needed each other before now, and they would all the more depend on each other when the seed the Orca had detected, the gift that was already singing to them, would grow further.


Being on the planet was no less nauseating than sitting in sickbay on Enterprise. It was, if possible, even worse. Mayweather had set down following the Orca's directions through Malcolm, away from the hole Trip had fallen through and closer to the water. For a full minute Malcolm heard nothing but the screeching that was the Orca trying to communicate. He felt someone grab him, hold him, fingers digging into the insulated suit, then the noise died down marginally.


One voice again. Compared to the many that had been constantly in his mind, it was almost a relief. Almost. Because even one voice was like knives and needles.

"'S okay," he murmured absently.

<Way down to Friend/Love>

There was a burst of images. Actually, it was what his brain made out of the incoming signals, and Malcolm clenched his jaw to keep from screaming.

"There's a way into the cave," he moaned. "Through the water." He panted, exhausted, hurting, but still fighting his body's threatening shut-down. "They'll show us."

As if to prove it, the waters suddenly parted and for the first time, the four men caught sight of the indigenous life form of this planet. Malcolm might have been awed by the massive, light gray and white whale, but the pain was affecting him too badly to make him more than just raise his head and meet the dark, intelligent eyes. Huge flippers slapped heavily onto the ice, balancing a streamlined, equally heavy body. The being had no neck, just like a whale, and an impressive dorsal fin that showed faint scarring from prior battles. A huge tail rose, the fins parting the water, making it cascade down into the frigid sea. A high-pitched squeal could be heard. The dark eye closest to them seemed to single out Malcolm and the armory officer groaned in pain. It hit the already overtaxed man like a bolt of lightning and the next thing Malcom knew, he was on his knees, gloved hands pressed to his forehead. The simple sound was like a bell going off in the confined quarters of his cranium, echoing and tearing at his sanity.

Still, it brought with it the clear and sharp picture of what had to be done.


Archer. And Phlox as well. He felt a hypospray pressed to his neck, icy cold but still a relief. A brief one, he knew. All too brief. Phlox had lessened the concentration of the pain-killers, was giving his alternative substances, but nothing ever worked completely.

"He'll show us the way down," he murmured, glassy gray eyes bleak. "We need the suits…the tub…"

Talking was growing to be an exhausting process and Malcolm's voice trailed off. He wanted to succumb to the darkness, the blackness that promised relief and silence, but thoughts of his lover, injured and dying in the glacial prison, kept him going.

<Friend/Love existing. Disappearing soon>

"Trip's not too good," he gasped.

<Show Leader way>

Malcolm blinked his eyes open, unable to say how much time had passed, but it had apparently been enough for Archer to get dressed in one of the pressure suits they had stowed in the shuttle, and for Phlox to do the same.

"Malcolm?" Archer asked gently, his voice slightly distorted through the helmet..

"Fine," he mumbled and pushed himself up. "He'll show you the way, captain."

Just talking was taking all his energy and concentration, and Mayweather helped him lean against a chunk of ice. His entire body seemed to be possessed of a trembling weakness that made every movement a colossal effort. Each little victory over his tired muscles also meant more energy spent; energy he didn't really have to waste.

"What about you?" Archer inquired.

"I'll be okay."

It was a lie. He wouldn't be okay. It was painful, an agony no words would ever be able to describe, but he would endure it.

"Get Trip, captain. Please."

"We will," Archer promised. "Travis, stay with Malcolm. Whatever happens, you stay with him, understood?"

The helmsman nodded. "Yes, sir."

"The comms…" Malcolm screwed his eyes shut. "They should work at this proximity." He fought back the new wave of nausea inside him. "You'll need them so I can translate."

Archer nodded and helped his officer prop himself up against a block of ice, then handed him the communicator. They would keep the lines open.

"Find him, Captain," Reed whispered, pleading.

<We will lead Healer and Leader>the Orca told him. <Never worry>

"We will."

Malcolm watched them immerse themselves into the water like a dream. The Orca slipped in as well, then he was alone with only Travis as company.

Except for the noise. The ever-present noise.


He was so sleepy. So terribly, terribly sleepy. Odd, he thought. He no longer felt cold. Trip struggled to bring himself awake, but he was falling into a bone-deep exhaustion. The pain was gone, the cold, too. Still, he didn't want to move. Too sleepy.

Part of Tucker realized that it was hypothermia settling in, but a much larger part didn't care. He had to get up, move. But it was much better just staying where he was.

So sleepy.

Trip rolled his eyes behind half-closed lids and discovered the alien creature, the fish. It was still there. Huh. Stamina. It had slipped back into the water a few times, there had been another one, but then it was back. Maybe I'm hallucinating, he thought dimly. Big white fish…watching me. What's next? Pink elephants?

So alone.


Why wasn't he here? Why did he have to see white fish? Why not his lover? That sure would warm him up.

His head swam. A strange sensation coursed throughhis body, pulling him into an inky darkness. Apathy crept through his body.

I'm going to die.

Drifting off, he thought he heard something splash, but it was too much of an effort to find out what it might have been.

You won. C'mon and get your well-frozen engineer.


If the world above had been wonderful and amazing, the world beneath the surface of the icy water was a fairy tale all by itself. The light of the only sun of the planet penetrated the surface, refracted and bounced around the droplets of water that made up the ocean, creating a world of blue and green and white. In this world, the Orca moved with effortless grace. The one that had greeted them was joined by more of its kind, all so much larger than the two divers, their dark eyes taking in the visitors to their realm.

Jonathan Archer let himself sink deeper, feeling currents drag gently at him. Inside the suit he was warm and comfortable, not at all bothered by the water outside that would kill him within seconds. He felt the heavy weight of the rebreather tanks on his back, device that assured him that he wouldn't suffocate. While the air tasted slightly metallic, it was oxygen. The hum of the tiny fan of the electrical heaters was at the edge of his hearing, but he had started to ignore it right from the start.

One Orca swam by him, one flipper carefully brushing over the waterproof material. Archer gave a little gasp of surprise as he was pushed deeper by the alien creature.

"They want you to dive with them," Malcolm's voice crackled over the helmet comm.

"We aren't such good swimmers in these suits," the captain replied.

Malcolm chuckled, but there was no real humor in it. Even through the background static, he sounded tired and in pain. "Hang on to them. They'll swim for you."

Archer nodded and watched as two Orca rose, one for Phlox, one for him. The gray and white whales offered their dorsal fins and the two divers clumsily grabbed the hard protrusions. Then the dive began.

It was like a joyride through an underwater world, like being inside a crystal aquarium. Even this deep into the ocean, there was still light. Archer saw pillars of ice around them as the Orca wove their way elegantly along the columns. The ice glowed from the inside, crystalline structures of white and blue.

"Apparently the ice formations are linked to the island above," Phlox remarked, sounding equally fascinated. "Somehow the light from the surface is refracted down here, like thousands of mirrors inside a hollow tube."

"A natural underwater illumination," Archer murmured.

A whole new world.

A huge shadow passed over them and Jonathan twisted his head to look at it, stunned to see a gigantic Orca. It had to be three times the size of the two alien whales helping them at the moment.

"Don't worry, captain," Reed's tired voice told him. "They are all of the same family."

They arrived at what seemed like a wall of ice, more light shining from the other side.

"The Orca say that Trip's behind that barrier," Malcolm explained. "Some kind of cave, an air bubble, and there are ways in from underneath."

The Orca dove deeper, their non-aquatic backseat riders holding on. Archer gasped in surprise as the Orca entered a tunnel, then suddenly burst out of the water on the other side.

He was in a natural cave. The ceiling above was glowing with the light from outside, but even from here, without any instruments, Archer could tell that it was several meter thick in the thinnest place. Water lapped at the shores of the cave. Stalactites and stalagmites grew from the ceiling and floor, some of them meeting in hourglass-like pillars of frozen water.

Not far from them was the shore, and on the icy ground of the cave lay Trip Tucker, mostly curled up with one leg outstretched, not moving.


He wouldn't give in now. Malcolm clenched his hands into fists, the material of the gloves creaking loudly in his own ears, and he gritted his teeth as a new onslaught of pain assaulted him.

<Found Love/Friend>

"Thank you," he breathed, his voice barely above a whisper.

"Malcolm?" Travis's worried voice reached him.

"I'm fine," he answered automatically. "They are with Trip."

The waters parted again and an Orca looked over the rim of the ice, then disappeared briefly, only to launch itself onto the land. Mayweather gave a gasp or surprise, but he didn't make any threatening moves. Malcolm gazed at the alien creature, part of him fascinated by the beauty this being represented. It wasn't humanoid, not by a long shot. It wasn't even really an Earth whale. It had the flippers and dorsal fin, the streamlined body, but there was no breathing hole he could see and the eyes were too large. And very, very black. All pupil, it seemed. Its jaws opened and displayed the huge teeth.

"Thank you for your help," Reed whispered.

<Your pain visible. You called>

He had? Wonderful. He hadn't even been aware of it.

<No shame>

"Malcolm?" Travis's slightly worried voice penetrated the haze that had apparently permanently settled around his brain.


"Seems there's a problem with the communicators," Mayweather told him. "I lost contact."

Bloody marvelous.

<Too deep>the Orca whispered. <Cannot hear us, cannot hear you>

Getting better and better.

"They're too deep," he explained, shaking his head. "Just too deep. The Orca…they say the captain and Phlox are in the cave, taking care of Trip." He inhaled shakily.

Mayweather looked at the huge Orca only a few meters away. The alien whale watched them calmly. Not far from them, out in the icy ocean, more dorsal fins broke the water, some of the twice the size of this one's.

"A whole family," Reed said softly. "Adult ones."

"You mean the smaller ones are just…kids?"

<Young ones>came the explanation. <Will grow in time>

"No, they are grown up, I guess," the armory officer translated. "Just not fully grown in size. There's a difference."

Travis's mouth dropped open when one of the larger Orca turned on the side, waving one flipper, then dove and a massive tail slapped the water. They were the size of humpback whales!

"I'm glad they're on our side," he murmured.

Malcolm smiled weakly, feeling too dizzy to reply. Suddenly an Orca touched him again and he needed all his willpower not to empty his stomach. Not that there was much in it to come out anyway.


"What kind of problems?" He wasn't even sure he had spoken.

<Way to return difficult. Love/Friend protected. Floating>

The tub. The protective underwater capsule Trip had to be placed in. Of course. Archer and Phlox would have a problem making it sink.

"Pull it under. Carefully," he instructed. "Don't rip it open. Please?"

The Orca touched his mind, taking what it saw and translating it for his family currently in the cave. Malcolm knew he was fainting, heard Mayweather's distant, urgent calls, but he couldn't respond any more. He was still conscious, but every thought was like lead, dragging himself through molasses.

<Understand>came the affirmative. <Do not worry, Weapon Master>

Malcolm gave a sob of pain, a raw sound in the icy cold air, and sank onto the ground. Mayweather caught him, held him, unable to do more.


Phlox ran his scanner over the prone body, looking more and more unhappy. Trip lay on his back, still wrapped up in his slashed and torn thermo suit, and his skin had taken on an unhealthy bluish tinge. He was cold to the touch and completely motionless. Archer shot the doctor a quizzical look, needing the reassurance, the words, but the Denoblian's expression told him more than words.


"Commander Tucker has a severe concussion, his leg is broken in two places, and he is suffering from progressing hypothermia," came the diagnosis.

Archer briefly closed his eyes. "Can we get him to the surface?"

"In the tub, yes. We have to remove the thermo clothing, though."

The captain nodded. The thick clothing would be a hindrance at best. He wasn't looking forward to peeling the badly injured engineer out of it, though. Taking the communicator, Archer tried to raise his surface team.

"Archer to Mayweather."

Nothing. Just static.

"Travis, come in!"

More static.

"Damn," he muttered. "We are out of comm range."

Phlox took out a knife and started to cut away the thermo clothing. "Captain, your assistance, please?"

Archer nodded wordlessly.

"Be careful," Phlox advised. "You could cause more damage in the state he is in right now. Don't try to rub his arms or legs for warmth."

They worked silently, cutting away the insulation, which had been torn in too many places to be effective any more. Tucker groaned softly once or twice, but he didn't wake. When Phlox motioned to unfold the tub, the captain unzipped the bag and started to unfold the life-saving construction. The tub was made of a thick, smooth substance that grew from folded blankets into a man-sized tube. Flexible wiring stiffened, securing the shape, and there was a transparent section near the head. Unzipping it, Archer helped Phlox place their patient inside, then strap him to the tub. Small, flat oxygen generators would regulate the air.

Lowering himself into the water, Archer pulled at the tub, grunting with the effort. It was heavy. Finally it slipped off the ice and bounced on the water. It was when they ran into the next problem. The tub was too heavy for both men to pull it under, and the air inside made it bounce back to the surface again. Even if they held on to the handholds with one hand, and to the Orca still present and waiting with the other, it would probably end with dislocated shoulders from the pull.

"It seems we have run into a logistical problem," Phlox murmured. A large, white shape appeared next to Trip's ride and a high-pitched squeal filled the air. Archer gave a gasp as he was touched by a bony flipper and gently pushed aside. Dark eyes watched him calmly, as if trying to reassure him of the alien being's good intentions. The Orca nosed the tub, then opened its jaws and closed them on the rubbery front, carefully not to puncture it, then pulled it under.

"Good god!" Jon breathed.

"Apparently Mr. Reed enlisted the help of the Orca," Phlox remarked as he went into the water.

Two more Orca appeared, offering the men their ride back. With a last look at the incredible cave, Archer let himself get pulled under.


Travis Mayweather had never felt so helpless in his life before. He stood on the frozen surface of the alien planet, watching and being watched by an alien life form that looked like a whale, and waited for his captain and the ship's doctor to rescue their chief engineer. Slumped against a chunk of ice, Malcolm Reed groaned softly.


Malcolm dredged up a weak smile. "Still here, Travis," he whispered.

"Well, I hope so. Nowhere else to go and everything looks the same anyway," Mayweather joked.

The smile widened marginally. There was nothing Travis could do for the man. Reed was suffering from a mental assault, a telepathic bond that was threatening to destroy him. Just looking at the man had him feel sick to the core. Why had the Orca chosen their armory officer? Why not T'Pol?

With a sigh he looked at the whale again, the Orca. It was a beautiful creature. A creamy white, with gray shadows, dark eyes, and a streamlined body. It looked elegant, even on dry land, which wasn't its element. Now and then it would slide back into the water, dive, resurface, watch them from the water for a while, then jump back onto the ice. Like right now. With a soft sound, the Orca disappeared, the water closing over the alien form.

"They're coming," Malcolm murmured, raising his head. "They have Trip."

Suddenly a larger Orca surfaced and the brightly colored tub bobbed beside it, held partly in the powerful jaws. The Orca released it. Seconds later, two more appeared, both of them having a passenger clinging to their dorsal fins. Travis jogged over to the edge of the ice and grabbed the handhold of the rescue tub as the Orca pushed it toward him. Intelligent, dark eyes regarded him briefly before the massive animal disappeared again.

Archer and Phlox pulled themselves out of the water, dripping puddles that quickly froze again. Together, the three men dragged the lifeboat onto dry land and quickly pushed it toward the shuttle.

"Please ready thermo blankets," Phlox requested. "We have to get Mr. Tucker out of the tub."


The rough voice started the helmsman and he stared at Reed in astonishment. Where did the man take the strength from? Malcolm was standing up, swaying slightly, but he was upright. Feverish eyes were fixed on the tub.

Archer walked over to the younger man, steadying him. "He's unconscious. C'mon, let's get you into the shuttle."

A soft squeal alerted the four men to the still present Orca and Malcolm winced, whimpering softly. Travis pressed his lips into thin lines. Why did they still have to torture the man?

"Let's go," the captain muttered and assisted Malcolm, who refused to be ushered ahead of the tub. With one hand on the firm shell, he followed.

Travis jogged ahead and got out the silver thermo blankets, then helped Phlox get Tucker out of the tub. The commander was completely unresponsive. Careful of the broken leg, the two men maneuvered him into the transport and secured him. Travis was just fast enough to grab on to Malcolm as the lieutenant all but fell into the shuttle.

"Wow, easy there," he called, smiling tightly.

Reed sank down awkwardly, tugging at the thick clothing, and Mayweather quickly removed the thermo jacket. Malcolm was close to his breaking point, shivering uncontrollably, but not from the cold. His eyes immediately flew to the prone form of his partner and the thin lips became even thinner. Phlox was working on the commander, bracing the leg, injecting him with painkillers or whatever.

"He'll be fine, Malcolm," Travis said softly. "He'll be just fine."

There was no answer. No sign that Reed had even heard him.

With a sigh, the ensign made room for Archer and took the helm. They lifted off a minute later.


Malcolm's gaze was fixatedly on Tucker. He didn't even blink, but Jon could see the rapid rise and fall of his chest and the quivering pulse that throbbed at his neck. Malcolm looked frail, as if he had lost twenty kilos in the last three days. There was a fire in his eyes Archer knew only too well. Determination and fierce protection. The armory officer still refused to give in to his body's needs, staying in sickbay with Trip. At least he was in sickbay, which was a good thing. When he finally collapsed, and Archer knew he would, he was in the best possible place to do so.

Phlox was treating Tucker, who was oblivious to the world. There were bruises all over his mostly naked form, some of them rather colorful and painful looking. His leg had been put into a temporary brace, one that would come off the moment the bone had healed well enough for it to support the weight. A concussion, the shock to his system, and the severe hypothermia weren't making things easier. At least there had been no permanent frostbite. Phlox was currently warming him up as quickly as he dared, monitoring his body temperature.

Enterprise remained in orbit. Archer was reluctant to leave just yet. There was so much more to do, and not just because he wanted to have a chance to meet the Orca again. But he knew he was also putting his lieutenant under more stress than he should be. The Orca hadn't communicated again, leaving the very weak man alone, but they might decide to pick up the conversation where they had left off any moment. It was very risky.

"Doctor?" Archer asked.

"Mr. Tucker's condition is improving. I'll need some more hours to raise his temperature to an acceptable level, but I doubt I'll run into any further complications."

Jon nodded, relief hitting him. He was almost too distracted by it to notice Reed's collapse. The armory officer tilted to the left and his knees gave way.


He just managed to reach his tactical officer as consciousness left and sheer exhaustion took over.


They kept watch over the receptive and his partner. The decision to leave off communication until the partner had at least recovered, giving the receptive a chance to do the same, was unanimous. The pain the receptive was in had been almost physical for them in the end. While his mind was struggling to trigger the supplement fully, the receptive had suffered from soul-deep agony, both because of the constant pain from the communication as well as because of his partner's injuries.

In a depth Enterprise's best sensors would never reach two Orcas were floating in a water that was almost green.

<He's back with his kind, with his partner the larger one said calmly.

<Will he heal?>the snow white one asked

<Yes. And his partner will as well>

<Talking to us caused him pain? Is it always that way?><Unfortunately this was unavoidable, but the gift sang to us, called out for us><Will it grow? Will he return? Can I sing with him then?>

Very large and very old eyes rested on the smaller whale-like figure that was floating beside him.

<Yes. They will>

<Good. I liked them>

Bright gold and silver sparkles of amusement filled the conversation as the old dark-gray Orca laughed silently.

Closer to the surface, several of their kind swam along the barrier, the Between, watching the others of the receptives kind, curious as to what they were doing. They couldn't talk to any of them and why would they want to try? What needed to be said had been communicated with the Weapon Master. He and his partner were safe.

*** "Captain's Personal Log," Archer said out loud, walking up and down in his quarters. Each step was watched by large, brown eyes. Porthos wagged his tail. "Trip is still in sickbay after twenty-four hours, but his condition has stabilized. Dr. Phlox is confident that he can be released tomorrow. Malcolm is recovering. He's sleeping a lot, which is good for him. Phlox is pumping nutrients into him. The Orca haven't talked to him since. It's a blessing, but I keep wondering why. Because Trip's safe? Or because more contact would probably push Malcolm over the edge. It's a miracle that he hasn't suffered permanent damage from the violent telepathic contact anyway. T'Pol is as mystified as I am. A normal human being should show neurological damage, she said. What does that make Malcolm?"

Archer stopped and looked at the beagle, who wagged his tail again and then jumped onto the bed. He chuckled and sat down, scratching the dog's ears vigorously.

"I think I'm just glad that they'll be okay," he continued. "Relieved. Whatever made the Orca contact Malcolm, it might forever remain a mystery. He survived it. Computer pause."

Archer lay back on the bed and Porthos jumped onto him, demanding more attention. Yes, Malcolm had survived and he was a walking puzzle for their resident Vulcan. Why had the Orca chosen him? Because he was Trip's lover? Jon had a close connection to his best friend as well, but the Orca hadn't been able to send so much as a peep. Why? What made his armory officer so special?

"I wonder just what kind of civilization the Orca are. Unable to communicate with outsiders, except for one or maybe two people among them…there are no signs of an underwater city. If they hadn't contacted Malcolm, we would forever have been oblivious to their presence. Alien whales, nothing more."

With a shake of his head, Archer clicked off the computer log and finished his entry. Then he looked at the small dog, who was watching him expectantly.

"How about some walkies?"

Porthos barked and hopped off the bed. Jon chuckled and both left the captain's quarters for a late night round.


Trip had woken about an hour ago and this time it wasn't just cracking his eyes open, looking at blurry images, then falling asleep again. This time he was really awake. Cold, still tired, but able to take in his surroundings. Especially what was right next to him. His eyes came to rest on the motionless figure of Malcolm Reed. His lover.

The armory officer lay on one side, facing him, his face as pale as a sheet with lines of pain etched deep into the skin. For him to look like this even when asleep, Trip knew that whatever he had gone through, Malcolm was still suffering from it. There was a three-day beard, too. Reed was very thoughtful of his outward appearance and wouldn't be caught dead with a beard on his face if he could help it. His hair was unruly, as if he hadn't combed it in days, and he wasn't wearing his uniform under the blanket he had been wrapped into.

Trip briefly closed his eyes, willing his memories to tell him what had happened. He remembered the accident, him falling through the ice. Then there was a long stretch or disjointed images, of some kind of whale-like creature, of pain from his leg, and of cold. From the whopper of a headache he was suffering from, he suspected a concussion. His leg twinged now and then, reminding him that he had broken it. The rest of his body wasn't very happy either as it shivered to get warmer.

"Ah, Commander Tucker, you're finally awake."

Phlox's almost jovial voice jarred him out of his thoughts and he blinked at the Denoblian. "Hey, Doc."

"How do you feel?"

"Like I spent a week in an ice box."

"An apt description, Mr. Tucker. You suffered from hypothermia, on top of your broken leg and the concussion. You might feel cold for a while."

"Yeah, well, went through somethin' like it before," Trip mumbled, feeling another shiver, then looked at Malcolm again, who hadn't moved. "Mal?"

"Mr. Reed is suffering from exhaustion, physical as well as mental. He is sleeping, which is the best medicine right now."

Trip looked at his way-too-pale lover and frowned. Exhaustion? Malcolm looked positively wasted! He wanted to know what happened, but he was too tired. Phlox examined him, apparently satisfied with the results, and by the time he was done, Trip was drifting off again.

The next time he woke, Jonathan Archer was present. The captain smiled at him.

"How do you feel?"

"Cold," Trip answered. "Kinda…out of it. Like a wad of wet paper."

Archer chuckled. "Well, we had to thaw you, Trip. Deep-frosting takes its toll. You just had to take the planet-side joyride."

"Huh. Yeah." He turned his head and looked at Reed, who had shifted slightly throughout the last hours, but he was still sleeping. "How is he?"


"Jon, what happened? I mean aside from me taking the ice-slide into that cave? What were those whale creatures? Or was I hallucinating?"

"No, you weren't. They were really there."

And Archer launched into a detailed explanation of what had happened between Trip falling down into that cave and the rescue. Tucker blanched as he heard about Malcolm's telepathic torture, the pain he had endured just to communicate with the Orca.

"Phlox found no permanent damage," Jon wound down his tale. "Malcolm's fine, Trip, just stressed out. He needs sleep, food, and more sleep. Like you."

He sighed. "I'm fed up with sleepin'." But another yawn was threatening.

Phlox approached the two men, carrying a tray with a bowl and something to drink. "Before you go back to sleep," the Denoblian addressed his patient, "I'd like you to eat something, Commander. I'd hate to have to put you on a drip as well."

Trip sniffed at the bowl and found it was chicken soup. That was acceptable. Archer continued to tell him about daily events on the planet and the ship until he had finished his soup. Sleep weighed heavily on him by now and he yawned again.

"Want to stay up for a while longer?" Jon asked quietly.

Tucker's eyelids fluttered once and he shook his head. "Tired…"

Jon smiled and patted his shoulder. "You get some more shut-eye."

A sleepy affirmative noise was the only response. Trip looked over to Malcolm again, then closed his eyes.


He was back in his own—warm—quarters, in his own—warm—bed, and he was with his lover. Trip gave a soft sigh of contentment and sank onto his pillow. Phlox had released him under the stern advise to keep his braced leg elevated, not to walk around on it, and to rest as much as possible. Phlox would come by once a day to check on him, but Trip didn't care as long as it meant being here, in private, without having someone poke or prod at him. And it meant finally being alone with Malcolm Reed, who looked like he had to live by the same advise from Phlox, except for the broken leg part.

"Mal?" he called softly.

The dark-haired man turned, looking exhausted and near collapse despite the hours of sleep he had had already. He hadn't woken throughout Trip's stay in sickbay, and considering that Reed had been awake for the time it had taken to rescue Tucker from his icy trap without rest, under constant telepathic 'attack', he looked downright healthy.

"C'mere," he invited his lover and held out one hand.

Malcolm's features softened and there was an almost palpable need radiating from him. The need to be close, to be near, to just have Trip with him. Reed had gone through an emotional and physical hell. He still didn't understand all of what had happened, but Tucker knew that if he gave his lover some time, he would get the full story. All the gory details.

Malcolm curled up against his side, the one with the good leg, and Trip pulled him close, letting him pillow his head on one shoulder. The dark-haired man felt warm, alive, at his side, another comfort for the engineer. He started to rub the tense back. No words were needed. There was just them, in silence, Trip caressing his lover's back and arms, Malcolm's hand curled into his sweater, his arm laying lightly across Tucker's stomach. Trip encouraged a much more intimate contact and soon Reed's hand was flat against his side, underneath the sweater.

Trip felt tremors race through the smaller man. Malcolm was valiantly battling against the heaving emotions, and he was losing. Trip stroked a hand over the dark hair, pressing his lips against one temple.

"It's okay, Mal," he murmured. "Leggo."

Moments later he felt something wet against his neck. Silently, Malcolm Reed was crying.

"Oh, Mal," Trip whispered, swallowing hard.

His own emotions were close to the surface, but he held back. Malcolm was currently at the brink of losing it, and he was entitled to. He had suffered through so much in such a short time. His mind had been violently invaded by alien telepaths. They had wreaked havoc onto the unsuspecting mind, turning him upside down and inside out. It was a small miracle he hadn't gone insane. From the description, Trip had an idea how sickening it had to be to have the Orca in his head. Nauseous, agonizing, mind-altering.

"I'm sorry."

The clear, British voice alerted him to his lover's imminent withdrawal, and Tucker refused to loosen his hold as Reed tried to pull away.

"Nothin' to be sorry for, love. It's a natural reaction."

"I shouldn't lose it like that," Malcolm managed, drawing a deep breath.

"Don't start quotin' that it's unbecomin' for an officer. That's bull," Trip told him firmly, forestalling whatever would have come next. "You're a human bein' like the rest of us. No more, no less. You're not superman."

"You went through so much as well…"

Trip pulled him tight again. "Not even half as much as you. You're entitled to some off time."

Reed fought him for a moment longer, then went limp, sighing softly as he accepted the caresses and the careful strokes. The hand underneath Trip's sweater moved lazily and Tucker smiled. He liked the warmth, the closeness. With an effort, and some help from his lover, he pulled the blanket over them. Malcolm snuggled up against him, resuming his position.

After a while, he was asleep.

Trip smiled and settled back, content.


T'Pol watched the dark-haired human, her mind going over the events of the last few days. Malcolm Reed had come under severe fire, his mind had been burned by an alien race, scorched and left blistered and scarred. And still, he had recovered from an almost devastating attack.

Telepathic intrusions on this intimate level were agonizing for the untrained. And Reed was untrained. Almost all humans were. Few showed the potential the Vulcans had in their own people. Reed had none anyone had ever been aware of. He wasn't telepathic, he wasn't even empathic, but the Orca had singled him out as the only person aboard this ship to be receptive to their calls.

Because he and Charles Tucker had an emotional bond? So had Archer and Tucker. A bond formed over years, strong, made of friendship. Eleven years against three. A lover compared to a friend.

T'Pol frowned, unable to explain the circumstances to her satisfaction. Reed was recovering, his body no longer forced to burn up all his reserves, and where she had expected him to flinch away, maybe become close to catatonic, only some remnants could still be seen. Most of them physical. He had survived the massive invasion almost completely unscathed, his mind had recovered, and not even Phlox had an explanation for it.


She would have to have an eye on the armory officer for a while.

A long while.


Two days had passed since Trip had been rescued from the planet. In those two days, Hoshi had spent a considerable amount of time on the planet, working on trying to find a way to communicate with the Orca, but no such luck. Their sounds, the high-pitched squeals, were no language; just noise. T'Pol had been down there with the communications specialist, but the Orca hadn't touched her mind. They had been around Hoshi, curious, but not talking. Not even to Malcolm. The science teams had swarmed over the area, had taken their readings, gathered data, and had even gotten some viable data on the Orca. They hadn't been able to get close to one, though.

Archer decided to leave when none of their attempts yielded any success. The risk that the Orca might 'attack' Malcolm again was too great. So Enterprise broke orbit.


"You know, there is something I'm thinking about, something the Orca said about us," Malcolm said thoughtfully, leaning back against the couch of the lounge.

He and Trip were still on sick leave. Trip's leg was still encased in a brace and healing, the bone already rebuilding—with some medical coaxing from Phlox. There had been no permanent damage from the hypothermia and the headaches were gone. Malcolm himself slept a lot and was forced to eat more than he was accustomed to. His body had burned up almost all reserves. Trip kept teasing him about his weight loss, especially about his 'skinny butt' and Malcolm bore it with good humor. He knew he was slender to begin with, but he needed to rebuild muscles. Soon he'd start training in the ship's gym to get his muscles back.

"Us?" Trip raised his eyebrows, his hands never ceasing their gentle strokes through Malcolm's hair. Reed was leaning against him, eyes half closed, enjoying the gentle touches. "What did they say?"

"The reason why they couldn't communicate with any of the others. They said you and I have a 'supplement'.

Trip's movements never stopped. "Supplement? That means something the others don't have. What could that be?"

A sigh. Reed twisted slightly to fit more comfortably against his lover. He slipped a hand underneath the sweater and rested it on the flat stomach. It had become something of a need lately. Close physical contact, skin to skin, and Tucker accepted it gratefully. He liked to feel warm, and there was no better warmth than his lover.

"Trip, I have no idea. Maybe we should ask Phlox to check us? Make sure it's not…you know." His fingers moved in a gentle caress over the side and stomach.

"A disease? From what I've learned about the Orca they would have told you." But Tucker sounded a bit unsure.

<Weapon Master?>

Trip started when he saw Malcolm lose color and moan silently.

"Blast, I didn't know they were that strong…" the Brit whispered, burying his head against Tucker's shoulder, tremors racing through his body.

"The Orca? They're contacting you? But we left the planet yesterday!" Trip protested.

He tried to sit up, holding on to his partner.

"It's faint, not painful," came the muffled answer. "I was just surprised." Malcolm raised his head, breathing a bit faster than normal, face paler, but his eyes didn't show the pain Trip would have expected.

Still, it was a little lie. A very little one. There wasn't the shooting, all-destructive agony, but the needles still poked at him.

<Weapon Master? Distance increasing. Makes talking more difficult, less painful. We must hurry.>

"What is it?" he asked.

<Weapon Master is wondering about supplement. No worry, Friend/Love and Weapon Master not in danger. Friend/Love and Weapon Master possess gift of old. Eldest of Orca possess, too.>

"What does that mean, gift of old?"

<Unknown. Gift reveals itself in different ways. Weapon Master and Friend/Love will see. Visit Orca when understand?>

"Malcolm? Mal? Talk to me?"

Trip's voice pulled him out of his surprise. He was still held in the protective embrace and the warmth of the familiar body did a lot to make him relax.

"We just have been invited to return, Trip. When this 'gift of old' reveals itself. I don't know what that means."

<Weapon Master? Time for farewell. Live well, Weapon Master. Dive deep, Friend/Love. Return to tell new tales, sing with Orca again. Next time no pain.>

Malcolm opened eyes he had not realized closing and looked at Trip, seeing his lover a little pale around the nose himself.


"Holy shit!" the engineer breathed. "That…that was…damn!"

"You heard them?"

Trip nodded, swallowing twice as if not to throw up. "Yep. It's a little…stomach-turnin'. An' you did that the whole time, on the planet, with them all but standin' beside you? It must have been…"

"I had a good motivation."

Trip planted a kiss on his head. Malcolm pushed himself up, careful of the broken leg, and demanded a better kiss, one he answered to by opening his lips and letting Trip inside.

"Love you."

Tucker smiled warmly. "Thank you."

"For loving you?" Malcolm asked, surprise in his voice.

"For lovin' me. For bein' you. For bein' with me." Trip shrugged. "Just for bein'."

Reed smiled and lowered himself back into the warm, somewhat protective embrace of his lover, content to just lay there. For now, nothing else mattered.

If you enjoyed this story, please send feedback to the author.

Star Trek and Enterprise are copyrighted by Paramount. We don't own 'em—we just play with them. No money was made.
Please do not repost material without requesting permission directly from the author.
Archer's Enterprise is maintained by the Webmistress.