Title: Sensory Deprivation

Author: Juli

Email: journeyoftheheartfiction@yahoo.com

Website: writingonthewall.slashcity.net/challisgal/Enterprise/enterprise.htm

Category: Slash

Rating: NC-17

Pairing: Archer/Reed/Tucker

Series Title: Triple Play

Previous story: Johnny on the Spot

Next story: Simile-arities

Summary: The lovers get a scare when Reed is hurt during an away mission.

"Gently, Captain, I haven't yet determined if Lieutenant Reed sustained any internal injuries."

As he loosened his hold on his injured lover, Jonathan Archer barely refrained from glaring at the Denobulan physician. It wasn't Phlox's fault Malcolm had been injured or that he'd been held for days by hostile aliens until his release could be negotiated. Telling himself not to take out his repressed worry and outrage on the doctor who was trying to help, Archer settled as best he could on the shuttlepod's hard floor. Reed was a limp but precious burden in his arms, the dark head lolling as Jonathan shifted to accommodate Phlox's exam of the unconscious man.

Once again, an away mission had gone horribly wrong. When the team had set down to survey a likely planet, they hadn't realized that they weren't its only visitors. Unfortunately, the other explorers weren't any friendlier than the Klingons and, as all too often occurred, Malcolm insured his crewmates' safety at the expense of his own. Archer had heard the lieutenant's grunt of pain when Reed went down, but had barely begun to turn back before the armory officer was overrun by the hostile insectoids attacking them. Novakovich and Mayweather had manhandled the captain back to the shuttle and, damning the duty that made it necessary, Archer had accompanied them back to the Enterprise .

Two days later, he cradled Malcolm's battered form tenderly while Phlox tried to assess the damage.

"Doc?" The single syllable conveyed all of Jonathan's worries.

Phlox looked up from his handheld equipment, a soothing look on his face. "I need to evaluate his condition with the more sophisticated equipment on the Enterprise , but I believe the lieutenant will make a full recovery."

Archer nodded curtly, relief a spike through his heart. "Why is he unconscious?"

"I'm not quite sure," Phlox sighed. "There are some anomalous readings; a chemical or two in his system that I can't identify," the doctor then hastened to reassure, "but they don't seem to be toxic. In all, he is quite battered and several of his ribs are cracked. He will be sore for several days, Captain, but as the lieutenant himself would say, he will be fine.'"

Jonathan grinned suddenly. "Is that Malcolm's definition of fine or yours?"

Before Phlox could answer, T'Pol sought Archer's attention. "Captain, the Enterprise is hailing us."

"Put them through," he instructed.

"Cap'n," Tucker's voice was heard, the worry easily read in his tone. "We're showin' six life signs on board. Everything okay?"

"Everything's just fine," Archer responded, smiling broadly at Hoshi's barely repressed giggle at the use of Malcolm's infamous F word. "The hostage exchange went off without a hitch, thanks to the ladies. We've retrieved our armory officer and are on our way back."

"He okay?"

Jonathan shot a look at Phlox, who nodded. "Not exactly but the doc here says he's going to be."

Trip's sigh was audible over the communications system. "Good." Then, more hesitantly, the commander added, "Now, cap'n?"

Archer swallowed, hearing the longing in his second lover's voice. He knew what it had cost Trip to stay behind while they went to get Malcolm back. "Not yet…but soon." Jonathan's voice was laden with promise. "Archer out."

Malcolm chose that moment to moan softly, his head moving slightly against Jonathan's shoulder. Phlox pointed his scanning device at the Englishman, nodding in satisfaction. "He's waking up, Captain."

Jonathan eagerly cupped his lover's check in his hand. "Malcolm? Are you with us? Come on, open your eyes."

Dark lashes fluttered but didn't open. Instead, one hand tentatively came up and patted the surface Reed was laying on. Namely, Archer. Malcolm tilted his head, burrowing his face into the captain's neck and breathing deeply. "Jonathan," the injured man murmured softly.

"That's right, Malcolm, you're safe." Archer was grinning. "Look this way, the doctor's got some questions he wants to ask you." Suiting action to words, Jonathan gently grasped Reed's chin, tilting the smaller man's face towards the physician.

Everyone except T'Pol, who didn't have an emotional reaction to anything, and Ensign Chuk, who was piloting the shuttle, gasped. Malcolm's eyes were open, but were covered in an opaque white film. Reed, obviously, was blind.

"Doctor…," Archer said tersely.

Phlox was already studying his scanner. "Now I know what at least one of those anomalous chemicals is doing in Lieutenant Reed's system." Hoshi's stunned voice asked the next question. "Is it permanent?"

"I don't know," the Denobulan admitted. Then, after frowning deeply at his medical equipment, he reluctantly delivered some additional bad news. "I'm sorry to report that his hearing is affected as well."

Archer's grip on his lover tightened, causing a muffled gasp from the injured man. "What are you saying?"

Voice full of regret, Phlox explained. "Lieutenant Reed has been rendered deaf and blind, Captain. He can neither see nor hear you."

Horrified, Jonathan looked down at the form in his arms. Malcolm appeared to have lost consciousness again, a fact which Phlox quickly confirmed. Archer was lost in thought for the rest of the short trip back to the Enterprise , mind tumbling over the possibilities and consequences of Reed's condition. He roused, however, when the shuttle docked with the larger ship, placing Malcolm on the medical stretcher with infinite care.

"I will go relieve Commander Tucker on the bridge," T'Pol stated after the transfer had been made.

Archer had been making to follow his lover, but stopped to grip the Vulcan's arm. "You did extremely well today, Sub-Commander. Thank you."

T'Pol acknowledged the compliment with a nod. "I did nothing that you could not have done equally well, had the B'chk!Tpck not been a rigidly matriarchal society."

The Vulcan wasn't giving herself quite enough credit. Not only were the B'chk!Tpck a rabidly female-dominated society, but the insectoids seemed devoid of emotion as well. Both traits factored in to why the original away team had been so spectacularly unsuccessful in making first contact. In retrospect, they realized that all of the team members had been male, a fact that obviously had not gone unnoticed by the B'chk!Tpck. It was only when Trip's oddball suggestion for neutralizing the attacking insectoids had worked and they were able to capture half a dozen of the big "bugs" that progress had been made. Once the female connection was made, Jonathan had given T'Pol the responsibility of negotiating for Reed's release. Not only had the Vulcan done so, but the B'chk!Tpck were so impressed with her that they invited her back to their homeward as an ambassador. T'Pol had declined and the two groups had gone their separate ways.

"That might be so, but circumstances being what they were, I'm glad you were here to help out." Jonathan gave her a tired smile. "As both a captain and as someone who cares for Malcolm deeply, thank you for helping us get him back."

It was T'Pol's turn to offer a compliment, albeit a backhanded one. "Given your…emotional…complications with this series of events, you handled yourself most professionally. More so than I would have expected for a human."

Archer thought about her statement for a moment, finally recognizing it as praise. "Thanks."

The Vulcan nodded again. "I do not believe that Commander Tucker fared as well. With your permission, I shall relieve him of his bridge duty so that he may verify Lieutenant Reed's condition for himself."

"That sounds like a great idea, thanks." Archer clapped his science officer on the shoulder, forgetting for the moment that the gesture wasn't likely to be appreciated. His long legs soon caught him up to the stretcher and he moved to accompany Malcolm into sickbay.

Dr. Phlox, however, had other ideas. "I think you'd better wait back here, Captain." The Denobulan suggested, pressing a hand against Jonathan's chest as the captain sought to follow his lover deeper into the medical area.

"What if Malcolm wakes up and doesn't realize where he is?"

"If that occurs, I will come and get you and you can reassure him." The physician's voice was firm. "In the meantime, it's been my experience that it is difficult for a loved one to see a patient receive initial treatment."

Archer was frustrated, but stood without further protest as Phlox disappeared behind the barrier that curtained off the treatment cubicle. Outside sickbay doors, he might be in charge, but here, Dr. Phlox's word was law.

Trip found him there, pacing, a few minutes later.

The engineer pulled up short when he got a good look at his lover's face. "John, what's th' matter?" He grabbed the older man's shoulders, forcing him to stop his agitated movement. "I thought you said Malcolm was gonna be all right?"

Jonathan gently removed Tucker's hands from his shoulders, keeping them loosely grasped in his own. "Trip, there's been a complication…"

"Complication?" The commander repeated. "I don't like the sound of that."

Archer felt his lover's hands go cold in his. "It may not even be permanent, Phlox isn't sure yet."

"Sure of what?"

Jonathan sighed inwardly. Trip had taken this whole situation particularly hard. It had been bad enough that Malcolm had been hurt and held hostage by aliens, but the aliens were insectoids and Trip was notorious in his dislike of bugs. Then, Archer had refused to allow him to come on the hostage exchange. The captain hadn't wanted to exclude the commander, but it was a matter of practicality. The B'chk!Tpck were very anti-male and the negotiating team had to be comprised of all females. Archer and Phlox had remained hidden in the shuttle, but at least Jonathan had been planet-side. Trip had been left in charge of the Enterprise and it had stretched both of their professionalism to make that decision.


Archer kicked himself. The situation was bad, but his silence was making it even worse for Trip. "We don't know why and Phlox isn't sure how yet, but Malcolm can't see or hear."

Tucker's forehead puckered. "He's blind? And deaf?"

Glumly, Jonathan nodded. "But there's a possibility that it may be temporary. There's a couple of chemicals in Malcolm's system that Phlox hasn't identified yet."

Tucker lifted stricken eyes to the older man. "That don't sound too reassurin', John." The commander gulped. "Now?"

Trip had been asking now ever since Reed had been taken. Tucker hadn't been on the away team, but seeing the recorded images of the attack and who had grabbed their lover had shaken the engineer. Not that Archer blamed him. The captain had been there and the creatures had thoroughly unnerved him. The B'chk!Tpck had long and narrow heads with deadly-looking mandibles. Much taller than humans, the multifaceted eyes looked cold and utterly foreign as they towered above him. That spark of sentience or compassion, traits his race rather arrogantly tended to call humanity, were not present in these creatures. Long, stick-like appendages originated from bulbous black bodies and ended in sharp claws.

And Malcolm had been at the mercy of these pitiless creatures for two days.

Seeing that they were alone in the area, Archer pulled Trip close to him. "Now," the older man said.

Having received permission, Trip slowly fell apart. He started out by cursing the B'chk!Tpck and whatever godforsaken planet that had spawned them. The engineer railed at security officers in general that were too eager to be heroes and Malcolm specifically for having been hurt in the first place. Trip wasn't spared either. He denounced himself for not having been on the away team, somehow thinking that his presence could have changed the outcome.

Jonathan waited until the stream of words came to an awkward halt. "You done?"

Tucker pulled away, refusing to look at his lover. "Yeah, I guess so."

Archer balked at allowing Trip to retreat, tugging the engineer back close. "I notice that you didn't blame me. I was there; shouldn't I have prevented it from happening?"

"You're the captain," Tucker responded. "I know how seriously you take that responsibility. Even without askin', I know you did everything humanly possible. Tweren't your fault."

"Then it wasn't yours either," Jonathan said firmly. "Or Malcolm's."

Trip smiled in spite of himself. "I s'pose you're right."

"Of course I am," Archer said, throwing Tucker's words back at him. "I'm the captain, remember?"

Their attention was diverted when Phlox came out of the treatment cubicle. "Gentlemen, I have an update for you on Lieutenant Reed's condition."

"Don't keep us waitin', Doc, how is he?" Trip's concern made him impatient.

"As I told Captain Archer earlier, he's battered. He's received a multitude of blows to the torso area, causing a great deal of bruising and soft tissue damage. Although several ribs are cracked and several of his internal organs are bruised, he is lucky in that there is no internal bleeding."

"What about his sight and hearing?" Jonathan asked.

Phlox's face fell. "No change, I'm afraid. I've determined that there is a chemical block involved, but so far, it's too complex for me to analyze. I have samples and will continue to research, but it may be best to just leave well enough alone in the hopes that they will dissipate of their own accord."

"You mean, whatever's keeping him blind and deaf might just…dissolve?" Tucker sounded unsure.

"It's possible," Phlox responded, ushering the two men into the area where Malcolm was. "I will, of course, continue to look for alternative treatments, but sometimes the best course of action is to let the body heal itself."

"And there's nothing you can do to hasten the process?" Archer asked.

Phlox shook his head slowly. "Not without knowing more. Human sight and hearing are delicate senses. One does not lightly interfere with them."

Whatever response Malcolm's lovers would have made was cut short by their arrival at his bedside. Reed was stretched out on the medical bed, the paleness of his skin marred by livid bruises covering his upper body. A bright white bandage was wrapped around his ribs, its pristine condition emphasizing the marks on his skin.

"The bastards," Tucker muttered, conveniently forgetting that all the B'chk!Tpck they'd encountered were female. "Why'd they do this?"

Phlox didn't realize it was a rhetorical question. "I've never come across a sentient insectoid species before. However, some extrapolations from the behavior of other, non-sentient, insectoid creatures might safely be made."

The chief engineer looked at him skeptically. "Like what?"

"Well, the B'chk!Tpck might be an example of a species that masticates their food externally before ingesting it. Or, it could be," the doctor went on enthusiastically, ignoring how one of his audience members was turning green, "that they are a race that lays their eggs in the bodies of the living or newly dead. His captors could have been preparing Mr. Reed to be an egg receptacle by softening his body tissue."

"Or it could be," Jonathan came to Trip's rescue by interrupting the physician's hypothesizing, "that Malcolm just put up one hell of a fight." The captain took one of the dark-haired man's hands into his own.

Trip smiled at the older man weakly, picking up the other of Malcolm's hands. "I bet he did."

Phlox, not entirely adept at interacting with humans, realized that he'd made a blunder. "I'm sure he did at that." The Denobulan sighed. "As for taking his sight and hearing, my guess is that it was an attempt to control Mr. Reed. Or perhaps some form of experimentation. I'd like to think, however, that a species mature enough to develop space flight would be beyond such torturous acts."

Neither of the humans responded, not having the answer to that statement. Instead, they stared down at their injured mate, anxious for him to wake up. After a few minutes, Malcolm obliged them.

The armory officer's eyes fluttered opened, a quickly stifled moan barely sounding. Archer and Tucker both squeezed the hand they were holding and Reed immediately responded. "Jonathan? Trip? Is that you?"

Trip looked helplessly at the captain, unsure of how to answer a man that could neither see nor hear him.

Remembering the brief moment that Malcolm had been awake on the shuttle, Jonathan carefully leaned forward. The older man brushed his fingers against Reed's face before nuzzling his cheek against his.

Malcolm smiled, turning his face and breathing as deeply as his damaged ribs allowed. "Jonathan," he said sleepily. Archer squeezed his hand in response.

That mystery solved, Reed tugged on the other hand and Tucker obediently bent down. This time, Malcolm disengaged their hands and reached blindly for the engineer's face. When he encountered skin, Reed groped until he found his lover's nose, fingers tracing its upturned shape. "Trip," the armory officer exclaimed, smiling when he felt Tucker's head nod an affirmative.

Reed patted around him on the bed, hands searching for clues as to his whereabouts. "Sickbay?" He finally asked. Jonathan captured one of the hands and brought it to his cheek so that the blind man could feel his nod. "I'm…free…then? Those…creatures…are gone?"

Trip grabbed the other hand and brought it to his cheek, both men nodding vigorously.

"Good," Malcolm murmured before yawning. "I…can't hear you or see you either. Do you know that?"

Again, his lovers nodded.

"I'd…I'd rather hoped I'd wake up and have all five senses back." No doubt, if Malcolm could have heard his own voice, he would have been able to keep the forlorn tone out of it. "Dr. Phlox can fix it, can't he?"

Jonathan and Trip looked at each other, not sure how to convey the mixed message that the physician had given them. After a long hesitation, Archer took Malcolm's hand in his and slowly moved it in a back-and-forth motion.

"Is that a maybe?" Malcolm asked. Trip nodded reluctantly. Reed sighed, wincing when it caused his ribs to hurt. "Well, I suppose that's better than nothing."

Tucker looked at his injured lover, then up at Archer. "This is hopeless, John, how are we supposed to communicate with him?"

"I don't know, just the best that we can, I suppose." Jonathan bent forward and kissed Malcolm lightly on the forehand, stroking the younger man's hair back and Reed's eyes began to droop. Soon, the armory officer was again asleep and his lovers looked to Phlox for guidance.

"You're doing just fine, gentlemen," Phlox assured him. "Sleep is the best thing for the lieutenant right now."


"Captain Archer?" Hoshi Sato tentatively poked her head into the curtained off cubicle that was Malcolm's. "The Sub-Commander sent me down to see you."

Jonathan Archer was in uniform and was seated next to Lieutenant Reed's bed. The captain was due on the bridge in a few minutes and was spending what time he could with his recovering lover. Trip was off duty and dressed more comfortably. He had appointed himself Malcolm's chief nurse and had just assisted the impaired man with a drink of water. Nodding a greeting to the ensign, he put the glass aside and helped Malcolm settle back against the pillow.

"Come on in, Hoshi," Archer said, watching wistfully as Trip tended their lover. Smiling to take the sting out of his words, he obliquely asked the young ensign why she'd intruded into their quiet time. "Did T'Pol send out a search party? I didn't realize I was late for duty."

Hoshi blushed. "It's not that, sir. It was just…I was thinking…after what the B'chk!Tpck did to Lieutenant Reed…it probably makes it difficult for you to communicate with him. I think I might have come up with a way to help with that and T'Pol thought you would want to know right away."

Jonathan stood up. "She's right, I do. We've been spelling words out with our fingers, but it's slow. Do you have anything better?"

"I think so, sir," Hoshi said, stepping fully into the little area. "Morse code."

"'Morse code,'" Trip repeated. "What's that?"

The ensign smiled. "It's actually something old, back in the telegraph days, when humanity was just developing mass communication."

"I remember reading about it in history class," Jonathan said, "but isn't it dependent on sound? Or being written?"

"Not really," Hoshi responded, gaining confidence as she got deeper into the conversation. "It's based on short bursts, called dots and longer ones, called dashes. If you modify it into tactile code instead, then Malcolm wouldn't need to see or hear. A dot becomes a tap and a dash could be a stroke."

"Oh, I'm beginnin' to like the sound of this," Trip said, mustering up a grin. "Strokin' Malcolm's got real potential."

Hoshi blushed again but gamely continued, "And the best thing about it is, that Malcolm comes from a military family…"

"He probably already knows it," Jonathan finished for her. "Hoshi, you're a genius."

"I wouldn't say that," the ensign protested. "There are probably better ways for him to communicate, but with his condition probably temporary, this should do for the short term."

"So, how do we get started?" Trip was eager to talk to Malcolm. They'd found that the spelling of words with their fingers worked, but could be tedious and, especially if your penmanship was as bad as Tucker's, led to misunderstanding.

"First, I think we need to establish with the lieutenant what we intend to do," Hoshi approached the bed. "Let's start with S-O-S, that's one that everybody knows."

The young woman reached for Malcolm's hand but was totally unprepared for his reaction. The armory officer was awake and, with Trip standing so close to the bed, knew from his lover's body language that he was talking to someone. Reed, however, thought that Archer was the only other person in the room. He hadn't sensed Hoshi's arrival and her grabbing his hand was totally unexpected. Startled, Malcolm flinched violently from the contact and nearly scrabbled right off the bed, sightless eyes darting frantically in a fruitless attempt to tell where the threat was coming from.

"Whoa!" Trip said, even though he knew Malcolm couldn't hear him. Wrapping his arms around the injured man, he steadied Reed. "What the hell was that?"

Jonathan joined him at the bed, gently stroking their lover's dark hair. "We forget, unless he feels your movement, he doesn't know you're there. Hoshi surprised him, that's all."

"I'm sorry," the ensign was nearly in tears. She counted Malcolm a friend as well as a superior officer and was upset to see him so…frightened. It wasn't a word she'd ever expected to apply to their tactical officer.

"Not your fault, we should have thought of that." Archer stepped on Trip's foot when he saw the younger man open his mouth. He had a feeling that Tucker wouldn't be so easy to forgive but it truly wasn't Hoshi's fault. "Tell you what, that padd you've got has the basics on it, right?" When the young woman nodded, he continued. "Why don't you leave that here and you can come by later to see how he's doing?"

The grateful ensign dropped the padd on the captain's vacant chair and, with one last apology, made a hasty retreat.

"I'm sorry," Malcolm whispered. "I feel like such a fool. It's just, once they took my sight, I never knew when one of them would brush up against me and after they took my hearing, I couldn't even tell from the clicking nose that one of them was near."

His lovers flinched at the hoarse voice and the shocked horror that it contained. Helpless, yet, to comfort in any other way, they touched their lover gently, trying to convey without words that he wasn't alone.


Trip took one step into the cabin and stopped dead in his tracks, a broad grin splitting his handsome face as he took in the tranquil scene in front of him. "Now, if that ain't a sight worth comin' home for."

Shirtless, Jonathan was reclining on the bed, his upper body propped up against the headboard. Malcolm, his torso still swathed in protective wrappings, was draped across the older man. As the sleeping armory officer's head was pillowed on Archer's broad chest, one of Reed's hands was curled so that his fingers were lightly tangled in Jonathan's chest hair. The captain had a padd in one hand and was absently stroking the sleeping man's back with the other, Porthos curled up at their feet.

Archer looked up and smiled, readily putting his reading aside as Trip approached the bed. "We were waiting for you."

Trip leaned down to kiss the older man and then reached across to brush the hair off Malcolm's forehead. "I guess we can tell the doc that we were right. He's restin' better here than in sickbay."

"Makes perfect sense," Jonathan agreed, both men watching Malcolm fondly as they remembered their argument with Phlox regarding releasing him to their private quarters. "He can relax here. In a more closed environment, he has a better sense of what's going on around him. No more surprises like with Hoshi." The captain looked at Tucker. "Come join us, there's room."

Trip didn't need to be asked twice. Quickly stripping off his uniform, he slipped into a pair of sweatpants and approached Reed's side of the bed. "How goes the Morse Code?" He and Jonathan had taken turns, making sure their bridge shifts didn't overlap so that one of them could always be with the injured man. Even so soon after Malcolm had been hurt, they couldn't afford not to do their duty.

"Slow," Jonathan nodded towards the discarded padd. "Oh, Malcolm knows it well enough but I'm a little slower on the uptake."

As if hearing himself talked about, Malcolm stirred and blinked his eyes open. Archer brushed his hand against Reed's as it lay on his chest, reminding the armory officer that he wasn't alone. Trip brushed his thumb along his lovers' twined hands, careful not to startle Malcolm. Reed smiled and reached up blindly for Tucker's face. Finding it, his fingers went unerringly for the engineer's nose.

"Trip," Malcolm said with sleepy satisfaction.

Tucker smiled ruefully. "When he gets better, Malcolm and I are gonna have a talk about his sudden fascination with my nose."

"Well, it is your most distinguishing feature," Archer grinned at him. "At least, the most distinguishing one that Malcolm can grab in polite company."

Oblivious to the conversation going on above him, Reed pushed against Archer. "Move over, John, we need to make room for Trip."

"Yes, sir," Jonathan replied, grin widening as he looked up at Trip. "I think he's feeling better."

Tucker nodded, his expression becoming thoughtful as he pondered the ramifications. "Yeah…and that means his frustration level's gonna skyrocket."

By this time, Archer had shifted as instructed and Trip clambered into the bed.

"Malcolm's not 'xactly the type to want to sit around much, but until Phlox finds a way to fix his eyes and ears, what is there for him to do?"

"We'll figure something out," Jonathan responded, sounding a lot more confident than he felt. He'd just contacted Phlox an hour ago for an update, only to find that the research remained fruitless. "I have every confidence in Phlox and in Malcolm."

"Yeah, me too," Tucker said, burying his nose into the soft skin at the back of Reed's neck. Archer wrapped himself around the armory officer from the front and soon the only sound in the cabin was the contented sound of deep breathing, accompanied by the muffled sound of Porthos' tail thumping against the bedcovers.


Chittering noises, whistles and clicks that didn't even sound remotely sentient…blackness so dark and moist that it almost seemed alive…brushing up against a hard carapace—recoiling as he realized the slick, hard shell was a living creature…blessing whatever providence that led to him being in this situation rather than Trip or John…

Fighting against things his mind automatically classified as monsters…losing, badly…making attempt after attempt to get free of the poking, battering claws…being slammed against a surface and having something spit into his face, thinking only at the very last minute to keep his mouth closed…what little vision the gloom of his prison allowed him fading…noises muted to nothing…unable to anticipate by sight or sound the blows that continued to fall…

Malcolm Reed moaned in his sleep, the grip of the painkillers too strong to allow him break the clutches of the nightmare. Exhausted themselves, Jonathan and Trip responded instinctively, stroking and murmuring to their mate without fully waking.

Sensing the humanity of their touch, even if he couldn't hear their comforting words, Malcolm descended into a more peaceful slumber.


"Well, Doc, is there any change?"

Phlox looked up at the impatient engineer. "Oh, yes. Lieutenant Reed's healing nicely. It would be quite safe to let him move out of bed now. Carefully, of course. Those ribs are still tender, I imagine."

Trip grimaced. "That's not what I meant."

The Denobulan sighed, thankful it was only the chief engineer he was facing and not the captain. "I know, Commander. I'm sorry. No, there is no change to Mr. Reed's sight and hearing." The physician saw Tucker's face fall. Phlox had received a promising communication with his former colleagues at the Interspecies Medical Exchange program, but it was too soon to know if their suggestions would prove helpful. The last thing that Malcolm Reed or his mates needed was false hope. Still, Phlox was worried about all three men. Being without two major senses would be difficult for the younger man, but Tucker and Archer would suffer nearly as much from not being able to help him. It was an untenable situation and one that Phlox was determined to rectify.

"Trip?" Malcolm blindly reached for his lover, trusting Tucker to tell him what the verdict was. Trip bit his lip and brought Malcolm's hand to his cheek, shaking his head to indicate that there was no change. Disappointed but not surprised, Reed turned his back on the other two men.

"I'm sure a solution will present itself, I have all the top medical minds at my disposal working on the problem," Phlox said, as confidently as he could. "In the meantime, now that the lieutenant will be less dependent on the pain killers, it would be best to find a way to occupy his mind."

Tucker frowned; unnerved to hear a medical professional utter his same concern from the night before. "I don't suppose we could keep him on the pain medicine a might longer, could we?"

Phlox gave him his best doctor glare. "I should say not, Mr. Tucker. I'm going to pretend you didn't suggest that." When Trip blushed and looked embarrassed, the Denobulan relented a bit. "Not that I haven't been tempted a time or two to use the same tactic on Mr. Reed myself. He is most reluctant to accept bed rest gracefully."

Trip saw the doctor to the door, smiling. "Yeah, I know what you mean." After Phlox left, he looked at Malcolm thoughtfully, wondering what the hell he could find that would hold the interest of someone who could neither see nor hear. Looking at the curve of his lover's back, the commander spoke, even though he knew the other man couldn't hear him. "We'll think of somethin', babe, don't you worry about it." The engineer picked up the padd with the Morse Code information. "'Til then, I guess we can start with you teachin' me how to talk to you."


Movement woke Jonathan Archer.

The captain had fallen asleep, curled up with Malcolm on their bed. Archer hadn't been too deep into slumber; it bothered him how much time his supposedly recovering lover spent napping. Phlox assured them that he was improving and wouldn't need as much rest, but Jonathan had a feeling it was the younger man's way of dealing with his impairment. While Archer didn't blame Malcolm for having a hard time handling his condition, neither did he want to see him retreat from the world. So far, though, he and Trip hadn't come up with anything to occupy Reed's mind.

Archer followed Malcolm as the other man climbed off the bed, intending to offer assistance. His helping hands were impatiently batted away, however.

"I've been going to the necessity all by myself since I was a lad," Reed said testily. "I think I can manage."

Jonathan sighed and let him go. The times that Malcolm didn't withdraw by sleeping saw him increasingly grumpy. The armory officer had always been independent and having to rely so much on others had to be frustrating for him.

Not to mention frightening.

Respecting his lover's need to do for himself for a change, Archer bit his lip and watched while Malcolm fumbled his way to their quarters' bathroom facilities. It hurt, physically hurt, to see his normally graceful lover move so hesitantly. Roused by the activity, Porthos hopped up and made as if to follow Reed, but Jonathan grabbed the dog before he could jump down. The last thing Malcolm needed at the moment was a moving speed bump.

Settling back on the bed, the captain affectionately rubbed his pet's ears. "If he's feeling well enough to be cranky, Porthos," Jonathan said to the dog, trying to find a positive angle on the situation, "that mean's he's feeling better…the bruises and the ribs, anyway."

The warmth of the bed and the furry comfort of the animal pressed close lulled Jonathan into a light doze. Given the peaceful feeling he'd achieved, the clatter from the bathroom—accompanied by a muffled curse—made for a rude awakening.

"What the hell…," Archer muttered. The captain moved the dog aside and quickly crossed the room.

When he got there, Jonathan immediately saw Malcolm on his knees, groping blindly around him with his hands. To Archer's relief, the lieutenant was apparently unhurt, although by the look on his face, his frustration level had risen to new heights.

Reed felt the air movement from the door opening and knew he was no longer alone. Sitting back on his haunches, the armory officer sighed. "I just felt scruffy," he simply stated.

Jonathan had been searching for whatever it was that Reed had obviously dropped. He looked up at his lover's explanation. "You are the most stubborn man I've ever met," the older man murmured, half in complaint and half in admiration. He couldn't break himself of the habit of speaking aloud to Malcolm, even though the other man couldn't hear him. To do so would be to give up and that Jonathan wouldn't do. "I would have been glad to help you…"

The captain broke off his gentle diatribe, noticing the defeated slump to Reed's shoulders and the listless way the Englishman stroked Porthos, who'd accompanied his master to investigate the noise. It hit Jonathan, then, that there was more to this maneuver than simple personal hygiene. The vast majority of Malcolm's existence since encountering the B'chk!Tpck had spun hopelessly out of his control. This one thing—maintaining what he regarded as an officer's proper appearance—was one aspect of his life that Malcolm could control. No wonder he'd insisted on it and no wonder he'd attempted it himself.

With that frame of mind, Jonathan gently took his lover's hand. With laborious concentration, he tapped and stroked a single word on the back of Reed's wrist. The reaction was immediate—the lieutenant snorted. "'Sexy?'" Malcolm appeared to consider it and then suddenly grinned. "I think you need your eyes checked, John. Trip's the one who looks sexy in stubble, not me."

Jonathan shared the grin, glad to see a glimmer of Malcolm's dry sense of humor. Finally finding the razor, he handed it to Reed and helped the smaller man to his feet. Turning the armory officer to the sink, he stood behind the blind man, allowing Malcolm to do all the work.

The tenseness of Reed's body eased with the familiar motions and Archer knew he'd made the right decision. With his normal precision, Malcolm did a decent job of shaving, but it was inevitable that some spots would be missed. The dark-haired man patted at his face and grimaced when he felt his mistakes. "Fix me, please." He said succinctly, holding the shaving implement out for his lover to take.

The captain was touched; it was the first time that he could remember Malcolm actually asking for help. He hadn't needed to before; Trip and Jonathan had always anticipated his needs and took care of them before anything could be articulated.

Reaching around the smaller man, Archer brought his arms up, delicately holding the electric razor. Moving slowly and carefully, he touched up the job that Malcolm had done, enjoying the way that Reed's trim body leaned back and molded itself to his. It was almost disappointment when he finished. The two men stayed that way, Malcolm snuggling even further into Jonathan's embrace.

"Oh, this is nice," Reed eventually murmured. "Much better than a spa in Mexico."

Jonathan had never been to a spa. Still, he couldn't help but agree. Approving of the other man being so soothed and content, the captain put his mind to thinking of ways to make his lover even more relaxed. He thought a moment and then tapped another word onto Malcolm's hand.

"'Shower?'" The lieutenant considered the suggestion, then smiled. "Yes, that would be lovely."

Archer pressed a quick kiss to the back of Malcolm's neck, enjoying the way it made his mate shiver. Turning the water on, Jonathan shooed Porthos out of the small room before divesting himself of his clothes. Malcolm had been even quicker and Archer had to restrain himself from protesting as Reed cautiously made his way into the shower. Reed was still an adult, even hampered by nonfunctional senses, he could handle such an easy task.

Joining his lover under the water, Jonathan immediately realized that he might not be able to handle the task at hand…getting soapy with a naked Malcolm Reed and not rising to the occasion would be a pretty hefty challenge.

It didn't help that Malcolm was almost moaning in his appreciation of getting thoroughly clean. "I don't care what this water's recycled from, it feels good. I'm so glad to be rid of those bandages—sponge baths just aren't the same."

Archer gulped. It looked like his self-control was going to be tested. Unpleasant as the restraint was, however, it was also necessary. Dr. Phlox had cautioned that Malcolm was only recovered enough for light physical activity…and, besides, Trip wasn't there. While the threesome did occasionally indulge in pairs when the third mate was busy, it wasn't something they did often. The two older men hadn't gratified themselves yet, preferring to wait until Malcolm could participate; it wouldn't be fair to start something when Trip wasn't there too.

"Hey, can anybody join th' party or is this shindig by invite only?"

Jonathan grinned…speak of the devil.

"No invitation necessary," Jonathan called, "as long as you've got the right attire." The captain tapped Malcolm a warning, letting him know that they were about to be joined by a third party. Feeling playful, he chose Malcolm's nose as the receiving body part, causing Reed to wrinkle it at the unfamiliar touch.

"I think I can handle that," Trip entered the bathroom, shucking his uniform as he walked. "As long as the dress code is for my birthday suit."

Jonathan steadied Malcolm as Tucker climbed in with them. Managing to fit all three of them into the small space was a challenge under the best of circumstances, but the experience had always more than compensated for the effort. Trip stroked Reed's cheek in a hello and immediately noticed how smooth it was.

"He was feeling scruffy," Archer said, noticing the question in Tucker's eyes.

"Aw, hell," the engineered responded, disappointed. "I thought Malcolm was damn sexy in stubble. He don't often let us see him all rumpled and mussed. It's a good look for him."

Archer chuckled. "That's what I tried to tell him, but you know how he…"

"What are you doing here? I didn't think your shift was over yet," Reed said, not realizing that he was interrupting the older man. The armory officer groped for Tucker. "Not that I'm complaining, just surprised."

Trip gasped as Malcolm's fumbling hand brushed up against a particularly sensitive piece of flesh. Grabbing the wandering appendage, he tapped a succinct message.

"A surprise?" Reed's forehead creased as the Englishman tried to puzzle out the meaning. "Yes, I know your being here now is a surprise. I just wanted to know why." Trip started to get a little bit hurt at the dark-haired man's insistence but Malcolm's next question cleared up why he wanted Tucker's presence clarified. "You're not neglecting your duties because of me, are you?"

Tucker closed his eyes. Opening them, he saw Jonathan looking at him in sympathy. "Yeah, I know, John," the engineer said before Archer could get a word in, "patience is a virtue…but Malcolm's not real good at communicatin' the emotional stuff even when he can hear."

The tip of his tongue sticking out in concentration, Trip tried again. The pats and strokes that stood for the abbreviated language Malcolm was forced by his disability to use went on for several heartbeats. When Trip was finally done, Reed tried again.

"You're not the surprise, you brought a surprise? For me?"

Trip took Malcolm's hand and brought it to his cheek so that the younger man could feel him nod. When he saw the armory officer's smile of success, he turned the hand over and kissed its palm, a reward for them both.

As Archer watched the tender gesture, his body reminded him that he was pressed in a small space with the slick and nude bodies of the two men he loved. "You know," the captain said hoarsely, "they say that when someone loses one of their senses, the others become stronger to compensate."

"Is that right?" Trip grinned. "You suppose we should find out if Malcolm's tactile sense has gotten better?" The engineer put action to words, stroking up and down Reed's torso. Even with his bourgeoning desire, however, Trip was careful to keep his touch gentle.

"Purely for scientific purposes, of course," Jonathan concurred, leaning over Reed's shoulder to kiss Tucker fiercely, then moving to trail tender kisses down the side of Malcolm's neck.

The two blonds moved to stroke and pet their mate, their caresses becoming firmer as the action became more heated. They vied for the attention of their lover's mouth, taking turns at stealing Malcolm's breath and replacing it with their own.

When Reed started to tremble and his breathing became labored, they hardly noticed, thinking him in the grips of desire. And when he moaned, they assumed that he was as involved in the act as they were, lost in the drive to reconnect with each other physically.

"D-don-don't…" Malcolm stuttered.

Trip grinned around the earlobe he was sucking. Pulling one arm free of the tangle their bodies had become, he sensually stroked a question onto Malcolm's skin. Unfortunately, Malcolm was too deep into confusion to understand.

"S-stop," Reed said.

His lovers thought it was a continuation of the previous phrase and that he was telling them not to stop. They were disabused of that notion when a sharp elbow jabbed sharply back into Jonathan's stomach. Before the captain could even complete his grunt of pain, another blow landed on Tucker's collarbone and, flailing wildly, Malcolm stumbled out of the shower.

"Stop! Just stop," he cried out, staggering until he hit the wall. Leaning heavily against its hard surface, the Englishman slid down until he was crouched on the floor. "Just…stop." Malcolm's panicked breathing reverberated in the small room.

Jonathan and Trip looked at each other in shock. Then, both of them exploded into motion.

"What the hell happened? We were enjoyin' ourselves, then…what? What'd we do to make him act like that?" Tucker sounded almost as panicked as Reed.

Archer didn't know any more than Trip did, but managed—just barely—to keep his head. "No, don't," he said as Tucker made to grab Malcolm. He knew that the engineer just wanted to comfort their distraught mate but Reed obviously was in no state to accept it. "Here, give him this," Jonathan handed Trip a towel.

As the captain moved to turn the water in the shower off, Tucker looked down at the towel and then to his huddled lover. Trip contemplated the best way to offer it to Malcolm without upsetting him further. Finally, he unfolded the white terrycloth, draping it over Reed's knees like a blanket.

Malcolm flinched at the touch but, realizing what it was, clutched the soft material to him like a lifeline.

Tense, Archer handed another towel to Trip before taking one for himself. He might be impatient by Vulcan standards but he knew when it was time to back off.

"John, what are we gonna do?" Trip asked, automatically drying himself as he knelt as close to Malcolm as the armory officer would allow. "If he won't let us touch him, how are we supposed to talk to him?"

Archer placed a steadying hand on the engineer's shoulder. "If we can't talk to Malcolm, we'll just have to wait until Malcolm talks to us."

Tucker looked skeptically at Reed. He hated the way the bugs' mysterious opaque film shrouded his lover's eyes. "How long you figure that'll take?"

Jonathan shrugged. "Doesn't matter, we can wait as long as it takes…" The captain was interrupted by a hoarse whisper made by the man in question.

"I'm sorry…so sorry," Reed said brokenly.

Jonathan knelt next to Trip. The two older men looked at each other helplessly, not knowing if it was safe to touch their lover. Luckily, Malcolm continued to speak without encouragement.

"I couldn't see either of you…or hear any of the sounds of our lovemaking," Reed said desperately. "And with the shower…I couldn't smell your scents. The water, it washed away even your taste when we kissed."

"Aw, hell," Trip swore softly, seeing where Malcolm was headed.

"I knew, I knew up here," Reed thumped himself on the forehead with a finger, "that it was you. I know your touch, the way your bodies feel. But for a moment…without sight, without sound, without taste or smell…it could have been anyone's hands on me, touching me." The Englishman's voice became fierce. "I don't want anyone's hands; I want the two of you!" Reed's fury left him. "I'm a bloody fool."

Jonathan swallowed heavily and carefully touched Malcolm's arm. When his hand wasn't shrugged off, he tried to convey a message of comfort. The captain had only gotten two words completed, though, before his dark-haired lover erupted.

"It's most certainly not okay," Malcolm said, slapping away Archer's fingers. Jonathan had been trying to tell him that his reaction was okay but Reed misunderstood. "It's as far from okay as it can get! I want my sight back; I want my hearing back; I want to make love with my mates without acting like a bloody virgin."

Trip tried next. He gently stroked Malcolm's arm, not trying any words until he felt the tight muscles ease. When they did, he tried a one word message of his own.

"Patience?" Malcolm snorted bitterly. "Now there's the pot calling the kettle black."

Archer gently rubbed the engineer's back, knowing the words had stung. "Keep going; you're on a roll. Sarcasm's a better reaction than anger; at least it means he's thinking." Jonathan smiled sadly. "Consider it this way…it's good that he's getting it out of his system…and that he trusts us this much."

Tucker gulped. "That's easy for you to say," he muttered and then turned to tap another message to the impaired member of their trio. This one was longer than the others and took Reed a minute to decipher. When he did, Malcolm was startled into laughter.

"Yes, I suppose it would make the Vulcans eat their words at that, to see a human being patient…but I hardly think T'Pol would be willing to eat hers with chopsticks." Reed's smile faded. "But what if being patient doesn't work? It's been days already…what if Phlox can't fix my eyes and ears? The Enterprise hardly needs a cripple for its chief of security."

Jonathan joined the conversation, carefully touching his lover with a message of his own.

Reed lowered his head. "You need me, even as I am? I know I need the two of you, but I'll step aside if a cure can't be found. I'm sure the Vulcan High Command would be happy to escort a human failure back to Earth, even if it's only one person. If it comes to that, I won't stand in the way of your Starfleet careers."

Tucker gasped at the outlandish offer but it was Jonathan that responded to the comment. The motions he used were firm enough to be almost painful as the captain emphasized his point.

It was Malcolm's turn to gasp. "Screw Starfleet? John!"

Trip grinned and grabbed Reed's other arm, repeating the comment. The Englishman blinked and then, very slowly smiled. "You're both idiots," he said before bringing both men's hands up and kissing them gently. "But you're my idiots."

"Damn straight," Tucker murmured.

Jonathan touch-painted another message onto Malcolm's skin, this time using the armory officer's freshly shaved cheek. His fingers were in the perfect place to feel the flush of heat as Reed blushed.

"I'm trying to trust Phlox…if he can figure out a cure for a whole species in a manner of days, then he should be able to figure this out." Malcolm sighed deeply. "It's just hard to be patient and trust…and not to worry."

All three men became silent at that, then Trip suddenly stood up and snapped his fingers. "Well, maybe what Malcolm needs is a distraction. I finally thought up somethin' that might take his mind off things. For a little while, anyway."

"That sounds like a good idea," Jonathan agreed. While it was good for Malcolm to get his fears into the air so they wouldn't fester inside of him, his worries wouldn't be solved in one session.

Even in the few days that Malcolm had been hampered with his sensory limitations, they'd become adept at common chores like getting dressed. In short order, all three had donned the soft knit garments of their off-duty clothes and Reed was sitting on the desk chair waiting for his surprise. Tucker picked up a box from where he'd left it by the door and carefully placed it in his lover's lap. Gingerly, Reed put his hands inside the carton, trying to identify what it contained.

"What is that stuff?" Jonathan asked. At first glance, the box looked like it was fully of junk…technical looking pieces of junk…distressingly familiar technical looking pieces of junk. "Trip…that isn't what I think it is, is it?"

Tucker looked defensive. "Malcolm once told me that a good security officer could put his weapon together one handed and wearin' a blindfold." The engineer shrugged. "The blindfold isn't necessary thanks to those damn bugs but I could always tie one of his arms behind his back if you think I should."

Archer opened his mouth and shut it a couple of times. "Need I remind you that we have a very limited number of those available…and if Malcolm puts it together wrong, he could blow a hole into something, or someone?"

The commander was saved from answering by an equally shocked exclamation from Malcolm. "Dear Lord, these are the pieces of a phase pistol. Trip, what did you do?"

Tucker squatted next his lover and used his fingers to make a request.

"Fix it?" Reed sputtered. "Are you mad?"

Trip repeated his plea and the armory officer shook his head in disgusted acquiescence. "All right, I'll try. But when we finally can properly talk again, Mr. Tucker, you and I are going to have a long conversation about this."

The engineer grinned up Archer. "See that enthusiasm? Malcolm considers those pistols his personal babies. Won't fix all his problems, but might take his mind off 'em for a bit."

Jonathan tried not to smile but it was hard, seeing the way Reed was already fussing over the broken weapon. "And if he puts a hole in the cabin wall, you'll repair it?"

"Oh ye of little faith," Trip teased as he stood. "Malcolm's not gonna put a hole in the wall, in himself, or in Porthos either." Tucker dropped his voice to a whisper. "I held back the power source. It's no more dangerous than any other puzzle."

The captain couldn't resist, he swooped in and kissed Trip thoroughly. "You're a lot smarter than people give you credit for," he teased. "That was a stroke of genius."

"I can't believe you let this pistol get in this kind of condition," Malcolm grumped. "It's a precision weapon, not a toy." The armory officer felt one of his lovers move by him. Reaching out blindly, he grabbed an arm. "Thank you," Reed said quietly. "Both of you…for everything."

This time, when his lovers responded by touching him with messages of patience and trust, Malcolm let himself be convinced.


It was a good thing, Malcolm Reed decided, that he loved Trip so much. Otherwise, he'd be tempted to strangle the engineer. Barely repressing the urge to instead toss the offending phaser piece across the cabin, Malcolm managed to set it down calmly on the desk. How did Trip expect him to put the damn thing together, anyway? Didn't he realize Malcolm was blind? Reed sighed explosively. Yes, Trip knew and had gone to great lengths to find him a task to give him something to do. It was frustrating and nearly impossible to put a phase pistol back together without being able to see it, but Malcolm loved a challenge. Even as he cursed Trip, he blessed his thoughtful lover for giving him this one. Even if it was just busy work.

A small device clipped to the arm of Reed's shirt vibrated and the Englishman sighed again. The dismantled phase pistol hadn't been Tucker's only surprise. The Enterprise 's chief engineer had also come up with a small apparatus that would give Malcolm warning when the door to their quarters opened or closed. No more chance of being snuck up on and startled, which was very much appreciated. What wasn't appreciated was the visitor being heralded. Or, rather, the reason that Travis had come to see him.

It was a good thing that Malcolm loved Jonathan Archer so much, or he might just be tempted to strangle the captain too. Although disabled, he was capable of spending an afternoon on his own and didn't need a babysitter.

He hadn't realized he'd said that last bit aloud until Jonathan's large hand cupped his cheek before signing a gentle rebuke. What the captain conveyed was true, Travis was a friend and not a babysitter. Reed could only hope that Mayweather hadn't heard the comment. Isolated as he was in his world of darkness and silence, it was becoming increasingly difficult to know when he'd said something out loud and when he'd just thought it. A bad habit, that, and one he would need to work on correcting before it became more deeply entrenched.

He felt Archer tilt his hand up and then a new set of fingers was sending him a message. Travis, Malcolm was quick to note, was particularly good as this Morse Code. But then, with Hoshi as his lover and personal tutor, he'd had the best of teachers.

"It's good to see you…" Reed said, then broke off as he realized how stupid that sounded. Altering his greeting, he tried again, "It was kind of you to come by. I don't need for anyone to stay with me, but it shall be good to have the company."

A quick kiss to his cheek and then the vibrating device told Malcolm that Jonathan had left. For the first time since he'd been injured, both of his lovers had been needed on duty. Reed had argued that he was capable of staying on his own, but Trip and Jonathan had disagreed. It wasn't so much that they thought Malcolm would injure himself in an accident, but that they worried that the ship would get into trouble and Reed wouldn't know to get himself to safer quarters. With little grace, Malcolm had eventually agreed. He was still grumpy about it, but knew it wasn't fair to take it out on Travis.

"So, now that you're here, what do you want to do?" The armory officer asked. "I'm afraid a movie is out of the question."

After being touched so frequently by Jonathan and Trip, Mayweather's hand felt odd on his own. The helmsman had soft, warm hands with smoother skin than either of his lovers. It almost distracted him from what Travis was suggesting. Abruptly, Reed pulled away.

"No, thank you, I don't care to go down to the mess hall," Malcolm said curtly. "I prefer to stay here."

Apparently undeterred, Travis took his hand again and explained his suggestion. Reed tensed at the younger man's words.

"I appreciate knowing of the rest of the crew's concern," the armory officer admitted. "But I'm not ready to go out into public yet, especially not to eat. I'd feel like a freak show."

Mayweather's grip on his wrist hardened and the next message was conveyed a little more firmly. Malcolm felt himself blush. "No, you're right. If this had happened to someone else, I wouldn't consider them a freak. Still…it's hard to get my bearings when there's lots of people around. I'm just not ready for that yet."

His friend's hand withdrew, to be replaced with a small, smooth object that felt cool to the touch. Reed turned it over and over, letting his fingertips figure out what it was.

"A chess piece?" He finally guessed, smiling when Travis indicated that he was right.

A couple of hours and several chess wins later, Malcolm was feeling much better about having a babysitter. He'd found being blind had actually improved his game, forcing him to focus intensely in order to track all of the board movements. When Travis hesitated over the suggestion of another match, Reed assumed that the helmsman was a little tired of being beat.

"What's the matter?" The lieutenant asked, sensing an underlying reason behind his friend's reluctance. A few finger strokes later and he had his answer. "I didn't realize that it had gotten that late," Malcolm apologized. "Trip must be running a bit behind. Why don't you go ahead and go. I'm sure Hoshi's waiting for you."

Mayweather's gestures asked him if he was sure and Reed nodded his head. "I'm positive. Porthos can keep me company and it will only be for a few minutes. The captain will understand; I'll make sure of it."

With Reed's reassurances, Travis left and, for the first time since being injured, Malcolm found himself without human company. It was ironic. Malcolm had spent the first months on the Enterprise being lonely and feeling emotionally isolated…and then had found himself in a relationship with Jonathan and Trip. Now that he had the other two men's love, a physical disability virtually cut him off from everyone around him. Only, this time, the blackness and silence of his isolation made his previous loneliness seem like a walk in the park.

Not liking that train of thought, the armory officer got up and paced, trusting Porthos' canine sense to keep the little dog from getting underfoot. The one expedition he'd actually wanted to make outside their quarters had been to the exercise room, but his lovers had protested, citing the limitations Phlox had dictated. Reed wasn't used to such prolonged inactivity and he was aware that it added to his bad mood.

"Perhaps, I can go for a walk when Trip or John get back," he said aloud. Then, remembering how surprised and disappointed Travis had been when he'd refused to go to the mess hall, it occurred to Malcolm that maybe he didn't need to wait for his lovers to return. Unlike Porthos, he didn't need to be taken for a walk; he was perfectly capable of managing one on his own.

Torn with indecision, Malcolm stood in the middle of the room, feeling Porthos' warmth as the beagle sat down next to him. To go out into the corridors by himself…not knowing who else would be there…the inevitable stumbles and very public mistakes…

The alternative, however, was to remain huddled inside the cabin, isolated and burdensome on the men he loved. He couldn't wait for Phlox to find a cure forever and if Jonathan meant to defy Starfleet to keep Malcolm onboard, then it was up to Malcolm to prove that he belonged there.

With his new resolve, the Englishman felt his way to the door, stopping when his hand encountered its metallic smoothness. "Reeds do not wallow," he said firmly. "They take what life deals them and make the best of it."

Determined, Malcolm pressed the device that would open the door and boldly made to go through it…only to trip on a furry obstacle.

"Porthos," Reed grumbled as he barely caught himself from falling by grabbing the doorframe, "you are not exactly seeing eye dog material." Reaching down, he groped until his hands encountered the beagle, then gently encouraged the beast back into the cabin. Hand on the dog's collar, he commanded, "Stay," not releasing it until he felt Porthos obey. Moving backwards, he cautiously made his way out and shut the door behind him, confident that the dog hadn't slipped past him.

It felt odd to feel a current of air caress his cheek. It was obvious that Malcolm was in a longer space than he'd previously was in and he found himself enjoying the sensation. Keeping the schematics of the ship firmly in mind, Reed set out, one hand lightly on the corridor wall to guide himself.

Luckily, he wasn't in the middle of a shift change and the corridor was deserted. In fact, Malcolm had made several turns before he was even seen. It was two of Trip's crew that spotted him first.

"Hey, isn't that Lieutenant Reed?" the first one murmured to the other.

"No way, heard no one but the commander and the captain has seen him for days," she replied, not bothering to look. "I guess he was hurt too bad and had to stay in his quarters."

"Well, guess again, because that is him," her companion responded as Malcolm got closer. "Evening, lieutenant, glad to see you up and around."

At first, the two ensigns didn't know why the superior officer didn't respond. As he drew closer, however, they could see the white film over his eyes.

"Oh, no," the second crewman exclaimed. "It is true, he can't see." The first one looked thoughtful. "If that's true, then he probably can't hear either." The man's eyes widened. "Shit! The beta crew's got that mess down the way, he'll probably trip right over it if he can't see it's there."

"We'll have to guide him past it," the second said, reaching as if to grab Reed. Her partner stopped her.

"Don't think that's a real great idea," he said when she glared at him. "Hey, you didn't work with him when we were installing that cannon…I did. The lieutenant would not appreciate being led around like he's feeble, trust me."

She rolled her eyes. "So, what are we supposed to do, let him fall and hurt himself just to save his pride? That'll go over real well with the boss. That's his lover, you know."

"I know that," he responded, "but, as Commander Tucker would say, there's more than one way to skin a cat." Moving a few feet down the corridor, the engineer opened a channel on the communication system.

Within a few minutes, the news had spread on the Enterprise that their chief of security was out and about. Using the communication system as well as word of mouth, they made sure Reed's way was clear. If anyone was working in his path and had equipment cluttering the walkway, it was quickly moved aside. Similarly, if Malcolm entered a particular corridor, anyone else in it immediately drew to the side so they wouldn't bump him.

Malcolm was blissfully unaware of their protective maneuvers and would have been supremely embarrassed had he known. As it was, he thought it was odd that he'd encountered no one, but wasn't going to complain. He was also concentrating too hard on figuring out how to get to his own quarters. They'd been mostly unused since becoming Trip and Jonathan's lover, but he figured they were a safe destination for this first outing.

Reed had just entered the final corridor when Trip caught up to him. The chief engineer had been on his way to the mess to pick up dinner when he'd heard what Malcolm was up to. Breathless, he'd hurried to catch up. Tucker had just begun to move to intercept his mate when his other lover grabbed his elbow.

"Don't, Trip, please," Archer asked. "He's come this far, let him finish."

Tucker watched while Reed stopped in front of a door. "But, why? If he wanted to get out of our quarters for a spell, all he had to do was say somethin'. No sense wandering all over by himself if one of us could help him."

Jonathan smiled. "Maybe that was the point."

The two men watched while Malcolm keyed in an access code, smiling at the tactical officer's wide grin as the door opened. He'd made it to the correct cabin and, unbeknownst to their lover, they shared in his success. Trip sagged against the wall as they watched Reed go inside.

Jonathan looked at the commander thoughtfully. "Did you see the look on his face? Still think it was a bad idea?"

Trip shook his head reluctantly. "No, I guess it was important." He grinned suddenly at the older man. "But I'm glad I didn't know he was doin' it until he was almost done, if you know what I mean."

Archer wrapped an arm around Trip's shoulders. "Yeah, I guess I do. Let's give him a few minutes to savor his triumph," the captain suggested as he guided Trip down the hallway. "Then we can show up with dinner."

Alone in his quarters, Malcolm grinned in satisfaction. He was handicapped but not completely helpless. Perhaps, even if Phlox didn't figure out how to fix him, he could remain on board. He'd become Chef's chief vegetable peeler and bottle washer if that was what it took to remain with his lovers.

Finding his way to a chair, Reed settled down to wait. He knew that Trip and Archer would figure out where he was eventually. Until then, the lieutenant entertained himself thinking of ways to teach the crew how to navigate around the Enterprise in the dark. It was, as he'd just discovered, an extremely handy skill.



The lovers were stretched out on their bed and Malcolm had his shirt pushed up to reveal his stomach. The armory officer would call out words at random and the other two men would race to see which one could correctly tap it out in Morse Code in the least amount of time. So far, it was a draw. Trip was faster but Jonathan more accurate. Since Reed would reward the winner with a kiss, it was a hotly contested competition.

"C'mon, you two, I know you know what the word means," Malcolm's voice was full of laughter. "I've seen each of you perform the act, if you remember. It was certainly a night I'll never forget." He wished he could see his lovers' faces as he reminded them of that particular encounter. It had started by Jonathan saying that they should watch each other pleasure themselves, so they could know better how to pleasure each other. A little tentative about the idea, Trip and Malcolm had made John go first and the captain had been quick to prove why it was a very good suggestion indeed.

His first excursion out of their quarters had been an epiphany for the impaired man. On the surface, it didn't seem like much, just a short trip from one set of crew quarters to another. It represented much more to Malcolm, however. In a small way, he'd proven to himself that he wasn't completely broken, that even if the worst happened and no solution was found to his blindness and deafness, that he could still find a way to function. Reed still struggled with bouts of depression and being crotchety, but overall his outlook improved. He still hesitated to eat in public, but he was willing to venture into other parts of Enterprise and had even resumed his workout sessions. The latter, however, were strictly supervised by either Trip or Jonathan, to make sure he didn't exceed the doctor's dictates.

What contributed even more to his improved mood was the fact that Phlox had begun calling him to sickbay for tests. Even though the Denobulan was closed-mouth about treatment options, it was a huge relief for all three lovers to see the physician move past the pure research stage and grow closer to actually treating him, sensing that some sort of remedy, or attempt at one, had put all three lovers in a good but anxious mood. The game had been born out of a desire to distract one another, although the older men were careful when they played. Malcolm's bruises had mostly faded but one or two lingered, plus his ribs were still tender.

Tucker and Archer concentrated, long fingers flying on Malcolm's skin as they vied for completion. By the time they were done, Reed was chuckling loudly.

"Trip, I think you need a dictionary," Malcolm laughed. "It's m-a-s-t-u-r-b-a-t-e, not master-bate."

"I guess that means I win again," Archer said smugly, leaning down for his kiss. The lieutenant gladly gave it up, pulling Jonathan's head down for a thorough job.

"Yeah, well, I'd rather be doing it than spellin' it," Trip said, trying to hide his disappointment. The evil look Jonathan gave him didn't help.

"Nothing stopping you. Don't abstain on my account," the captain challenged. Tucker was saved from answering by a chime at the door. The two blonds looked at each expectantly and, having felt the vibration from the warning device, Malcolm sat up and hurriedly pulled down his shirt.

By the time Phlox entered, all three men were sitting up and looking decorous.

"Good news, gentleman," the doctor greeted them. "Thanks to assistance from my friends at the Interspecies Medical Exchange program, I do believe we have come up with a course of treatment for Mr. Reed that should prove successful."

Archer's fingers moved to convey the message to Malcolm. Trip would have been faster, but the news was too important to risk any mistakes, even minor ones.

Malcolm's face tensed with excitement. "Tell us more."

Phlox rarely had to be cajoled into talking. "It's a amalgamation of sonic bombardment, chemical washes, and surgery, but I believe we've found a combination of procedures that should loosen and remove the blocks on the lieutenant's senses to allow them to perform normally."

"And the risks?" Trip asked, seeing that Jonathan was too busy translating to inquire.

"Minimal," Phlox assured them. "That's why we took so long to devise a strategy to alleviate Mr. Reed's condition."

"It sounds too good to be true," Malcolm said, almost overwhelmed at the news. "But this experience has taught me a thing or two about trust. When can you get started?"

Phlox's ever-present smile widened. "First thing in the morning." He nodded at the two sighted men. "I shall expect you bright and early in sickbay." The physician left them, sensitive to the possibility that the lovers might want private time to celebrate.

Jonathan and Trip moved to embrace their mate, too happy and relieved to even try any more sophisticated communication. Malcolm lay content in their arms, trying to comprehend the overdue turn of good luck.

"You were right…patience and trust," he said, "I should have believed you." He turned to kiss each of the other men.

The three men lay in a pile of contentment, stroking each other in relief and joy that transcended the sexual. The morning would come soon enough and, with it, a likely end to the darkness that Malcolm had been plunged into. Anticipation would make the night seem long, but at least they had one another to fill the empty time with comfort.


"What's takin' so damn long?" Trip paced outside the frosted doors of sickbay. Their lover had been inside with Phlox for hours and the engineer was impatient for news.

So was Jonathan, but he hid it better. "I'm sure the doctor will tell us when he can. You don't want him to hurry anything, do you?"

Tucker's pacing stopped. "No, guess not…but still…"

"I know what you mean," Jonathan said. "I thought I could stay on the bridge while the operation was going on, but you see where that got me."

"Yeah, and I was gonna realign the warp nacelles, but that didn't work out quite like I expected," the chief engineer admitted. Shaking his head in disgust, he made a confession. "I guess I'm as big a mother hen as you are…"

Their conversation was cut short by Phlox coming out to talk to them. "Good news! I'm happy to report that the procedures appear to be a success."

"Appear to be?" Archer repeated with concern. "You're not sure?"

"All indications are that the treatment worked every bit as well as projected," Phlox reassured him, "but we won't know for sure until Mr. Reed wakes up. Which should be any moment now." The doctor gestured for the two officers to join him. "I thought you might like to be there when he revives."

Trailing behind the physician, Jonathan and Trip followed Phlox into sickbay, looking for their first sight of Malcolm. The armory officer was the sole occupant of the healing area and they made a beeline for his bed. Given the nature of their Starfleet careers, they'd seen each other in sickbay more often than any of them liked. This time was a little different, though. On this occasion, Malcolm wasn't lying there, injured. Instead, he was asleep from a procedure done to heal an injury. It made a big difference.

Phlox nodded at the lovers in satisfaction, then approached Mr. Reed with an injection. It hissed as it went in, a sound the Denobulan found reassuring. "He should wake in just a moment. We'll just let him open his eyes naturally." Moving to the room's environment controls, the physician lowered the lights. Sure enough, Malcolm's eyelids started twitching and the lieutenant's head lolled on his pillow. Moving sluggishly, he blinked his eyes open, staring ahead blankly. His eyes were clear of the horrible white opaqueness but he didn't appear to be seeing anything.

Trip and Jonathan felt their stomachs drop to the floor with twin thuds.

"Malcolm?" Archer said anxiously.

Reed slowly smiled. "Well, if the two of you aren't a sight for sore eyes."

Trip whooped, covering his mouth belatedly as he realized that a loud noise might not be the best thing for recovering ears.

Malcolm just laughed freely, a joyful sound in the sterile room. "Do that again, Trip."

Tucker looked at Phlox for permission and the Denobulan nodded benevolently. "Go right ahead, commander, it will do him no harm."

Trip happily complied, then eagerly went forward to give Reed a huge hug. He reluctantly let go when Phlox gently insisted on running some tests. Only when the chief engineer looked to share his jubilation and relief with Jonathan did he realize that the captain was no longer in the room.

Frowning, Tucker stuck his head out of the sickbay doors, easily spotting Jonathan's tall form a few feet away. The older man was leaning against the wall, head bowed and hand over his eyes. With a last glance back to see that Malcolm was busy with whatever Phlox needed, Trip slipped out of sickbay.

"John, what's wrong?"

Archer immediately dropped his hand and looked up guiltily. Tucker took one look at the other man's face and knew. "You didn't believe that Phlox could cure Malcolm, did you?"

Jonathan looked down again. "Not 100%, no."

"Then why?" Trip's voice held no disdain, only curiosity.

"I wanted to be strong, for Malcolm…and for you." The captain admitted. "Most of the time I hoped for a successful treatment, but sometimes, especially late at night, I wondered."

The engineer contemplated his lover for a long moment. Then, moving gently, he clasped the other man's shoulder. "You big boy scout. I could see why you wouldn't let on to Malcolm, but you should have told me. I could have helped you, just like you helped me."

"I know…" Archer's voice trailed off.

Tucker looked at him affectionately. Malcolm wasn't the only stubborn one in this relationship. "Come on," he encouraged his mate. "He's waiting for us."

Smiling back at the engineer, Jonathan wrapped his arm around Trip's waist, allowing himself to be led back into sickbay.


The trio made love with the lights on.

Malcolm was positioned in the center of the bed, sandwiched by the larger forms of his mates. Trip was behind him, making slow thrusts as he gently but thoroughly took the smaller man, swiveling his hips at the end of each penetration in a move designed to drive Reed crazy. Archer was in front of him, kissing Malcolm and nipping madly at his skin. The lieutenant's leg was thrown over Jonathan's hip, giving Tucker deeper access to his body. Reed and Archer's cocks aligned and the older man controlled their humping motion with arms wrapped around the dark-haired man's torso, his large hands splayed against Malcolm's back, refusing to set a quicker pace, no matter how much the Englishman pleaded.

After days of worry and limited communication, the two older men were determined to prolong this experience as long as possible.

At Malcolm's request, both of the other men were being more vocal than normal, making moans and cries that was music to his long-denied ears. Reed froze as Trip found the sweet spot inside him, gasping at the sensation.

"Right there, Trip, right there," he panted as he arched his back, trying to take his lover deeper into his body.

Tucker looked over Malcolm's shoulder at Jonathan, seeing a mirror of his own wicked grin. With unspoken agreement, both men sped up, leaving Malcolm to writhe between them in uncontrollable ecstasy. Trip jabbed his cock into Malcolm's prostate over and over, feeling the tight sheath enveloping him contract in orgasm. Reed was bathed in warmth within and without as his lovers joined him in climaxing, the three men moaning in near harmony as their bodies reached completion.

Afterwards, Malcolm lay with their two heads pillowed on his chest, absently stroking their hair as his lovers drifted towards a satisfied slumber. The light was still on…neither Trip nor Archer having the heart to ask Reed if they could turn it off.

"What's the matter," Jonathan asked sleepily. "Don't tell me you're not tired?"

Malcolm smiled. "No, I am, but I want to stay awake a few minutes more. Looking at you and Trip…I don't want to waste the opportunity."

Jonathan kissed Reed's chest. He'd been by Malcolm's side through the whole ordeal but knew he only had a glimmer of understanding. "Okay, but don't stay up too long. Remember, you're back on duty tomorrow. Even if it's limited duty, we don't want you sleeping on the job."

Reed looked askance at him. "Like I would forget. Go to sleep, John, and let me just look at you a while yet."

Jonathan nuzzled him one last time and then closed his eyes, joining Trip in falling fast asleep. Malcolm smiled tenderly as he listened to his mates' quiet breathing, the sound cherished even more since he thought he might have lost the ability to hear it. Still, after all was said and done, now that he was cured, he could safely say that it had been a learning experience. Jonathan, as always, had been a tower of strength and encouragement. Trip's insight into how to distract Malcolm had been somewhat unexpected, but he should have known. The engineer was adept at fixing things and that ability wasn't just limited to equipment. More than that, though, Reed had learned his worth to his lovers; that they would be willing to stand up to Starfleet for him. That meant a lot to Malcolm.

Malcolm had never thought of himself as the type of man to inspire that kind of devotion; never dreamed that he would be loved that much. It humbled him. In a way, he supposed that his experience had taught him to see his lovers in a new light. To finally hear what they'd been saying all along, that he was a necessary, desired part of their life. Maybe he'd just needed to be deprived of those senses to finally see and hear what had been in front of him all along. Reed looked down at Jonathan and Trip. Despite his late-night meanderings, they remained who they'd always been; two beautiful, courageous souls who would go to the ends of the Earth and beyond for what they cared about. The only thing that had changed was Malcolm's awareness of just how intimately their devotion included him.

After kissing each man gently on the head, Malcolm carefully reached up and turned out the light. He didn't need it anymore.

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