Title: Dance

Author: Kylie Lee and BelovedGoddess

E-mail: KylieLee1000@hotmail.com and BelovedGoddess@hotmail.com

Author's URL: http://www.geocities.com/kylielee1000/

Date: 08/15/02

Length: ~6,000 words

Fandom: Star Trek: Enterprise

Pairing: Tucker/Reed

Type: Slash M/M

Rating: NC-17

Summary: Tucker and Reed cut it up on the dance floor.

Feedback: Yes, please.

Archive: Yes, at EntSTSlash, Tim Ruben, Archers_Enterprise, Allslash, Situation Room, and WWoMB; anyone else, ask first.

Series: Disco Ball

Next story: Kentucky Cocktail

Disclaimer: Original material copyright 2002 by Kylie Lee. Material taken from the episode is copyrighted by Paramount. This is not an attempt to infringe on Paramount's copyright. No money changed hands. Etc.

Spoilers: None; this is a stand-alone fic not embedded in canon.

Comments: BelovedGoddess loves T/R! Kylie wrote a R/M fic, "Music," and BelovedGoddess rewrote it, with Kylie's permission, for T/R, as "Dance." Think of the two fics as companion pieces.

The low thrum of music was audible even on the lower level. Trip found himself tapping a leg in time to the music, swaying his shoulders side to side. This was his idea of a good time: hanging out. No, no more highly structured shore leave for him. He'd tried that last time and it hadn't worked out. He sipped his drink, which was nice and strong, and decided he liked it here. It was just as cosmopolitan as Risa, he thought, even if it was more industrial and less bucolic than that pleasure planet. Tonight: dancing, then dinner, in that order. Tomorrow: who knew?

Instead of splitting up during shore leave, like they had on Risa, the bridge crew had decided to hang out. T'Pol was on board Enterprise, running things, and Enterprise was away on a survey mission that had the scientists salivating but left nobody else with much to do. Trip had suggested shore leave on this very planet, which was near the survey site, and he'd had no trouble talking T'Pol into talking the Captain into it, although she'd had more trouble getting the Captain to come along. Travis had run them all down the day before in a shuttle.

The dance floor was on the upper level, tables and dining on the lower level. Jon, Trip, Malcolm, and Hoshi were holding down a table on the lower level. If they left the table alone for even a second, one of the hovering crowd would descend on it, as they themselves had done to nab the table—they had only gotten it thanks to Hoshi's aggression and a well-placed elbow—and then they'd have to wait for another half-hour. Travis was around somewhere; he'd gone off to use the lavatory about ten minutes ago but hadn't come back. Nobody seemed worried.

"Want to dance?" Trip asked Hoshi, drumming his hands on the table, swaying to the music.

Hoshi, who was sipping a drink as he spoke to her, raised her eyebrows over the fruit. "No thanks," she responded. "I'm hungry. Maybe after I eat something."


"You're asking *me* to dance, Trip?" Jon said, surprised.

"You and the rest of the table, sir," Trip said, smiling at his friend and superior officer.

"No, thanks, I'll keep Hoshi company. I'm hungry too. Plus we waited too long for this table. I don't want to risk losing it."

"Malcolm?" Trip turned to the man sitting to his right.

"You're asking me?" Malcolm said, voice surprised, clearly not sure whether Trip was being serious with him or not. He sipped an incongruous fruity drink, a twin to Hoshi's, then frowned at it.

"Come on, loosen up a little. You're not on duty now. And I've seen you. I know you like to dance."

"Do you, Malcolm?" said Jonathan, surprised.

"Cap'n, you've seen Malcolm dance," Trip said. "Remember? At the party Crewman Cutler threw to celebrate our first contact with nonexistent rock aliens?"

"Oh, I remember that party," Hoshi exclaimed, her tone of voice implying that it had been some party.

"Was I there?" Jon asked.

"I thought you were," Hoshi said. "I'm pretty sure you danced with me. And I danced with Malcolm, too. You probably had some of that punch; that's why you don't remember. It was kind of…strong."

"Well, I just figured that Malcolm wasn't the kind of guy to really cut loose on the dance floor, is all," Jon noted.

"Just 'cause he's focused at work doesn't mean the man doesn't know how to have a good time," Trip said.

"Thank you, Trip, I think," Malcolm said. "But in any case, I can defend myself."

"I used to go out dancing with friends in San Francisco, before we got posted to Enterprise," Trip volunteered. "I guess we don't have so many opportunities for night life on board ship. I'm planning on making the most of tonight, and I don't care who I dance with." He turned back to Malcolm hoping he'd agree. "Come on, already. Do you want to dance or what? Or are you scared?" Trip dared as he stood up, smiling winningly at the dark-haired armory officer, as he held out a hand expectantly.

"Is that a challenge, Mr. Tucker?" Malcolm smiled as he took Trip's hand, and let him haul him to his feet. Trip wasn't sure but he thought he felt Malcolm holding his hand just a touch longer than was necessary before releasing it. And as Trip turned to him he saw something in Malcolm's darkened eyes that he almost wasn't sure he believed. But it was gone so quickly that Trip wasn't even sure he'd seen it before Malcolm smiled and turned back to the table. "Captain, Hoshi, are you sure you won't join us? You could see that I do, in fact, dance. Quite well, if I do say so myself."

"I require no proof," Jon said. "Your word is your bond."

Malcolm laughed. "It certainly is. We'll see you later, then."

"If you see Travis, send him over," Jon called after them as they turned to leave. "Although he's probably found some girl and we won't see him for the rest of the night."

"Will do," Trip said. "Come on, Malcolm. I want to see you shake that groove thing!" he said with a smirk as they headed off. As soon as they turned the corner and began mounting the stairs to the upper level, Trip slowed down to let Malcolm get ahead of him on the stairs, all the while appreciating the view as Malcolm walked ahead of him. Trip thought, "My god, that man has an ass to die for!" Then he sighed quietly. "Oh yeah, I got it bad," he thought, shaking his head in resignation.

Almost as if he sensed Trip staring at him, and knowing they wouldn't be able to hear each other once they got upstairs, Malcolm paused on the landing, turned and, giving Trip what could only be described as a playful smile, said, "Commander, have I told you today how very, very nice you look?"

Trip stumbled to a halt, thinking, "What the…Is he flirting with me?" and stared at him until Malcolm pulled him over to one side so that the people behind them could get upstairs to the dance floor. Malcolm then grabbed the belt loops of Trip's jeans and pulled him very close. "How on earth did you get these on? Or are they special spray-on trousers? And where in heaven's name did you find that shirt?"

Realizing that Malcolm was having fun with him, Trip smiled. "I had to lie on the floor and suck it in before I could zip 'em up," he confessed, then went on in a playfully outraged voice: "Hey, this is my lucky shirt, and I plan to get very lucky wearing it tonight." His look to Malcolm showed he was entirely serious. "And I thought you liked pineapples," he added with a grin. In addition to his skin-tight jeans, he was wearing a long-sleeved shirt in the most god-awful shade of lime green with little yellow pineapples on it. Trip decided to have some fun of his own, deciding that two could play at this game. "By the way, Lieutenant, you don't look so bad yourself." Malcolm was wearing black ass-hugging trousers that looked suspiciously like leather and a tight black T-shirt; he'd left his jacket downstairs at the table, draped over a chair.

Trip didn't expect Malcolm's reaction. He had expected Malcolm to tease him back. Instead, Malcolm gave him a look that could only be described as suggestive and said, "I'm glad you appreciate the trouble I went to."

Trip began to wonder if perhaps the look he'd seen in Malcolm's eyes wasn't just his imagination, so he decided to test this theory. He leaned over, almost touching his lips to Malcolm's ear, and said, "Come on. Let's you and me get to dancing." He smiled as he felt the slight tremor in the man next to him, noticing the way Malcolm's breathing sped up at Trip's nearness. The night had definite possibilities.

Trip grabbed Malcolm's hand and led him up the rest of the stairs and onto the crowded dance floor. The music struck them almost physically. It pulsed, impossibly loud, impossibly rhythmic, dancers swaying and jerking in time: couples, groups, a few lone men or women making the rounds of the dance floor. It was insanely crowded. He couldn't move without jostling somebody. Servers who were apparently adept at reading lips circulated, ensuring that alcohol and other intoxicants kept flowing. Trip found he was smiling. He loved to dance. And with music, atmosphere, and a mighty attractive man—oh yes, he found Malcolm mighty attractive all right; he'd been pining after the dark-haired, handsome Englishman for quite a while now, and thinking of how Malcolm had acted so far, it seemed as if he might just feel the same way. Trip decided to make the most of the opportunity and see just how far he could take it—and discover if Malcolm indeed felt the same way as Trip, then he was in for a very good time tonight. He took a quick look around and noticed that states of dress and touching were remarkably flexible. Several women appeared to be wearing nothing but body paint, and—were those four men doing what he thought they were doing?

Malcolm tugged his hand and pulled him closer to the center of the floor, which was made of some kind of frosted red, slightly translucent surface that emitted a faint glow. Weird shadows were cast on people's faces because the light source was under their feet, adding to the sense of exotic unreality. Trip gave himself in to the music. The dancing was freestyle, and the other dancers were almost as much fun to look at as it was fun to look at Malcolm. The lights strobed and flashed, so people appeared to flicker, although mostly it was just dark and crowded. It was psychedelic and confusing and wonderful. He was totally anonymous, totally lost in the crowd writhing in time to the music. He couldn't tell if the instrumental music was one incredibly long piece or if song after song was playing, linked only by the beat.

After what seemed an eternity on the dance floor, but what was probably about fifteen minutes, he felt that beat slow slightly. On Earth, that was usually a signal for people to head for the bar. Here, it didn't seem to make an appreciable difference. Malcolm, responding to the slowing of the tempo, reached out a hand and pulled Trip in. Trip, breathing hard, let himself be pulled. Malcolm's body felt compact and hot next to his. They were both sweating from exertion. Trip put his arms around Malcolm and breathed in his scent: a faint spiciness mixed with the salt of perspiration. His arms tightened involuntarily, and Malcolm turned up his face and smiled at him, not trying to move away, his hands coming to rest on Trip's hips. Trip made his move and ground his hips against Malcolm's and felt a stirring in his groin that resolved itself into a pleasurable hard-on. Malcolm, eyes meeting his, smiled and one of his hands wandered around to Trip's ass and settled there. After a moment or two, Malcolm increased the pressure. Trip closed his eyes briefly, then opened them. Malcolm was still there. He wasn't dreaming.

Feet moving in time to the music, bodies pressed together, eyes locked, Malcolm's hand on his ass, Trip leaned down and gently captured Malcolm's mouth. When Malcolm didn't immediately pull away, he went further. He gently slid his tongue between Malcolm's slightly parted lips. To his delight, Malcolm responded. Their tongues slowly swirled together in a dance of their own. Malcolm tasted like fruit—the drink he had left behind on the table, Trip realized, one that matched Hoshi's. It was probably the last time he would let her order a drink for him. Malcolm rubbed what Trip belatedly realized was his own erection against him, and Trip deepened the kiss. Malcolm responded almost desperately, tongue and mouth hard on his, body pushing against his as they continued swaying to the music.

Trip felt a hard pulse through his groin and realized he had better back off before things went too far and they started something out here in public they couldn't finish. He drew his head back and set his forehead against Malcolm's. They were both panting. Malcolm's eyes looked dark in the flickering light, his pupils huge with arousal. Trip took in the sight. Malcolm was incredibly excited and unable to do anything about it. His slight, muscular body was singing with pent-up sexual tension inside clothing that was definitely, definitely too damn tight. Malcolm's hands slid up Trip's back and settled there demurely. Then Malcolm turned his head and set his cheek against Trip's shoulder as Trip brushed Malcolm's hair with his lips and drew him close. Their groins brushed together, less insistently now. The two men couldn't speak on the dance floor, so they let their bodies communicate, and their bodies spoke of desire.

Trip took the opportunity to check out some of the other dancers. Despite the huge number of people on the floor, he and Malcolm weren't the only ones using the crowded darkness for some intimate touching—not by a long shot. He took in the sight of two women dancing together, the back of one pushed into the front of the other. The woman behind had one hand between her partner's legs, pressing into skin-tight leggings, and the other was on a bare breast. Her chin rested on her partner's shoulder. Their eyes were shut, and they swayed together seductively, hips swaying, clearly completely focused on each other, their world reduced to touch. And that couple there—wow. Trip's eyebrows rose. The woman had her legs around the hips of her partner, a man, whose hands were supporting her by her ass as she rocked back and forth against him. She was wearing a skirt, so he couldn't see exactly what they were up to, but he was pretty sure he knew.

Trip felt his cock leap at the erotic sight of the intimacy all around him. He felt the thrum of the music deep inside as it sped back up. The music, not his heart, was driving his blood now, pulsing it through his body in great surges. He released Malcolm, and both of them found the beat of the music, losing themselves in it, in the gaze of the other. Trip decided that he loved to watch Malcolm dance. The night of Ensign Cutler's party, he had made a point of watching every move Malcolm made on the dance floor while trying not to be too obvious about it, and now Trip watched the play of Malcolm's muscles in the strobing, red-and-blue light as his arms rose and fell until Trip couldn't bear it any more. He put his hands on Malcolm's hips and pulled him in, kissing him hard. Malcolm matched his intensity, then put one hand on Trip's chest, on the bare skin revealed by his shirt and pushed himself back, met Trip's eyes, and, laughing, shook his head. "No," he was saying.

"Yes," Trip told him, pulling him in again. Malcolm was so warm and hard that Trip intensified the kiss, and when Malcolm tried to pull back, Trip, smiling, wouldn't let him. He played Malcolm with his body and his mouth, escalating the length and intensity of his kisses and strokes, until Malcolm stopped pulling away. The music was linking them, bridging any gaps between them, the bass beat pounding hard up through Trip's feet and into his stomach. He knew Malcolm felt it too. The bass beat was simply the articulation of their awakening desire for each other.

He brushed a hand against the ridge of Malcolm's cock, as if by accident, once, twice. The third time, Malcolm grabbed his hand and pressed it into his groin for a long moment before releasing his hand, calling him on it. When Malcolm let his hand go, Trip didn't move it away. Instead, he slid around behind Malcolm so that they were in the same position he'd seen the women in earlier: Malcolm's back pressed against Trip's front. He kept his hand on Malcolm's crotch and pulled him against his body, exaggerating the side-to-side movements of his hips as he danced, rubbing his throbbing cock against Malcolm's ass while stroking his bulge, hard. He kept this up until Malcolm reached down and covered Trip's hand with his own, both hands pressing into his erection. Malcolm was hot and ready, but Trip wasn't in a position to push Malcolm onto his hands and knees and slide into him, just taking him then and there on the dance floor, so he'd just have to do the next best thing.

He moved so that he and Malcolm were face to face, and then placed one leg between Malcolm's and pulled him up along it until the hard ridge of Malcolm's erection pushed against his hipbone. He steadied Malcolm with one hand while with the other he massaged Malcolm's ass. Then, in time to the music, he pressed Malcolm into him, over and over again. One of Malcolm's hands grabbed a belt loop and held on. The other untucked part of Trip's shirt and slid a hand up underneath, pressing flat against Trip's bare chest. Malcolm threw his head back and swayed it back and forth in time to the music, in time to Trip's hand, thrusting against Trip's leg and body, hand pushing hard against his bare skin. Trip was barely aware of the other dancers crushed in around them. His world was Malcolm's tight, compact body, pleasuring itself against him.

Then that body was pushing harder into him, desperate, the ridge of Malcolm's cock demanding. Trip increased the pressure of the hand on Malcolm's ass, changed the angle so instead of pushing into Malcolm's ass, he pushed under an ass cheek and up, hard and rhythmic, driving Malcolm's erection against him. The music, impossibly, became even louder, so no one heard Malcolm's cry as he came. Trip didn't let up, keeping the tempo of their movements exactly in time with the music. Malcolm rode his leg, head thrown back, as he climaxed, long and hard. The ecstasy on his face mirrored the ecstasy he saw in the eyes of the people around him as they abandoned themselves to the music. Trip kept Malcolm pressed against him when his body grew heavy, and kept moving. All around him, he saw people leaning down for kisses, hands groping, bodies rubbing. Trip thought maybe the music was making them all catch fire—but there were plenty of people just dancing. He was just focusing on the ones doing what he and Malcolm were doing.

Malcolm's eyes opened, and Trip leaned down and plundered Malcolm's mouth with his own. Watching Malcolm come like that, wanton and abandoned, in public, had made him breathless and harder than ever. The Captain had thought that Malcolm dancing was out of character. Trip now knew better than that, but he hadn't imagined that the dark anonymity of the dance floor would allow him the chance to see Malcolm go quite this far. He pulled back and smiled down at Malcolm. He was amazed and delighted in the trust Malcolm had just shown him. Malcolm was gasping for air but had found his feet at last. Trip wished he could see into Malcolm's eyes, but the light was too poor. He had imagined them as they might look in bed following a night of passionate lovemaking, but being able to see Malcolm eyes as he came (in his dreams, they were gray-blue and dazed with pleasure) was something that he had thought he'd never get to see. He smiled. He hoped he was wrong. He wanted to see Malcolm's eyes in bed, and after this—maybe he'd get the opportunity.

The thought of what Malcolm's eyes looked like right this second galvanized him. He tried to hold back, to let Malcolm recover his breath, but his heart was pounding, and Malcolm was too near and Trip had wanted him for too long. Trip kissed him deeply, hands coming around to stroke Malcolm's jawline, and then burying themselves in Malcolm's hair as he lost himself in the other man's heat. Then he drew his mouth back and gasped, clutching Malcolm tight, pushing his own erection against Malcolm's body. Malcolm's body was winding down as Trip's body wound up, but connecting them was the beat of the music.

Trip was just about to suggest that they ditch everybody and go back to Malcolm's hotel room or find themselves a bathroom stall or an alley or someplace even remotely private, when he felt Malcolm's hands on the button of his fly. There was a slight release of pressure around his waist as Malcolm unbuttoned his jeans. Then Malcolm slid his hand down and gently, then more firmly, grasped Trip's cock through the thick fabric. Trip was throbbing and Malcolm pressed his body against Trip's, his hand still between them, stroking Trip's cock. He turned his face up and smiled, and Trip met him halfway. He melted into Malcolm, focusing on the sensation of the man teasing him.

Then Trip felt Malcolm's fingers against his bare stomach. As they squirmed down into his jeans, he cursed their tightness; Malcolm couldn't fit his hand in and rub his hand up and down his shaft. Instead, Malcolm's fingertips lightly brushed the head of his cock. He felt his cock jerk, sending a pulse of pleasure through his body, and he pulled Malcolm tighter. He rubbed his groin against the hardness of Malcolm's body, and Malcolm managed to slide his hand in just a little further. His hand, between Trip's stomach and his cock, pushing hard because of the tightness of Trip's jeans, stroked down about a third of Trip's length.

"Oh, god, Malcolm," Trip said against Malcolm's mouth. Trip circled his ass in time to the music and pressed his groin against Malcolm. Malcolm's hand against his cock felt exquisite. Malcolm couldn't really move his hand freely, so he moved his fingers side to side. His palm was against the head of Trip's cock and Trip moaned. He felt stretched tight. "Just a little more," he said, knowing Malcolm couldn't hear him. "Just a little more."

Malcolm leaned up harder into Trip, and his free hand found Trip's ass. The hand thrust down his jeans stroked down and up, focusing on the head of his cock. The music throbbed and Trip gasped. Malcolm's tongue inside his mouth, one hand on his ass, the other down his trousers, on his cock. In public. Malcolm's two hands stroked in tandem as his mouth sucked hard on Trip's tongue, escalating the pressure, the pleasure. The rhythm Malcolm used was the rhythm of the music. The rhythm wouldn't stop. The rhythm went on and on and on, until Trip's body gave in to the heat, the pressure, the music, gave in to Malcolm. His cock pulsed, and only the music and Malcolm's body supported him as he fell into his orgasm. He groaned low in the back of his throat, a primal sound, as he came against Malcolm's hand, his hips thrusting hard, his ass rotating, the pleasure looping up with the treble of the music.

When he opened his eyes, Malcolm was smiling up at him again, a devilish smile. He leaned down and kissed Malcolm hard, circling his new lover's body around in a tight spiral. Nobody was paying any attention to them; they were just another couple engrossed in each other. He felt Malcolm's hand move inside his trousers. He slid his hand over to one side, then around further: He was wiping the come off against Trip's underwear, he realized. Malcolm withdrew his hand, wet with Trip's seed and Trip took care of the rest of the mess by bringing Malcolm's hand up to his lips and gently sucking on the fingers, one by one, finishing with licks and kisses along the palm. Then he bent down and kissed Malcolm again, sharing the taste of himself. They clung together, hot and spent, occasionally exchanging kisses, hips moving in time to the music, arms wrapped around each other.

Trip knew that once he cooled down, he would become uncomfortable, his come growing sticky and cold on his underwear and skin, but in the heat of the dance floor, it felt okay. More than okay. In fact, he felt much, much better now that he had come. Watching Malcolm in his tight, casual clothing all day had been unbearable torture. Knowing that the Lieutenant was his version of the unattainable dream, wanting to reach out and touch him but knowing that it would never happen, loving this dark, dangerous man and not being able to show it—it had been a strain. Now, he decided that next time they had shore leave, he'd stick with Malcolm, if Malcolm would let him, and let the rest of the bridge crew fend for themselves. That way, he could reach out and pat Malcolm's ass whenever he felt like it. This was assuming, of course, that Malcolm wasn't just in it for a quick fuck. Because right there and then, Trip knew that he wasn't going to give Malcolm up without a damn good fight. But Trip was by now fairly certain that the feeling was mutual, knowing that if Malcolm hadn't wanted it to go this far, he'd have quite easily wiped the floor with Trip and just walked away.

Trip tensed as he felt Malcolm's hands on his trousers again, then relaxed as Malcolm buttoned him back up. His shirt was still partially untucked, so Trip pulled it all the way out. Malcolm slid a hand under it and stroked his sweaty, bare back with his fingertips. He took Malcolm's other hand in his own and held it against his chest, as if they were slow dancing. Pulling his body close, they swayed to the music. Malcolm's hand brushed the small of his back tenderly, and Trip was overcome with his feelings for the man. He brought up Malcolm's hand and kissed it, then returned it to his chest, Malcolm leaning into him, head on the taller man's shoulder. Malcolm's touch, his body, his scent, his voice, his accent—they all conspired to drive him insane.

He knew that Malcolm's upbringing had not been the warmest. What little he'd learned from the Captain and Hoshi had made it clear that to the Englishman, personal space was scrupulously observed. Malcolm wasn't used to being touched casually, and from what Jon had let slip about his conversation with Malcolm's parents, the Reeds had not been overly demonstrative in their emotions toward Malcolm.

But with Trip, it was all about touch. That was how he had tried to make Malcolm aware of his interest in him, unobtrusively, of course—almost testing—and it seemed to have paid off. The casual touches on the shoulder, on the arm, when they'd been working together in the armory, so electric to him. He remembered Malcolm's touch earlier, when Trip had put his hand out to pull Malcolm up out of his seat. The touch had lingered, and Reed had smiled at him with that look in his eyes, and Trip had smiled back. Trip now realized that what he'd seen in the Lieutenant's eyes was the same thing he felt every time he looked at Malcolm. Malcolm had felt the same way all along, but he'd been unable to show it until now. Then, on the dance floor, Malcolm had reached out and pulled Trip in, fingers caressing, lips meeting, bodies touching. Trip would remember this dance as the culmination of their discreet, testing courtship, would remember every warm brush of skin against skin as they seduced each other, the pressure branded into his very soul.

He leaned down again and kissed Malcolm, a long, lingering kiss, telling Malcolm exactly how he felt without words, feeling Malcolm answer it in kind. When they came up for air, Malcolm pointed to the steps, clearly asking, "Should we go back down?" Trip nodded and released Malcolm, retaining only a hand so they wouldn't get separated in the crush. When he turned to start forcing his way through the crowd, Malcolm behind him, he bumped into a man standing there, and when he raised his eyes to the man's face to give an apology that wouldn't be heard anyway, he realized it was Ensign Travis Mayweather, who was wearing a long-sleeved, silky white button-down shirt that set off his dark skin and a beautiful woman on each arm. Trip was afraid his face betrayed his sudden panic. Good god. How long had his shipmate been there?

When Trip didn't move, Malcolm came up beside him, tucking a shoulder under Trip's arm and leaning intimately into Trip's side. He looked around curiously, then smiled at Travis. Trip was impressed. Damn, the man was cool. He didn't mind getting caught dancing with Malcolm, or cuddling with Malcolm, or even kissing Malcolm if they were off duty, but he didn't want to get caught getting his rocks off in public. Malcolm and Travis, good friends from way back, exchanged hand signals, and Trip let himself be carried off as all three of them headed to the steps, Travis leaving behind the two women.

"Where're the captain and Hoshi?" Travis asked when he could make himself heard.

"They wanted something to eat," Malcolm shouted back helpfully. "Aren't they at the table?" They started down the steps.

"I don't know, I haven't been back there since I ran into my two new friends outside the bathroom." Jon had been right: Travis had gotten sidetracked.

"Don't you want to introduce us to your friends?" Malcolm asked. His voice was too innocent. Trip hid a smile.

"No, that's okay. I think they're really more interested in each other," Travis said. "But what about you guys? It looked like you were having a lot of, um, fun on the dance floor."

Trip couldn't tell whether that remark was barbed or not, so he tried to play it as cool as Malcolm. "Yeah, Malcolm's been known to set a dance floor or two on fire," he said, deliberately not answering any implied questions. "Do you want to find the Capt'n and Hoshi? Get something to eat?"

"Sounds good to me," Travis responded.

"I'll see you there in a few moments," Malcolm said. "I'd like to visit the lavatory." Ah, no doubt to clean up, Trip thought enviously, wishing he'd thought of it first. At the foot of the stairs, Malcolm squeezed Trip's hand and gave him a reassuring smile. Then he went one way, and Trip and Travis went the other.

Once on the lower level, they didn't have to shout any more. Before Travis could say anything, Trip leapt in. "How long were you watching us?"

Travis looked surprised, then guarded. "I don't know. A while, I guess. I wasn't really paying that much attention. You—you didn't see me?"

Trip eyed Travis. He seemed embarrassed. Trip wondered if it wasn't just he and Malcolm who had gotten into the anonymity of the dance floor. A little mutual blackmail might be in order. "Yeah, well, you seemed *really* interested in those two girls."

Travis flushed slightly. "Yes. And no." His voice sounded final. "You and Malcolm looked really engrossed in each other."

"Yep," Trip said. He smiled. There was a pause.

"How—how long have you two been—" Travis trailed off.

"Engrossed?" Trip said helpfully.

"Engrossed, yeah."

"Um, about an hour, I'd say."

"Oh," Travis said, eyes blinking in surprise. "I had no idea you liked each other. Are you going to keep it a secret or anything?"

"I don't know. I'd have to talk to Malcolm about that," Trip said. "For now, I think we'd be best keeping it discreet."

"Not so much on the dance floor, I noticed," Travis said.

"How long did you say you were watching?" Trip asked.

"Long enough," Travis replied. "How long did you say you were watching?"

Trip smiled. He let it come out feral. "Long enough." There was silence as Trip and Travis sized each other up.

"Commander, can we just call it even?" Travis asked at last.

Trip tried to hide his relief. "Let's do that, Ensign." They shook hands solemnly and headed for the table. Trip wondered if Travis's sticky underwear was as uncomfortable as his.

"Where have you guys been?" Hoshi asked as they sat down. It looked as if she and the Captain were half done with their dinner. Hoshi's entrée looked delicious. "Where's Malcolm?"

"Malcolm's in the loo," Travis said, in his best British accent. "He'll be back in a tick."

Hoshi laughed. "Oh, I see Malcolm's not the only one who can do accents, love," she said in her high-class British voice, her linguist's ear allowing her to nail it.

Jon got into the fun, but he upped the ante: he went Scots. "Trip, old man, did some fine lady sweep you up and carry you away, despite that hideous shirt?"

"Lucky shirt, Cap'n, and it worked," Trip said, sticking with Southern. He mentally added, "Though not the way you think," but he didn't say it out loud. "Oh, hi." This last was said with a smile to the server.

"May I have another?" Jon asked in his normal voice, raising his glass, while Travis scanned the menu.

Trip ordered after Travis did, then figured he'd better order something for Malcolm. He picked something pasta-y with seafood and hoped for the best. The desperate look he'd seen in the Captain's eyes when he'd ordered another drink led him to believe that the server's presence had been far too infrequent.

"I can't believe your bravery," Hoshi said when the server had gone. "I ordered Malcolm's drink for him when he was using one of those machines to get money, and let's just say he was not amused."

"I'm pretty sure Malcolm's a warm beer kind of guy," Trip informed her. "Don't kid me. You ordered that drink just to see what he would do, didn't you?"

"You see through me. It was worth it, though."

"Did everyone have fun on the dance floor?" Jon asked.

The pause was just a little too long.

"Oh, yes, Cap'n," Trip said, just as Travis said, "Yes, Captain, you have no idea how much fun it was on that dance floor."

"Good," Jon said heartily, giving both Trip and Travis a sharp look that they both responded to with blandness.

Trip felt a light touch on his shoulder, and he smiled as he turned and found himself face to face with Malcolm as Malcolm slid into his chair. "I ordered you the nearest thing this place has to pasta with seafood," Trip told him. "Hope you don't mind."

"Lovely, Trip. Thank you."

It wasn't an exchange his colleagues hadn't seen a thousand times before. But now Travis was looking from one to the other as though everything made sense. Trip met Travis's eyes and winked. "Now, when we've all eaten, we're all going back up to that dance floor," Trip informed the table in general. "I've got a move I think you'll really like, Hoshi, if you can keep up with me. And Malcolm of course," he added with a grin.

"What's so funny, Travis?" Jon asked, as Travis dissolved into laughter.

Travis shook his head and straightened up. "Nothing, sir," he said. "Nothing at all."

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