Title: Visits at Home

Author: Lara Bee and Macx

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

Authors' Website: http://home.arcor.de/macx/enterprise/enterprise.html

Date: 08/17/02

Category: Slash

Rating: NC-17

Pairing: Tucker/Reed

Series Title: Relived

Sequel to: Pyrotechnical Manual

Spoilers: Shuttlepod One

Comments: The Monkey Jump Festival really exists, exactly the way I described it. Might be a purely German thing…but it's incredible fun <g>

It had left a mark.

Trip ran a gentle hand over the jagged, still red scar on his lover's abdomen, feeling the warm skin underneath his touch. Warm and alive skin. A warm and alive Malcolm Reed. Back with him.

Alive, his mind repeated.

The reddishness of the scar would fade, would become a reminder of the close call, and how easy it was to misjudge an alien race.

Trip left his hand over the mark and let his eyes roam over the sleeping form, taking in every detail, as if it was the very first time he saw this man. In a way, it was. He had nearly lost him. First on the alien ship, then down in sickbay later on. It had been touch and go.

All because of misplaced trust.

Shit. //"I don't like it, Sir."

Archer smiled at his security officer, who stood next to him, coiled and ready to spring into action.

"Noted, Lieutenant," he told the younger man. "But this is just a friendly exchange, not a hostile encounter."

Malcolm Reed's face never changed, but there was a misgiving expression in it nevertheless. Archer suppressed a wider smile. His security and tactical officer was suspicious by nature. He was damn good at his job, he knew his weapons, and he was a valuable officer, but sometimes, in Archer's opinion, he could use a little loosening up.

"Relax, Malcolm," Trip chuckled. "The Arankja are traders. They just wanna do some chit-chattin' before they get down to tryin' to make the best deals."

Reed didn't loosen up or relax. His tense posture remained, one hand close to his phaser. The Arankja vessel had crossed their path and the captain had offered to exchange the engine parts and assorted other things Enterprise needed for food replicators, star charts and general information, as well as whatever else Archer might offer them. T'Pol knew little about the Arankja and the Vulcan database offered no additional information, except that they were a trading race, living on their ships for all their lives. Apparently, few Arankja had actually been born on their homeworld in the last millennia or more. They had completely abandoned planetary life.

A soft pling announced a hatch opening and Archer turned. They had flown shuttlepod one over and been advised to land in one of the hangar bays. As the door to the bay opened, Malcolm seemed to tense even more.

Things happened very fast from here on.

One moment Archer had a smile on his lips, the next it was wiped off by the weapons fire that broke out. A heavy weight barreled into him, slamming him to the ground. Winded, the captain saw stars dance in front of his eyes, his breathing restricted by the continuing pressure on his chest.

"Lieutenant!" he gasped.

No reaction.


The weight didn't budge.

Suddenly it was lifted off him and he heard a painful groan, then a cry of pain. Hands grabbed him and pulled him to his feet. Archer blinked, his vision clearing, and what his eyes showed him let the captain freeze.

Trip was on his knees, a gun to his head, one hand clutching a bleeding upper arm. The engineer's horrified gaze was locked on the figure curled up on the floor beside him. Reed had one hand pressed to his side, blood leaking through the fingers, his face a grimace of agonizing pain. He was still conscious, but his eyes looked glazed.

An Arankja stepped into Archer's line of sight and the alien smiled triumphantly.

"What do you want?" Archer hissed.

"Your ship."


Trip knew he'd never forget the scream. It had been one of utter agony and pain. He wouldn't be able to wipe the image of Malcolm Reed trying to twist out of the vice-like hold of the Arankja from his memory as they 'treated' his injury. Running a soothing hand through the sweaty, dark hair, he held his lover closer. His arms closed around him as tightly as he dared to hold him. Reed was shivering from pain, exhaustion and blood loss. His uniform was inadequate to really keep him warm, and in the almost twenty-four hours they had by now been prisoners, the Arankja hadn't offered any blankets. The captain had yet to return and Trip didn't know who to worry about more: Malcolm or Jonathan. His oldest friend had been removed from the cell to talk to T'Pol to surrender the ship. He was unharmed, but for how long? Malcolm was badly injured, barely conscious, and he needed medical attention.

What he had gotten was some kind of Arankja healer crudely cauterizing the shot wound, then wrapping a meager bandage around the injury.


The hoarse, shaky whisper drew him out of his thoughts and he looked down into the feverish, gray eyes.

"Hey," he whispered softly.


Tucker never stopped his gentle caress. "I know, Mal. I know."

Shivers raced through the smaller, slender body. "Cold."

The cell was barely more than an empty room. The poor excuse for a bed didn't count. Trip wouldn't allow Malcolm to lay on it. The mattress was too dirty.

"I know," he only repeated, holding the man closer.

"The captain?"

"Not back yet."

A tremor raced through Reed and he bit back a cry, burying his face in Trip's uniform. All that came out was a faint whimper.

"We'll get outta here, Mal," the engineer vowed. "We will."


He must have fallen asleep.

Trip jerked to wakefulness as he felt someone trying to remove Malcolm from his arms, and he immediately fought back.

"Trip…Trip, it's me. Jon."

Wide-eyed, he looked around, hands tightening on the precious weight in his arms. "Jon?" he managed, confused.

"Yes. Relax. I was just trying to make it more comfortable for you."

Tucker blinked and his blurry eyes cleared. Archer was squatting next to him, a pair of blankets in his arms.

"They finally gave us covers?" he mumbled.

"Yes. C'mon, let's get you and Malcolm into one."

"What about you?"

Trip adjusted Malcolm's weight as blankets were piled onto the unconscious man and around himself. Reed's lips were slightly open and each breath came out raspy, panting.

"I'm not staying." Archer tugged the covers tightly around his security chief. "I'm leaving for Enterprise."


The older man looked up and squarely met Trip's eyes. "I've agreed to hand over the ship in exchange for your lives."


Well, it had all been a clever plan. At the time Archer had revealed his decision to surrender Enterprise in exchange for Trip and Malcolm to his chief engineer, Tucker had been too confused to make much sense of it. Worry, lack of sleep and hunger had all come together to created one very dizzy Trip Tucker who could only think about the badly injured man in his arms. When it had finally become clear that Archer had been able to lie his way out of the tight spot, get the Arankja to let him return to his ship, when a team of security men had stormed the alien vessel, Trip had just stared at his oldest friend.

"Still got it," Jon had quipped, but there was no humor in his eyes.

"Yeah," Trip had answered, voice rough. "Yeah…"

Malcolm had been rushed to Dr. Phlox, who had looked grim after checking the severe injury to the armory officer's left side. The sloppy cauterization had caused an infection that had pretty quickly spread, and for a while, it had been touch and go. Now, three weeks after the incident, Reed was alive, finally back in his quarters, and the only visible reminder was the scar.

Trip's fingers ghosted over the mark. A strong hand grabbed his and he looked up, surprised. Malcolm met his gaze and smiled slightly.

"I'm fine," he murmured.

"I know."

Malcolm entwined their hands and used his other to pull his lover into a gentle kiss. Trip answered it, losing himself in the warmth and love.

Tomorrow they would leave the ship, fly to San Francisco. Enterprise had returned home after more than three years, but only for a brief stop. They would leave again in two weeks time and the crew had shore leave for ten days. Jupiter Station would do a quick check and overhaul of the ship, supplies would be stocked aboard and then they would be off again.

They would spend their quality time together.

On Earth.

At home.

—meeting the parents.


He woke to the sound of birds from the outside, the smell of fresh air, and the sight of the sun streaming through the Venetian blinds that hadn't been completely closed. Malcolm let his eyes adjust to the light, smiling to himself as memories of the last night returned. It had been a time filled with slow love-making and sounds of pleasure. He had completely relaxed into the touches of his lover, giving in to his own need, and Trip Tucker had taken him to new heights, catching him as he went over the edge in a mind-shattering rush.

Someone moved at his side and he heard a soft grunt, then the welcome weight of an arm across his waist was removed. Tucker rolled onto his back and Malcolm pushed himself up, gazing down at the semi-awake man he had shared the bed with last night-as well as the last three years.

"Good morning."

Trip smiled, the slow, satisfied smile he always wore when he was immensely pleased with himself. "Mornin', baby" he drawled.

"You like to live dangerously," Malcolm growled, eyes flashing at the term of endearment, something he despised.

"I love danger." He wrapped a hand around Reed's neck and pulled him down into a kiss. "Love you."

Malcolm answered it and allowed Trip to pull him closer. He started to caress the firm muscles under the warm skin, playing along the sides and down the buttocks. Massaging his lover gently, he kissed his lips, his chin, the corners of his mouth. Trip pulled him on top of him and Malcolm smiled down at the supine man.

"Shower?" he offered in a sultry voice.

"Hmm, sounds very, very temptin'. Lemme think about it…"

Malcolm ran a finger over one perking nipple, then bent down to lave attention on it with his mouth and tongue.

"Convinced!" Trip groaned.

The dark-haired man laughed, a happy, free sound, and got up. "Then follow me, lover…"

Tucker was only too happy to comply.


Leaving the guest house was like stepping from the closed, private quarters into a bustling world of sight, smell and sound, an alien environment that was as threatening as it was fascinating. The sun shone a brilliant yellow-white already, but it wasn't too warm yet this early in the morning. From over where the main building of the farm estate stood, the sounds of cattle and chickens could be heard. The smell was unmistakable, too, but strangely enough, not offensive. Malcolm let his eyes roam over the fields, the pastures, the milling cattle, down the sloping hills that led to more ranchland than he could fathom and the stream he had seen when they had come in. Wind towers rose next to the farm house and in the distance as well. Solar panels reflected the early rays of this morning.

People were already busily working on machines, herded animals from the large stables, or drove feed trucks. Charles Tucker II employed several dozen helping hands.

"Home sweet home," a Southern drawl reached his ears and strong arms came around him. Trip nuzzled his neck and playfully bit at the nape, the sensitive skin rising into goose bumps.

"When you said your parents were farmers, I didn't imagine they owned half a county."

Tucker chuckled and rested his chin on his lover's shoulder, eyes surveying his parent's land proudly. "This is kinda normal in these parts, y'know. Anything smaller is just a back yard."

Malcolm snorted and leaned against the tall form. He wondered what his parents would think of this spread of land. Strangely, it was very important to him that they felt well here, that they approved, because if they could accept Trip's parents…He felt himself tense.

Mother likes him already, he reminded himself. And his father had told him he was looking forward to meeting the man his son loved. It was just a clash of extremes. A retired Royal Navy officer meeting a Southern farmer. Opposites. Well, not much unlike Trip and Malcolm.


"I'm fine. Just a bit of nerves showing."

"We're not here to get married, Malcolm," Trip chuckled. "This is just a friendly family meetin'. Your parents, my parents, us…"

Reed sighed explosively. "And a million things that could go wrong."

"Mal…love…it'll be fine. Your mom's happy for you already an' you listened to your dad's message enough times to understand that he's not against it either. It's just a gettin' t'know ya kinda thing." He hugged him close. "An' you met my parents already."

Oh yes, he had.

They had arrived yesterday in early afternoon…//Malcolm stepped out of the car, unconsciously smoothing his black t-shirt and almost standing to attention as he took in the unfamiliar landscape. He heard Trip say something about it being good to be back home. It was drowned in his nervousness, though. Today was the first time he would meet his lover's parents and while he was a grown man and should be above it, he was feeling like a teenager. He wanted…no, needed to make a good impression.

The door to the main house opened and a woman with shoulder-length, reddish brown hair, dressed in working jeans and a blouse, stepped out.

"Trip!" she called happily.

"Hey, Mom!"

Tucker stepped toward his mother and embraced her, grinning from ear to ear.

"Oh, you look good!" Lea Tucker exclaimed, smiling proudly. "A bit pale, though. Not much sunshine on a star ship."

"And no solariums handy," he laughed. "Well, maybe I can get my tan back this weekend."

"You're more likely to end up looking like a lobster, son," a deeper voice chuckled and Malcolm felt himself tense even more as Trip's father stepped out onto the porch as well.

Like his son, Tucker senior was tall but more muscular, blond, and had vibrant blue eyes. His hair was sun bleached, his skin tanned to a deep brown, and he had laugh lines around his mouth and eyes.

"Starfleet treating you well?"

"Yep. Got a lot to tell the two of you."

Lea's eyes drifted over to Malcolm, who stood stiffly next to the car, caught between fight and flight. Dear Lord, this was even worse than he had ever thought. Whose stupid idea had it been to make this a family meeting weekend? He dimly remembered Trip suggesting it, the easy way out of the problem how to spend a week of shore leave on Earth. Visiting both families separately would have been impossible. Making it a meeting here on the Tucker ranch had been the next best solution. Malcolm had thought his parents would decline, but they had surprised him once more by agreeing to it.

"You must be Malcolm," Lea now said, smiling and walking up to him. "Trip told us a lot about you already. Welcome."

Reed swallowed. "Ma'am," he managed, almost snapping a salute. "Thank you. It's a lovely place."

He did come to attention when Tucker senior joined his wife. "You boys sure do look pale. Some fresh air will do wonders. Welcome to our ranch, son."

"Thank you, sir," Malcolm replied automatically.

A strong hand clapped his shoulder and he did his best not to wince. Intense blue eyes raked over him and Malcolm hoped he was up to what the man expected. No word had been said about what his relationship with Trip was yet. He knew his lover had told his parents ages ago, but there was a difference between being told and seeing their son's partner in person.

"I've readied the guest house for the two of you," Trip's mother told them. "You can get your stuff over there. Then I want my son to tell me about his adventures in space."

"Aw, mom…most of it is classified," Trip protested.

"Then tell me where you've been and what you've seen that isn't classified."


As Trip walked to the car, intent to drive over to the guest house, Malcolm stopped him. "I'll unpack the car, you go with your parents."

Trip gave him a long, intense look. "Mal…," he said softly, almost a warning.

Reed smiled bravely. "I'll be back in a moment. Gives you some time to catch up. I know your adventures already." He tried a smile and it was almost real.

The blond's gaze never wavered, then his lips quirked into a half smile. He leaned forward and gently kissed his lover, totally surprising him. Malcolm reacted unconsciously to it, leaning closer, one hand brushing over Trip's side; then caught himself. Three years of a firm relationship and here he felt as unsteady and insecure as the first day after their coming out aboard Enterprise. Maybe even worse. These were Trip's parents!

Flicking his eyes over to the two Tuckers, he found it hard to read Trip's father, but there was a smile on Lea Tucker's lips.

"If ya aren't back in an hour, I'll personally come an' getcha," Trip growled with a thickening accent, nipping at his lips again. Then he turned and walked over to his parents.

Malcolm inhaled deeply, slid into the driver's seat, and started the car. Without looking back, he drove the jeep to the small guest house.

It took him less than twenty minutes to get the two suitcases into the bedroom and to explore the house. It was quite spacious and made for more than two people. At least ten would be able to sleep comfortably in here. Leaving again, he pulled the door shut. It wasn't locked and Malcolm wondered if this was a Tucker thing. Maybe they could get the keys later. Eyes flicking back and forth between the jeep and the main building, Reed decided to take a walk over. It wasn't far, but it would take a while, help clear his head.

How am I going to survive this?

Trip's mother seemed nice enough, but he knew from his lover that Tucker senior hadn't been thrilled to hear about his son's relationship with a man. He had accepted it without much actual fuss, but it didn't mean he accepted Malcolm Reed. And tomorrow his own parents would arrive. He knew his mother liked Trip a lot, had sanctioned their partnership. His father had told him he wasn't objecting any more either, but now they would be confronted with not only this relationship, but also a completely new world.

Head aching, he leaned against the corral that was next to the house, eyes on the two horses inside. One was a chestnut with black stockings and a darker mane and tail. The second one was a muddy gray with odd patches of lighter gray at his belly and snout. He looked like someone had tried to color him and the rain had made the effort fruitless.

Well, no sense in thinking about tomorrow, he sighed. Have to survive tonight first. He knew from his past girlfriends—those who had introduced him to the parents—how the game was played. He would be questioned about his past, his background, his position on the ship. He would be tested. Of course, Trip's parents knew a notch or two more about him than others he had met before. It didn't mean he wouldn't be 'interrogated' though. Or scrutinized.

Time to go and face it, he decided.

Pushing away from the fence Reed turned and almost ran into the tall, blond form of his lover.

"Trip!" he whispered, shocked and surprised.

"Lost yer way?" Tucker drawled, eyes twinkling.

"I…uh…was just about to come inside."

"Right. My parents don't bite an' Mom's been wonderin' if you got lost."

Reed felt himself slip into defense mode. He straightened more, shoulders squared, hands clasped behind his back. He tried to relax, but it was an unconscious reaction to a threat he felt.

"I'm sorry. I didn't want to worry anyone. You're right. We should go. I haven't properly introduced myself yet and…"

He was stopped by a firm grasp on his shoulder as he walked past Trip. His lover's eyes held a hard look.

"Stop that crap, Mal! Now! My Dad's not some kind of admiral an' he's not against what we have. He's had nearly three years to accept it an' he damn well has!"

"He never met me."

"An' your dad's never met me. Don't'cha think I'm not nervous? Hell, I'm meetin' my partner's parents, too! You're not alone. 'Kay, so I met your mom, but I know the trouble yer dad gave ya." Trip's accent thickened with every word. "Ah want this t'be perfect, too. An' if it gets too much, if it really goes down the drain…"

Malcolm shook his head. "It won't," he said fervently.


"It won't," Reed repeated.

Trip leaned forward and kissed him. Malcolm's shoulders relaxed, his whole stance did, and his hands came to rest on his lover's hips. Trip's mouth glided over his, loving and worshipping his lips, never deepening the affectionate display. Malcolm knotted his fingers into the dark blue shirt, holding on, holding Trip close.

A loud noise made them start and Malcolm was about to withdraw from Tucker when Trip held on and kept him close. Tucker senior stood at the end of the porch, a mild expression of exasperation on his features.

"If you boys are about done…? Your mother is close to callin' in the neighbors to find you," the older man called, a smile playing over his features.

Trip chuckled, one arm around Malcolm's waist. "We're comin', Dad…"

"I hope so you for your hides."

With that he disappeared again. Trip gently pushed Malcolm toward the house.

"It'll be fine, Mal. It'll be fine," he murmured into the ear closest to him, then nipped at it as he shoved his lover through the doorway.

Dinner was half as bad as Malcom had thought, but a lot worse too. He felt like he was under very close scrutiny from both parents. Lea Tucker asked him about his job, how he grew up, the Navy, everything. Now and then her husband joined in and Malcolm started to have the distinct impression he was being screened, that his suitability for Charles Tucker III was tested. Trip just gave him encouraging smiles and looks, now and then pitching in when he sensed that Malcolm was in dire need for assistance.

He helped clear the table and piled the dirty dishes in the sink, his stomach churning slightly. Between all the talking and the unnamed dread in the pit of his stomach, he had barely made it past the salad. Still, he didn't feel hungry. At least he hadn't made a complete fool out of himself—yet. The evening wasn't over.

"Trip is right," a voice startled him. "You do have a tendency to slink off."

Amused eyes regarded him out of a face framed by red hair. Lea Tucker chuckled at his startled expression.

"Pardon me?" Malcolm stammered.

"My son tells me that you have the uncanny ability to disappear into the background. Apparently he is right," she explained. "Or in this case…the kitchen. You are a guest in this house, Malcolm. We have a dishwasher and I can stack it later."

"Of course. I'm sorry, Ma'am."

She regarded him silently for two seconds. "Did my husband and I make you uncomfortable?"

He blinked, surprised by the question. "I don't understand…"

"Asking you questions like that. You barely ate enough to keep a child happy."

"I…wasn't very hungry, Ma'am, but it was a very good dinner. And no, you didn't make me uncomfortable."

"Liar," a familiar voice chided him and Malcolm flinched.

Trip walked over to him and easily slipped an arm around his waist. Reed tried to draw away, but his lover held on.

"Mal, we're not hiding," the blond declared softly but forcefully. "Mom and dad know about us, right Mom?"

"Of course." Lea held Malcolm's gaze. "All Charlie and I want is to get to know you better, Malcolm. I'm sorry." She walked over to the two men and smiled at the Englishman. "We don't want you to feel like a stranger. You're part of our son's life now."

Malcolm felt himself relax marginally. Trip kissed his head and hugged him slightly.

"How 'bout we call it an evenin'?" he murmured.

Malcolm shook his head. "No. It wouldn't be prop…"

"You do look tired," Lea interrupted him, giving him a scrutinizing look, though her eyes were sparkling. "Tomorrow is another day and you just arrived after a very long flight and drive. This is supposed to be your shore leave. It should relax you."

Trip flashed his mother a smile and maneuvered his lover toward the back door. "'Night!" he called.

She smiled in return.

Malcolm stopped outside, feeling the cool night air brush over him. "Trip! That wasn't very nice!" he protested.

"Screw nice. You're wound tighter than a spring an' I'm 'xpectin' ya to keel over any second now. You can go bond with the parents tomorrow. Tonight, it's just us." Tucker gently grabbed Malcolm's chin and tilted it into the kiss.

Reed answered the kiss and let his tongue play over the familiar lips. "It was still a rude thing to do," he murmured.

"Nope. Mom's right. You've been under fire the whole evening so far. Time to relax."

They walked back to the guest house, close together but not touching. The moment the door closed after them, though…it was another matter.//

"Breakfast?" Trip offered, lifting his head from his lover's shoulder to kiss his temple.

Malcolm was startled out of his reverie. "Sounds great."

"Let's see what's left in the fridge."

They had a quick breakfast and then took the jeep over to the main building, which was by foot at least fifteen minutes away. Malcolm was again struck by the sheer size of the Tucker farm.

"Morning, son!" Charles Tucker II called as he discovered the two men. "Malcolm."

"Mr. Tucker," Malcolm answered politely.

"Your folks called in and said they're already on the way. Shuttle's landing in about three hours."

"Thank you, sir."

"Your sister's coming in early afternoon. She caught an earlier flight."

Malcolm blinked. "Oh. I…uh…thank you, sir."

"We can go pick your parents up from the port," Trip said. "No problem. "It's no more than an hour by car."

Reed nodded, still a bit out of balance.

Trip gave him a friendly shove toward the car. "C'mon. Let's go. See ya later, Dad!"


Malcolm felt butterflies battle it out in his stomach as he watched the gate to the shuttle port, waiting for his parents to arrive. Trip was a rock of calmness next to him. People went past them, never giving the two men a second look, not even when Trip patted his knee in a soothing manner. When the shuttle gate opened and the passengers left the arrival area, Reed jumped up, exhaling sharply.

"Mal, relax," Trip repeated what he had told his lover a dozen or more times already.

"I wish I could," came the murmured reply.

And then Tucker discovered Malcolm's parents, smiling widely as the Reeds headed over to them. It was the first time he saw Stuart Reed in person and while Malcolm didn't really come after his father, the military bearing was the same. While you could get the Lieutenant Commander out of the military, it was impossible to get the military out of the man. Piercing, dark eyes swept over the two men, settling on Malcolm.

"Malcolm," Stuart Reed said calmly.


Sheesh, it sounded like Malcolm was greeting his superior officer in a trial.

Mrs. Reed walked past her husband, smiling a welcome at Trip, then hugged her son against her. "You look good!"

Malcolm was a bit startled, but he returned the motherly embrace.

"So do you, Trip," Mary added, winking at him.

"Well, I have to return the compliment," Trip answered smoothly.

Before he could anything to it, he was engulfed in an embrace as well. Judging by Malcolm's expression, this was even more unexpected than his own hug.

As Mary released him, Trip met Mr. Reed's unwavering, stern gaze. "Sir."

"Mr. Tucker."

"The car's outside," the blond went on, ignoring his lover's pained expression. "Had a good flight?"

"It was quite nice," Mary answered, readily accepting the offer for some light conversation.

Her husband's expression turned a bit more sour, but he refrained from commenting.

Trip drove the car from the small shuttle port back onto the road, still drawn between amusement and annoyance at Malcolm's close-lipped behavior. Despite the letter from his father that he accepted the same-sex relationship, his lover was wound tighter than a spring. He expected something bad to happen any moment now.

The drive back didn't take much longer than the initial first trip, accentuated by light conversation, mostly between Trip and Mrs. Reed. Soon his parent's farm loomed up before them.

"All of this belongs to your parents?" Mary asked, clearly surprised. "Yep. Dad decided to keep it a small family business, so he never expanded. The McInnish's have the largest piece of farm land here. About five times my Dad's property."

She looked very impressed. "This is quite sizeable already."

He parked the car and both Malcolm and him lifted the luggage out of the trunk. Greetings with his parents were exchanged and Trip smiled as his mother immediately invited Malcolm's parents for a tour of the house.

"C'mon, let's get the luggage to the guest room," he told his lover, startling him a bit. "Hey, you okay?"

"Yes. No…I don't know." Malcolm sighed and walked up the heavy wooden stairs to the first floor and to the guest room.

"Relax, Mal. It'll be fine."

"I don't know…" he repeated.

Trip put the suitcase down and took the one the lieutenant had been carrying out of his hands, putting it down beside the first one. He placed his hands on the tense shoulders and squeezed lightly.

"What are you so scared of?"

"I'm not scared!" came the immediate protest. "Just…apprehensive. So much could go wrong."

"Stop thinkin' of this family get-together as an organized event, love. Just see it as a weekend where we all get to know each other."

A deep sigh escaped Malcolm's lips and Trip gave him a light kiss, smiling.

"It'll be okay."

"Yes," came the hesitant and completely unconvinced answer. "Sure."

"My parents don't bite an' I already know your Mom. I think we can handle your Dad, hm?"

Malcolm shot his lover a wry smile. "Wishful thinking."

"And your sister's comin' in as well. She's on our side, right?"

A little laugh. "Yes, she is."

Tucker pulled his lover into an embrace, rubbing his back. "We'll be fine, Mal. Just fine."


Lea Tucker watched her son, watched the man he was with, watched the two of them together. It was hard not to miss the smile in Trip's face, the light sparkling in his eyes whenever Malcolm Reed was around, and it was equally hard not to feel warm as she watched the two men interact. There were no direct displays of affection, except for a touch of hands or shoulders. It was discrete, as if they didn't want to offend. Most likely Malcolm didn't want to. Lea had seen the hesitation, the outright defensiveness when the dark-haired Englishman had felt either she or her husband had probed too deeply or asked too intimately. Still, he had answered their questions.


Malcolm Reed was polite, no doubt about it. He wasn't actually shy. No, not really. As Trip had put it in one of his letters: Malcolm could simply fade out of your immediate attention. You lost track of him even though he was next to you. You startled when he spoke because you had completely forgotten about his presence. She had seen how it 'worked' the evening before. Curious. It was like an unspecified talent of the young man.

"Hey," Trip called and gave his mother a peck on the cheek.

"Trip. Malcolm all right?"

"Yeah. Bit flustered about his parents. Worryin' somethin' might go all the way t'hell."

"They seem like nice people. Your father's currently explaining farming and ranching to them."

Trip laughed. "Okay, first step to the 'to hell' process," he joked.

Lea smiled with her son, then let her eyes wander over to where Malcolm stood next to the car. His sister would be coming in soon, and Trip and he had promised to pick her up. Lea was actually looking forward to meeting the young woman. She, according to Trip, was the complete opposite to her brother.

"You've got it bad, you know," she remarked quietly, studying her son as he had followed her line of sight.


"For Malcolm."

Trip gave her a surprised look. "I do?"


"How do you wanna know?"

Lea smiled. "I'm your mother, dear. I know such things. It's a mom thing."

His brows drew together. "A mom thing."

"Yes. Like all the other mom things I know. Especially about my sons, daughter and my husband. Like when I catch you in my kitchen, trying to eat the filling from my pie; and you declaring you were just checking if the pie really did come out right…"

Trip grimaced. "Oh. Mom things. Right."

She laughed. "I like him, Trip. He might be a bit…quiet, but he has the cutest smile when he actually does use those lips."

Another startled look, then Trip blushed. "Uh, right. He does. He can be more outgoin', y'know, but y'havta dig deep to get it to surface."

"It seems you dug deep enough."

Trip smiled. A proud smile, one that spoke volumes.

"How does all of this work on your ship?" Lea asked.

"You mean us being a couple?"

She nodded. "It must be…awkward. Also very straining to have the other around 24/7."

"Well, we work different shifts…And Mal's station is mostly on the bridge, while I'm in the engine room. We do see a lot of each other, though."

"With little room to give."

"There are places. But you're right," Trip confessed, "sometimes it's a mite cramped. Got into fights and din't want t'see each other before. Will probably happen again."

"Fights can be a sign of a healthy relationship. You need to express your opinions and not conform completely to you partner," Lea said calmly. "Some fights can be damaging, though."

"Believe me, Mom, Mal's not conformin'. Nope." Trip laughed softly. "He's the most stubborn, annoyin', pig-headed man I've ever known. Ah love him for it." She smiled more. "The pot callin the kettle, my son."

"Hey!" he mock protested.

"So you have no problems with the ship? I know Jon accepted it."

"He had some problems, but he said as long as it doesn't interfere with our duty…and we got that settled. Mal's rather strongly opinioned about that part. Won't let me get away with kissin' him on duty or anythin'."

Lea gave her son a hard look. "It's not what an officer would do, Charles Tucker!"

He nodded. "Was hard at first. Couldn't keep mah hands off him," he drawled. "Still can't." A boyish grin flitted over his features. "As for the crew…they accepted it. We got other couples and seein' two of the senior staff t'gether din't shock the livin' daylights outta them. Some gave us a queer look, but hey."

"And Starfleet?"

"No idea if they know or not. Don't care, actually. If they can't accept it, they're way backward into the twentieth."

Lea nodded. "Well, you better hurry or Madeline might just think you have forgotten her."

Trip smiled. "Naw. Who could? See ya!"

He jogged over to Malcolm and both got into the car, Reed shooting a puzzled look at Lea Tucker. He was probably wondering what Trip had been talking to her about. Lea smiled warmly at the young man. It drew an even more puzzled look. The car drove off in a cloud of dust. Hearing voices from around the corner, she knew her husband and the Reeds were coming back from the tour. Pushing back her hair, she walked to meet them.



Trip watched with an amused smile as his lover was engulfed in a tight hug and nearly swept around.

"It's so good to see my little brother again!"

Stepping back she gave him a radiant smile, then reached out and tousled his hair.

"God, you look good! Space becomes you! You have to tell me all about it!"

Trip nearly laughed out loud. His lover, hair all mussed, grinning like a kid at Christmas, was a sight to behold. A sight no one but him normally got to see because he rarely cracked such broad, happy smiles on duty. He mentally compared this Malcolm to the man he had met three years ago, and Reed had changed. For the better. He had become emotionally more open, accessible, and he showed more of the man he was than the Lieutenant he had to be on duty.

"Hey, Maddy. How are you?" Malcolm laughed.

"Fine! Now that I can finally see you in person!"

Maddy turned her full attention on Trip.

Tucker felt like a bug under a microscope. A naked, male bug, with a female researcher ogling at him like he was the pin-up from the latest Playgirl.

Madeline gave him a wide smile that had nothing of the British reserve in that her brother mostly displayed. It was warm, sultry, with a slight leer, and a lot of promises. He had never met her before, only talked to her once through a vid link. It had been at the time of the horrible accident that had nearly killed her. Today, nearly a year later, nothing of that showed anymore. Physiotherapy had helped a great deal concerning any permanent damage, and her limp had disappeared. She looked all the energetic young woman she had been before.

"So I finally get to meet the man Malcolm's been drooling over for the last three years in person, hm?" Maddy's smile widened. "I can see why."

"I did not drool!" Reed protested.

"Oh, shoot, Malcolm, what would you call those letters you sent me? Buckets of drool."

Trip raised his eyebrows and turned to his lover, who looked torn between embarrassment and denial. "Buckets?" he echoed.

"I might have mentioned something or other…" came the mumble.

"Something or other? Malcolm, brother, you had fallen head over heals, and I didn't need a photo to get an idea of what that stud puppy of a man had to look like!"

Stud puppy? Trip thought.

"And you know how hard I had to work on getting that photo, too! I thought you had some kind of disfigured face," she went on, shooting Trip another sultry look. "Well, no picture or live feed does you justice, luv. You look good enough to eat!"

Tucker felt his embarrassment double.

Maddy chuckled and slipped her arm under Trip's. "Well, handsome, the offer still stands."

"Uh, and what offer is that?"

"Should my brother ever ditch you, you're welcome to drop by at my place. We'd be great together."

Slightly flustered by the rather straight-forward offer, Tucker looked at Malcolm, who smirked. "Were you adopted?" he finally asked.

Maddy laughed. "Only because my brother is the repressed British type doesn't mean the rest of the family doesn't know how to have some fun."

Malcolm rolled his eyes. "What you call fun, others would call childish behavior."

"He's just jealous because I decided to live my life to the fullest," Madeline whispered loudly.

"You're an elementary school teacher," her brother deadpanned.

"It can be exciting."

"Crayons and toys. Yes, I can see how exciting that is compared to Starfleet. Very much," came the dry addition.

She laughed, a soft, warm laugh. "Trip, I'm loving you more and more."

"Uh, thanks…Errr…why?"

"Ever since my brother met you, he has turned into a human being again. He laughs, he has a sense of humor, he seems to get out more."

"I always had a sense of humor!" Malcolm protested.

"Yes, that of a rock. You couldn't crack a joke with a pickaxe."

Trip chuckled and it earned him a dark look from his lover.

"Siding with the enemy?" the dark-haired man taunted.

Tucker gallantly moved out of the hold Maddy had on his arm and smoothly came to stand in front of the other. "Nevah," he drawled and pulled his lover closer, pressing a little kiss to his lips-right in front of the whooping audience.

Malcolm responded, ignoring his sister, opening up under the sensual assault, hand grabbing Trip's shirt.

"Boys, breathe!" Madeline laughed. The two men separated and Malcolm chuckled, a faint flush on his features. Trip grinned from one ear to the other.

Maddy came over and hugged her brother, whispering, "I'm happy for you, Malcolm. Really happy."

"Thanks," was the quiet answer.

"So, how about you show this British girl some cowboy fun?" she challenged. Trip grinned. "You wanna go for a ride?"

"If you come along," she said seductively.

Malcolm rolled his eyes and laughed when he saw the faint flush on his lover's cheeks. "I'll come along," he told Trip. "To guard your virtue."

"My virtue doesn't need guardin'," came the grumble.

"With my sister around…you never know."



Malcolm turned and met the clear, neutral gaze of his father, feeling himself almost come to attention at the simple address.


Stuart Reed joined him where he stood, looking out over the warm fields, watching the breeze brush over the grass. Malcolm hadn't talked much with his parents yet. His mother, yes. They had had some time already. His father had spent a lot of time with the Tuckers and Trip's father had taken the former Navy officer with him when he had checked on some of the cattle herds and recently bought machinery.

"I heard you have made quite a name for yourself aboard this starship, the Enterprise," Stuart said conversationally. "You have a very important position."

"I'm the tactical officer."

"And security."

Malcolm shrugged. "Comes with being in charge of the armory."

He was a lot better with weapons and tac problems than security, but since both departments were one person's responsibility, he had had no other choice.

"Your superiors are rather pleased with your performance," his father went on.

"Well, yes, I think they are." Malcolm frowned. What was he getting at?

"You were always a good officer, even back in the Navy."

Oh no, not that old argument again. He had thought they were past it.

"I can see you going places," Stuart added calmly.

Oh really? Ten years ago you were ready to disown me because I joined Starfleet.

"I already am," Malcolm replied neutrally.

"That you are." His father stood with his hands clasped behind his back, looking out toward where a small herd of cattle was just barely visible. "And you will be going this way with him."

It was half a question, half stating a fact. Malcolm tensed involuntarily.

"Yes," he answered, forcing himself not to snap.

"He is an intelligent young man. Very promising career. He might become captain of his own starship one day."

What was going on here? "Yes. Maybe. I don't think he has given it much thought, though," the younger man said calmly.

"It's never too soon to plan your career, weigh your options, meet the right people to further your future moves."

Malcolm shot his father a hard look.

"He's quite taken by you. I would like to know your plans for the future, son."

Two pairs of dark eyes met, one gray-blue, one darker.

"We had this talk before, father. You know I never planned on having my own ship. I like what I do."

A mild smile appeared on Stuart's features. "I was talking about your future plans with your partner."


It was a rather undignified sound, but for a moment, Malcolm felt flattened. His father was asking him about his plans with his lover? His father?! The man who hadn't talked more than necessary with him since joining Starfleet?


"You have plans, haven't you?"

Malcolm blinked. "Uhm, we never discussed more than the immediate future…"

"In your line of work, a basic security should be the least investment," Reed senior told him.

"You mean after Enterprise?"

His father just looked at him, one eyebrow twitching fractionally upward. "I mean in general. You are my son. You do have some of my less stellar traits, something I never wanted to see or confess to until your mother pushed her point home some months ago. She made me accept that we have a problematic relationship, Malcolm. Well, one of those traits is that you keep locking yourself away, son. It is not advisable in a relationship."

Malcolm was briefly dumbfound. His father had never spoken like that before. Never so openly.

"Trip knows a lot about me," he finally managed. "More than anyone I've ever been with."

We share something, he thought to himself. A strange kind of bond that couldn't be put into words and would sound cheesy if he tried. It wasn't the romantic, fluffy kind of thing, the wishful thinking. It was something more real, something that had grown steadily ever since they had met. Something that had been freed when Trip had nearly died on the Orca planet.

"I'm not hiding from him."


Malcolm looked at his father; long and hard. "Is there something you're trying to tell me?" he finally asked.

A smile crossed the older Reed's features. "Apparently I do. Don't let him get away."

With that he turned and walked away, heading for the near-by flower garden where Malcolm could see his mother talking to Mrs. Tucker. Perplexed, he stood rooted to the spot.

His father…telling him that Trip was a good catch? That it would be stupid to let him go? That he wanted him, his son, to be open and honest with his lover, not hide behind masks and shields?

"What just happened here?" he murmured.


It was the first evening of the whole family sitting together and after a delightful dinner, they went over to sit in front of the open fire. Both mothers had immediately found a topic to talk about: their children. Embarrassing not only Malcolm and Trip but also Maddy, the two women swapped tales of childhood fun and troubles. It all culminated in that one moment when Lea Tucker pulled out the baby album, much to Trip's mortification, showing off Charles Tucker III in all his glory.

"Who's that naked little man on the bear rug?" Maddy teased.

Trip had the manners to flush.

More pictures followed, from the first day of kindergarten to school to college and graduation. Malcolm looked at the pictures with interest, for the first time seeing his lover as a teenager and young adult.

"He was such a cute baby," Lea said, smiling reminiscently.

"He still is," Maddy laughed, and Malcolm could only agree, flashing the embarrassed man a smile.

Mary Reed then started to sort through her handbag and began to pull out a small collection of Malcolm and Maddy. Both Reeds in question sighed in shared suffering. Malcolm in his Navy outfit gave Trip a moment of contemplation and the lieutenant quickly snatched it out of his hand.

"So, when's the big family union?" Maddy suddenly asked, flipping through the baby album pages.

"Union? You mean reunion? Well, there's the bi-annual Tucker fest," Trip answered. "All relatives from far and wide. Quite an event…"

"No, not that. I mean Tucker and Reed."

Malcolm frowned. Both their quite extensive families? One party? Oh dear lord…

"I'd love to stand next to you, hold the rings…" Madeline went on, flashing a smile at Trip. "I could be the flower girl, too…"

"Rings?!" Trip exclaimed before he could stop himself. His blue eyes were wide with shock and dawning horror. "You mean…I…you're talkin' marriage here?!"

Maddy frowned at him. "What? You want to tell me Malcolm never asked you?" Her frown was turned on her equally hapless brother. "Malcolm! How could you?"

"I…I…ah…" he stuttered, completely overrun by events.

"You would let such a hunky babe get away from you? How long have you two been together? Two years? Three? I think it's even longer. Boys, if there's any time at which to tie the knot, it's now!"

Malcolm stared helplessly at his sister, mind racing to keep up with the development. He flicked terrified eyes at his own parents and then at Trip's. There were varying expressions of amusement and expectation on those faces. Oh bloody hell!


"And Trip, I'm shocked. You never asked my brother? Aren't you planning on making him an honorable man?"

Trip gaped. He looked like a fish out of water. "Now wait a minute…"

"You know it's legal in our day and age," Maddy kept on delivering her blows.

"Yes, but.. I mean…Malcolm and I, we…"

"We still have your grandmother's ring…" Lea piped up.

Trip blinked, shock deepening. "Mom?"

Mary nodded. "I have my mother's ring as well. Your father bought me one when he proposed, Malcolm, and your grandmother would be delighted."

"Mother!" Malcolm squealed, by now a very interesting shade of flushed paleness.

"Though we might have to change the size. She had very small hands."

"Your uncle Archie would be able to do that," Stuart Reed remarked dryly, looking at the cigar Charlie Tucker had offered not much earlier. "He worked as a gold-smith for a while."

Malcolm stared at his father as if he had grown a second head. The man couldn't be serious! But from all looks and appearances, Stuart Reed might just be. His father!

"Who are you and what have you done to my father?" he croaked.

Stuart smiled wordlessly.

Malcolm looked around the room. "This is crazy! I need some fresh air," he murmured and rose.

"Let me know about the ring, dear!" Mary called, eyes dancing with a mischievous light that looked so very much like Malcolm's when he was delighted at something.

Trip didn't even look at his parents as he quickly followed his lover. He found him on the porch, leaning against the railing, inhaling deeply. He walked up to him and slipped his arms around the slender body. Malcolm automatically leaned back into the loving touch.

They stood together for quite a while, neither saying a word.

"Hm, y'know, it's not such a bad idea," Trip mumbled after a while.

"What?" Malcolm asked, sounding a bit distant.

"You an' me, legally together."

"What?! Trip!"

"Would you be a Tucker then?" the blond mused to himself, hugging the other man to him.


"I'd have to court you, though. Make it all proper and things."

Malcolm twisted around in the embrace and stared at his lover in disbelief. "How many drinks have you had?" he demanded.

Trip smiled. "One."

"That was one too many! And what the bloody hell is wrong with the name Reed! It's an old, traditional name!"

Tucker contemplated that, looking thoughtful. "Well, okay, if you feel so strongly 'bout it. I could get used to Charles Reed."

Malcolm gaped.

"What? You don't wanna become an honorable man, Mal? Hell, if I don't make ya one, I'll be at the receivin' end of the Wrath of Maddy the Fury."

Malcolm was speechless. This wasn't happening…This wasn't happening!

"Don't you want me, Mal?" Trip almost whined, giving him a devastated look. "If you want it all official like an' proper to protocol…"

And to Malcolm's complete and utter horror, he fell on one knee. No. This wasn't happening to him! He was having a nightmare.

"Malcolm Reed, would you honor me by becoming my lawfully wedded husband?"

The dark-haired man fought for composure, trying to find the right words but failing. "Trip…Trip…I…"

Puppy dog eyes looked up at him, melting away his defenses.

His panic was growing, thoughts jumbling through his severely overtaxed brain. Can't say no, he thought desperately. I love Trip. I want to be with him. Saying no would be a lie. Can't say yes either. Because I love Trip!

What would the captain say?

What would Starfleet say?

All the paperwork that was connected to this simple act.

And what name would he choose? His own? Trip would be Commander Reed? It had a nice ring to it. Double name? Reed-Tucker? Tucker-Reed? Trip's? Malcolm Tucker? And what about quarters? Who would move?

Malcolm knew he was slipping closer and closer to the panic point of no return. Whatever he said, it would be wrong. Either for him, or for Trip, or for both of them. They had never discussed marriage. Malcolm shied away from it, though he couldn't say why. Trip had never struck him as someone who needed their union written on paper. They loved each other, they knew they belonged together, and except for a piece of paper, nothing would change about it anyway.

He was saved the answer. Not by the bell. It was more the ominous clicking sound of someone taking a picture.

Looking up, Malcolm met the dancing eyes of his sister. Maddy was grinning like a Cheshire cat, holding a small camera in her hands.

"Smile, boys!" she laughed and took another picture.

Malcolm was jerked out of his stunned surprise and panic.

"Madeline Reed!" he shouted.

She laughed out loud. "This is one for the next family gathering!"

"Give me that camera!"



"You've got to catch me first!" she challenged and darted off into the house. Malcolm didn't think; he only reacted. He chased after her. Trip, left alone on the porch, got to his feet. He was laughing as well, not the least bit put off by his lover's lack of answer. He had seen and almost felt the rising panic, had seen the wheels whirring behind that handsome face, and he knew what had been going on inside the man he loved.

Leaning back against the support post of the porch roof, he listened to the squeals from inside. Maddy was defending her camera. Well, love, good luck getting that pic from her, he thought with amusement.

He enjoyed being here; a lot. He loved seeing his partner unwind, become the man he was only used to in the privacy of their rooms or the lounges. He enjoyed seeing Malcolm Reed.


"I like him."

Malcolm turned his head to look at his sister. Both of them were sitting on the floor of the living room, in front of the large couch. Malcolm had his feet crossed at his ankles, leaning comfortably back, Maddy was slouched next to him in a less than lady-like manner. She was still in possession of the camera. The chase had been half-hearted to say the least, and they had soon given up, both out of breath.

"You do?" he queried, eyebrows rising.

"Yes. He's a cutie. I see what attracted you to him."

"You do?" he repeated.

Maddy smiled mischievously. "Very attractive, nice build, adorable abs and pecs, a smile to die for, and those eyes…"

Malcolm chuckled. "I have to agree."

"And he has the brains as well. Boyish charm mixed with some real braincell power. Hard to find sometimes. He didn't make his rank by being in the right place at the right time."

Malcolm shot her a wry look. "As chief engineer of the first star ship, I think they didn't go by his looks."

"Nope. And boy, those looks…" Madeline laughed as she saw his expression. "Don't worry. I'm not trying to compete here. I know he's out of my league. At least now that he has you. Before that…" She trailed off. "Well, he came through the Maddy Reed Test with flying colors."

"The Maddy Reed Test?"


"Oh dear."

"I didn't test him that thoroughly!" Maddy laughed. "Would have loved to, but it's hard to get a man like him to bed with you around, bro. You keep distracting him."

"And thank goodness I do," Malcolm muttered.

"You love him, hm?"

It was a sudden change of topic and a very sudden change of tone of voice. Maddy's expression was suddenly very serious and the 'big sister' was in.

"I do," Malcolm told her softly. "I can't explain it, but there's something there I've never had before. I know it sounds…cheesy, but there is a connection. It's not just physical attraction. In the beginning it was. Lust, attraction, desire…Then came love. And now…"

She pushed her shoulder gently against his. "You're so lucky, Mal. Because he loves you just the same."

"You think so?" There was light teasing in his voice and a smile played around his lips.

"Yes, I firmly believe so. The man adores you. And knowing my little brother I can only say: what isn't there to adore?"

"Come on and make me blush," Reed chuckled.

She patted his hand. "You long since passed the point of the blushing virgin, brother. Don't even try it now."

A glare answered that friendly jab.

"So you think that's the forever kinda thing?" Madeline asked.

"I hope so. I would like to think it is."

"He's a good guy. Good for you. Mom loves him. She told me all about your meeting on that space station. I think she was close to adopting him."

Malcolm laughed, disbelief in his eyes. "She what?"

Maddy grinned. "You can believe it. She was quite taken by your lover, Mal."

"Good god…"

His sister shrugged. "What's not to love. So, tell me, Mal…how serious are you about tying the knot?"

He blinked, opening his mouth, then closing it again. "Trip and I are not going to marry," he finally told her. "A ring doesn't change what we have."

Maddy gazed at him, silent. Finally she nodded, her expression lightening. "Too bad. I was looking forward to it." She winked.

Malcolm groaned. "Only you."

"What are sisters for?" she teased.

Malcolm wrapped an arm around her and hugged her close.


He leaned against the paddock's fence, eyes closed, head hanging between his shoulder. He was resting his weight on his elbows, hands clasped. A soft, warm breeze tousled his hair. Night had fallen an hour ago, and since then Malcolm had been outside, just staring at the fields as the sunset bathed them in spectacular colors of yellow, orange and red. Now, only a deep red line at the horizon, almost purple in places, was left. And ten minutes later, that was gone, too.

Today, the second day his parents had been here, and the evening had gone better than expected. He had learned something about his father. The man had changed in that time, Malcolm had to confess. For the better, too. Gone was the sour-faced stiff officer. Stuart Reed was more relaxed than Malcolm could ever remember seeing him, his skin a healthy tanned color, his eyes more alive. He had lost the reserve that had always kept everyone at bay. The officer had really retired. He and Tucker senior had talked a lot, Charlie had shown him the farm, and Malcolm's mother had been quite taken with the recently birthed animals; cows and horses.

He smiled.

His parents. On a farm. Enjoying themselves. Would wonders never cease?

Still, it had been rather strenuous to have them around. He wasn't used to it, and with the more boisterous Tucker senior and the well-meaning, caring Lea, Malcolm had felt boxed in. The need to be alone had risen until he had excused himself from the table. He didn't feel up to another round of baby pictures tonight, or family stories. He was still trying to digest yesterday's events…Trip's 'proposal'. They hadn't talked about it any more and the day had been too busy to actually think about it.

"You 'bout done contemplatin' the world an' your place in it, or you want more time?"

The voice intruded upon his thoughts and Malcolm raised his head a little, the only movement he allowed, and looked at the man approaching out of the falling darkness.

"Did they already send out the search and rescue?"

Trip chuckled, leaned against the fence as well. "Naw. Dad just gave me that pointed look and Mom's been naggin' 'bout the cool evenin's and how we spaceboys might not be used to it. Your parents seem to be thinkin' the same, though they din't say anythin'. An' your sister's still sizin' me up."

Malcolm laughed softly. "She likes you."

"I like her just fine, too, but as I told her months ago, I'm a one-Reed kinda guy." Trip shot his lover a grin and raised an eyebrow.

The dark-haired man smirked. "I hope so."

Tucker pushed himself from the fence and wrapped his arms around the slightly smaller man from behind, kissing the sensitive neck. Malcolm knew that Trip was aware of what that did to him, the goose bumps a little nibbling would raise, the shivers it evoked. Trip gently teethed his way to the collar of the dark shirt and Reed let his head fall back against the engineer's shoulder, offering his throat. His hands lay over his lover's, holding them in place as they were holding him.

"You never answered my question," Trip murmured, his breath warm against Malcolm's neck.

"Which one?"

"About tying the knot."

Malcolm stiffened involuntarily. He heard and felt the blond chuckle.

"Relax, love. I'm not talkin' weddin' an' all."

"No?" Reed asked suspiciously.

"No. I was just thinkin'…I love you. I think you're what I've been missin' for all my life. There's no one else for me. All a weddin' would be is a signature on paper and maybe a ring. Nothin' else would change. I'd nevah push ya into it, but I want others t'know we're together. I'd like to change a few things in my papers. Like next of kin in case of an emergency. After what happened with the Arankja…" He stopped and sighed softly. "The cap'n knows, but what if he isn't around? What if all we got is a paper pusher who's not lookin', just actin'."

Malcolm digested what his lover was telling him. "You want my name put down on official papers?" he finally asked, voice soft, disbelieving. First his father, now Trip…

"Yeah. Everywhere it matters."

He turned and faced the other man, a tentative smile on his face. "I'd like that."

"I don't need a judge ta tell me you are mine, Mal. I know you are. I just wanna be sure it's legal as well."

"Starfleet might have a problem with it."

"I doubt it. But if they have, we'll deal with it."

Trip leaned forward and carefully caught his lover's lips with his, initiating a slow, sensuous kiss.

"Aren't they a beautiful couple?"

Stuart Reed was thrown out of his contemplations by the soft, lightly Texan accented voice, and he turned to greet Lea Tucker as she joined him on the porch. Not far away, at the paddock fence, his son and his lover stood together, Trip embracing Malcolm from behind, kissing him gently. There was nothing offensive about that sight; nothing that shouldn't be seen in public. And neither behaved like hormone-driven teenagers, trying to find a private place. They hadn't been like that at all throughout the last two days. No holding hands or long kissing sessions. Just a closeness that was more than friendship. A closeness that spoke of trust and love.

"Yes, they are," he now acquiesced.

"I haven't seen Trip any happier since he met your son. You know, he had girls before. Maybe another guy, too. He never introduced us to anyone male in his life who was more than a friend," Lea went on, leaning against the porch support, eyes still on the lovers. "The girls were nice, but there was always something missing. It no longer is."

Stuart mulled that over in his mind. It had come as a bit of a shock that his son was bi and had chosen a male partner, making him gay in many people's opinions. He wasn't many people. He was Malcolm's father. It had taken time and some serious talking to from Mary, but he had finally stepped over the shadow of Navy Lieutenant-Commander Reed, had let Stuart Reed the father look at his son, and he had come to accept Malcolm's decision of a career with Starfleet. It was his son's life, not his own. Malcolm was making a career for himself, he loved what he did, and he loved Charles Tucker III.

A man, Stuart mused. A very interesting, outgoing and easily likeable man. Trip Tucker, for all his farmboy charm, was an excellent engineer, an officer of Starfleet, who had the rank of commander, and according to what Reed senior had heard from people he had asked, someone who would make his way. Still a bit lacking in the diplomacy department, but that would mellow out in time as well. And his son might just help him with that. They were opposites, but not too extreme not to work out a relationship.

Out by the fence, Malcolm had turned to face the taller man, arms around him, head tilted up to kiss him fully. Yes, they made a nice couple, he thought. Now that he had gotten used to the sight of his son kissing another man.

Stuart had long since buried his animosities concerning same-sex relationships in the military. He knew that it had been an almost childish reaction to his own experiences in his life. Malcolm was a new generation, he lived a different career, and bi- or homosexuals weren't second-class.

"I would have liked a grandchild, too," Lea remarked casually.

Stuart blinked once. "A grandchild," he echoed without making it a question.

"My husband always teased our son about Charles Tucker IV. Trip is a family man."

"Not much hope now," was the dry British reply.

Lea chuckled. "Aside from adoption, no."

"That I highly doubt. As for children, I actually never saw Malcolm as a father." Stuart was silent for a moment, then shrugged. "I think it were the girls, those he introduced anyway, that didn't make me believe in it. Now I know they were just…relationships…girls he thought he needed to show us."

The two lovers were by now just standing there, Malcolm's head buried against Trip's shoulder, Trip's head leaning against the darker one.

"Trip had a serious relationship. Her name was Natalie." Lea looked thoughtful. "She was a nice girl. She broke up with him the first year he was on Enterprise. Simply wrote him a letter."

"Aren't you the peeping toms!"

The voice startled them both. Madeline stepped out onto the porch and shot the two older people a mock-outraged look.

"I can't give that handsome Southern boy a smile without getting the Look from either Malcolm or the parents, but you can peep, hm?"

Stuart chuckled dryly and Lea smiled.

"But they are cute together," Maddy stated, a soft smile on her lips. She linked her arm through her fathers. "C'mon, let's go inside. Give them some private time. Bet they don't have much on the ship."

Stuart nodded and followed his daughter. Mrs. Tucker lingered a bit longer, a motherly smile on her features, then she walked back into the house as well.


Trip walked out of the bathroom, his face cracking into a smile as he discovered Malcolm lying on his stomach on the bed, naked, head buried in his pillow. The blanket was pooled around the foot of the bed.

"Now there's a sight Ah'll nevah tire of," he drawled, voice husky.

Malcolm turned his head, eyes cracked open a slit, looking sleepy. "What took you so long?" he mumbled.

Tucker walked over to the bed and sat down, running a teasing hand over the warm, muscular back, drawing a sigh from his lover. He experimentally let his fingers dig a bit deeper and the sigh came again. Malcolm closed his eyes, hugging the pillow.

"Oh, that feels nice," he groaned.

"Want me to continue?"

"Would you?"

He leaned down and kissed the sensual lips. "If you ask real nicely."

Malcolm captured the lips, drawing him closer. "Please," he whispered.

"Ah love it when ya beg," Trip whispered, giving him a kiss on the nose. He opened the drawer of the nightstand and pulled out a bottle of oil. "Cramped?" he asked, dribbling some of the scented substance onto Malcolm's skin.


"You should learn to relax, love. Nothing to feel cramped about."

Trip swung himself onto Reed's thighs and settled over them, drawing a grunt of appreciation. The grunt turned into a low moan of pleasure as he began to spread the oil in wide circles.

"Must be the horse riding," Malcolm murmured.

"You weren't out long enough to get muscle cramps," the blond laughed, beginning the massage in earnest.

"It's not a sport I'm used to. Oh yes, there…" Malcolm's hands clenched into the pillow as Trip kneaded a particularly hard spot at his shoulders.

They had done this several times before. Actually, Malcolm had been the one to suggest it, giving his lover an erotic massage that ended with Trip feeling all sleepy and real good in the end, without an actual, sexual act. Malcolm had teased the secret pleasure spots, had loosened muscles, and warmed the body so pliant underneath him. Today, it was Trip's turn to make the man he loved feel good, and he intended to do so.

Letting his hands wander, he began to stroke the round buttocks, kneading them, rubbing and spreading the oil until the skin was glistening, then went down the thighs. Curling his hands into fists, he ran them over the relaxing muscles, listening to the noises of pleasure. Concentrating on the well-known area of Malcolm's butt, he played over the cheeks, thumbs never dipping to touch the opening, but just deep enough anyway to rake over the sensitive skin, the millions of nerve-endings that made this feel so good.

Moving upwards again, he settled himself on the well-massaged behind, concentrating on the tense shoulders and upper arms, the neck and back. Malcolm sigh with pleasure, then squirmed as Trip tickled his sides a little. While Malcolm wasn't particularly ticklish, it was enough to have some fun. Drawing his slick fingers upwards again, he let them run all the way from the arms to the fingers, loosening them from their hold on the pillow, and Malcolm entwined them with Trips.

Tucker pressed a little kiss on the dark head, then pulled out his hands to continue. After a while, he felt Malcolm's body grow more and more lax. The skin was a flushed red now, blood circulating through the stimulated flesh, and he slid off the unmoving form.

"Trip?" a sleepy, slightly muffled voice asked.

"Be right back. Just need to wash the oil off."


Trip laughed softly as he came back, drying his hands on a towel, and discovered his barely awake lover. Malcolm gave him a drowsy look. He looked so adorable, Tucker decided. Malcolm always did, with his hair all mussed, his face relaxed. He slipped back into the bed and covered them with a blanket. It would need washing tomorrow, but he didn't care. Pulling the still slightly slick body of his lover against him, he reveled in the sensation of the warm, oiled skin against him. His eyes strayed to the scar again, still red, still so very visible, still a reminder. He counted his luck, his blessings, and he thanked the Fates.

Malcolm sighed with pleasure, eyes sliding shut. He was a dead weight.

"Night," Trip whispered into one ear.

An inarticulate noise was his answer.

He smiled and closed his eyes, curling around the slender body. It was how he fell asleep.


Trip kicked back and relaxed on his parent's porch, enjoying the warm, sunny day. His father had more or less kidnapped Malcolm's parents to take them to the weekly market in town. For someone who wasn't used to farmers and ranchers, the market was a hubbub of activity, of stalls with fresh fruits and vegetables, livestock, spare parts, machinery and electronics. Tucker senior enjoyed looking around and he always brought something back, much to the chagrin of his mother, Trip mused. They had a whole collection of stuff that just might end up on the next yard sale.

Tomorrow would be the last day of this family weekend and he was a bit saddened to see it end. There had been no catastrophes, no foul tempers, but cultures had collided nevertheless.

"Oh, I wish I had my camera with me!"

The voice startled him and Trip blinked behind his shades, trying to focus on the slim figure that had suddenly appeared.

"Maddy!" he breathed. "Scare me, will ya!"

He groped for his shirt but couldn't find it. Damn! Here he was, half naked, clad only in his jean shorts, and alone with Malcolm's sister.

"Looking for this?" she asked sweetly, dangling his blue shirt from one finger. From her expression, Trip doubted he would get it back. Okay, Trip ol' buddy. Take it like a Tucker!

Madeline sat down on one of the porch recliners. "Sorry to startle you." She didn't look like it, though. Eyes sparkling, laugh lines in her face, she had a distinct resemblance to another Reed he knew. "Just couldn't resist such a mouth-watering sight. You should put up warning signs, you know? Give a girl some heads up."

"What for?"

"'Half naked man taking a sunbath' might be one. 'Lovely abs in plain sight' another." She grinned more, not making a secret out of where she was looking.

"Anythin' I can do for you?" Trip asked, a bit suspicious.

Being alone with Maddy Reed was never good. She hadn't actually made any direct approaches; she just loved to tease. But Trip thought it was better not to get too close to that woman when they were alone. You never knew.

"Oh relax, commander!" She leaned back into the chair. "I'm not about to ravish you on the spot. Though I wish I could."

"What's holdin' you back?" Had he just said that? Trip groaned silently.

"That little brother of mine. And I'm not into threesomes." She winked. "Especially with my bro."

Trip's jaw threatened to hit the porch. This woman had managed to run him over several times already and whenever he thought he had a handle on her, she embarrassed him some more.

"Ah, not my style. That would be cheatin' on your brother," he told her.

"Well, I hope you don't."

"Don't what?"

There was a sudden change in her demeanor. She was serious, her voice relaying a warning. "Cheat on my little brother."


"Good. 'cause if there's one thing I can't stand, it's liars and cheats, Mr. Tucker."

Malcolm had mentioned she was a protective one, hadn't he? Jeee-zus!

"So…you enjoyin' yourself?" Trip asked awkwardly.

"Yes, very much. Your parents are great and mine seem to be adjusting to this 'wild frontier'."

Trip laughed. "We're not in the nineteen hundreds and this is not the wild west."

"To my dad it probably is. But he likes it here. Say, can I ask you a question?"

"You just did," Trip quipped.

She chuckled. "Indeed. No, seriously. It's about Mal and you."

What now? Trip thought. Intimate details? What he knew of Malcolm's sister by now, she wouldn't stop there. 'Shy' didn't hit it when describing Madeline Reed.

"Uh, yes?"

"I'd like to know how you and him met."

"How we met?" he echoed suspiciously. Mal, what did you tell her?

Maddy smiled calmly. "Yes. How you met. Malcolm mentioned Jupiter station, but he never went into details. I'd just like to know."

Trip looked thoughtful, then did a mental shrug. "Do I get immunity?"

She laughed. "That bad?"


"On what?"

"How you look at it."

"Well," she said slowly, "looking at you, I'd say it all turned out for the best. You're happy."

//Trip felt his breath quicken at the sheer sight of that man, and the image of him weaving his hands into the dark hair of that stranger while carefully pushing the head lower made his pants tighter than ever. Said head suddenly turned around, and now those piercing eyes were settled on him, a faint smile parting those gorgeous lips. Trip swallowed hard as the man slowly made his way through the crowd toward him. Trip couldn't pull his eyes from the figure, taking in the way this body moved, every single swing of slender hips, every…holy. The man had a grace that was almost cat-like, telling of many hours in the gym. Trip wondered how the body underneath the clothes really looked like.


Geez, what a voice. A little hoarse and husky, with a breathtaking accent dripping down his body, making some parts of his anatomy stir in anticipation

"Hi yourself. Bored?"

"Not quite. Was looking for someone."

"Found him?"//

Hell, yes, he had found him. For keeps.

"It was actually a one-night-stand," Tucker finally said. "Just a quickie. I was in a bar, saw this gorgeous guy in black. He saw me. We got t'gether. Never asked his name. But I think I fell for him just after this one night. A few hours later, I walked into a room with the crew of the first deep space vessel an' you can believe me, shock is too mild a word for it when I saw Malcolm standin' there." He smiled ruefully.

Maddy nodded. "Not really what you'd expect."

"Yep. Thousands of people on that station an' I have the night of my life with someone who turns out to be my future colleague." And subordinate. But he let that go unspoken.

"So…what happened next?"

"We just about annoyed the hell out of each other. Mal was the expected reserved, British type, all formal an' distant. I tried to get him to open up, but all he would do was look at me an' continue to call me 'commander'. Drove me up the walls. We came close to snarlin' at each other whenever we had a discussion an' I once pulled rank on him…just because he was doin' his job an' hadn't asked me before. An' then we came to be trapped aboard that shuttlepod."

Maddy nodded. "He mentioned that."

"Yeah, he probably did. It threw us around." Trip gazed at the porch floor. It had changed things, but not immediately for the best. He had nearly lost Malcolm then and there.

//"What I…? Malcolm, what are you talking about?"

"You said you wanted me in your bed. I came into your bed. End of story."

"What? Wait a minute, what are you telling me here? That we…you .. just because I said so?"

"You ordered me, sir."//

Trip was sure this day, this moment, would forever haunt him. Just thinking that Malcolm would…He stopped and mentally shook himself.

"We had some misunderstandin's," he described the events carefully. "Got past them. And here we are."

Maddy's gray eyes bore into his, weighing the words, looking for something Trip wasn't sure of. Finally she smiled slightly, accepting that some things would never be told.

"You're very special to him."

Trip answered the smile. "He's very special to me, too."

There was something between them. Something Trip had yet to define, but others had noticed. Alien life forms mostly. He remembered the Orca and the mysterious 'supplement' they had mentioned; or the Qra, who had 'smelled' a bond between them. It was scary…Weird…sometimes even freaky.

"Thanks for telling me, Trip." Maddy rose, still holding on to the shirt. "Well, I'll nose around the kitchen for something to drink. See you later, hon."

Trip didn't even try to ask for his shirt back. He knew he wouldn't stand a chance.

Maddy walked into the cooler house, not very much surprised to almost run into her brother. She smiled as she discovered he was carrying two glasses with what looked like ice tea.

"You keeping that?" Malcolm asked non-chalantly, nodding at the shirt.

"Yep. All mine. A Tucker souvenir. I'll probably frame it. Mount it pn the wall over my bed…" She chuckled lightly. "And I highly doubt he'll need it any more."

Malcolm shot her an amused smile and walked out onto the porch.

"Enjoy!" she called, grinning.

"I'm positive I will," he quipped.

Madeline watched him as he swung his legs over the recliner, settling on his lover's hips. There was a squeal of protest from Trip as two cold glasses were suddenly deposited on his stomach and ice tea splashed on the sun-warmed skin. Malcolm laughed, said something she couldn't understand, and put the glasses on the table, then leaned forward. It started with a lap of a tongue against the muscled chest, licking the ice tea away, which soon turned into intimate caresses.

Maddy smiled at the playful expression on her brother's face, the light in his eyes, the sparkle of happiness. Trip did this to him and because of it, she loved Trip as well. He made Malcolm happy and looking back at Malcolm's past, she knew what Tucker had accomplished.

Took the boy long enough, she mused.

Her brother had never been all too happy in his past relationships, be it with men or women.

Trip had by now grabbed the dark head and pulled Malcolm toward him, kissing him first gently, then with more passion. Maddy decided it was time to give the men some privacy. She doubted they would make out on the porch, but the foreplay was not for prying eyes either. Even though she was curious, she confessed to herself.

Selecting a book, she settled down in the living room.


Music thrummed loudly through the open door. It was a bass rhythm, accompanied by a trumpet and a guitar. Someone was singing. People crowded around the night club, wanting in, all of them craning their necks, standing in line as much as was possible.

The streets were alive with people. Young and old, men and women and teenagers. Trip smiled as he watched the lively crowds, letting his eyes wander over the street vendors, the small stalls set up along the sidewalks. Large posters announced the Monkey Jump Festival.

"Din't know they had one this year," he told Malcolm as they pushed past the club and down the main street, easily evading those getting out of other bars or clubs. The smell of freshly made steaks wafted over from the open terrace behind one pub, mixing with a tantalizing herbal odor.

"What is it?" Malcolm wanted to know.

"It's a free for all night. You buy a ticket and get into every participating club. Gotta pay for your drinks and food, but the entertainment's for free. All bars and pubs and clubs have their own singers, bands or shows to attract people. The most popular are hopelessly overflowing with people."

Malcolm stepped out of the way of a larger group heading their way and bumped into his lover. Trip chuckled and briefly slipped an arm around his waist, hugging him close.

"Wanna go?" the blond asked.

"Sure. It sounds…fun Where do we get tickets?"

They found a booth and waited in line. Free bus or train rides across the town were included in the tickets, so they didn't have to walk everywhere. Trip looked at the map and pointed out several of his old favorites.

"Wanna go somewhere special?" he queried.

Malcolm pushed his hand into the back pocket of Trip pants as he leaned in close to look at the map. "I'm the tourist here. You're the native."

Tucker laughed. "Native? Well, follow me then, big white man."

The dark-haired man grinned. "Everywhere."

They set off down the street to their first bar.

It had been a mutual decision to spend the last night of the family meeting in town. Maddy wanted to dance the night away, meet some 'farm folks' as she had laughingly put it, and had even invited Trip to come along to be her 'bodyguard'. He had declined, politely of course. It wasn't Maddy who needed protection; it was the world she was about to enter.Their parents had wanted to have dinner and then maybe take a look around the night life. Malcolm and Trip had decided not to participate. One evening of embarrassment because of childhood stories was enough.

Two hours later, Malcolm had to confess that he had never felt this alive before. The night was still young, the Festival would be going for another five hours, and they had only visited two clubs so far, but it was the most amazing time. One had been a small pub with an all-female band that had been rather nice, the other a Southern bar with a jazz band and singer. Both places had been crowded, but not too much, and they had been able to get some food.

Trip was currently looking at the map, then grinned. "Hey, dunno that one. Must be new. Wanna go and see?"

Reed shrugged. "Sure."

The club was called 'GreenScape' and looked like just another cozy little place. Soft music was coming through the open door and when they showed their tickets and stepped inside, Malcolm found himself inside a mix of wood, chrome and steel. The 'GreenScape' stretched out over three levels, each of them connected by broad stairs, and a catwalk stretched over the ground level. There were dance floors on each level, a bar, seating arrangements and a lot of plants. He wondered if they were real or fake.

The clientele was mixed, probably because of the Festival. Waiters were weaving through the crowd, which wasn't as bad as in some of the more popular hot spots. Trip pulled his lover over to the bar and they managed to get seats, even though it was in the nick of time. Two other guys had been aiming for the seats as well.

"Sorry," Trip mouthed and grinned.

He received a shrug and the two men walked off, one briefly curling an arm around the waist of the other. Trip smiled. Ordering their drinks, they listened to the music and watched the people. The longer Malcolm watched, the clearer it became that this was no ordinary bar.

A gay bar, he finally thought. That explains the thinner crowd and the few mixed couples. Judging from Trip's expression, he had come to the same conclusion.

"Wanna stay?" he asked.

Malcolm shrugged. "Music's okay. And it's not so crowded."

Trip nodded. "We can rest our feet a little, then head over to the next one." Reed had to agree. And it would give him a chance to take a leak.

As he returned from his quick visit to the restrooms, he discovered that his lover hadn't been left completely alone. A dark-haired man in a rather appealing outfit in form of a simple white t-shirt and dark jeans was talking to him. Trip gave the man a smile and shook his head in polite denial.

Gone for a minute and the first bird of prey is circling, Malcolm thought, but without any viciousness. Trip was a very handsome man and it would be a surprise if no one had tried anything in the brief time Malcolm had been gone.

Moving silently closer, he shamelessly eavesdropped.

"I'm with someone," Tucker was just saying.

"Oh. A friend?" the dark-haired tried, still hopeful.

"A very good friend in fact. A very close and good friend."

"So I couldn't interest you in a little…side action?"

"Nope. I'm rather attached to this one."

The other sighed. "Ah, the good ones are always taken."

Damn right he is, Malcolm thought and stepped up to his lover, sliding a hand around his waist in a possessive gesture.

"Hey," he greeted the other man.

"Hey," came the friendly reply. "You must be the close and good friend." The smile was warm and open, not the least bit hostile.

"Yes, I guess that must be me. And you are?"

"Oh, I'm Danny. Pleased to meet you…?"

"Malcolm. I'm visiting."

Danny nodded. "No offense meant."

"None taken," Reed replied, but his arm stayed around Trip, tightening slightly.

"Okay. Have fun with the rest of the evening." Danny waved and then he was gone. Trip shot his lover a quizzically amused look. Malcolm leaned forward, having to tilt up his face more because Trip was still on his bar stool. He kissed the blond gently.

"Possessive, hm?" Tucker murmured, pulling him so Malcolm was between his spread legs, arms coming to rest loosely around the dark-haired man.

"Of you? Always."

More kisses followed, each a gentle nip of lips against lips, tongue tips touching each other. Neither initiated a full, deep kiss.

"Nice to know," Trip whispered.

"I don't intend to ever let you get out of my grasp, lover," Malcolm mumbled into the kisses.

"Not trying to." Trip grinned, then released his lover.

Malcolm turned to lean back against him and Trip immediately placed his arms around him again. One hand found its way underneath his shirt and fingers played over the firm stomach, briefly brushing over the scar on his left side. It didn't hurt at all, but Malcolm knew it was a reminder for his lover just how close Tucker had been to losing him.

Reed let himself relax completely into the hold, resting his weight against his lover, enjoying the touch, the closeness. Music washed over them as people moved and danced and laughed. Some smiled at the couple, one or two shot envious or rather inviting looks at Trip or Malcolm. The interest was never returned. Tucker pushed the wandering hand slightly down the front of Malcolm's pants, coming to rest over the stirring manhood. He made no moves to arouse. It was a protective and possessive gesture.

Malcolm turned his head and their lips brushed against each other, Reed rubbing a hand over the arm that was ending in his pants.

They stayed longer than they would have thought and in the end, they just walked the streets until they found a nice little spot that gave both a good overview of the market square, where bands were also playing. People were dancing, having fun, watching street performers.

It was a nice way to end the evening, which by now was early morning. They drove home around four a.m.

As he entered the guest house, Trip felt a light touch on his shoulder. He turned around to face the other man and looked directly into two storm cloud colored eyes, watching him intensely. Trip swallowed at the depth he thought he was seeing there, something that didn't seem to fit the cool, controlled by-the-book armory officer. Only he knew better.

Malcolm smiled faintly, one hand slowly coming up, brushing a blond strand out of Trip's face. Tucker sucked in a breath when the hand wasn't removed but stayed there, fingertips lightly massaging his head. His eyes must have given something away because he felt the hand tug carefully, slowly pulling him toward Malcolm. Trip felt a sigh escape his throat and he closed his eyes in sheer joy when he felt two warm and tender lips brushing over his in what appeared to him like the most wonderful kiss he had ever experienced. It felt warm and right, being so close to Malcolm, held by the other man, and kissed. Malcolm ended the kiss, but before Trip could react those lips were back, as gentle as before, but with more intensity, nipping, caressing.

Trip felt the light touch of an asking tongue gliding over his lips, and he opened up instinctively, granting, inviting. He felt Malcolm's increased breathing as he took the wordless invitation and intensified their kiss, pulling him closer. Trip heard a soft moan coming from somewhere and he realized it was him making that sound.

Malcolm finally pulled back, and Trip dared to open his eyes again, face the man in front of him, wanting to express what that simple action had done to him. A hoarsely whispered "Malcolm" was all he was able to manage, as he looked into those beloved gray eyes still watching him.

Reed smiled once more, this half-smile of his that always made Trip's heart skip a beat, and he reached out slowly, taking Trip's hand. He lifted the hand to his face and, without losing eye contact, turned it slowly. Trip gasped in surprise as Malcolm bent his head and, very slowly, kissed the sensitive skin on his wrist.

"Mal…," he breathed in response to the warm lips of his lover caressing his wrist and closed his eyes again, enjoying the soft shudder the brief contact caused.

A tickling sensation of fingertips ghosting over his palm, followed by a hot breath as Malcolm drew back made him shudder again.

"Are you seducing me here?" Trip whispered, but didn't fight the lips returning to his own.

"Apparently," a hoarse voice murmured in his ear, then the lips and touch disappeared.

Trip opened his eyes in confusion, and met those stormy eyes again, the small cocky smile, as Malcolm stepped away from him, stretching out a hand in a clear invitation. Trip didn't think as he reached out to take it. Reed pulled him toward their bedroom.

Damn good idea!

The moment the door closed, Trip felt two arms sneaking around his waist from behind, slowly exploring his stomach and chest, a pair of lips placing a featherlike kiss on his neck, and he tilted his head to grant further access, excited by the shudder such a small contact could evoke. He leaned back into the light embrace, sighing softly while he caught Malcolm's wandering hands, stroking his thumbs over the surprisingly soft skin, and he felt Reed exhale in response.

Trip closed his eyes, taking in every sensation: the way Malcolm's body was pressed into his without demands, the way his own body felt, responded to the breath on his skin, or the scent he seemed to consciously register for the first time today, the scent he knew was associated with Malcolm. He thought he could stand there for ages, just being held by this man, feeling, touching.

Malcolm moved a little, slowly turning him around, so Tucker was able to look into those eyes again, able to see once more what he had longed to see since he had first laid eyes on one Malcolm Reed, armory officer, such a long time ago: love. Back then he hadn't dared to hope to see it repeated. Today, he saw it again and again, and he would never grew tired of it.

"Love you. More than anything or anyone. Love you, trust you, need you, need this," he whispered.

Malcolm's hands were wandering up his back to his neck, pulling Trip close enough to gently kiss him again, and this time Trip did respond with all he was worth. He didn't want to rush anything, force anything, just enjoy the here and now, just being with his lover. It was their weekend. The families getting to know each other was one thing, having his lover around, in private, away from the ship, had been another reason.

Trip raised a hand and laid it on Malcolm's chest, feeling the rise and fall with every breath, the quickened pulse of the other man's heartbeat against his hand, while he deepened the kiss. Trip heard a soft sound coming from Malcolm, and he slowly moved his hand over the thin fabric of the shirt, following the shape of the muscled chest underneath. Malcolm moaned softly and pushed Trip forward until he felt the edge of the bed at his legs. He wrapped his arms around his lover and let himself fall backwards, pulling Malcolm with him so he came to lay on top of him. The feeling of Malcolm's body against his own made his head swim. Reed pushed himself up a little so he could look into Trip's eyes.

"I love you," he simply said.

"I know," Trip breathed. "Show me…"

"Your wish…my command…"

Tucker shushed him gently. "Never a command."

Malcolm smiled softly. "A desire," he murmured.

Then he bent down to demand another kiss before turning his attention on Trip's ears and neck, nibbling, licking, kissing. Trip weaved his fingers into the thick, dark strands of his lover's hair, taking in a shuddering breath when an especially sensitive spot was hit. He had hardened some time ago, but much to his own surprise it wasn't what counted now. All he wanted was to be with this wonderful man, his lover, without rushing anything. Malcolm moved a little, and he felt his hardness brush over his thighs, hearing him gasp at his ears and shudder against his neck, telling Trip clearly—if he hadn't known already—how much Malcolm enjoyed this as well.

Reed now lay only halfway on top of Trip, one leg carefully pushed between his thighs without moving any further, just letting Trip know it was there, while he continued to kiss and teeth his neck. One hand started roaming over his chest and arms, coming to rest just over his own pounding heart. Fingertips moved gently, teasing through the fabric, and Trip couldn't help but moan as he felt himself react to the gentle stimulation. He tightened his embrace around his lover, hands starting an exploration of their own, stroking Malcolm's back and then slipping under the fabric to finally get some skin contact. Malcolm raised his head at that, a fire now burning in those gray eyes, but his touch never lost any of its tenderness, as his own hand was pushing Trip's shirt up.

Feeling his lover's cool hand on his hot skin made Trip shiver with delight, and he pulled Malcolm closer to request another kiss and roll himself on top of the smaller man, to get a little more active himself. Almost lazily his hand wandered over the well built chest, teasing and tickling while he paid some closer attention to the exposed neck and throat, registering the vibration indicating Malcolm was breathing harder, moaning himself. When Trip concentrated his action on one nipple, teasing it into hardness, he heard his lover suck in a sharp breath, felt him twitch underneath him as he pulled Trip closer into a now more fervent kiss.

Malcolm's hands had stroked his back, but now they were coming around, tugging at the buttons of his shirt. Trip knew from former experience that if Malcolm had wanted, he would have just ripped it. The fact that he didn't showed Trip that his lover was in for slow and sensuous as well, wanted this to last, and he smiled, pushing himself up a little to give his lover's searching hands more space. And Malcolm indeed took his time, caressing every bit of skin tentatively before turning to the next button. Trip loved it.

"Love you," he whispered softly as he bent down to kiss the slender neck, arching his back and shoulders slightly to help Reed slide off the shirt. It was tossed carelessly aside. Trip looked down at him. Their lips met in another slow, sensuous battle. Trip broke it off to lay claim to the skin underneath the shirt, pushing the fabric aside, kissing and licking what skin he could get to. He had Malcolm laid out like a half unwrapped parcel, his very own present, and he ran massaging fingers over the contoured planes of his chest, drawing circles over the hard nipples, kissing where his fingers weren't or had just been.

Malcolm's hands played over what parts of Trip he could reach, running repeatedly through his hair. A kiss was bestowed on the blemished piece of skin, soft, feather-like, loving. Then Tucker worked his way up again, meeting the sinful mouth, losing himself in the kiss, pushing his groin against Malcolm's. A shuddering moan was his answer. One hand reached for the zipper and Trip pulled it down, leaving the pants still buttoned. He inserted his hand and played over the hardening manhood, drawing an appreciative sigh.

He rested his hand over the warmth, smiling at the stormy expression in his lover's wonderful eyes. Malcolm's hand closed around his forearm, rubbing it up to the elbow, an inviting expression in his eyes. Trip bent down and nibbled at Malcolm's lips.

"Has anyone ever told you how sexy you are, Mal?" he murmured.

"Only some cocky, blond engineer on a starship," was the soft reply and Malcolm answered the next, sloppy kiss.

"Cocky, hm?"

"Very," came the husky groan.

Trip cupped what he could reach with his fingers, delighting in the moan.

Getting rid of the clothes was a slow, erotic process, peeling layers away, wriggling out of confining pants. When they were finally naked, Trip showered his lover with kisses and touches, running a path down to his groin and back up again. Malcolm gasped as Tucker tongued the indention of his belly button, almost squealing. It was a secret, very sensitive spot, and Trip loved to play with it. The blond pushed his tongue into the birth scar several times, listening to the harsh breathing, then he scooted up again, demanding another kiss.

Malcolm used the moment to flip them over, being on top again. Their arousals brushed against each other and both men shivered with pleasure. Trip splayed his hands over the hard chest, massaging, rubbing, teasing, as Malcolm let his head fall back, enjoying it. Finally he grabbed the maddening hand and kissed each wrist, then carefully and slowly moved the arms until they were above Tucker's head. Trip held on to the wooden bars of the bed, smiling seductively.

Reed smiled back and bent down to nibble at the neck and throat, then his hands and lips were on Trip's chest, giving it very detailed attention. Trip closed his eyes, simply enjoying the sensations. He twitched and moaned, sighed and cried out whenever Malcolm hit a special spot. As his lover explored his hips, he twitched more prominently, gasping loudly. One leg came up automatically and Reed laughed.

"Evil," Trip whispered.

Some time ago Malcolm had discovered that a particular spot on Trip's hip, halfway between hip bone and groin, was very, very sensitive. Malcolm kissed the spot in question gently, then drew circles over it with his fingers, nails tickling it ever so sweetly. Trip's arousal jumped, leaking, and he cried out again. His hands tightened around the bars and muscles stood out.

"Mal!" he breathed.

Malcolm looked up, licking his lips. His hair fell enticingly over his forehead, his eyes holding a seductive expression.

Gawd, he looked so hot, so desirable, so…so…sexy. And he was his, Trip thought. Mine.

Malcolm prowled up his stretched out form. "Love you," he whispered, brushing their lips together.

Trip wrapped his arms around him, crushing him close, devouring him.

"Don't stop!" he groaned.

"I don't think I ever could," was the answer.

Their hips moved together, both their hardnesses rubbing harder against the other, drawing twin groans. Trip cupped his lover's firm globes, pushing him harder against him.

"Want you," he whispered.

They kissed hotly, more passionately. The slow pace had quickened by now, raising the temperature. Malcolm raised himself, reaching over to the nightstand to grab the lube. He scooted back down his lover's body and ran gentle fingers over the hardness, drawing an appreciative sigh. Trip was about to bend a leg, to give Malcolm better access, when a hand was placed on the knee, pushing it gently down.


Reed shook his head, smiling. He spread the lube over Trip's arousal and the blond's eyes widened in understanding. Preparing himself as much as possible, spreading more lube over his opening, he smiled. Moving forward, Malcolm raised himself, locking eyes with the engineer. He grasped Trip's hardness with one hand and then began to lower himself.

Tucker's hands rested on the tense thighs, running his palms and fingers soothing over the hot skin. He moaned as the opening was breached, as the tightness enveloped him, as the heat sheathed him centimeter by centimeter. Malcolm arched his back slightly, head falling back. He was breathing hard, gasping suddenly when Trip was completely inside. They remained motionless, Tucker giving his lover time to adjust. His hands entwined with Malcolm's, squeezing them, and he felt a squeeze in return.

Gray eyes opened and locked with blue, revealing need and love, mixed with a stormy desire.

And then he began to move.

Trip tried to let Malcolm set the pace, encouraged him softly, listening to the breathy moans, but it soon became too much for him. His hips twisted under their own account, needing to go deep, hard, deeper, harder. Malcolm leaned forward, hands pushing Trip's down onto the mattress, his moves becoming equally more demanding and powerful.

"Let me touch you," the blond breathed.

It seemed to take half an eternity until one hand was released from the tight grip, but it enabled Trip to touch his lover, to urge him on. The second hand was freed when Reed sat up once more, driving himself down hard, drawing twin cries of pleasure. Trip let one hand run over painfully hard nipples while the other pumped his lover's arousal in rhythm.

Whenever one of them came close, the other slowed down, drawing cries of denial and protest from the lover. Trip gasped almost painfully as Malcolm brought him down from the high, his movements barely perceptible, just a twitch of hips now and then. Tucker's hands held the erratic hips with almost bruising strength and Malcolm's hands were wrapped around his forearms. His breathing was coming out in harsh pants, gray eyes wild and filled with need.

"Mal," Trip murmured. "Now…please…"

Release hit them not much later. Malcolm was the first to go over the edge, the incessant stimulation of the small gland too much to endure any longer. His back arched as he climaxed, his cry echoing in the bedroom. The clenching inner muscles set off Trip in turn and he rode it out as the slender body collapsed on top of him.

For a while, there was only the harsh breathing, the hammering of hearts, the soft murmur or reassurances and love. When Malcolm moved, Trip slipped free, drawing a breathy moan. Drawing circles on the sweaty skin, Trip kissed the shoulder closest to him.

"Sticky," Malcolm murmured, but he didn't move.

Tucker chuckled. "Yeah. If ya get off, I'll clean us up."


Malcolm still made no moves. Trip grinned and summoned his remaining strength, rolling the pliant body off him. It got him a mutter of protest. He grinned more and walked into the bathroom, none too steady on his legs as well. Damn, it had been intense. He loved their fast and furious encounters, but the slow and erotic kind was just as satisfying. Just as intense. Maybe even more so.

Grabbing a washcloth and a towel, he went back and proceeded to clean his lover and himself. Malcolm watched him with sleep-hooded eyes that reflected a passion spent, a fire squelched for now, and a soul-deep satisfaction. Trip dumped the cloth and towel and then bent down and kissed his lover. He scooted into the bed with him, drawing the blanket over their sated bodies. Malcolm made a noise of contentment as he spooned up to him.

Trip nibbled at his neck and then teethed one ear. Malcolm caught his lips in a slow, lazy kiss.

They stayed together for a long time, just dozing, enjoying each other's company, and finally fell asleep.

Waking up, Malcolm stretched languidly and yawned, then smiled as he discovered Trip next to him. His lover lay on his stomach, one arm hanging down his side of the bed, the blanket barely covering his lower body. The dark blond hair was tousled, standing up into every direction. He was deeply asleep. Malcolm used the time to wake up, enjoying the lazing around in bed, something he didn't really indulge aboard Enterprise.

Leaning over, he kissed one shoulder blade, running a hand lightly over the lightly tanned back. Trip gave a little mumble. Malcolm nibbled at the warm skin and his lover sighed, turning. Sleep-drowsy blue eyes opened and Malcolm brushed a feather-like kiss over the lips.

"Good morning," he whispered.


Finger-combing the spiky hair, he chuckled. Trip looked cute in the morning, with his mussed up hair, the stubble and the relaxed, sleepy expression.

"We should get up," Malcolm went on. "My parents are leaving today."

"'S too early."

He chuckled. "I know. Come on, love. Get going."

Trip's eyes twinkled slightly, then Malcolm suddenly found himself with an armful of Southerner. He was pinned to the mattress and a mouth descended onto his, kissing him deeply. Slightly dazed, breathing harder, he gazed at his lover.

"You said get goin'," Trip laughed.

Malcolm grinned. "I meant 'out of bed and into the shower'."

The eyes twinkled more. "That sounds…lovely," he drawled, copying the Brit's accent.

Reed grinned and wrapped his arms lightly around him, kissing the sensual lips briefly. Trip was only too willing to answer it. They made it into the shower…eventually. Getting out took a bit longer and by the time they were ready for breakfast, both had to hurry.

The departure of the Reeds was a rather emotional event. Malcolm and Trip would stay another day at the Tucker ranch, then fly to San Francisco for another two days. Departure to Jupiter station was scheduled for the third day.

Mary Reed hugged her son, whispering something into his ear, then proceeded to embrace Trip as well.

"Take care of him, Trip," she said softly.

"You have my word of honor, Ma'am."

Stuart Reed regarded his son, then a smile cracked his features. "Good luck on your future missions, son."

"Thank you," Malcolm answered.

It was no longer so stiff and formal, but there was still a last bit of distance. Trip knew it would take time to cross that last bridge, but the two men had made a lot of progress already.

"And write. I hear more of your uncle and aunts than of you," Stuart went on, voice wry.

"I will."

"I'll make sure of it, sir," Trip piped.

Malcolm shot him a hard to define look.

"Mr. Tucker." Reed senior nodded. "It was a pleasure finally meeting you in person."

"Same here."

Maddy's good-byes were much more enthusiastic. She left two hours after her parents and the three of them were in the waiting lounge, talking, laughing, having fun. When her flight was called, she gave Trip a hug and a kiss, tousling his hair.

"Hey!" he protested.

She chuckled. "Take care of my lil' brother, y'hear."

"Yes, Ma'am. I will."

Maddy hugged Malcolm as well, holding on a bit longer. "Was good seeing you, Malcolm," she said softly. "Don't be a stranger."

"I won't. Say, you keeping that shirt?" he whispered.

Maddy grinned. She knew exactly what her brother was referring to. "'Course I do, bro. You think I'd give it back? It's as much as I'll ever get of that man. Or do you think I can con him out of his pants?" She leered.

He laughed. "Depends."

"Well, yes. Probably what I dangle in front of his eyes. You volunteering?"

Malcolm chuckled, shaking his head.

"Spoilsport." Maddy had to walk through the gate not much later and a sad expression flitted over Reed's features. Trip wrapped his arm around the slender waist, hugging him closer, and Malcolm gave him a little smile. Twenty minutes later, the shuttle took off.

"C'mon," Tucker said softly. "Let's go home. We might just get a piece of Mom's famous apple pie if we hurry."

Reed turned and smiled at him. "Has anyone ever told you that you're insatiable?"

"Yeah, well, there was this one time when some British lieutenant called me that in a private moment."


Trip grinned. "Yeah."

"I see. Reliable source?"


Malcolm looked contemplative as they walked to the parking lot. "Anyone I know?"


"That Brit."

Trip chuckled. "I dunno. Maybe. Maybe not."

"Anyone I have to be jealous of?"

Tucker looked thoughtful as he got into the car, then smiled whimsically. "Guess so. He's one heck of a guy. Fun to be with. Warm. Caring. Loveable."

"Loveable, too?"


Malcolm leaned over and gave Trip a small kiss. "Introduce us the next time you meet him."

Trip laughed, then started the car and drove off back to the ranch.


"Have I ever told you how much I love you?"

Trip looked up at his lover, taking in the flushed, slightly out of breath features, the glow in his eyes, the warm expression.

"Lately? As in…the last minute? Lemme think…" Trip frowned thoughtfully. "Nope, can't recall you sayin' it, Mal."

Malcolm leaned down and kissed him. Long and slow and deep. "Thank you."

"What for?"

"This long weekend. It was lovely…all things considered."

"All things considered?" Tucker echoed, pulling him closer to enjoy the little jolts of pleasure still racing through him with his lover.

"Oh well…My parents. Your parents. Doing parent things. Showing baby pictures."

Trip snorted. "Only mine. You were spared the embarrassment."

Malcolm grinned. "Yes, Mostly."

"An' you weren't molested by someone's older sister."

"Maddy molested you?" Reed laughed. "Hardly!"

"Whatcha callin' what she did then?" Trip cried in mock outrage. "Stealin' mah shirt! Offerin' herself ta me…"

Malcolm swallowed a giggle. "She's just being Maddy. Get used to it. You're stuck with her."

The blond groaned theatrically. Malcolm kissed him and cuddled closer.

"The things I endure for you," Trip murmured.

"My hero," his lover teased.

"Ah sure hope so!"

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