Title: Trousers Down

Author: Kylie Lee and BelovedGoddess

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

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

Date: 08/30/02

Fandom: Star Trek: Enterprise

Pairing: T/R

Type: Slash M/M

Rating: NC-17

Summary: Only one person among the crew on shore leave doesn't know Tucker and Reed are lovers, so they resolve to tell him. Except he finds out first. Oops.

Feedback: Yes, please.

Archive: EntSTSlash, Archers_Enterprise

Disclaimer: Original material copyright 2002 Kylie Lee and BelovedGoddess. This is not an attempt to infringe on Paramount's copyright. No money changed hands. Etc.

Series: Under the Disco Ball

Previous story: Kentucky Cocktail

"Oh, yeah, Malcolm. There."


"Quit it."


"Damn it! Cut that out."

"You told me not to stop a moment ago."

"Then go back to doing what you were doing before. Please."

"Ah! This, then."

Trip Tucker's only response was a low groan.

"I'll take that as a yes."

Trip watched as Malcolm Reed's head dipped down again, as his lover's warm mouth enveloped his cock. He closed his eyes and thrust gently into that enticing mouth. Malcolm then pressed Trip's hips into the mattress, and the dildo inside Trip brushed against his prostate. He shivered in pleasure. He didn't want it to end. Then the mouth left his cock and moved up his body, licking.

Malcolm had been tormenting him for a half hour—well, really the whole evening, because they had gone out to dinner with their crewmates and couldn't show even casual affection in public. Trip did have to admit to himself that the affection they did want to show each other would more than likely be considered inappropriate in a public setting. Even though Hoshi Sato and Travis Mayweather both knew they were lovers, Captain Jonathan Archer didn't yet know. But Malcolm hadn't let that stop him, just as he hadn't let it stop them the other day, when he had done the same thing as he, Trip, and Hoshi had been having drinks in the hotel bar. That was, of course, before Hoshi found out about Trip and Malcolm being lovers.

Tonight, though, Malcolm had gone much further. He'd cupped Trip's dick through his trousers under the cover of the tablecloth, he'd brushed his thigh against Trip's, he'd stroked the poor commander's knee and over to the inside of his leg, and then he'd casually put his arm against the back of Trip's chair so he could lean over and talk to Travis behind Trip's head. Trip couldn't believe that they'd actually played footsie. Then they had made out like teenagers in the stall of the restaurant's bathroom for about two minutes and gotten so hard that it took another ten minutes and a lot of cold water to get back to their usual "I'm on vacation" state of semiarousal, and then they had to make up a story about why they were gone so long and why Malcolm's hair was wet.

Now, at last, was the culmination of a night of teasing. Trip and Malcolm had spent both nights of shore leave together in Trip's room. The extra privacy afforded by the hotel, by everyone having separate rooms on separate floors, by there being no roommate around; the large beds; the hedonistically large whirlpool tub in the bathroom, just the right size for two—it was getting so that Trip was beginning to resent leaving his room. He was pretty sure he'd much rather be Malcolm's sex slave for the entire duration of shore leave, but they'd filled their days with art galleries, shopping, and sightseeing and their evenings with long dinners and dancing at nightclubs. In fact, two days ago, they'd had quite a lot of fun on the dance floor.

Malcolm's mouth wandered back down Trip's body. "God, you're gorgeous," he breathed. "Here?"


"Yes, what?"

"Yes, Lieutenant?"

"Try again." There was no rank in the bedroom. That's what they had decided.

Malcolm ran a hand down his lover's leg. Trip groaned. "Yes, please," he tried. "Yes, Malcolm. Yes."

"Much better. Tell me when you're going to come."

Malcolm's hands pushed him down into the mattress again, and again, while the dildo stroked. Then he deliberately set a rhythm. When Trip began bucking and thrusting, Malcolm encouraged him with little noises, hanging onto Trip's cock, mouth hungrily sucking. Trip felt the pleasure building, and when he knew he couldn't stand it any more, he called out, "I'm going to come." He circled his ass, thrusting onto the dildo, thrusting into his lover's mouth, just about ready to come. Then Malcolm activated the dildo's remote, and the slight buzzing sensation deep inside him sparked a pulsing, throbbing orgasm. Trip came hard, grinding his ass into the mattress, spurting into Reed's mouth over and over again.

When he was done, he lay back, inert, still pressing his butt down, feeling the slight buzz against his prostate. For a long few seconds, it felt wonderful, like he could get hard again, but then suddenly, it was too much sensation, and he groaned and rolled onto his side. Malcolm deactivated the device and withdrew it, then put his arms around Trip, hands stroking.

"Was that nice?" Malcolm asked him a few minutes later.

"Oh, lord. Nice. Yes. It was very, very nice." His orgasm had had the quality of spiritual transcendence.

"Because you looked like you were enjoying it."

"I enjoyed it. Oh, god." His sphincter fluttered, and he pushed his ass back into Malcolm's body. The other man was rock hard. "Come inside me," he invited.



"You'll be sore," Malcolm demurred. "We've been…busy lately." His breath was warm against Trip's neck.

"Haven't noticed any problems so far," the blond man said. "It's okay. Really. Do you want something inside you?" They had their new toys out. While shopping earlier that day, they had come across a little sex-toy shop in an alley. They had looked in the window, looked at each other, and without a word, they'd gone right in. They bought his-and-his vibrator-dildos, the local equivalent of handcuffs, and lube and scented oil in interestingly shaped containers. They had not only discovered a mutual attraction for each other in their few days together, but they had also discovered a mutual fascination for sex toys.

Malcolm gave in. "You're going to kill me, you do know that."

"I aim to please."

There was a brief interlude as Trip lubed up Malcolm's blue dildo, slid it into the dark-haired lieutenant, and strapped it on so it would stay in place. Malcolm's eyes were a dark gray, showing he was incredibly excited. Trip then slid the dildo's remote, a matching blue device, closer to his hand as Malcolm pushed him over onto his hands and knees, quickly sheathing himself and grasping the taller man's hips as he smoothly slid in and out. Trip could feel Malcolm growing more and more excited—it wasn't just his moans; it was the way his hands clutched and his hips moved. Every now and then, Trip's sphincter would flutter against his lover's hard cock. He doubted he would grow hard enough for another round—he'd come twice already—but it would be fun to try. Every time Malcolm's dick brushed against his prostate, he felt tiny jolts of pleasure.

"Trip, now," Malcolm said at last. "Oh, please. Now."

Trip pressed the switch on the dildo's remote. He couldn't see Malcolm's face, but he could imagine it as he felt the other man push in and out frantically, then climax inside him, fingers pushing into his hips as he thrust in and out, pounding Trip's ass, coming hard. Malcolm cried out, "Oh, god," over and over again while he came, voice raw with pleasure. Then he felt Reed push in and hold himself there—the last few moments of orgasm—and when Malcolm finally relaxed, Trip deactivated the dildo. Malcolm leaned against his lover's back for a few moments, gasping, and Trip could feel Malcolm's hand stroking up and down his back as he pulled out. Then it was Malcolm's turn to collapse as Trip unstrapped the toy, removed it, and tossed it next to its brother on the floor.

"That was incredible," Malcolm gasped after a few minutes, as Trip watched the other man's pulse thudding in his neck. "Can we do that every night, please?"

"It's too much for every day," Trip opined. He reached and kissed Malcolm's throat, right atop his pulse, then lightly sucked. His hand stole out and stroked Malcolm's stomach.

"Oh, too much." Malcolm pushed Trip's hand away. "It's too much. Don't touch me just yet." To take any sting from his words, he loosely held Trip's hand.

Trip settled on one arm next to his lover and surveyed the dark-haired lieutenant. Malcolm had called him "gorgeous," but in Trip's opinion the adjective described his lover perfectly. The slight, well-muscled body, the dark hair, those extraordinary eyes—well, "gorgeous" was as good a word as any. He considered himself extremely lucky to have this man all to himself. Malcolm was handsome, smart, and passionate under his professional British exterior, and it was not too much to say that he adored the man. The short time that they'd had together only highlighting the restrictions of a relationship aboard Enterprise. Over the course of the two days they had been lovers, Trip had come to realize that he wanted to acknowledge their relationship publicly. Secrecy seemed disrespectful to what they now thought of each other, and even though it had seemed like a good idea, because they worked on board the same ship, it was proving to be more problematic than first anticipated—although it certainly helped that Hoshi Sato and Travis Mayweather had found out.

Trip reached over and lightly touched Malcolm's hair. The dark-haired man murmured, "Mmm," rolled over, and rested his head on Trip's chest. "Do touch me now," he invited.

Trip willingly obliged by stroking his lover's stomach and side. "It's getting late," he whispered. "Do you want to go to sleep?"

"I don't know if I can sleep," Malcolm responded. His voice sounded contented. "Strangely, I feel as though I've just run a marathon. I'm still too wound up."

"Well, do you want to make out?"

Malcolm considered this suggestion. "Certainly. I could do that."

Trip turned off the light. "Sometimes making out leads to sleeping," he said in explanation.

"And sometimes it leads to sex," his partner responded suggestively.

"Again?" The blond man laughed.

"You never know," Malcolm said, and as Trip touched his lips to his lover's, they lost themselves in the warmth of each other.

They both had a hard time getting out of bed the next morning. They'd been slowly waking up when the captain had called Trip's room—far too early in the morning for his taste. Jonathan had then invited the commander to breakfast with himself and Hoshi. "I can't get hold of Lieutenant Reed or Ensign Mayweather," Jon said to him. "I left messages, though."

"Maybe they're in the shower or something," Trip said. "I'll stop by their rooms on my way over and bring them along if I find them." He pushed Malcolm's head away from his stomach with a mouthed "Stop that"; gentle kisses had turned into tickles, which were rapidly becoming a distraction.

"Great. Thanks."

Trip and Malcolm stopped by Travis Mayweather's room on their way down to the lobby, but no one seemed to be in. So they met up with Jonathan and Hoshi and together walked over to a quaint café that Trip's guidebook rated quite highly. Their server, a young man with bleached-blond hair and a pierced nose, hovered anxiously as they ordered and ate. It quickly became clear that he was taken with Jon, and if Jon so much as looked over his shoulder, he rushed to the table to see what Jon wanted. The captain treated the server with courtly courtesy and ignored the reaction of his crew.

"Anybody know where Travis got to?" Jon asked when their plates were cleared.

"Ensign Mayweather is keeping amused with his redhead," Hoshi said.

"Oh, how do you know that?" the captain asked.

"I saw them in the hallway this morning, leaving his room together. I may have overheard a little something about a day trip to see Wollis Falls."

"*May* have overheard?" Trip teased.

"I have very good hearing," she said primly. Her ears were famous on the bridge for picking things out of the com transmissions. She'd saved crew members' lives with those ears of hers.

"I've read about those falls," Jon put in. "They're supposed to be beautiful."

"Well, then, why don't we go and see for ourselves?" Reed asked. "Who's up for it?"

"Malcolm," Trip said warningly. "Are you spying on our young ensign?" Malcolm and Travis were good friends from before their posting to the Enterprise.

"He promised to be good after that incident on Risa, when he fell while rock-climbing. He's supposed to be behaving himself. Now I hear from Hoshi that he's seeing someone?"

"I don't think it's a *seeing,*" Hoshi said. "Definitely not a *seeing.*"

"Maybe a feeling, a touching," Trip added, and he and Hoshi collapsed into giggles.

"Trip, Hoshi," Jon warned.

They subsided briefly. Then Hoshi said, "A stroking, a petting," and Trip followed up immediately with, "A kissing, a—"

Before he could go on, Jon said, "*Commander,*" voice utterly shocked, as Hoshi and Trip collapsed again. Malcolm and the captain exchanged patient looks as their companions struggled to regain control of themselves.

Trip finally managed to make his face serious. "I would hate to imply that the ensign was into one-night stands or something."

"Clearly it's a relationship," Hoshi answered. "One of those two-day relationships. I know all about those."

"Oh, do you now?" Jonathan said in an amused tone.

"What would hold Travis's interest?" she continued. "Let's see. She's probably got a PhD in the math of three-dimensional navigational theory, and of course she'd have to be an expert pilot. But she is also an exotic dancer, and in her spare time, she tutors disadvantaged kids."

"Stop this insane speculation," Jonathan ordered. "Malcolm invited us to go with him to visit Wollis Falls. I intend to take him up on it. We leave the planet tomorrow after lunch, so this is our last opportunity for a day trip."

Trip agreed. He'd seen pictures of the falls in his tourist guide, which he'd been perusing over breakfast, and they were spectacular. "Count me in," he said. "Hoshi?"

She extended her hand, palm down, and waved it from side to side, indicating she was uncertain. "I don't know," she said. "I haven't seen the outdoor sculpture garden yet."

"Is there a description of the falls in that guidebook?" the captain asked, indicating the slim, glossy commercial padd Trip was holding.

The commander pushed it over to him. "Yeah," he said.

"May I borrow this for a while?"

"Sure thing, Cap'n."

The captain flipped through the index, found the entry, linked to it, and quickly skimmed it. "Looks like from where we are, it takes two hours to get there by public transportation and the route there is scenic in its own right." He considered briefly. "So if we leave at ten, we'll arrive in time for lunch. We could have a picnic by the falls, or maybe we could eat at the restaurant that overlooks it. What do you think?"

"I think a picnic sounds more romantic," Hoshi said, giving Trip and Malcolm a meaningful glance that the captain totally missed as he paged through the guidebook. Trip winked at her, and they started giggling again.

Jonathan looked up, surprised. "What?" he asked. "What's so funny?"

"Nothing," Hoshi said, voice strangled.

"I don't know what is with you two." he said shaking his head. "Thank god you don't do this while you're on duty." He pointed the guidebook at Hoshi for emphasis. "You're going, and that's an order. *And* you're in charge of the picnic lunch. Got it?"

"Yes, sir," she said.

Jon then returned to his perusal of the guidebook. "We can have dinner at the restaurant if we stay that long. And wear hiking gear and comfortable shoes, everyone. There are some nice trails there."

"I think I'll return to the hotel and change. Shall we meet in the lobby at ten, sir?" Malcolm stood up.

The plan was agreed to and Trip stood up as well. "I'll walk over with you," he said.

"That leaves us with the bill," Jonathan pointed out.

"Exactly," Trip answered. "Thanks for breakfast."

Hoshi slid out of her chair, saying, "Gosh, I have to get going too. Got to arrange for lunch and all that. Breakfast was delicious, Captain."

Jon sighed. "I'm a generous guy," he said. "See you at ten." He settled back and waved at them as they exited, then returned his attention to the guidebook. The server hovered solicitously at his elbow as he refilled Jon's cup; he blushed at Jon's smile, and Jon pretended not to notice.

Hoshi, Trip, and Malcolm stepped outside and stood together on the sidewalk. It was a beautiful sunny day. "Which way?" Trip asked Hoshi.

"I'm going to that little café on Bird Street," she decided. "They had a takeout menu posted that looked good." Then she cocked her head. "Look, when are you going to tell the captain?"

"Tell him what?" Malcolm asked.

"She means, tell him about us," Trip said. "That we're lovers."

The lieutenant sighed. "Must we?"

"Well, Travis knows and Hoshi knows, and we all know Hoshi can't keep her mouth shut."

"It's true," she said regretfully. They all knew that wasn't true at all.

Trip spoke again, "It just doesn't seem fair that he's the only one on this trip who doesn't know. He will find out, and I think he'd rather hear it from us, instead of having to haul us in and read us the riot act when he looks like he doesn't know what is going on aboard his own ship. Not to mention—the captain and I are good friends. He deserves to know." He was struck suddenly with a thought. "Unless—are you uncomfortable with this? We're moving fast." Maybe too fast. Telling the captain implied a level of seriousness that, perhaps, two nights together did not warrant. The last thing Trip wanted to do was move too fast and scare Malcolm away.

"Oh, Trip, no, please don't think that." Malcolm took his hand. "You're absolutely right. We'll tell him. Let's meet outside his room at five minutes to ten and we'll tell him together. That way, we won't have time to do any explaining. If you want to have a quiet talk with him, as friends, you can do that separately."

"Good plan." Trip put an arm around his lover's shoulders, and Malcolm slid his arm around Trip's waist. "Let's go. See you at ten, Hoshi."

They walked right past the window of the restaurant, arms around each other, and looked inside as they passed. Trip saw his friend sipping from a mug, ostentatiously engrossed in the guidebook. The server was staring at him longingly from across the room. No doubt the captain was trying to distance himself from the guy. Although he was cute in a punky way, he was much too young for Jon, and Trip tried to suppress a grin.

The hotel was only a few minutes' walk away, but Malcolm wanted to buy a souvenir for his sister Madeline, which then led to a ten-minute stop in a quaint jewelry shop with wonderful one-of-a-kind handmade pieces. Trip tried to help his lover pick out some earrings, but ended up teasing Malcolm when Malcolm admitted he didn't know whether or not his sister had pierced ears. They settled on a delicate necklace instead. "It will help her get over the shock," Malcolm said as they stepped back outside.

"The shock?"

"When I tell her I've started dating a wonderful man."

"What's the shock, the wonderful part or the man part?"

"Actually, the dating part," Malcolm commented dryly.

"Well, it did take us a while to get our act together and let on how we felt about each other. You don't have to tell your family if you aren't ready," Trip said. "Besides, I think I'll make it my mission to thaw some of that Reed reserve."

"Will you tell your family about me?" Malcolm asked quietly.

Trip smiled. "Well, I don't think it will be much of a surprise to my mom, but yeah, I'm going to tell them." Trip had let slip to his mother how he felt about Malcolm a few months back, but he'd made her promise not to tell anyone because it wasn't reciprocated. So it would certainly not come as any shock to her when he told her about the two of them, and at least now the rest of his family could know as well. Trip hadn't expected Malcolm to tell his parents, but he was secretly pleased to know that Madeline was going to find out. It let him know that he was an important part of Malcolm's life.

"Well, if we're going to tell the captain, then the least I can do is tell my sister," Malcolm said firmly. "I've decided." "Good decision."

The dark-haired lieutenant played with the paper bag his purchase was wrapped in. "Look, I'm nervous enough at having to talk to the captain about this."

Trip reached out and clasped Malcolm's hand briefly, then released it. "It's okay," he said gently. "You just do what you have to do, when you have to do it."

"Oh, god." Malcolm banged his head gently against Trip's shoulder.

"What, embarrassed of me?"

Malcolm looked shocked. "Not at all," he protested.

"What, then?"

"Butterflies. I'm all over butterflies when I think of telling Madeline."

"You know why I think you're nervous?"

"No, why?"

"Because you're afraid of her reaction. You're afraid of her happiness or disapproval. It doesn't matter what the reaction is. It's that someone in your family is going to have one, and that reaction will be about something to do with you."

Malcolm nodded slowly. "Yes, you're right, of course." He hesitated. "It seems like a terribly big thing, to admit to those around one how much one feels. How deeply one feels." He inhaled. "How deeply *I* feel," he corrected. "I prefer that those around me not know what I am thinking or feeling. I prefer that they not know the depth of my capacity to feel. By telling them this, I give them something important. When I tell them, I become vulnerable. I prefer to be perceived as invulnerable."

They were at the foot of the steps leading up to the hotel, and Trip pulled Malcolm in close to hug him. "No one wants to hurt you," he said into Malcolm's hair. "No one is invulnerable. I think the captain and your sister will be happy to hear that you are vulnerable."

"Well, Madeline will certainly be delighted." Malcolm clutched him close, then released him, and they started up the steps. "It's ridiculous. I just have to tell the captain a simple fact about my life, but it will be easy telling the captain as opposed to a member of my family. The captain couldn't possibly disapprove of you, because he knows you so well already, whereas my family certainly could, because they've never met you. Although," he admitted fairly, "Madeline will be predisposed to like you." He held the door for Trip, then followed him through into the foyer. "How much time do we have until ten?"

Trip checked. "About a half hour."

"Let's hurry up to your room, then." Although Malcolm had his own room, he had moved most of his things to Trip's suite instead.

Trip pushed a button to call the lift and draped his arm around Malcolm as they waited. They would tell Jon together, so that the captain would know that they were serious. Because Trip was the senior officer, it was really his responsibility to tell the captain—not to mention, they had been friends for many years. Still, Trip wasn't entirely sure how Jon would take the news: Trip had not only decided that he loved a man, but also that said man was the armory officer on board Jon's own ship. Trip could only imagine the shock that the news might generate in the older man.

They stepped into the lift as it sighed open. The lifts at the hotel were ridiculously old and slow, but they were quaint. When the door finally shut behind them and Malcolm had pressed the ornate button to indicate the floor, Trip turned the shorter man to face him, leaned down, then kissed him hard. Surprised, the other man kissed him back.

"What was that for?" he asked when Trip came up for air.

"Nothing," Trip said. He pushed Malcolm against the wall and kissed him again, hands holding onto Malcolm's hips, keeping his lover firmly in place. "Just giving the security guys something to watch." He waved and smiled at the discreet camera pickup, then gave it an enthusiastic thumbs-up. "I'm always thinking about security guys. I aim to entertain them." Trip kissed him again.

"So thoughtful. Let's make it good, then, shall we?" Malcolm's free hand stroked Trip's ass, and he pulled the taller man closer to him, pushing one of his own legs between Trip's.

Malcolm gently bit Trip's lower lip, causing the commander to groan as he rubbed his groin against his lover's stomach. Then Malcolm's mouth drew him in and his body responded. They had been kissing for less than a minute, and already Trip felt like he was going to explode. When the lift door slid open, they both stumbled out. Malcolm's hands were on the buttons of his shirt and their mouths were still locked together as they made their awkward way to Trip's room. He pulled at the lieutenant's shirt, untucking it, only then realizing that the shirt had buttons. Trip decided they were too much work, so he just ripped at the fabric as he pulled out his room key, causing buttons to fly in every direction down the hallway.

"Don't stop," Malcolm said when Trip removed his mouth long enough to insert the door key. "Please. Don't ever stop."

Trip, kissing Malcolm, stroking his warm skin, pushed the door open and barely managed to get the key out of the lock before they were inside, trailing shoes and shirts. He dropped the room key, and Malcolm must have dropped the package with Madeline's necklace, because both his hands were suddenly on the front of Trip's trousers, undoing them.

"Now," Malcolm said definitely, stroking Trip's throbbing cock. "Inside me now."

Trip didn't even stop to think. He just pushed Malcolm into the bathroom. The long mirror that ran the length of the bathroom reflected the light from the sitting room area. They were both so frantic with need that his fingers were clumsy as he dug through the kit on the counter for lube. Then he had Malcolm's trousers down, manhandling the shorter man, turning him so that his back was to Trip, and then urging him to lean forward over the counter, as Trip squirted a glob of lube into his hand and slid his hard cock right through the lube and directly into Malcolm's asshole.

The lieutenant was hot and tight, and as Trip buried himself to the hilt, he groaned. This wasn't going to last more than a few seconds, and as his lubed hand stroked up and down Malcolm's shaft, he began thrusting. He felt red heat boil up from his balls. He didn't attempt to stretch out his pleasure. Their eyes met briefly in the mirror, then Malcolm's eyes closed and his hips bucked as he came, his own hand tightly cupping Trip's as they both worked his cock. The erotic sight pushed Trip over the edge, and he let his climax wash over him as he pushed hard into Malcolm, feeling his cock pulse deep inside his lover's heat. The two men groaned in pleasure as they abandoned themselves to orgasm. As Malcolm flung out an arm to steady them, he knocked the kit off the counter, sending paraphernalia everywhere, but Trip barely noticed, the explosion of sound hidden in his climax. He closed his eyes as his cock pulsed again and again, focusing on the exquisite sensation of coming inside Malcolm's body, and when he opened them again, his eyes met the shocked eyes of Captain Jonathan Archer in the mirror.

"Oh, shit," he gasped. He pulled out of Malcolm and leaned against the counter, then sat down heavily on the commode, a combination of his legs refusing to hold him and his tripping over the trousers around his ankles.

Malcolm said "Trip?" as his own eyes opened. He leaned both arms against the counter, his come-covered hand slipping slightly, and as he saw Jon, he froze.

Jonathan, beet red, was holding something in his hand: Trip's guidebook. "I'm so sorry—" he began. He tried again. "I heard noises—" He took a step backward, and his heel knocked against something. He turned even redder as he looked down and saw that he'd almost tripped over one of the dildoes they had played with last night. Also lying on the floor were the rest of the sexual accouterments they had purchased the other day—interestingly shaped plastic bottles of lube and scented oil, a variety of wrapped condoms, the other dildo—in addition to nonsexual items such as shaving cream, razors, and soap. "Excuse me," he said firmly, then turned on his heel and strode out. They heard the door in the main room click shut behind him.

Malcolm sat down on the edge of the bathtub. He panted for a minute or two, then finally said, "'Oh, shit' about sums it up."

"Well, at least he didn't find out through anyone else," Trip said as he kicked off his trousers and briefs. He put his head in his hands. This wasn't how he wanted his friend to find out.

"Oh yes, that's a big comfort," Malcolm commented. He turned on the bathtub's tap and wet a washcloth. "I'm just so glad that he found out by seeing me with my new boyfriend, who also happens to be his best friend, up my arse with me coming all over my stomach and chest. So very dignified." He began cleaning himself off.

In spite of himself, Trip began to laugh. After a moment, Malcolm grinned wryly, then joined in. "You'd best go see the captain," Malcolm said.

"Why me?" Trip asked. "I thought we were both going to tell him."

"You're still the captain's best friend, but I don't think he would appreciate seeing me right now. A change of plan is in order, don't you agree? I think it's best if you were to go and speak to him alone."

Trip considered, then decided Malcolm was right. "I guess so." Trip began cleaning up too.

"It looks like you'll be timing it just right," Malcolm informed his lover. "By the time you get up there, it will be about five till. We can still meet Hoshi at ten."

"Oh, good," Trip said brightly. "I'd really hate to miss the day trip."

"Ah. Sarcasm."

"Yes," Trip said, sounding very uptight.

Malcolm knelt at Trip's feet and spread his legs. He scooted himself in and wrapped his arms around his lover, pressing his body against the commander's. "You know how I feel about you, don't you, Trip?" he said. He sounded hesitant.

Trip tossed his rolled-up washcloth into the sink, then considered Malcolm. "Yeah, I do," he responded. They clung to each other for a moment.

"All right, then, tell me how I feel about you."

Trip stroked the side of Malcolm's face. "You love me," he said at last. He hadn't expected that they would say those words so soon, but it was clear they both felt it. "How do I feel about you?"

"You love me too." The dark-haired man softly touched the middle of Trip's chest with his index finger. "You feel it here."

"I do. You're right. How do you know that?"

"Easy. I feel it too." He kissed Trip and rose. "Trip, the captain is just as embarrassed as we are. I absolutely guarantee it."

While Malcolm finished cleaning up and tidying up the bathroom, Trip quickly dressed in hiking gear and headed for Jon's room. He moved fast so he didn't have time to think too hard about what he had to do or how he was going to do it. But when he knocked on Jon's door, his heart was thudding. There was only a brief pause until the door opened. Trip, who had been half-hoping Jon had already gone down, felt his heart sink when Jon's eyes met his. But, he told himself firmly, having a talk now was a thousand times better than the awkwardness that would ensue on the day trip if they didn't have the talk.

"I need to talk to you, Jon," he said, and Jon just nodded and stepped aside so Trip could walk in.

"Have a seat," Jon said, waving at the sofa and chairs arranged in front of the picture window. Jon sat across from Trip after Trip selected a chair.

Jon wasn't helping him along, so Trip plunged in. "Malcolm and I are lovers," he said, making it matter-of-fact. He met Jon's eyes directly. He couldn't read Jon's face. "Just for a few days now. We were going to tell you about it today. I need to tell you that I don't think this is a casual thing. We really—we really feel for each other. I'm sorry you had to find out this way."

Jon nodded. "I don't know what to say," he said. "I saw something really private between the two of you." He started turning red again. "I'm so sorry I just came in. I should have knocked. But the door was ajar, and I just wanted to drop off that padd you lent me." He clasped his hands together and rested his forehead against them, elbows on thighs. "Oh, god," he said, eyes downcast. "I am incredibly embarrassed. And surprised. Embarrassed and surprised. That about sums it up." He looked up. "We've been friends for years. Tell me he makes you happy."

"Oh, lord, he makes me happy."

"Tell me you love him."

"I love him," Trip said simply, and it was true.

Jon hesitated, and Trip knew what was coming. "I didn't know—I didn't know you liked men," Jon said.

"That's the real issue, isn't it?" Trip said quietly. "I withheld information from you, my best friend?"


"Jon, I like both men and women. But the things you and I tended to do together, on Earth or wherever—they were all about being straight. Going to bars, having fun, trying to pick up women, all that—that was what we did together."

"That's not the basis of our friendship," Jon said.

"I know that. I don't want to trivialize it. But when we got to be friends instead of just acquaintances, it was an old habit. I didn't want to scare you. I didn't want you to worry that I would make a pass at you or something. Your friendship was too important to me. *Is* too important to me." Trip ran his hands through his hair. "Please tell me this relationship with Malcolm isn't going to cost me my friendship with you. Please." That was his fear.

"Oh, Trip, you should know me better than that," Jon said. He reached out a hand, clasped Trip's, and squeezed it. "We've been through a lot together. I feel hurt that you felt you couldn't tell me this—this thing about yourself. But your friendship is really important to me." He squeezed again, then released Trip's hand. "I like Malcolm," he said matter-of-factly. "He's probably good for you. He may even be good enough to date my chief engineer."

"Malcolm is dying of embarrassment," Trip said.

"That makes two of us."

"Three. Don't forget me."

Jon laughed. "Anything else you need to tell me? Some deep, dark secret? Anything you need to get off your chest? I don't want any more surprises like that one. I doubt I can survive another shock."

Trip considered. "Well, I really like deep-fried cheese curds," he admitted.

"That sounds terrible," Jon said. "What are they?"

"A food. Well, kind of a food. I had them at a county fair in Minnesota once."

"That's the best thing you can come up with?"

Trip shrugged. "You really do know me better than anyone," he said. "You know all the other scary stuff already."

Jon smiled. "You're a good man, Trip," he said. "The best."

"So are you, Cap'n." Trip stood up. "I guess we'd better hurry down. Hoshi and Malcolm will be waiting for us."

"Oh, god," Jon groaned as he rose. "I have to face Malcolm next."

"But what did we learn today?" Trip asked in a schoolteacher voice.

"Knock. Always knock," Jon said.

"Very good!" Trip applauded. He followed Jon out into the hall, and they headed down to meet their friends in the lobby.

When they exited the lift, just a few minutes past ten, they saw Hoshi and Malcolm sitting in the lobby in a giant sofa. They looked oddly small and childlike: their feet didn't touch the ground. Both were wearing hiking gear, and several backpacks were stacked to the side of the sofa: lunch and climbing gear. They were talking and laughing. Hoshi saw them first, and as Trip and Jon walked across the room, Hoshi struggled out of the sofa, then turned and helped Malcolm out.

Trip cleared his throat. "I have an announcement to make," he said without preamble as he and the captain came to rest beside the sofa. "Malcolm and I are dating, so tell whoever you want."

"Good lord! Really?" Malcolm asked, smiling at Trip. "I simply can't believe it. Are you positive? You and me?"

"Yeah, really," Trip responded with a laugh.

"Well, if you say so," Malcolm said doubtfully. "Although I must say I always thought you were rather sexy."

"Well, it's not news to me," Hoshi put in. "But I'm very happy for you nonetheless. Come on, Commander, help me with this." Hoshi and Trip knelt by the backpacks as Jon and Malcolm eyed each other, moved off, and began talking in low voices. Trip watched them out of a corner of his eye and saw both of them turn red. He wished he could hear them. Hoshi whispered, "Malcolm said something about what happened. Let's give them some time to talk."

"Are there no secrets any more?" Trip said grumpily. He unzipped one of the backpacks. "Good lord. What is this?"


"This cheese is *pink.* That is, if it is cheese. Is it safe to eat?"

"Of course. I wouldn't poison my superior officers. You get kicked out of Starfleet if you do that."

"These look good."

"That's dessert. Don't touch that." Hoshi slapped Trip's hand away.

"Do we have enough water?"

"I think so."

They bickered as they checked over the hiking equipment, until Jon and Malcolm walked over to them. Then they quickly rezipped the backpacks and stood up.

"All right," Jon said. "Let's go view those falls and maybe find Ensign Mayweather and his redheaded PhD exotic dancer girlfriend."

"Yes, sir," Malcolm said.

The trip to Wollis Falls was a lot of fun. They had their picnic lunch and then went for hikes. Malcolm wanted to hike the most difficult trail, but only the captain had the hiking skill to go with him, so they set off, leaving Trip and Hoshi to take the easier trail around the other side. Trip and Hoshi spent about an hour at the top, taking pictures. The view was spectacular. Trip would have preferred to have Malcolm with him to enjoy the romantic view, but Hoshi was a good companion, and it was probably good for Malcolm and the captain to spend some time alone together.

They met for dinner in the restaurant, which was a casual place that catered to hikers and tourists; their garb wasn't at all out of place, and neither was their sweatiness. They were just beginning to think that they'd go the whole day without seeing Travis at all when, during dessert, Hoshi perked up and waved wildly.

"They're here," she whispered, and a moment later, Travis and a striking woman with red-gold hair came up to the table. Trip took in Travis's outfit: Travis was wearing skin-tight climbing gear that showed off his sculpted body. The gear was made of understated high-tech material and implied that Travis was an expert hiker—which, now that Trip thought about it, Travis was.

"Hi everyone," Travis said, not exactly sounding thrilled. "I didn't know you were coming up to the falls today."

Malcolm just said, "Yes," and waited expectantly.

Travis didn't leap right in, so Hoshi pushed it along.

"Hi, I'm Hoshi Sato," she said, leaning back in her chair and extending her hand to the redhead. "Travis and I work together."

The redhead took Hoshi's hand gratefully. "Hello, I'm Lauren Stone," she said.

Stone shook hands all around as they introduced themselves and then took a chair when offered one, so Travis had to sit down too. By this time, he was looking very grumpy. He probably wanted some alone time with her, without his crewmates, before they shipped out tomorrow.

"So, what do you do?" Trip asked Lauren. "Are you a pilot, like Travis?"

"Oh, no," Lauren laughed. "That is, yes, I'm a qualified pilot, but I don't do that any more, although I keep my certification up. I'm a navigation systems specialist—I work in the math of three-dimensional navigational theory. I run the navigation unit at Deep Space Four, where we do a lot of ship refits. I also do some volunteer work there, teaching math to some of the disadvantaged kids on the station, to bring them up to speed so they can apply to university."

Trip blinked.

"I was thinking maybe you were a dancer," Hoshi confided. "You have the body type, and you walk like a dancer."

"That's funny, I was going to say the same about you," Lauren said. "I used to dance. And you look really familiar to me. Have we met?"

"I don't think so," Hoshi said. "Just at the club a few nights ago."

"No, I'm sure of it," the redhead insisted. Then she snapped her fingers. "Six years ago, the zumbai competition in Sao Paulo?"

"Oh my god, yes," Hoshi said, voice incredulous. "I placed sixth."

"I knew it." Lauren looked delighted. "I placed fourth."

"Zumbai?" Trip put in, before the girlish gushing could get too extreme.

"It's a dance form," Hoshi told him. "It's highly stylized. I used to dance zumbai competitively when I was at school, and a partner and I used to do the ballroom dance circuit."

"I did not know this about you," Malcolm said. "Oh, I'm just full of surprises," Hoshi said to him. "Well, would you all like to see? I have a player and some disks with me." She turned to Lauren, apparently her new best friend. "Shall we show them how it's done?"

"Oh, I'd love to," the other woman answered.

"Come on then."

They paid their bill and left, heading for the area where they had picnicked earlier. Trip put his arm around Malcolm as they all walked, talking and laughing. Travis fell in beside them.

"Lauren seems really nice," Trip offered. "Smart and pretty."

"I know," Travis said gloomily. "Trust me to find someone great on shore leave, when nothing can come of it. So, what, are you guys out now?"

"Oh, I forgot to tell you," Trip said. "Malcolm and I are dating, and we've decided we're in a serious relationship."

"Well, you make a cute couple."

Malcolm smiled. "Thanks. 'Cute' is just what we're going for."

"So I guess it's not a secret anymore?"

"No," Trip said. "I told the captain today, so I guess we've gone public."

"Well, that's good," Travis said. "It's hard to sneak around. Excuse me." Lauren had called to him, and he hurried to catch up.

There was silence as they walked. It was almost sunset. Finally, Trip said, "I was thinking."

"Mmm?" Malcolm murmured as his thumb traced lazy circles on the commander's wrist.

"I was just wondering if maybe we could set up a schedule, for when we can come to each other's quarters," Trip said. "If we're not going to keep 'us' a secret, then I want to be able to see you as much as I can."

"Of course," Malcolm agreed. "Well, unless—do you want to just move in?" He sounded tentative.

"I don't think that's such a good idea," Trip said. He'd already thought about that. "It's a bit too soon for that, but thanks, though."

"It would be nice to have you near all the time." Malcolm's voice was wistful.

"We'll figure it out with our duty rosters when we get back aboard ship, and we can inform the computer so it knows where you are. In case something happens."

They trailed behind the other members of the crew as they entered the picnic area, which was mostly deserted. They caught up just as Hoshi turned on the music, and as the men made themselves comfortable on one of the picnic tables, she and Lauren danced zumbai. It looked to Trip like a combination between tai chi and hula dancing, with slow undulations of the hips and stylized arm movements. Although they had just met, the two of them danced an identical dance, perfectly in time with each other. The movements and the music were sultry and implied tropical heat and sex. Lauren spoke quietly every now and then, and Trip realized she was cueing their movements. They took a bow when the song ended.

When the next song on the disk began, Travis called out, "Do men dance zumbai? Can I learn?"

"Oh, yes, they do indeed," Lauren said. "In fact, all of you would be quite the hot commodity on the zumbai circuit. Wouldn't you agree, Hoshi?"

"On appearance and sex appeal alone? Oh, definitely," Hoshi answered. "Tall, handsome, so many to choose from—and just look at those bodies."

Lauren made a noise of agreement and Travis laughed, "Lauren, you're supposed to pretend to like me best. And Hoshi, I'm pretty sure Commander Tucker is off-limits."

"Damn straight," Malcolm growled. "He's mine. All mine."

"Okay, Travis. Let's see if you can put you money where your mouth is." Hoshi pointed to a spot beside her. "Come here. Let's see if you can keep up." Ensign Mayweather joined the two women, and Hoshi took a step forward so he could see her and struck a pose. Lauren and Travis copied it. Hoshi snapped her fingers quietly. "Can you feel the beat?"

Travis nodded. "Got it."

"Let's go. Left arm slow around, then swipe fingers around like so. Good. Right foot back, switch weight and hold as right arm comes up overhead."

Trip watched as the dark-skinned ensign learned to dance zumbai, following Hoshi's soft cues. Lauren had been using some kind of cueing shortcut, but Hoshi was spelling it out for Travis. Trip moved so he was sitting on the picnic table's top, feet on the seat, Malcolm tucked between Trip's legs with his butt against Trip's groin, and Trip loosely put his arms around the smaller man and pulled him in. Malcolm rested against Trip, lean and warm. Once Malcolm turned his head and looked into Trip's eyes; he gave Trip a slow, easy smile that made Trip's heart constrict. But mostly they sat quietly, warm against each other, and watched their friends dance. Travis's movements were slow and controlled, and he had a good sense of rhythm. By the end of the song, he was dancing in perfect accord with the women. When the song ended, they took a bow, and the three members of the audience clapped and hooted.

"You're a quick study," Lauren said, putting her arm around Travis. "Anyone else want to learn?"

Jonathan, Trip, and Malcolm all declined, so the trio danced zumbai to one more song before Hoshi swapped disks. "How about some regular dancing?" she asked. A slow waltz began playing. "Captain, will you dance with me?" Jon took her extended hand. "Why, thank you, Ensign, I'd love to." He put his arm around her and they began moving expertly. Travis and Lauren were next, the redhead smiling up at the tall man, their bodies pressed close as they swayed.

"I guess that leaves us, Mal." Trip tugged the lieutenant off the picnic table and kissed him. He could get used to this: kissing Malcolm in public, slow dancing with Malcolm in public. He found the beat of the music and they began moving, the shorter man easily following his lead, Malcolm's warm body leaning intimately into his. They danced together until the sun set and the stars came out.

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