Title: Treading the Boards

Author: Kylie Lee

Author's email: kylielee1000@hotmail.com

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

Date: 08/31/02

Length: ~16,800 words

Fandom: Star Trek: Enterprise

Pairing: A/R, T/R

Type: Slash M/M

Rating: NC-17

Sequel to: Losing Control

Summary: Archer, Tucker, and Reed, undercover on a mission, have to cope with Tucker's amnesia.

Feedback: Yes, please

Disclaimer: Original material copyright 2002 Kylie Lee. Characters are Paramount's. They own it all. No money changed hands.

Spoilers: None

Archive: Yes, at EntSTSlash, Tim Ruben, Archers_Enterprise, Allslash, Situation Room, Luminosity, Complete Kingdom of Slash, and WWoMB; anyone else, yes, but ask first.

Comment: This is a stand-alone sequel to "Losing Control." Some more challenges came through, and I resurrected the universe. This is the challenge fic to end all challenge fics. And—here are the other challenges in here (deep breath), all from EntSTSlash: Naked butts are the only way the guys recognize each other (Nijijin, post 1415); put one of the guys in drag (T'Pau Silver, post 1442); use this line in a fic: "I guess oblivion can have me for a little while" (Helyn, post 1535); pierce a nipple or penis of one of the boys (Cinmbria, post 1546); use the word "Tripapalooza" in a fic, and stick a monkey in the fic to boot (Leah, post 1706); write the backstory to the zany game of poker alluded to in "Rogue Planet" (Tim, post 1806); marriage for T/R, and amnesia (Louise, post 1950; Louise wanted Reed to get amnesia, but I had to make it Tucker, so I hope she'll forgive me); include the words or situations "misunderstanding," "don't judge a thing till you know what's inside it," and "mistaken identity" (Macx, post 2187; I used these very phrases); a submissive Malcolm, your choice of male partner, regulation skivvies, a trip to sick bay, you decide why, and these phrases: "John Holmes [or porn star of choice], I'm not," "So what do I do with the xyz?", and "All for you, everything I am, is all for you" (Cinmbria, post 1742; not exactly as she intended, but all these elements and lines are in here). Thanks to Kim and MJ for beta work.

*** 1

Malcolm Reed awoke suddenly at the sound of a loud crash. "Jon?" he asked, voice sharp. "Is everything all right?"

"Ow. Yes." Jonathan Archer sounded weary. "I was trying not to wake you, so I didn't turn the light on. I tripped over this lamp." He turned it on. "Put that thing away. Can I open the blinds?"

"Of course." Reed squinted in the sudden light as the blinds rolled open, then returned his pistol to the nightstand. It was the only weapon he had been allowed to keep after his interrogation yesterday—was it only yesterday?—because he had a permit for it. He had reached for it automatically when he was startled. He and Archer were on Benig Three, sharing a hotel room; it was the morning after their first night together, after months of exchanging longing looks and trying, apparently unsuccessfully, to hide their longing and desire for each other. They had been sent on a mission by the Vulcans to rescue a kidnapped woman, Lora Falcon. Also on the mission was Commander Trip Tucker, but he was in the hospital right now, recovering from minor surgery after he was injured when their shuttle was shot at. They should get to return to Enterprise today.

Reed watched as Archer, nude, stood on one foot and massaged the other, hopping to keep his balance. "Come here," Reed ordered. "Let me help you with that."

Archer sat on the bed and Reed pushed the covers aside. He took Archer's foot in his hands and began stroking it with his fingers, then set in with his thumbs. Archer made noises of encouragement, leaning back on his arms.

"What time is it?" Reed wondered.

"We have a few hours before the hearing. I should check on Trip at the hospital, see how his surgery went." Archer made no move to suit action to words, and Reed suppressed a smile.

"Other foot, please," Reed commanded. Archer switched feet and Reed began on the uninjured one. "Anything else you need massaged?"

"Oh, yes," Archer purred. "What was it you said about being a good armory officer?"

Reed smiled. "I said I was a better armory officer if I get laid in the morning. And of course I meant what I said." There was silence as Reed finished Archer's other foot. Reed dropped it and tugged both of Archer's legs, urging Archer close. Reed wrapped his legs around Archer's waist, and without hesitation, he leaned forward and kissed Archer. Yes. He could definitely get used to this. There was no awkwardness between them. They let the heat wash over them. They started out tentative, then grew bolder, finally crying out in pleasure as the heat culminated, as Reed sought to improve his job performance. Afterward, they took a long, hot, soapy shower together and scrubbed each other's backs, and Reed decided that that was a lot of fun, too. He was having trouble keeping his hands off his captain when his captain was nude. He wanted to stroke, to touch. And judging by Archer's reaction, Archer felt the same way.

Reed ran their clothes and underwear through the room's laundry machines—they had no overnight bags with them; they were still in the rented car they had left by the facility where they had rescued Lora Falcon, the daughter of an important businessman-politician, back on another planet—as Archer, wearing only a T-shirt, called the hospital. He heard Archer's voice but not the words. The cadence started out conversational, but Reed's ears perked when he picked out "let me talk to your superior." He padded to the doorway, still nude, making sure he was out of the way of the video pickup, to see what was wrong. Archer gave him a brief glance but didn't wave him away, so he stayed. Reed smiled at the incongruous sight of Archer's genitals and bare legs under the table. He looked all professionalism from the waist up.

Archer was saying, "What do you mean, amnesia?"

"It's simply a side effect of the anesthesia we used during his surgery," the person on the other end, a woman, soothed. Reed couldn't see the screen. "Amnesia is a temporary effect. Admittedly, usually it abates within six hours. We are unfamiliar with Mr. Tucker's species, which likely created the problem, but our experts indicate that full recovery is likely."


"Practically guaranteed, but they're hedging in case he doesn't recover," the woman said honestly.

"Well, can I come get him?"

"Are you next of kin?"

"No," Archer said. "I'm his employer." This was according to the fake IDs Lora Falcon's lawyer had given them.

"I'm sorry," the woman said. "Because of his amnesia, we have to hold him here until he recovers, or we can release him to next of kin. Does he have next of kin? His parents? A husband or wife?"

Archer seized on that. Reed could read his mind: Archer wanted to get Tucker up to Doctor Phlox on the Enterprise to take care of this amnesia thing. "A husband. Mr. Tucker's husband is Malcolm Reed, and Mr. Reed can call for Mr. Tucker this afternoon."

Reed opened his mouth, then shut it. It was best to see how this played out.

"Mr. Reed should have proof of marriage with him when he arrives," the woman said. "We will be happy to release him home. Sometimes a familiar person or environment will return the memories."

"Well, I'm hoping that when Mr. Reed and I get there, Mr. Tucker's memories will be back," Archer growled. "Thanks for your help." He hung up with a swat of his hand and turned and focused on Reed.

"And here I was just getting used to you," Reed said ironically. "Now I'm married to another man?"

"Unhappily married, apparently," Archer said. "You never struck me as the kind of guy who cheated. I must say I'm surprised." He activated the com again, but he immediately turned it off. "I feel strange, making calls wearing only this T-shirt," he admitted, rising. "I need to put some pants on. Is the laundry done?"

Reed made a noise in the affirmative, and there was a delay as they got dressed. Then Archer hit the com again. He contacted their lawyer, Reva Sparrow, and explained the difficulty. She promised to have paperwork supporting a marriage between Tucker and Reed to give to them at the hearing, and she mentioned something about contacting Enterprise for some further information, so Archer gave her the hailing frequency. He called Phlox next and told him about Tucker's amnesia. Phlox didn't seem worried, but he said he'd contact the hospital and research the problem. How he would do that without blowing their cover, he didn't say, but Archer and Reed figured that it was not their problem.

"God, it'll be nice to be back aboard Enterprise," Archer said as they headed out. They had to buy clothes for the hearing on the way, so they left early. "I have clothes on Enterprise. I know where everything is. Someone brings me breakfast if I ask."

"And you're the captain," Reed teased. "You get to be in charge."

"I hate it when other people are in charge," Archer complained. "Hearings. Amnesia. Everything goes all to hell. Well, at least Lora is all right."

They were early for the hearing, but so was Sparrow. She handed Reed the marriage paperwork. "I got signatures, retinal scans, and fingerprints from your ship," she said. "Your Ensign Sato is most efficient. It's all in order. I also had someone on your crew put together some supporting documentation, in case it's requested. Someone named Travis is bringing it down with the shuttle. He'll meet you at the hospital."

"Supporting documentation?"

Sparrow simply smiled.

The hearing, which had something to do with a little breaking-and-entering job the Enterprise trio had done to spring Lora Falcon from her kidnappers, started off uneventfully. Archer and Reed tried to look professional yet sorry as they were lectured by an officiant, a stern-looking woman who clearly had no sense of humor. Sparrow had paid everybody off the day before, so after a half-hour of lecturing and character assassination, they were supposed to be allowed to go. However, it became clear that there was a snag.

"Where is Lora Falcon?" the officiant snapped. "She was to personally vouch for her employees."

Sparrow stood up. "Miss Falcon is supposed to be here. I am at a loss to explain her absence."

Reed exchanged a look with Archer. "At a loss" was code for "extremely worried."

"This is not acceptable," the officiant said. "I order them held until Miss Falcon can make an appearance."

"Surely that is not necessary," Sparrow argued. "These gentlemen plan on leaving the system just as soon as they can. They have no previous criminal records. I assure you that this was an isolated incident."

"Hrmph," the officiant growled. "They can't leave soon enough for me. However, my ruling stands."

Sparrow put up a hand. "Surely—surely a compromise. Miss Falcon's failure to appear disturbs me. These gentlemen have the means to find her. Perhaps a clerk can be assigned to these men as an impartial observer for the state, to ensure their good behavior. At Miss Falcon's expense, of course."

"Of course," the officiant agreed. "I agree that finding Miss Falcon has implications for interplanetary government and security." She thought for a second. "I assign Ella Wren." She stood up and waved a hand. "The minute Miss Falcon is found, please drop by again. Dismissed." She didn't look behind her as she exited the room.

"Routine?" Reed hissed at Sparrow.

"Sorry," she said.

"What about this Ella Wren?" Reed demanded. "You know who we are, but she doesn't. If Lora's gone missing, we can't blow our cover; we may need it."

"I think we should get Commander—that is, Mr. Tucker and send him to Enterprise just as soon as we can," Archer said. "His health is my top priority."

"It's not mine," Sparrow said frankly. "Recovering Lora Falcon is my highest priority."

Archer made a placating gesture. "She may simply have been delayed at the hospital. Mr. Tucker's amnesia may have spontaneously recovered. We may be back here in two hours."

Reed hoped Archer's optimism had basis in fact, but he doubted it. "We're going to the hospital now," Reed told Sparrow. "Would you like to accompany us?"

"I received a call from her this morning saying she was being released after the implant was removed," Sparrow worried. Lora Falcon had a bomb in her head, but they weren't mentioning that. "Yes, I'll go with you. Let's gather Ella Wren."

Ella Wren, clerk of the court, was a thirtysomething woman with short brown hair who apparently specialized in trailing people around, because she was cheerfully waiting for them in the lobby with an overnight bag on less than ten minutes' notice. She introduced herself, and everybody shook hands. Reed suppressed a sigh. She seemed pleasant enough, but what with the cover identities, things were getting complex.

Travis Mayweather was in the hospital's waiting room, paging through a padd, when they trooped in. Sparrow went off to remonstrate with the hospital while Archer and Reed greeted the ensign, Wren looking on.

"I've got a shuttle, and I've got supporting documentation for your marriage, Malcolm," Mayweather said, handing the padd over. It was a cheap commercial padd, not Starfleet issue. Reed took it and flipped through it quickly. In addition to copies of legal documents, there were also family photographs taken from his and Tucker's personal albums. Finally, surprised, he came to a section featuring the two of them. He recognized one as he and his sister Madeline at the Grand Canyon four years ago, only Madeline had been obliterated and Tucker was by his side instead. Their arms were around each other as they smiled into the camera. The picture was perfect: even the shadows were right. Someone had been hard at work, creating a past for them. Reed bet it was Baker. Ensign Baker was a master at manipulating images. He had to admit that he and Tucker made a cute couple.

He looked up when Wren asked pointedly, "Who is this?"

"Oh, Travis Mayweather, this is Ella Wren," Archer said. "Mr. Mayweather is a pilot for Falcon Enterprises. He's here to take Mr. Tucker off planet to a—to a medical specialist. Travis, Miss Wren is observing us for the court, to make sure we don't get into any more trouble." His eyes held Mayweather's.

"Nice to meet you," Mayweather said easily, extending a hand. Wren shook it.

"You're not taking him," Wren said, smiling.

Mayweather blinked. "What?"

"You're not taking him off planet."

Mayweather looked at Archer for instructions. Archer shrugged, but Reed knew he was close to blowing up. He was trying to stay cool for his audience. "Travis, can you run the specialist down instead?" he asked.

"Sure, I guess so, if he'll come," Mayweather said. "I think he wanted his lab, though."

"I'm sure he can make do," Reed said. "But first, why don't we see if Mr. Tucker still has amnesia?"

Five minutes' conference with Sparrow and the hospital administration revealed all: Lora Falcon was missing. She had not checked out, but she was not in her room and not at home. The surgery to remove the implant had not occurred last night. It had been rescheduled for this morning, but she went missing before the surgery had begun. And Tucker still had amnesia. Despite this, he was creating problems for the staff, and they were desperate to see him go. Reed showed the administration the paperwork Sparrow had given him, and apparently everything was in order, because someone was sent to get Tucker. Archer sent Mayweather away before Wren could ask for ID. Then Tucker, accompanied by a hospital representative, stepped out of the lift and looked around. He saw the group of people, hesitated, and started toward them. He clearly wasn't sure if they were his party or not.

Reed thought he'd better make it good. "Darling!" he said, almost running across the room. "How do you feel?" He swept Tucker into a big hug, then held him out at arm's length. "You look tired."

"I feel all right," Tucker said, focusing on Reed. "You're—you're Malcolm?"

"Right, I'm Malcolm. Your husband." Reed frowned. "You don't remember?"

Tucker shook his head. "The doctors thought my seeing you might help, but I don't remember you," he apologized.

Reed tucked Tucker's arm into his and turned to Archer. "This is your boss—our boss—Jonathan Archer." Incongruously, the two good friends shook hands. "Jon is your best friend," he added. "And you don't know these people. This is Reva Sparrow, our attorney, and this is a court representative, Ella Wren." More hand shaking. "Trip, let me bring you up to speed." They all sat down in the waiting area. "You, me, and Jon work for Archerco, which in turn contracts with Falcon Enterprises. You're an engineer and technician; I'm a tactician; and Jon is in intelligence. Jon owns the company, and he supervises us. All right so far?"

Tucker nodded. Reed found it hard to believe Tucker couldn't remember anything. He looked exactly the same, and he had the same mannerisms. If Tucker was running his own scam, it was a good one.

Reed continued spinning stories, basing it on their fake IDs but sticking to the truth when he could. "Well, we ran a rescue operation recently, to save Lora Falcon. She's the daughter of Darius Falcon, an important politician, and her family owns Falcon Enterprises. She was kidnapped, and we rescued her, only we got into a bit of trouble when we did it because we had to do some breaking and entering."

"That's why I'm here," Wren broke in. "I'm observing you to make sure there's no more of that nonsense."

With her there, Reed didn't dare say anything about the explosive implant embedded in Lora Falcon's head, behind the sinus cavity. "Our shuttle was fired upon, and you were hurt." Reed took Tucker's hand, trying to make it look tender. He looked into Tucker's eyes. "You underwent surgery to remove some debris, and you had a bad reaction to the anesthesia. So you have temporary amnesia. We're flying in a specialist who can help. He'll be here later today or tomorrow. That's about it, except Miss Falcon has disappeared, and we have to find her. She was hurt in the shuttle accident too."

Tucker nodded. "Thanks, Malcolm. That's all really clear." He cleared his throat. "Malcolm? I call you Malcolm? Not—not 'Mal' or some other nickname?"

"No, it's Malcolm," he said firmly. "It's funny you should say that because you said the same thing when we first met."


Of course he hadn't, but Reed was trying to create the illusion of a context between him and Tucker that wasn't there. He hoped he could keep track of the lies. On impulse, he leaned over and kissed Tucker gently on the lips, and Tucker, surprised, let him. Tucker's lips felt warm and soft. Reed saw Archer shift in his seat and suppressed a smile. "Come on, Trip," he said, patting Trip's hand. "Let's get you to a hotel room so you can rest."

Tucker shook his head. "I've been resting all day," he said. "If we have to find Miss Falcon, let's get on that."

Reed and Archer exchanged a look, and Archer nodded. "All right," Reed said. "We have to start here. She disappeared from the hospital."

Archer stood up. "I'll just poke around here. I'll be back in about twenty minutes." He headed for the administrator's office.

Wren nodded at the padd in Reed's hand. "Why don't you have Mr. Tucker look at those?" she said. "Maybe it will help jog his memory."

Reed handed Tucker the padd. "Here are some pictures of our families," he said. "Excuse me. I'll go help Jon." He got up and left Tucker and Wren together. He found Archer a few minutes later and pulled him aside.

"You were making it look good," Archer whispered. "Did you have to kiss him?"

"I thought it went over well," Reed protested.

"It better not go over too much more than that," Archer warned.

"Jealous?" Reed queried archly.

"Um, yes. Very." Archer tugged him aside to let a medical worker pass. "Look, I need to make this clear. Very clear."

When he didn't go on, Reed prompted him. "Yes?"

"We've only spent one night together, and I have no right to ask anything of you. But." Archer dropped his eyes, inhaled. Reed waited. Archer gathered himself and met his eyes. "I think we have something here. I don't want to play games. I want you. Exclusively."

Aware they were being watched, Reed simply clasped Archer's hand as he met Archer's eyes. "I know," he said quietly. "I feel the same. Please don't worry. I'm not tweaking you. I'm impressing our observer. I'm sure Mr. Tucker will forgive me when his memory returns."

Archer squeezed Reed's hand and let it go. "Good," he said. He sounded relieved.

Reed added, "Besides, I've never met anyone straighter than our Mr. Tucker. With any luck, he'll fall in love with Ella Wren and ask me for a divorce."

Archer hesitated briefly, then said. "We can hope. Come on. Let's find out where Lora went."

*** 2

The four of them—Archer, Reed, Tucker, and Wren—had an exhausting day of running around. Reed had called and gotten Tucker, Wren, and himself rooms at the same hotel, leaving Archer with the room they had spent the previous night in. The rooms were all on the same floor, although they weren't linked. Reed had kept Wren busy while Archer used a public com to call Enterprise and check in. They didn't dare call Enterprise from the hotel any more, not with Wren there; they didn't know whether or not they were under surveillance. The set look of Archer's lips and the quick shake of his head led Reed to believe that Phlox's arrival wasn't going to happen soon, but they didn't have a chance to talk.

The last stop of the day was the hotel. The reserved rooms were ready. Wren demanded access to their rooms, so they fixed it so that everybody could access everybody else's room. Archer's room was a suite, so it was decided that his room would be headquarters. Archer and Wren were fussing with the clerk about some detail when Tucker pulled Reed aside.

"We have separate rooms," he said quietly. It wasn't a question.

"Yes," Reed said. "I thought it was best."

Tucker took his hands. "I'd like to share a room with you."

Reed shook his head. Tucker clearly expected to be close to Reed, both physically and emotionally. That in itself was odd. On Enterprise, they hadn't been all that close, despite the shuttlepod incident. Tucker spent far more time with Archer. "I don't think that's a good idea," Reed said. "It's too—it's too strange." He picked his words carefully. "I don't think we should share a room—I don't think we should make love until your memory returns."

"Why not?" Tucker asked. "Because I'm willing."

Reed tried not to let the panic show on his face. He had never imagined he would hear these words from straight-as-an-arrow Tucker. He settled for, "It's not right, without an emotional context. It makes me uncomfortable." He smiled up at Tucker to take the sting out of what was basically a rejection. "Besides, you'll have your memory back in a day or two."

"Well, too bad," Tucker said, reaching out and stroking Reed's face with his thumb, fingers warm under Reed's ear. "I thought it would be kind of fun."

Then Archer and Wren were there, and Tucker and Reed stepped apart. Reed met Archer's eyes and gave a tiny shrug. There was a general bustle as everyone got their things together and went upstairs. Reed waited until midnight, when he thought everyone would have gone to bed, and slipped out of his room and into Archer's. His key worked in Archer's door, and Archer hadn't chained it shut. Reed smiled. Archer was waiting for him.

"Jon," he said softly as he entered.

"Malcolm. Lock the door."

Reed locked and chained the door. He went into the bathroom, found a towel, and rolled it into a cylinder, which he placed under the door to hide the light. Archer turned the lights on low.

"We've lost control," Reed said bluntly. He sat on the bed next to Archer. "Wren won't leave us alone. Trip propositioned me."

"He did?"

Reed eyed Archer. He didn't sound surprised, and Reed found that odd. Reed continued, "He said he wouldn't mind if he and I shared a room. If you know what I mean when I say 'share a room.'"

"Oh, I know what you mean." Archer leaned back against the headboard, arranged pillows, and pulled Reed against his body. "And I don't blame him a bit. Come here. Trip thinks you're married. He's looking for comfort. I'm sure he's tremendously confused and frightened without access to his long-term personal memory."

Reed relaxed against Archer. "What about Doctor Phlox?" he worried. "We need Trip back as Trip. Or—should we bring Trip into it, tell him about Enterprise and the bomb?"

Archer began stroking Reed's body, and Reed relaxed his head back onto Archer's shoulder and chest. "Doctor Phlox was delayed," he said. "He's Denobulan, and apparently Benig Three has some issue with Denobulans. They would rather he not come planetside. T'Pol is on it, but she said it would be easier if we could go there."

"Not bloody likely with Ella Wren dogging us," Reed snapped.

"That's what I told her. But you'll be pleased to hear that Doctor Phlox says that Trip will be just fine. He just needs a shot of some specific neurotransmitter or something. Some medical technobabble. You know." Archer leaned down and nuzzled Reed's neck and ear. "Oh. You smell good." He kissed where he had nuzzled. "I was thinking that it's best to keep Trip in the dark for now. He'll help distract Ella. He can't tell her anything, and that's how I like it. I'm hopeful T'Pol can arrange to have Phlox brought down tomorrow." He licked next. "Can you stay a while? Please?"

"Yes," Reed said. "A few hours." He twisted his body around and kissed Archer, then adjusted his body position and kissed Archer some more.

"Just a few hours?" Archer asked a few minutes later. They were panting.

"You know, my husband would have a fit if he found us together," Reed confided.

"He'd better not find us, then." Archer drew Reed closer, and they stopped talking altogether.

An hour and a half later, Reed slipped down the corridor, back to his own room. He felt sated and drowsy. And it was clear, wonderfully clear, that there was something between him and Archer. He smiled to himself as he cleaned up, and he was still smiling as he slid between the sheets. Archer had had Reed in the most comprehensive sense of the term. "So I guess oblivion can have me for a little while now," he said out loud as he adjusted a pillow. He was still smiling as he drifted off to sleep, reliving his time with Archer. It had been powerful, sweet, and moving. Yes, there was definitely something there.

Reed awoke when he heard the door to his room gently open and shut. He couldn't see the clock, but it had likely been several hours since he returned from Archer's room. He was about to speak when someone sat on the edge of the bed. Hands reached out and touched Reed's face. Fingers stroked his lips. "Shhhh," a voice breathed, and the covers were pushed aside. "Not a word." The whisper was so quiet, he barely heard it. There was a rustling as clothing was removed.

Reed smiled. It seemed the night wasn't quite over. He relaxed back as the stroking hands—Archer's stroking hands—pulled off the undershirt and briefs Reed wore as pajamas. Archer's mouth began working on his body, unerringly finding Reed's sensitive spots. Archer's cheek brushed against his stomach as his hands stroked the nub of nipple, and Reed exhaled as his erection solidified into pulsing hardness. Archer's mouth surrounded his cock, expertly licking and sucking. Reed had to hand it to him. The man was a master, clearly experienced. He could take in all of Reed's length, and he did so, over and over again, tongue pushing hard as Archer swept his head up and down, until Reed was gasping.

When Reed said, "Oh, god," Archer paused, and again, he said, "Shhhh." Reed clenched his hands and pressed his lips together, and after a moment, the pleasuring began again. Powerful and sweet was being exchanged for intense and hot. Archer's mouth wandered down to his balls. Reed was so excited that he didn't perceive the pressure as tickling, as he normally did. Reed gasped slightly as he came a little bit, a tiny spurt of liquid. Archer paused for a few seconds to allow Reed to gather himself again, then licked off the sticky substance. Reed felt Archer's mouth descend again, and from the pressure and the rhythm, he knew Archer wasn't going to stop. He tried to keep his hips still, but the urge to thrust was overwhelming. Archer didn't push him down into the mattress; he kept up with Reed. Archer's tongue pushed hard at the ridge by the cap of his cock, and the warm pressure didn't abate. With a low moan, Reed came, pulsing hard into Archer's mouth, hips thrusting. Archer continued tonguing Reed's cock, hanging on through Reed's orgasm. It was one of the best blow jobs Reed had ever received. He panted for a few minutes as Archer, face only a light gray smear in the darkness of the room, knelt between his parted legs. Reed didn't say anything when his breath normalized. Instead, he sat up and reached out a hand. He touched warm skin. Archer took his hand and wrapped it around Archer's own hand, which was in turn wrapped around Archer's cock. Archer drew Reed's hand along with his as he stroked himself. Archer's cock was slick. Either he was still lubed up from their previous encounter, or he had lubed himself before he came to Reed's room. He heard Archer's ragged breathing as Archer grew harder and more excited. Reed moved his hand in counterpoint to Archer's, and the two hands worked and squeezed Archer's cock.

Archer pushed Reed's hand away. He flipped Reed over onto his hands and knees. The darkness, silence, and anonymity were tremendously exciting. They hadn't touched body to body, and they hadn't kissed. Archer's hands trailed between Reed's butt cheeks, and Archer inserted a finger. Reed tightened at the pressure, and he deliberately forced himself to relax. He had come inside Archer earlier that night. It looked like it was payback time. Reed was happy to oblige. Archer, using the finger as a guide, slid inside him. Archer's hands held his hips as Archer began thrusting in and out. Reed's body tensed as Archer's stroking touched a place deep inside, and his semierect cock grew hard again. Archer groaned low in his throat, and the sound made Reed's balls tighten.

Archer sat back on his heels, pulling Reed down with him, so Reed was sitting back on Archer's cock, half on Archer's lap. Archer thrust hard, pushing Reed up and down. The angle and pressure intensified the pleasure. Reed lifted his body up and down slightly, in time to Archer's movements, as he began stroking his own erection. Archer's strokes became hard, almost violent, and he began exhaling hard, almost panting, as he came. The pointed pleasure, the feeling of Archer out of control and inside him, sent Reed over the edge too, and his hand worked furiously as he milked his own cock. The only sounds were heavy breathing and the smack of flesh against flesh as they orgasmed together.

There was silence as Reed relaxed back against Archer. They both panted for a while. Archer pushed him off, and they lay on the bed, spooned together, Reed's back pressed against the larger man. Archer's hand clasped his lightly, and Reed brought it to his lips and kissed it before he settled back into his lover's arms and let sleep take him.

*** 3

A light knock at the door in the morning woke Reed. He felt the warmth of the body next to his and smiled. The blackout curtains meant his room was still in darkness, so as Reed padded to the door, he twitched the curtains open slightly, letting in a stream of blinding light. He slid the security chain on. "Yes?" he said, opening the door until the security chain stopped it. He was nude, so he kept his body behind the door and just stuck his head around.

"Malcolm? It's Jon. Are you awake?" Archer's eyes peered through the small opening.

Reed's residual sleepiness vanished as he tried not to gape or gibber. Archer? Archer outside? Then who—?

He heard himself saying quietly, "No, not quite. I'll clean up and join you shortly. Any news?"

"We traced the car. See you soon."

Reed watched as Archer turned and went down the hall, presumably to his room. Reed shut the door and locked it, then leaned against it and shut his eyes.

"Is something wrong, Malcolm?" Trip Tucker asked from the bed.

Tucker. Oh lord. Tucker. "That was Jon. He traced the car. We may have some work to do this afternoon." Reed crossed over to the bed and sat on it. He felt ill. His mind was whirling. "Trip, why did you come to me last night?" he asked.

"I'm your husband," Tucker said, as if that explained everything.

"I told you I wasn't comfortable making love with you until you regained your memory," Reed said. "It seems wrong. As if—as if I were taking advantage of you."

Tucker sighed. "I know. I'm sorry. I kind of tricked you into it. I knew you weren't really awake." He smiled. "It was a lot of fun, though." He leaned in and kissed Reed's neck. Reed tried not to tense. "I'm really attracted to you," Tucker confessed. "Anyway, I thought it might help me regain my memory."

"Did it?" Reed asked, even though he knew the answer.

Tucker shook his head. "It wasn't familiar at all. I thought the taste, the feel of your body, would be familiar, but they're not." His hand stroked Reed's shoulder. "For me, that was our first time," he said wistfully. "What was it like for you?"

Reed stuck to his notion of telling the truth whenever possible. "Intensely erotic," he said. "Not speaking, barely touching—it was almost anonymous."

He considered telling Tucker what was going on, but he decided against it. Tucker would have his memory back soon enough—perhaps this afternoon. Archer. Reed had to think of Archer. Should he admit to Archer what happened? He had submitted to the anonymous lover because he was certain it was Archer. He had never suspected that Tucker might seek him out, despite Tucker's stated interest. Apparently Tucker wasn't as straight as he had thought. The blow job proved it conclusively, as far as Reed was concerned.

"Why don't you get back to your room and get ready?" Reed asked. "We should have breakfast before we track down the car."

Tucker smiled and traced Reed's collarbone with his fingers. The easy openness, the trust, the desire in his eyes—it all made Reed feel like a horrible cad—a cad and a liar. "Are you sure breakfast is what you want?" Tucker asked, voice suggestive.

Reed played along. He smiled, captured Tucker's hand, and leaned in for a long, lingering kiss, the fingers of his other hand twining in Tucker's hair. He made it deep and tonguing. They were both breathing hard when Reed released him. Well, Reed's little experiment had proved something else: he was capable of feeling desire for the engineer. That made it worse, not better.

"What I want and what I have to do are two different things, Trip," he said. He stroked Tucker's face tenderly. "Jon's waiting. Let's get ready. I'll meet you in his room. Maybe you can pick up Ella Wren on your way."

Tucker leaned in for another kiss before he disengaged himself, picked up his discarded pajamas from the floor, and put them on. "See you soon, Malcolm," he said, and he left.

When the door clicked shut, Reed leaned forward and beat his head against the bed. "Oh, shit," he said. "Bloody hell. Bollocks." He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. He considered as he took his shower. He considered as he got dressed. He considered as he made his bed and tidied up. Then he could consider no more, because he was going to be late. He absolutely didn't want to blow it with Archer, but one thing was clear: lying and sneaking were bad enough, and there was plenty of that going on already. There was really nothing to consider. He had to tell Archer he had slept with Tucker. He just didn't want to.

"Shit," he muttered as he exited his room. "Bloody hell. Bollocks."

*** 4

"What's the status of the investigation?" Wren asked curiously when the server brought their breakfast. They had met in Archer's room, then had come down together to the hotel's restaurant.

"Yesterday, as you know, I managed to get access to the security tapes," Reed said. Archer had gotten the information about the surveillance system from the hospital administrator, and Reed had tracked down the security firm the hospital employed. The other three had left him alone there for several hours while they ran errands of their own, after Wren extracted a promise from Reed that he wouldn't break into anything or blow anything up. Reed had spent literally hours viewing video feeds. "I found a surveillance tape showing Miss Falcon being wheeled out to a waiting car. She had the appearance of someone who had finished surgery, although we were assured that she hadn't undergone surgery."

"What is the surgery for?" Tucker interposed.

"Just something to do with the shuttle accident," Archer said vaguely.

"It was a simple matter to trace the car," Reed went on, before Tucker could ask another question. "It was a harder matter to untangle the car's ownership. According to Jon, word about that came this morning." Archer had put Sparrow on it.

"So—who's the owner?" Wren took a bite of food. She seemed to be having a good time.

Archer sprang the news. "Someone named East Puffin. Or maybe that's the name of a company."

Wren put down her fork and laughed. "Oh, no," she said. "It's a person all right. East Puffin runs the biggest, baddest drag queen show on Benig Three."

"Is East Puffin a man or a woman?" Tucker asked.

"Both. She likes to be called a woman. I wouldn't cross her. She's got power. The drag queen act is a front for her smuggling operation."

"The court knows about this?" Archer asked.

"Oh, yes."

"And she gets away with it?"

Wren shrugged. "She pays," she said simply. "She also doesn't smuggle drugs. She smuggles goods. The court doesn't care so much about that."

"Well, I guess we'd better check it out," Tucker said. "How do we get in?"

"Wearing dresses," Wren said, and she started to laugh. The combined glares of Archer and Reed did not stifle her amusement. "She has shows every Friday and Saturday night—that's tonight. You could get into the facility she owns then, but to what end?"

"Reconnaissance and information," Reed said promptly. "That's me. I guess I'll have to go." He smiled at Wren. "Plus, I'm about your size. You can lend me something slinky. You do have something slinky, I assume?" He batted his eyes at Wren, and she started laughing again. He turned to Archer. "Do you want to come along? You're the intelligence man."

"No," Archer said bluntly. "Although of course I hate to miss the chance to put on high heels. I think Trip is the best person to accompany you." He turned to the engineer. "We may need your technical expertise."

"No breaking and entering," Wren warned. "Plus I'm in on this too, don't forget."

"Scotch that," Archer sighed. "Okay, Trip, you're with me, and we'll do surveillance. Ella and Malcolm will go in."

"Forget that," Wren said bluntly. "You want me to dress up like a man dressed up as a woman? Dream on."

Archer put his head in his hands. "Okay, Trip, back to plan A. You're with Malcolm, wearing dresses, and Ella and I will run surveillance." He turned to Wren. "Can you do that?"

"As long as there's no breaking and entering."

Tucker made a little X on his chest. "Cross my heart," he said. "Am I good at breaking and entering?"

"The best," Reed assured him. "I know we can't physically search off-limits parts of the building, but is it all right to scan for Miss Falcon's life signs in the building?" Reed asked Wren.

"Yes. But how will you find her?"

Reed smiled as he picked up his knife and fork. "Leave that to me," he said. It was a simple matter to search for a combination of tripolymer and platinum—the components in the bomb still in Falcon's head.

What with preparing for the surveillance, finding equipment, and buying both men's and women's clothing, Reed didn't have a chance to talk to Archer alone. He did manage a quiet "I've got to talk to you" and received a nod, but they never had time. Meanwhile, Tucker stayed close to Reed, put his arm around Reed, even nuzzled Reed a few times. Trying to act husbandly and affectionate to appease Tucker and Wren while trying to act distant enough to appease Archer was going to kill him. He jumped the few times the com in Archer's room beeped, hoping against hope it was Phlox, but it never was.

Then it was time to get ready. Reed and Tucker stood in nothing but their briefs as Archer and Wren fussed. "I don't know where to put the pickups," Archer said.

"Let's see one," Tucker ordered. Archer handed him a small silver bar with little balls on either end. "They look like earrings," Tucker said. "Can we wear them as earrings?"

Archer held one up to Tucker's ear and surveyed it. "Nope, too fat and long," he said. "Maybe if we stuck them on some kind of ring, but I don't have that kind of stuff with me."

Wren checked one of the bars out. "These look like nipple piercings," she said.

"I beg your pardon?" Reed asked, thinking he hadn't heard correctly.

"Nipple piercings. Here." Before any of the men could say a word, Wren had pulled her shirt off. She unfastened her bra and showed them. Indeed, bars just like the ones Archer and Wren were holding were thrust through her nipples. Reed felt his face turn red as he surveyed her breasts. "And no, they don't hurt," she assured them, refastening her bra.

Archer shrugged. "Okay, nipples it is." He took the rod back from Tucker and dug through a bag containing sinister-looking equipment.

"Will they work under all the clothes?" Reed asked hastily.

"Oh, yes. This is top-of-the-line stuff." Archer deactivated a rod, unscrewed one of the balls on the end, and loaded it into a device that looked kind of like a crescent wrench. "This piece of equipment wasn't exactly designed to do this, but it'll work. Who's first?"

"Him," Reed and Tucker said simultaneously.

"All right, then, Trip," Archer said, going in rank order. His eyes glinted, but he looked all professional seriousness as he lined up the prongs and squeezed.

"Ow," Tucker said weakly, looking down at his new accessory. Archer pressed a small white patch against it to soothe it and stop the bleeding.

Reed was next. He shut his eyes when Archer lined up the device. He felt a thud through his body, more pressure than pain, and Archer pressed a patch to his nipple as well. Archer screwed on the balls and reactivated the devices. There was hardly any swelling.

"Test them," he ordered, dropping the crescent wrench into the bag and turning to the surveillance equipment.

"Test test one two three," Reed said obediently, and Tucker said, "I am the very model of a modern major general." They spent a few minutes fine-tuning the equipment before they began dressing.

Reed was wearing something slinky: a backless, clingy, sparkly black dress that reached his ankles and was slit up to the thigh. It was high-necked in front, concealing his chest. He wore small fake breasts that were attached to his dress but that stuck lightly to his skin, so they stayed in place. He had refused to shave his legs, so he wore special gartered stockings that made his legs look smooth and feminine. He had agreed to high heels because they made him taller, although he worried about his ability to kick and run in them. After a few practice kicks (his dress was slit high enough that he could kick over his head), he decided that he could just remove the shoes if needed, but that the heels might be a useful weapon in their own right. A short, shaggy wig of dark brown hair was next. Wren insisted that his eyebrows be shaped, so he submitted to her ministrations. Large gold hoop earrings and makeup completed his ensemble. He barely recognized himself when he saw himself in the mirror. He looked—chic.

"Do we have to do anything while we're there?" he asked, touching up his lipstick. Very red. Of course.

"Watch the show," Wren said, turning her attention to Tucker. "Why? Did you want to enter an act?"

"Why not, Malcolm?" Tucker asked, struggling into a flouncy red dress. While Reed had gone for sleek, elegant, and refined, Tucker had gone for big and fun. His fake breasts were large, and his high heels brought him up to more than two meters in height. He hadn't minded shaving, so his dress was as low-cut as was possible on a man without any real cleavage. His legs were too manly to show off, so his dress was long, too. His wig gave him long blonde hair, elaborately coiffed, and he got dangly accessories: earrings, bracelet, necklace. He made a plain woman—but one who looked like she knew how to have a good time.

"Will doing an act get me more access?" Reed asked.


"Forget it, then."

Tucker surveyed himself in the mirror. His eyebrows had been shaped too. His makeup was more ostentatious than Reed's. Wren was enjoying herself. "Well, well," Tucker said, satisfied. "Let's have us some fun tonight."

*** 5

They rode in a rented car to East Puffin's club. The surveillance equipment didn't take up much room: it consisted of a small screen to analyze readouts and two keyboard-sized pieces of equipment that analyzed the data and allowed it to be displayed in a number of ways. The surveillance devices that Reed and Tucker wore tracked them in addition to relaying sound, and the equipment was also keyed to the tricorders Reed and Tucker had in their purses.

"Trip, Malcolm, the specialist called while you were bringing the equipment out to the car," Archer told them as Wren swung tightly around a corner and barreled down a busy street, swerving. They were all holding on for dear life. Wren seemed to take after Travis Mayweather: she liked to drive, and she liked to drive fast. Really fast.

"Oh?" Trip said.

"He's been delayed."

"Oh." Trip's voice was flat. "You guys are good sports with me," he said after a moment. "I know it's probably driving you crazy that I can't remember anything."

"Don't worry, Trip," Reed said. Maybe it was better that Tucker didn't have his memory back just yet. Things were going to be awkward between them them, and right now, they had to find Falcon.

"You're still mostly yourself," Archer said.

"I keep looking at the pictures Malcolm gave me, at the wedding video, trying to remember," Tucker said. "Nothing seems familiar."

"Wedding video?" Reed said. He hadn't noticed any wedding video.

"We both look so handsome," Tucker said wistfully. "We're wearing tuxedos with red roses in the lapels, and the flowers on the altar are really pretty."

"Flowers? Altar?" Reed said.

"A big church wedding," Tucker said. "Was that your idea or mine, Malcolm?"

"Big church wedding?" Reed said.

"Malcolm," Archer hissed, trying to break him out of it.

"Oh, yes, of course," Reed said hastily. "Big church wedding. Yes. Actually, that was—that was my mother's idea. We were going to elope to Scotland and then go hiking on a honeymoon, but you know mothers. They have their own ideas of how things should be done."

Tucker reached over and clasped Reed's hand. Reed, in drag and holding hands with his ostensible husband, gave Archer a "for god's sake, help me" look, and Archer took pity on him.

"You and I had some good times too," Archer told Tucker. "I remember a poker game a couple years ago—this is before you met Malcolm, of course. We were playing poker with some girls—"

"Girls?" Tucker asked doubtfully.

"Yes, we met some girls at a club in San Francisco and took them back to your place."

"I like girls too?"

"Well, you used to. Anyway, we were playing poker, and you had this wild idea to turn it into strip poker, and I admit it seemed like a good idea at the time. So the four of us played hand after hand of poker, and I swear I've never seen you lose so badly. It was like you were trying to lose, and it occurred to me that you were doing it on purpose, and I decided to lose too. I thought you had a plan. So we lost big together. There I was, wearing briefs and one sock, and there you were, wearing briefs, and there were the girls, wearing plenty—so you'll understand why I was confused. I thought the object of strip poker was to get the girls out of their clothes. Anyway, you lost the next hand, and the only thing you had left to remove were your briefs, so you did. You ripped them off, whirled them around your head—" Archer demonstrated the whirling motion, despite the crowded interior of the car—"and you said, 'Tripapalooza'!"

"Tripapalooza?" Trip said. "What the heck does that mean?"

"I have no idea. To this day, I have no idea. But apparently your enthusiasm scared the girls. They made their excuses and got out. The next day, we showed up at—at work." Archer had almost said "Starfleet headquarters." "We were supposed to show some bigwigs around, give them a tour, and damned if it wasn't those two women. There was this moment of horrible silence, and then the senior one started to laugh. It turned out that she was our new boss. But she wouldn't do our performance evaluations after that little poker game. She handed off the job to someone else. She said she'd seen too much of us and it skewed her perspective. Anyway, later that day, I asked you what your master plan had been, why you were losing so badly."


"And it turns out that you weren't trying to lose at all. You apparently had suddenly lost all ability to play, or else you had the worst run of bad luck known to humankind. I personally think your 'Tripapalooza' was a moment of abject panic, but you deny it."

Tucker began laughing. "Sounds like fun," he said. "I'm sorry I missed it."

"Oh, you were there all right," Archer assured him. "Trust me." Archer set his fingers on the dashboard as Wren braked abruptly.

"We're here," Wren announced. "Everybody out."

Reed opened the door, exited awkwardly, unused to a dress and heels, and turned and handed Tucker out onto the sidewalk. He slammed the car door shut and gave a little wave, and Wren took off with a squeal, Archer clinging to the handhold by the door. They would park just around the corner and set up the surveillance equipment. Reed adjusted his discreet bag, just large enough for a tricorder, a credit chit, and a lipstick, and prepared to join the string of women half a block up, trooping up the front steps. "Ready?" asked Reed.

Tucker stepped in close. "Ready," he said. "Maybe I do like girls. You look great."

"Thanks. So do you."

Tucker leaned down and kissed him gently. "I don't want to mess up your lipstick," he whispered, and kissed him again.

"Mmm," Reed said, smiling, when Tucker released him.

"Mmm," Tucker said, smiling back. He reached out a finger and corrected Reed's lipstick, and Reed did the same to Tucker. "Okay, I'm ready now. Let's go in."

The club was packed. A large stage took up one side of the main hall. There was limited seating, mostly barstools set around tall tables, and the only food served appeared to be the local edition of peanuts and popcorn, although there were drinks aplenty. Reed wasn't interested in sitting down. He wanted to mingle. He bought drinks for himself and Tucker as props, then gestured: they were to split up. He opened his purse and managed to activate the tricorder. It could read through the fabric of the purse. He had set both his and Tucker's tricorders to look for tripolymer and platinum, and he had set them to vibrate, not beep, when a match was found. Meanwhile, he would gather a lot of data about the structure of this building. If he could distract or ditch Wren, he'd do a proper breaking-and-entering type search, but he didn't feel like getting tossed in jail at the moment, and he knew Wren would do it if he broke the court's rules.

He made his gestures bigger, queenier, getting into his role. He smiled and nodded at people, even put up with a few hands pinching his ass and pinched an ass of his own, as he made a circuit of the large room. Nothing. Tucker was working a hallway near the bathrooms. Tucker gave a half shake of his head when Reed caught his eye. An MC, incongruously holding the hand of what appeared to be a monkey dressed in drag, mounted the stage, and Reed quickly moved to the back of the room, near an exit into another part of the club. He looked on with interest when she introduced herself as East Puffin and the monkey as Mordant. Mordant was apparently the club's official mascot. Puffin gave a short, inspirational introduction to the club. She really knew how to work up an audience. She introduced the first act, garnering cheers and shouts, and Reed faded into the hallway, setting his mostly full glass on a server's tray as she went past. Puffin was wearing so much makeup and had such outrageous hair and costuming that he was certain he couldn't recognize her in any other context. What she looked like as a man, he couldn't begin to guess. For all he knew, Puffin could have been the man pushing Falcon's wheelchair in the video, or the person driving the car.

The happy strains of singing and dancing floated behind him as he surveyed the hall. A few people were straggling around. He inconspicuously tried two locked doors, then mounted a staircase. A short corridor at the top had several doors off it. Two were bathrooms, which Reed checked, scanning the rooms behind the walls, to no avail. He tried one door—locked—and gently tried another. To his surprise, it opened. He stuck his head in, only to be faced with a familiar face: the man who had pushed Falcon's wheelchair. He was big and beefy, and he was not dressed as a woman, which, from Reed's point of view, was a plus.

"Excuse me," Reed said hastily, modulating his voice. Strangely, he seemed to have affected a Southern accent—not like Trip's as much as Scarlett O'Hara's.

"You here for the private show?" the man asked.

Reed batted his mascara-laden eyelashes. "Yes, indeed," he said.

"Participant or observer?" the goon asked.

"Participant, I think," Reed decided, hoping it wasn't a terrible mistake.

The man held out his hand, and without question, Reed brought up his little bag. He stepped into the room, swayed in a half-circle while he dug through it, so as to maximize the tricorder sweep, and with a smile, he presented the man with his credit chit. The man swiped it in a machine set on a small desk and handed it back without comment. Reed wondered just exactly how much he'd paid.

"That way." The goon indicated, and Reed went through a door. A man dressed in a simple suit directed him into a small room that contained ten or so other men in drag.

Reed said hello, dimpled, and smiled as he circled the room. The tricorder had just started buzzing when someone came in and said, "Here you go, ladies," and tossed down a chain with a number of what looked like dog collars attached to it. "Five minutes."

Reed was too excited to pay much attention. He checked his tricorder while pretending to fix his lipstick. It wasn't a false alarm. He recognized Falcon's life signs from a previous scan. She still had the bomb in her head, and she was near. How to tell Archer and Wren?

"Have you ladies seen my friend Lora?" he inquired, still in his syrupy Southern accent.

"What?" one of the men said, surprised at being addressed. He was affixing a collar around his neck, balancing the chain over one shoulder.

"My friend Lora was supposed to meet me here. She wanted to participate in the private show, too." Reed hoped Archer and Wren were getting all this. "I thought I saw her when I came in. In fact, I'm sure it was her."

"I don't know. What does she look like?"

"Very small. Blonde."

Everyone in the room shook his head. "No, sorry," a redhead said. "Maybe she decided to fill out the audience." He dangled the chain in one hand. "You're going to have to be on the end. You're the shortest."

"Oh. Certainly." Reed let the redhead attach the collar and helped his new friend attach his.

The man in the suit who had directed Reed to the room stuck his head in. "Just a few minutes, ladies," he said. "Drop, please."

Without hesitation, Reed's companions shimmied and shook, then kicked underwear off. Reed, feeling a sense of deep foreboding, did the same. He really needed to keep his bag. He'd looped its cord bandolier-style from one shoulder to the other hip before he let the redhead affix the collar.

"All right, you know the drill. Nothing hard. Step behind step together. Step behind step together." This made no sense to Reed. "Stop when you're centered on the stage, then up go the skirts on cue, bend down, and hold it until the piece is over. That's it. Thanks."

Reed closed his eyes. He should have said "observe." He really should have said "observe." But it was too late to do anything, because they were heading out. He heard whistles and cheers, and suddenly "step behind step together" made sense: it was the simple dance step they performed in time to the music that they used to get to the center of the stage.

"Oh, lord," he said in his Southern accent, and then he was treading the boards.

*** 6

Reed smiled brilliantly over his shoulder at the audience, which was to his back. He was the last one on the end, luckily, so he didn't have to lead. He did his "step behind step together" move, rotating his hips, and the audience clapped and whooped. He caught a glimpse of the audience: well-dressed men, mostly—men not in drag. Apparently a private audience. East Puffin was smart. She got them paying coming or going. The tricorder was still vibrating quietly. Falcon was close. Falcon was very close. He stopped when the redhead stopped, and they all exchanged a look. The man in the middle raised his arms dramatically overhead, and the rest did the same. A twitch of the hips, a roll of the shoulders, a drum roll in the music, and they all grabbed their skirts, hiked them up, and leaned over, baring their butts to the audience.

The audience's reaction was that of insane delight. The calls nearly drowned out the music and the headliner, who was performing a sultry tune with interesting props. Reed didn't pay much attention to him. He shifted his skirt so it would stay up of its own accord, his feet wide enough apart to provide a stable base, and he peered through the V of his legs, under the hem of his skirt in front, trying to spot Falcon. It was hard to make out faces while upside-down, and the blood was rushing to his face as well, making him dizzy. The redhead next to him had put his hands on the ground to steady himself, so Reed did that too, although it was hard to touch the ground while wearing heels. His purse was dangling by his hip, and he managed to bring it around, open it, and check out the tricorder readings. Aha. Falcon was in a room just beyond this one. He hoped it was soundproofed. He stilled the tricorder's vibrating but left it on, then sealed his purse. The redhead gave him a curious glance, and Reed smiled at him. Luckily, it was too loud to talk. He wondered if he could get into that room without breaking and entering. Somehow, he doubted it.

The music reached a shattering crescendo, a sustained note, and the audience went wild again. Reed shifted. He was definitely dizzy, but nobody else in the line was standing up, even though the song was over. He peeked through his legs again. It seemed that the audience members were rushing the stage. He felt the vibration of pounding feet, and someone put his hand on Reed's ass.

"This one, I think," said a familiar voice.

"Certainly, sir." That was the "step behind step together" guy. There were sounds of some kind of transaction—money changing hands, no doubt—and the man in the suit leaned down and undid his collar.

Reed stood up, allowing his skirt to fall back down and cover him up, and he turned to face Jonathan Archer, apparently his purchaser. Reed put his hand in Archer's outstretched one and smiled.

"What's your name?" Archer asked.

"You can call me Scarlett," Reed said in his drag queen voice.

"We've got a room through here, Scarlett," Archer said, tucking Reed's arm through his. "Come on. I'm Jon."

In the corridor, they passed right by the door Falcon was behind. Reed signaled this information to Archer with a toss of the head, a squeeze of his arm, and a meaningful glance. He couldn't tell if Archer got it, but he thought so. However, another man in a suit was lurking, so they passed on, leaning close together. Archer opened a door for Reed, followed him in, and locked it behind them.

"You look lovely, my dear," Archer said. He pointed to the ceiling with an index finger and thrust it up and down. "Bug," his lips shaped. "They're all bugged." He tapped his ear. Reed nodded. Audio only. Reed figured that only the really nice rooms, the ones really important people visited, were wired for visuals.

"Why, thank you, sir," Reed said, slipping off his shoes and tiptoeing around the room. He pointed at the audio pickups as he found them: two of them. "How did you come to pick me?"

"That lovely bum of yours," Archer said.

Reed grinned. Archer had apparently recognized Reed's ass. He couldn't have been at the show for more than a few minutes. He must have rushed up when he found out Reed was participating in the private party. Archer had done very well indeed on ten or fifteen minutes' notice, and it was a good thing he'd been proactive about selecting Reed. Reed wasn't sure what he would have done if someone else had chosen him. Reed pointed at a far corner, kitty corner to the bed, and Archer followed him. It was the furthest away from the audio pickups. They were chatting inanely about the show.

"But enough talk," Archer said, handing him a handkerchief. "I think you know what I want."

"Yes, indeed," Reed said. He wiped his lipstick off and handed the handkerchief back. He ostentatiously undid Archer's trousers, making it loud and rustling. "Against the wall, sir," he said, pushing Archer back. He leaned in and kissed him noisily, then put his lips very close to Archer's ear. "She's behind that door near the private party room," he breathed, kissing Archer again. "She's alive."

"We can't break in," Archer whispered back a few moments later, following it with a loud groan. Reed started at the sound, and Archer shrugged.

"I think you can do better than that," Reed said aloud, and he dropped to his knees and took Archer's cock in his mouth. Archer proved that he could. His moans had a nice sense of realism that Reed appreciated. Reed grasped the base of Archer's dick and moved his tongue up and down. They might as well have some fun. He sucked for a few seconds, then quietly rose to his feet. Archer continued moaning and "oh yes"—ing. Reed put lips to ear again. "I have an idea," he said. "Once we leave."

Archer nodded and said, "Oh, god, harder. Harder."

Reed smiled and slid the strap of his purse overhead, letting it drop. A second later, his dress hit the floor. Now all he was sporting were his gartered stockings and an erection. He kissed Archer again. "Let's make it good," he breathed, grabbing Archer by the waistband of his trousers.

He manhandled Archer over to the bed, trailing clothes, and pushed him onto it. Archer reached up and touched the mike thrust through Reed's nipple, his eyes asking a question. Reed shrugged. Let Wren have an earful. They could say they faked the whole thing if she cared. Somehow, he didn't think she would.

He reversed himself so he and Archer were lying cock to cock, Archer under Reed. Reed sucked Archer's length into his mouth, and a moment later, he felt himself drawn into Archer's mouth. He forgot about Falcon, forgot about surveillance, forgot about everything except Archer's warm body and electric touch. He moaned, Archer's length hot and hard in his mouth, and Reed felt a little liquid seep out of it and into his mouth. He sucked and swirled his tongue, tasting Archer, Reed's own cock transmitting Archer's moans through his body, feeling the texture of Archer's slick, throbbing skin.

Reed wasn't doing his Scarlett voice any more. One of Archer's hands stroked down Reed's ass and leg, then toyed with the garters. Archer slid his hand between Reed's skin and the fabric of the stockings, and the erotic feeling made Reed's ass clench. After playing with Reed's stockings and garters for a while, both of Archer's hands wandered to Reed's ass. Archer squeezed Reed's butt cheeks together while Archer used his mouth to pleasure Reed. Reed moaned against Archer's cock and increased the tempo. He was desperate with need. Archer's fingers pushed hard, squeezed, and rotated, and the sensation reached overload. Reed pushed hard into Archer's mouth, and he groaned low in his throat as he came, pleasure suffusing his groin and ass. A moment later, he tasted salty liquid, and he swallowed and moaned in pleasure as they both orgasmed. He laved Archer's cock with his tongue, stroking a hand up and down Archer's hip, as Archer spurted again and again. When Archer's cock began softening, Reed rolled off. He was breathing hard.

"Scarlett, you sure know how to show a man a good time," Archer said a few minutes later. He stroked up and down his own cock and released it, a gesture of easy sensuality.

"Would you like another good time?" Reed said in his Scarlett voice. "I'm sure that could be arranged."

"We only have the room for an hour, and I have an appointment," Archer said, voice regretful.

They chatted about the weather as they dressed. There was no mirror in the room, so Reed could only hope his wig was on straight. He wasn't sure how to apply lipstick without a mirror, so he had Archer do it for him. Archer opened the door, looked both ways, and nodded. They slipped out.

Reed's plan was simple. There were people around, but nobody was paying them any special attention. He went up to the door that his tricorder had indicated had Falcon behind it, and he knocked. He wasn't breaking and entering if he knocked and was admitted. He didn't really expect it to work, but it was the first and easiest line of attack.

The door opened and a woman—a real woman—peered out.

"Yes?" she said.

"East sent me," Reed said.

The woman laughed. "I don't think so," she said. "I don't know you."

"Your friend knows me."

"My friend?"

Reed nodded and crooked a finger at the woman. They must have looked harmless because she actually stepped one foot out the door. Archer pulled her the rest of the way out, saying, "Let's talk," as Reed stuck his head in. Reed ignored their tussle.

"Lora?" he said in his real voice. "It's me." He didn't dare say his name in case her room was bugged too.

"Reed?" Falcon's voice said. Reed sighed. So much for that. He couldn't see her. "Is that you?"

"Can you come here, please?"

He heard stirrings, and Falcon approached the door. The other woman was arguing in a low voice with Archer, and they had begun to attract attention. Reed reached out, grabbed Falcon, and pulled her through the door. He shut it behind her. He put an arm around her as he and Archer, other woman in tow, hustled to the exit.

"Are you drugged again?" he asked Falcon.

"No," she said.

"The bomb is still in your head."

"No, they took me to surgery," she said. "I was knocked out. It's been removed."

"It's still in there. I can prove it. It showed up on the tricorder scan. They wanted you to think it was removed." Reed noticed two burly men in suits heading for them. "Will you come with us? We're trying to rescue you again. You were kidnapped."

"I wasn't kidnapped. East is a friend of mine," Falcon said. "She's putting me up so I don't have to stay in a hotel."

"Bomb," Reed reminded her.

"Oh, all right."

There was a loud misunderstanding as the burly men met Reed and Archer, but Reed and Archer were prepared and the burly men were not. Falcon's guardian was quickly removed from the scenario. Then they were out on the street. The car was parked by the curb, idling. Thank goodness for surveillance. Tucker was already inside, riding shotgun, and Wren was behind the wheel as usual. Reed shoved Falcon in and threw himself in bodily after her, Archer right behind. They screeched off, Wren driving as though she were in charge of the getaway car, which Reed supposed she was, and they were safe.

*** 7

"Hello, Tucker," Falcon said as Wren took a bump too fast and the car briefly became airborne. "You look nice. Red suits you, but I'm not sure about those earrings. They're not really you."

"Hello. Do I know you?" Tucker turned back to look at Falcon curiously.

"Trip, this is Lora Falcon," Archer said. "Lora, Trip has amnesia."

Falcon looked surprised. "Well, I didn't expect you to say that," she admitted. "But then again, I didn't think I'd ever see Tucker in a dress. How wrong I was. How did this amnesia happen?"

"Reaction to the anesthesia used during surgery." Tucker shrugged.

"Surgery," Falcon said. "Speaking of surgery—can I have some? Is that doctor of yours available?"

Archer said, "We've trying to get him down onto the planet for two days now. No luck so far. I've appealed to the Denobulan ambassador's office." His voice turned hopeful. "Can you help us swing anything? I like your ability to get things done."

"That's not me, that's daddy's money, but thanks for the compliment," Falcon said, voice ironic. "I don't know. I didn't realize your doctor was Denobulan. I doubt I can get him through the tox screen." At the surprised silence that greeted that statement, she said, "Surely you know that Denobulans carry dangerous viruses."

"No, I didn't know that," Archer said. "But that explains why the Benig Three officials won't let him come onto the planet." He pointed a finger at Wren. "This is Ella Wren. She's an appointee of the court. She wants you to show up to some hearing and vouch for us, and then we will be able to go. Can you do that?"

"Of course." Falcon reached out and clasped Archer's hand briefly. "I owe you so much."

"Good. If you can spring us tomorrow, we can get Trip up to Doctor Phlox and have his memory returned. We'll take you along if you want and you can have that surgery."

Wren slammed on the brakes, and in unison, they all flung forward, then tossed back. The car fishtailed before coming to a skidding halt right by the door of their new hotel. Because of the kidnapping and possible rescue operation, Wren had taken the precaution of moving them to a new hotel. She'd paid a trusted court lackey to move their stuff while they were gone. "Out," she said. She handed Reed a white folder with silvery disks thrust into slots: the keys. The lackey had run them by while she was sitting on surveillance. "I'll ditch the car and be right up. Good mission." She smiled. "See? No need to resort to breaking and entering."

Archer watched the car squeal off as he shook his head. "She's got a one-track mind," he said. "Let's go."

As he followed his friends into the hotel, Reed flipped through the folder that contained the keys, each slot labeled with a room number. "There are only four rooms," he realized. "We're one short."

"You mean we have to share a room?" Tucker asked, pressing the button to call the lift; a door opened immediately. "You and me?"

That was the implication. "Apparently so," Reed said as they stepped into the lift.

Tucker leaned down and removed his high heels, bringing his height down more than few centimeters. Reed hadn't been able to see him in the car because it had been dark, but it struck him now that Tucker did not look pleased. "I guess I know now why you didn't want to share a room earlier," Tucker said, voice ominous. "Did you forget you were wired for sound?"

There was a brief silence. "Oh," Reed said, voice flat.

"Yes, 'oh,'" Tucker said bitterly. "I heard the whole thing. You and Jon. God. And after last night, too."

Reed closed his eyes. "Last night?" Archer asked. "What happened last night?"

Tucker stuck his face aggressively into Archer's. "What do you think?" he asked, tossing his long, blonde curls. "Malcolm here fulfilled his conjugal rights, his husbandly duties, and pretty damn well, I might add."

"Husband?" Falcon said. "Husband?" Her voice escalated. She tugged at Tucker's red dress. "Wait. You didn't mention anything to me about being married. Or liking men. Or wearing women's clothing."

"What? What are you talking about?" Tucker said.

"What is going on?" Archer asked plaintively.

The elevator doors slid open, and Reed strode out, skirt swirling, keys clutched in his hand, everyone trooping behind, voices raised.

"You never told me you were married, Tucker."

"Lora, are you telling me you slept with Trip?"

"Malcolm, I can't believe you're cheating on me with my best friend. That is so—so low. What, marriage vows mean nothing to you?"

"Malcolm, you slept with Trip?"

The voices escalated, and Reed whirled around, nearly losing his balance on his high heels. "Shut up!" he hissed. "Everybody please shut up! We're trying to be inconspicuous!" He waved a room key, then used it. "In here."

Everyone followed him in, voices lowered to a low grumble, and Reed turned on the lights and motioned everybody to sit. Nobody did.

"All right, listen, Trip," Reed said. "And listen fast, because Ella Wren will be here soon and we haven't much time." He pointed at Falcon. "Lora has a bomb in her head. We don't know who put it there. She will have it removed tomorrow after the hearing. We'll take the two of you up to Phlox."

"Bomb?" Tucker said, confused.

"I said, shut up," Reed said. He tossed his purse and the room keys on a table and clutched at his hair. It came off in his hand. He surveyed his wig for a moment before tossing it next to his purse, and he ruffled his real hair. "Jon, I slept with Trip, but I thought it was you. Lora, did you sleep with Trip?"

Falcon closed her mouth. "No, but pretty nearly," she admitted. "He didn't tell me he was married. I thought you and Archer were dating." Falcon still called them by their last names, because that was how Reed had introduced them to her. "I swear I didn't know he liked men."

"I didn't either," Reed said dryly.

"Um…" said Archer. "I did."

"You didn't tell me that," Reed said. That explained the fantastic blow job.

"Well, I—"

"Look, never mind. Later." Reed turned to Tucker. "Not a word of this to Ella. You don't work for Archerco. Jon is your boss, but he's your captain. You're the chief engineer on board the starship Enterprise. You're a member of Starfleet and a commander. I'm the tac officer and a lieutenant. We're undercover." He pointed at Falcon. "We were sent by the Vulcans to rescue Lora from her kidnappers, only we were supposed to rescue her. It was a set-up. Her kidnappers let her go so that she would show up at a vote that's coming up in a few days, and—" Reed made a blowing-up sound. "The bomb in her head goes up, and so does the power structure of this interplanetary government. We don't know who's behind it. Maybe it's East Puffin. Maybe it's not."

Falcon sighed. "It's not," she said. "I've known East for years."

Tucker blinked. "This is really confusing," he said. "But what about you and Jon?"

They all swung around as Ella Wren stuck her head in the door. "Hello, everybody," she said cheerfully.

"Well?" Tucker said, turning his attention back to Reed. "Do you want to explain what you and Jon were doing tonight? Because I had to listen to it, with Ella Wren right there—I had to listen to my husband fuck another man. Do you have any idea how embarrassing that is?"

Reed looked at Wren, then at Archer. He could hear the prison doors clanging behind him because of his misrepresentation of his legal relationship with Tucker. He took a deep breath. "I admit it," he said. "Yes, I'm cheating on you with Jon. In fact, I'm in love with him. In fact, I thought you were him when you came into my room the other night. It was a case of mistaken identity, I assure you, or I never would have let you touch me."

"You bastard," Falcon, Wren, and Tucker said, almost in unison.

"Love?" said Archer hopefully. Everyone ignored him.

"Our marriage has been a sham," Reed said dramatically. He would have tossed his hair, but he had removed his wig. "You're always chasing women. It's sickening. I can't think of the last time we made love—except when I was tricked into it."

"This is interesting," Wren said, coming all the way into the room. "Maybe even more interesting than listening to what you two were up to in that private room."

Tucker's voice was hurt. "A sham?" he repeated. He fumbled through his bag and pulled out a tricorder. He paged through it and held it out to Reed. "Look. Just look," he said.

Reed, defiant, grabbed the tricorder. It was set to the wedding video. Falcon, Archer, and Wren crowded behind him as Reed activated it, disabling the audio. He watched as he, Reed, wearing black tie with a rose in his buttonhole, walked down the aisle, smiling, a parent on each arm. Next, Tucker did the same. They stood together at the altar of a large church that Reed recognized as his boyhood place of worship, an Anglican cathedral in England. They each had two attendants, a woman and a man each, who were waiting for them at the altar. Reed recognized Mark, his best friend, and his sister Madeline; two people who could only have been Tuckers were standing up for Tucker, likely a brother and sister. Reed's mother started crying when they repeated the vows after the priest, and Tucker's mother dabbed her eyes too. It was simple, elegant, and touching. It was just what Reed would want if he had a church wedding, in fact.

The priest pronounced them married, and the two men kissed tenderly. Tucker and Reed clasped hands and walked together back down the aisle, happiness evident in every line of their bodies. When they stepped outside, they turned to each other, hands clasped, and exchanged another kiss and a few whispered words. Everyone began exiting the church after them, hugging and kissing Reed and Tucker in an impromptu reception line out in front of the church. It was a sunny day—rare for England, but appropriate to the event. The video showed close-up candids of the guests, including a handsome Jonathan Archer, a few years younger, with a woman on his arm as his date. The guests waved at Tucker and Reed as they mounted an antique motorcar and slowly chugged off into the sunset, and the video ended. It was a masterwork. But Reed could tell the video was faked just from their costumes. Clearly, the time of day was before six in the evening. Everyone—everyone except North Americans, apparently—knew black tie could only be worn after six. Before then, for a formal wedding, morning suits were in order.

"Look how happy we are," Tucker said. "How did it all go so wrong? You're telling me there's nothing between us any more? I can't believe that. I won't believe that."

Reed was overcome. It was all faked, but the simple affection evident between the two of them, the honest emotion in their parents and the guests, touched him. "Oh, Trip," he sighed, and a moment later, the two of them were hugging each other hard. Reed reached up and brushed moisture from Tucker's eyes. "Maybe it was all a misunderstanding," he said to Tucker. "But you don't have your memory back. Don't judge a thing till you know what's inside it." He handed back the tricorder. "I don't know how it all went so wrong."

"Did I—did I know about you and Jon?" Tucker asked.

"No," Reed said. "Trip, I'm so sorry you had to find out this way. We were going to tell you."

"There's no hope?" Tucker asked. "No hope for reconciliation?"

"I didn't think so," Reed said. "But now—I don't know. You're—you're different." He paused. "I need to think. I need to be alone. I think we had all better go to bed." He started for the door. "I'll go book another room."

"Don't bother; they're full up," said Wren. "I'll share with Miss Falcon, if she doesn't mind, and you can each have your own room." She snickered. "I think you boys need some time to think."

"I don't mind," Falcon said. She gave Tucker a hurt look as she headed for the door.

"My stuff is in this room," Tucker said. "So I'm taking it. Everybody out." He pointed a finger at Archer, then at Reed. "No sneaking around. Malcolm, get your things out of here."

Reed grabbed his bag and headed out. What a day. He simply couldn't wait until tomorrow, when Tucker would get his memory back. He took Falcon's room, and he and Archer exchanged a long look as Reed stepped inside. Reed shut the door and chained it, making sure the sound was loud. He thought it was best if he were alone tonight, but as he removed his makeup, staring at himself in the mirror as his real face emerged, he wished Archer were there with him.

*** 8

Things were awkward the next day at breakfast. Wren seemed oblivious as she chattered with Falcon over pancakes. Reed picked at his food. Tucker wouldn't meet his eyes, and Archer just looked tired. They loaded into a new rented car in silence, and Wren drove them at breakneck speed to the courthouse where Archer and Reed had had their last hearing. Falcon's presence greased the slow wheels of justice, and they were given their hearing immediately. Falcon, Sparrow at her side, vouched for them, and they were granted their freedom, although the officiant, the same stern woman as before, strongly suggested they leave Benig Three and never, ever come back.

When they exited into the courthouse's lobby, Wren shook hands all around and bade them farewell. "It's been really fun," she said. "I hardly ever have such a good time." She winked at Reed. "Best of luck," she told him. "I think you'll need it."

"Thanks," Reed said.

She gave him the car keys and told him where to drop the car off, and with a wave, she was gone.

Archer sighed in relief. "Thank god," he said. "Excuse me. I'm going to call T'Pol." He made a beeline for the public coms ranged on a wall.

Sparrow joined Reed, Tucker, and Falcon as Archer placed his call. She handed out paperwork, and then she too shook hands all around. "I trust you to take care of Miss Falcon's little problem," she said. "Miss Falcon, do notify me when you're back on the planet. The vote is in two days."

"I understand," Falcon said. Then Sparrow left.

Archer stepped up behind Reed. "Doctor Phlox is standing by," he reported. "T'Pol is sending Travis down to get us, so let's head for the spaceport." He pointed at Reed. "Ditch your weapons."

Reed sighed. Archer knew him too well. He thought he had been inconspicuous, buying weapons while out clothes shopping yesterday. "Can I keep the pistol I have the permit for?" he asked.

"No, you can't keep that one." Archer held out his hand. "Give it to me." Reed handed it over. It had been in his jacket, which he had hung up instead of wearing into chambers. "I'll get rid of the other weapons outside the spaceport," Reed grumbled. They were in his luggage, which was in the rented car outside. "Come on. I've got the car keys. Let's go."

"I'll be there in a second," Archer said, pointing a thumb at the bathrooms and heading that way. Reed wondered what he was going to do with the weapon. Flush it?

Reed stuck the car keys in a pocket of his jacket as they stepped outside. He did a double take when, on the curb, he saw a monkey wearing a sparkly blue dress and a matching hat with a big feather trailing from it. The monkey was tied to a light pole. Reed stopped abruptly, and Tucker ran into him.

"Malcolm—" Tucker began.

Reed shushed him, pointing at the monkey. "Isn't that—isn't that Mordant?" he asked.


"The monkey at East Puffin's show last night."

"I can't tell," Tucker said. "All monkeys look alike to me. I guess it could be the same one."

Reed couldn't tell whether Tucker was joking, then decided it didn't matter. He thought the monkey's outfit was the same, but he couldn't be sure. He had been focusing on Puffin, not Mordant. He looked around, his sixth sense tingling. There was danger. Something was wrong. He could feel it. "Down," he ordered. "Everybody get down!" Reed shoved Tucker hard, forcing the man down on his knees, and knocked into Falcon, sending her sprawling onto the sidewalk.

"It's just East!" Falcon yelled. She tried to scramble to her feet. "It's all right!" The bolt from a high-energy weapon missed her by centimeters, and she flung herself back down.

Reed, training taking over, threw his body over Falcon's and tucked his head into his jacket, pinning Falcon into the pavement and making them as small a target as possible. He heard more shots, along with screams and running feet. He heard Tucker's voice calling something he couldn't make out, a thud, and more running and yelling. Reed resisted the urge to get up and join the fray: his priority was Falcon's safety. She was inert underneath him, hyperventilating softly.

He heard a familiar voice yelling, "Don't! Don't, or I blow it! I mean it!"

Reed peeked up. He saw a red-faced man he didn't recognize holding a small device in one hand. A few bodies littered the landscape, and he took in Tucker, armed with a pistol, presumably one taken from one of the bodies, facing down the red-faced man.

"East!" Falcon squeaked, and the red-faced man turned.

"He's got the detonator right there," Tucker said. He held his hands out, holding up his fingers, only his index finger and thumb holding onto the weapon. He slowly lowered the weapon to the ground and took a step back. "Don't do it," he begged.

"East, I thought we were friends!" Falcon said. She pushed at Reed, who let her up and sat cross-legged on the ground, hands in plain sight.

"How did you find us?" Reed demanded.

Puffin smiled. "Lora called me this morning," he said simply.

"Why? Why are you doing this?" Falcon asked.

"Why? I should have thought that was obvious." Puffin brandished the detonator. "It's no good now anyway, is it?" But he didn't release the detonator. "This power structure is milking the business owners. I pay a fortune in bribes every month, and I pay a fortune in taxes. It's getting so that I can't afford to do business any more. It seemed the simplest way to arrange for a transfer of power. We've got our replacement legislators all lined up."

"We've known each other for years!" Falcon said. "How could you do this to me?"

Puffin shrugged. "I'm sorry. I always put business before my personal life." He held up the detonator. "Excuse me while I back off," he said genially. "I need to get rid of witnesses." He was going to blow Falcon anyway, and Reed, Tucker, and Puffin's own minions with them.

Reed started to say, "Now just a second—" when there was the sound of a shot, then another, and Puffin screamed and grabbed at his right arm. Reed leapt into motion. He pushed off and barreled into Puffin, knocking Puffin—and the detonator—to the ground. He manhandled Puffin onto his stomach and immobilized him with a few well-placed blows. Suddenly Tucker was there, grabbing the detonator and fiddling with it—deactivating it. Falcon started to laugh hysterically. Archer came walking up, Reed's pistol in his hand.

"Good shot," Reed complimented him breathlessly.

"I really, really didn't want to kill him," Archer said. "But that's only because I don't want to spend another second on Benig Three. I knew you'd be ready when I made my move."

Reed took in the red-clad cops that had started swarming onto the street. "Too late," he said regretfully, and then they were all taken into custody.

After a six-hour mopping up, made easier by the fact that Tucker had turned on his tricorder to record the hearing and had forgotten to turn it off, Archer, Tucker, and Reed were finally released and told to leave the planet immediately. Not one word of thanks passed anybody's lips. Falcon said she wanted to accompany them, and she was granted permission. Reed drove them to the shuttleport, where Travis Mayweather had been waiting for them for nearly seven hours. It took them two hours to get to Enterprise. Mayweather was using a rented shuttle, and he had to mix up their trail a little.

When they finally docked in Enterprise's shuttle bay, Reed wasn't sure whether he wanted to scream, go to bed, or hit the gym and work off all his tension. He settled for following everybody to sick bay. It was late evening. Falcon made appropriately enthusiastic comments about Enterprise, and Archer looked proud as he pointed out things of interest.

Doctor Phlox was waiting for them in sick bay. At Tucker's insistence, Phlox dealt with Falcon first. He settled her on an examination table, tilted her head up with his hand, and held up a truly frightening piece of equipment. Falcon's eyes had widened when she saw it. "This won't hurt a bit," Phlox said, voice cheerful as usual, and he deployed the piece of equipment. A second later, Falcon was rubbing her nose and Phlox was placing a small piece of metal in a little dish containing some blue liquid. "All done," Phlox said. "This blue substance renders the device inert. Would you like to keep it as a souvenir?"

Falcon poked at it with a fingertip. "No, thank you," she said, shuddering. "Or—wait—on second thought, yes. I'll present it to my father." Her voice contained that trace of bitterness that she sometimes used when she spoke of her father. "Is it all right if I spend the night?" she asked Archer.

"Certainly." Archer helped her down. "I'll show you to some guest quarters. Unless—Trip, do you want me here when Doctor Phlox gives you your memory back?"

Tucker shook his head. "No, just Malcolm." He turned to Reed. "If that's all right with you, Malcolm. I think we need to talk, husband to husband."

"Of course," Reed said.

"Good night, then," Archer said, and Falcon echoed him. The sick bay door slid shut behind them.

"Husband to husband?" Phlox said. He laughed. "Oh, I forgot. You're married."

"You forgot?" Tucker said.

"What did you think of the wedding video?" Phlox asked. "I thought Ensign Baker did an excellent job. The crew found it interesting viewing." He placed the bomb, now inert, in a little container and sealed it. "Here," he said, handing it to Reed. "Can you give it to Miss Falcon when you see her next?"

"What do you mean, the crew found our wedding video interesting viewing?" Tucker asked, outraged, as Phlox messed around with something on a worktable and Reed held the container up to the light to view the bomb. It looked small.

Phlox's voice sounded absent. "Ensign Lowe showed it as the lead-in to yesterday's film," he said. "It was a huge hit. Lieutenant Hess laughed so hard that I had to give her a painkiller. She pulled an abdominal muscle."

"Laughed?" Tucker looked from Phlox to Reed. "What am I missing here? It was beautiful. It was touching."

"It was fake," Reed said dryly as Phlox pressed a hypospray into Tucker's neck.

"Oh, god," said Tucker, and he swayed.

Reed and Phlox caught him and carried him to a biobed. Tucker panted for a few minutes. Reed and Phlox waited patiently, silent. Tucker covered his face with his hands. "Phlox, will you excuse us?" he asked, voice muffled.

"Did it work?"

"Yes. I remember now." Tucker didn't move his hands.

"I'm going to bed, then." Phlox turned to Reed. "Call me if something happens. But it shouldn't."

Tucker removed his hands when he heard the door whisk shut behind Phlox. "Oh, Malcolm," he groaned. "I am so, so, so—"

"Embarrassed?" Reed said helpfully. "Sorry?"

"Yes. Those things." Tucker sat up. "I fucked you. God help me, I fucked you. I fucked you and you're sleeping with my best friend and boss."

"That too," Reed said. "I really did think you were Jon, by the way."

Tucker groaned again and flopped back onto the biobed.

"I thought you were straight," Reed said. "That's why I thought it was Jon. I never thought it would be you. But you didn't seem straight when you didn't have your memory."

Tucker covered his eyes. "I'm not strictly straight," he said. "Just mostly. I like women better than men, usually."

"Well, if it's any consolation, you have great technique," Reed assured him. He sat down next to Tucker, and Tucker moved on the biobed to give him room. "In fact, I really enjoyed it."

"I really enjoyed it too," Tucker said. "Look, I just want to reassure you. You're my friend and colleague, and we've been through a lot, but I don't—I don't really want to, um, date you."

"That's fine by me," Reed said. "I like Jon." He turned so he was facing Tucker. "But it never occurred to me until the morning after our little—encounter that I could like you." He leaned down. The kiss was deep and lingering. "You're sweet, but I still like Jon better," Reed said, pulling away regretfully.

"Another time, another place," Tucker said, gently stroking Reed's cheek with his thumb, and they exchanged another long, slow kiss before Reed jumped off the biobed, followed by Tucker.

"Is everything all right between us?" Reed asked.

"Yes, I think so," Tucker said. "Walk me to my quarters? I'm a little dizzy."

"Certainly," Reed said. "They're on my way to Jon's."

They chatted amiably in the lift. They parted outside Tucker's door, and Reed got back in the lift and set it for Archer's floor. It was getting quite late. He rang the chime, but nobody answered. Reed was pausing in the hallway outside Archer's door, undecided, when Archer came around the corner.

"Malcolm," he said, not at all surprised. "I just finished settling Lora into guest quarters."

"So what do I do with the bomb?" Reed asked, holding it up.

Archer took it and shook it lightly, checking it out, then handed it back. "You can give it to her tomorrow," he said.

"I just need to make one thing clear," Reed said as Archer keyed his door open. They stepped inside. "I only slept with Trip because I honestly thought it was you. All for you, everything I am, is all for you."

A few long moments later, Reed could breathe again. They were pressed together, forehead against forehead. Reed contrasted his kiss with Tucker in sick bay with the kiss he and Archer had just shared. With Tucker, it had been pleasure mingled with affection and regret. With Archer, it was joy combined with a deep undercurrent of desire, and, in the pit of his stomach, a feeling that he could only call love.

"I've wanted you for so long," Archer whispered. "Say it again."

"All for you, everything I am, is all for you," Reed repeated. "Take me. I'm yours. Anything you want. Anything. Please."

"A submissive Malcolm Reed," Archer said. "I never thought I'd see the day. Anything?"


Archer tugged at Reed's clothes, unfastening them. "I think—I think I want you in Starfleet regulation skivvies," he decided. "And—is it all right if I record us?"

"John Holmes, I'm not," Reed said. "But I did say anything."

"I'll erase it when we're done with it. Who's John Holmes?"

"A classic porn star." Reed gestured. "He was really…big."

"I see." Archer's hands stroked Reed's nude body. "The skivvies are in the top drawer there. I'll be right back. You did say anything?"

"I did."

Archer released Reed and dug through a drawer. He tossed handcuffs and a shock stick onto the bed and headed for the bathroom.

"Oh, my," Reed said, reaching for the bright blue skivvies. "Looks interesting."

"You're on the bottom," Archer said, and smiled.

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

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