Title: Trip's Toolbox

Author: Kate Kernshaw

Author's email: k1a9t8e0@yahoo.com

Date: 11/12/02

Feedback: If you wish to do so.

Pairing: Archer/Reed

Rating: PG-13

Archive: EntSTSlash, Archers_Enterprise, WWOMB, enterpriseslash

Category: Slash, M/M

Status: Complete, 1/1

Length: ~1,285 words

Summary: Creative Writing Course, Trip's toolbox exercise.

Series/Sequel: No

Spoilers: None

Warnings: None

Disclaimer: Paramount owns the Enterprise and Star Trek universe. I do not make any money from writing fanfiction.

Comments: Many thanks to Kageygirl for wonderful beta and valuable advice.

"Damn! I thought I had it that time!" Trip Tucker swore as the lights flickered once, twice, then all went black again. Bathed only in the light offered by twin flashlights, Tucker shoved his toolbox forward and crawled on his stomach through the tight conduit.

Two days previously, _Enterprise_ had encountered a hostile vessel that had attacked the human ship without cause or provocation. Refusing to answer hails from _Enterprise_, the mysterious ship had fired twice upon the humans, causing minimal damage, before rapidly warping out of the area. Since the attack, bouts of power fluctuations and rolling blackouts occurred randomly throughout the ship.

Arriving at the next power relay, Tucker opened the toolbox, grabbed his screwdriver, and set to work. Beads of sweat trickled down his face as the heat of the non-circulating air built-up in the narrow passageway. Concentrating on his task, Tucker's mind barely registered the faint rustling of another crewman shimmying through the cramped space.

"Sure hope ya brought an ice-cold drink," smirked Tucker as the rustling drew closer. "A portable fan would be nice, too. It's awful damn hot in here."

"Sorry, Trip, didn't bring either," Captain Jonathan Archer said. He shone his flashlight away from Tucker's eyes. "But I'm here to help you any way I can." Archer reached out and patted his best friend's shoulder and nodded towards the toolbox. "What do you need me to do?"

Trip snickered. "T'Pol must be gettin' on your nerves if you're willin' to swelter up here with me."

"Actually, I'm in here hiding for fear of a mutiny if you don't get the power fixed right away. You know how the crew gets if anything interferes with movie night."

"That's right." Tucker snapped his fingers. "Good movie tonight. 'Betrayal'. Cutler told me it's a great drama. Supposed to be about a guy betraying his best friend by having an affair with the friend's wife. Cutler said the trick is that the movie works backward in time. Pretty neat, huh?"

Archer laughed. "Drama is fine, but if there aren't any explosions or wars, I won't be able to drag Malcolm to it. You know how he is." Archer smiled, thinking about his lover's fascination with war, weapons, and "things that go boom." "That is, assuming *you* get the power back on to run the movie."

"Well, Cap'n, let's get to it." Tucker turned back to the power relay and swore again. "Dammit! Where's my plasma torch?"

Archer lifted his flashlight and rummaged around the toolbox. "It's not here. Wait, let me check the bottom level." Raising the top tier of tools, Archer slipped his hand underneath and felt along the bottom tier. He hesitated a moment when his hand encountered a piece of soft cloth. Fingers skimmed the surface and he smiled in recognition. Sniggering, Archer pulled out the material. "Well, well, what do we have here?" Shining his flashlight above their heads, Archer held aloft a pair of Starfleet-issue blue briefs.

Tucker grabbed for the clothing. "Um, better let me have those."

Archer, sensing an embarrassing story, wasn't about to give up his prize. With the aid of his flashlight, he carefully examined the briefs, reading aloud the letters indelibly printed along the inside of the waistband, "R-E-E-D, M." Slowly, he lowered the light, flashing it directly into his friend's face. Fighting to quell the bile rising in his stomach, Archer quietly asked, "What are you doing with Malcolm's underwear in *your* toolbox?"

Tucker looked at Archer. "It's not what you think," he said quietly.

"Dammit, Trip! He's *my* lover." Archer bit out the words, struggling to contain his anger. Taking a deep breath, Archer took that moment to calm himself, and then slowly exhaled. Looking directly into Tucker's face, Archer icily demanded, "I want to know why there is a pair of my lover's underwear hidden in my best friend's toolbox."

Tucker, his face flushed from heat or shame, gazed back at his friend. "It's not what you think, Cap'n. Swear to God, it's not." Shaking his head, he hesitated. "I know this looks bad, but you've got to believe me. Me and Malcolm would never betray you. You know that. Hell, Malcolm's never been happier since you two got together. And you know I'd rather die than hurt you. You're my best friend, my brother, my captain," Tucker said beseechingly, his eyes still locked with Archer's.

With his voice shaking, Archer said, "I want an explanation. I want it *now*."

"I was tryin' to save ya both from an embarrassin' situation, Cap'n. That's all."

Archer, nonplussed, stared hard at Tucker, waiting.

"Remember a few days ago when we met up with the Vulcans to help them with their engines?"

Archer coldly nodded.

"Well, I had just finished fixin' the water heater in T'Pol's shower when I heard Porthos howlin'. I thought somethin' might be wrong so I dropped my toolbox outside T'Pol's door and went down the hall to check on him. As soon as I opened the door, he took off runnin' with that underwear in his mouth. I ran after him. When I turned the corner I heard you, T'Pol, Malcolm, and that Vulcan captain talking down the next corridor. I figured Porthos was headed straight for you, with Malcolm's underwear in his mouth, so I grabbed him up before anyone saw him and took him back to your quarters. By then I heard y'all comin' closer so I snagged the underwear and stashed it in my toolbox. I meant to give it back but with the alien attack, I haven't had time."

Archer thought a moment, recalling that incident. Laughing, he clapped Tucker on the shoulder. "That's right! I remember wondering why you were outside T'Pol's quarters trying to stand at attention while holding my dog in one arm. It sure looked funny."

Both men laughed at the recollection. "I'm sorry I doubted you, Trip." Archer smiled warmly at his best friend. He shook his head and laughed. "Porthos sure does have a thing for Malcolm's clothes. He's always stealing Malcolm's tee shirts and underwear and burying them in his bed."

"Maybe it's because he loves Malcolm as much as you do. Maybe it's because he senses how much Malcolm loves you. You've no need to ever doubt Malcolm, Cap'n." "Thanks, Trip."

"Besides, if Malcolm ever cheated on you, I'd toss that sorry Brit's ass out the nearest airlock, even if he is a good friend of mine!"

Tucker worked on the power relay a few more minutes. Soon the lights flashed back on and the ventilation fans kicked into action. It wouldn't take long for the air to start cooling and circulating. Best of all, movie night would be held on time.

"So, do you and Malcolm want to join me at the movie?" Trip asked. "As soon as I get cleaned up," he muttered, swiping his uniform sleeve across his sweaty, grimy face.

"I think we'll pass, but thanks for asking." Scrunching up his lover's underwear into a pocket, Archer turned off his flashlight and started backing out of the small space. "I think Malcolm and I can find some other, uh, entertainment for this evening. I'll see you tomorrow."

Tucker gathered up his tools and switched off the twin flashlights. He wiped his face once more and began edging his way out of the conduit, dragging his toolbox behind him. Finally exiting, he breathed a sigh of relief and slid down the bulkhead to sit on his toolbox for a brief but well-earned rest. The lights flickered and the fans faltered. Everything went pitch black and dead silent.

"Damn! I thought I had it that time!" Trip Tucker swore, pounding his fist on his toolbox.

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