Title: Of All the Western Stars

Author: Cinmbria

Author's email: Cinmbria@aol.com

URL: http://www.geocities.com/coffeeslash/cinmbria/

Date: 01/29/03

Pairing: Tucker/Reed

Rating NC-17

Summary: Trip has a thing for Malcolm, but he's afraid Malcolm doesn't reciprocate. First-time fluff.

Archive: To the Entslash site and Tim Ruben. You want it? Let me know!

Betas: Maching Monkey, Squeaky and my Evil Twin MJ. MJ, thank you for reading this over! I know Reed's with the wrong person J! Maching Monkey and Squeaky, thank you for making me work so hard and giving me invaluable insight that will help in everything I write.

Comments: Beware: Fluffy. First time. Sappy. Leah (Matching Monkey) originally suggested the title of "Leap of Faith." I had every intention of using it until I came across the passage below.

…Come my friends,
'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
—"Ulysses," Tennyson


Commander Charles "Trip" Tucker the Third stood in front of the door of his best friend, Captain Jonathan Archer, and hedged. As much as he valued his long-standing friendship with the Captain, where he really wanted to be was in his quarters, playing his harmonica and thinking. Sometimes a guy just needed some time alone.

He opened the comm channel and announced himself, walking into the Captain's quarters when the doors slid open. "You wanted to see me." He said with in a formal tone that would better come from Lieutenant Malcolm Reed. Immediately he softened his tone. "Cap'n," he said in a warmer voice and added his most charming smile, the one that had the girls back home swarming to him over him like bees to honey.

Jon deftly caught the water polo ball he had been bouncing off the bulkhead. He smiled and motioned to his desk chair. "Have a seat, Trip." Seeing the smile for what it was, his friend's way of glossing over worries, he set the ball down and gave Trip a smile of his own. "Everything ok?"

Trip took the chair offered and sat down. "Sorry. I'm a little wound up today."

"I noticed. You sounded just like Malcolm for a second. Proper." Jon leaned back in his chair and regarded his best friend. "Beer?" he asked.

"Still on duty, at least for half an hour." Trip answered, comforted by the laid-back attitude he had come to expect from Jon.

Jon swiveled around and pulled two beers out of the mini fridge and popped the caps off. "That's what I wanted to talk to you about." He held a bottle out to Trip. "Here-Captain's orders." Taking a long pull form his bottle, he realized Trip wasn't the only one who needed to unwind.

"About only being on duty for another half hour…" The last thing he wanted was to pull Trip away from his plans, but the engineering crew needed a little morale booster and Trip would have to give up his night off to help.

Trip leaned over and took the bottle with a real smile. "Is the beer a bribe, so I don't get upset about what you're about to tell me?" He teased.

"Something like that," Jon said as he sipped from his beer. "Hess approached me earlier today about a having a party—"

"O'Neil's birthday is tomorrow," Trip said, interrupting the Captain.

"Yes and your staff wants to throw her a party in the mess hall. You know that night off you've been looking forward to?" Jon's smile turned apologetic.

"Let me guess, they want to throw the party tomorrow and someone needs to watch engineering." He drank deeply from his beer and looked up at the ceiling.

"If we were closer to home, I'd let the engine keep herself company, but we're so far out here, I'm just not comfortable with it." He didn't need to add about the run-in they'd had with the Romulan Star Empire, or with the Suliban, to have Trip's understanding.

"Neither am I." Trip looked at the bottle in his hand and picked at the edge of the label. "So the mice get to play without the cat?" He didn't understand the shock of hurt that hit him; after all, his crew was entitled to socialize without him. The mind understood, but the heart, the heart didn't.

Jon quickly read between the lines; his friend could never keep his heart off his sleeve. "It's not like that, Trip, they want you to come too. In fact, I've already spoken with Malcolm and he's going to relieve you so you can go to the party. They just need time to get the mess hall decorated."

Trip looked up. "How'd you talk him into that? Last I heard he had a hot date with his phase pistols." He had planned to offer his help as an excuse to spend some more time with Malcolm, but now it looked like it wasn't going to happen. He sighed; it looked like nothing was going to happen. Six months of sidestepping, catching Malcolm's eye on the bridge, and nothing had come of it, nothing except for a lot of lonely nights spent imagining things that wouldn't be. Maybe he was reading the signals wrong. Maybe he wanted to see signs where none were.

Jon picked the water polo ball up from the floor, held it up and spun it in his hands before placing in on the table in front of him. "He said he could check them over in engineering just as easily, so you could join your team." He watched the emotions race through Trip's eyes and shook his head. The poor guy had it bad for one uptight security officer if he didn't miss his guess. Trip lost his heart as often as Peter Pan lost his shadow.

Tucker finished peeling off the label and began to fold it into smaller and smaller squares. "Oh. Well, that's mighty nice of him." He bet Malcolm was doing this because he felt he needed to, because Jon had asked.

Leaning forward, Jon let his concern color his words, "Something on your mind, Trip?" He watched his friend start in on the label around the neck of the bottle. It was always this way: he had to get the ball rolling, but once it gained a little momentum, Trip was more than willing to talk.

"No." Trip replied automatically. The upper label of the beer bottle came off in his hands and joined its partner. "Yes. Is this conversation between officers or friends now?"

"Friends." Jon answered, holding up the half full beer bottle. "Anything you need to say stays here in this room." Again, another part of the routine, he thought with a smile.

A deep breath. "My interest in Malcolm goes a little beyond friendship. And it's driving me nuts." As Trip spoke he picked up speed. "Every time we have hours off together he's in the armory re-calibrating his recalibrations, or reading some tech manual and can't be disturbed. I'm about ready—"

"Whoa! Slow down, Trip," Jon said, chuckling. "Why don't you start from the beginning." Talk about getting the ball rolling—it was speeding downhill like an avalanche.

"The beginning? Like when I started liking him? Or when he started going all professional on me?" Trip asked, looking into his beer. The light reflected off the amber liquid and he watched the shadows play across the surface. Tension coiled tightly inside him every time he saw Malcolm, settling low in his belly, a burning that wouldn't stop. He had been trying to distract himself, purging the warp coils, checking and re-checking the power relays on the bridge, but nothing worked. Malcolm-watching was becoming a dangerous addiction.

Jon took the bottle from Trip's hands and set it out of his reach. "How 'bout you start from the 'professional' part."

Trip shook his head and picked the ball up off the table and began turning it in his hands, tracing the stitching. "Hell, I know he's just doing his job, but does he has to be so tight-assed about it? I thought we were getting to be friends. Maybe I'm just hoping for too much." He winced at the whining he heard in his voice. "He doesn't even try to piss me off anymore."

"You're upset because Malcolm isn't taking the engines off line without asking you anymore?" Jon asked, trying to hide his grin.

Trip caught the barely concealed grin and rounded on Jon. "Don't you dare laugh at me, I'm not too good at reading people. You know that." He had thought he and Natalie were going places, but then that "dear John" letter had come and caught him off guard. Yet another example of him seeing more than there was. Maybe it would be better just to let things be, not go running off after a pair of storm blue eyes. He was an idiot.

"I know Trip, and I'm sorry. But I haven't seen you this flustered over anyone since that bartender in San Francisco."

"It's okay, Cap'n, I'm just a little sensitive is all." Trip turned the ball over in his hands and began to worry the air valve. "I could be reading Malcolm wrong, or I could be right and he's interested too." Malcolm had offered to share lunch together and had followed him into the maintenance shaft of the repair station. He could be reading into things, but he noticed the way Malcolm's eyes followed him when the lieutenant thought he wasn't being observed. *Or I could be going after phantoms,* he thought, *seeing things that I want to see.*

"I can talk to him." Jon offered. He took the ball away from Tucker. "I'd like it to stay inflated." He explained and set the ball on the floor, out of Trip's reach.

"Sorry." Trip replied sheepishly. "And I don't want you to talk to him. Even thinking about it makes me feel like I'm in seventh grade again. Next thing I'll be leaving him a note that says: 'you want to go out with me?' No, I'll take my chances, if it's all the same to you."

"Your choice Trip," Jon smiled, "but the offer's still on the table."

"Did you get the new Stanford game yet?" Trip asked, hoping his friend would let him change the subject.

Jon stood and walked over to his desk. "I got it today. I still have a few cold ones. Are you up for watching Stanford drown the opposing team?" He let Trip off the hook and tossed him the data chip.

Trip smiled at the enthusiasm in his Captain's voice. "Anytime."


Malcolm Reed, Tactical and Security Officer, Starfleet lieutenant, looked at his hands with distain. Sweat? It was too much. He wasn't a teenager anymore, had never been one in mind, yet here he was: nervous, and sick with anticipation over nothing. He wiped his hands on his pants and grimaced; he was sweating like a hormonal boy of fourteen. Just the thought of spending a little time alone with Trip was enough to make him feel foolish, shy, and randy, truth be told.

"Trip." He tried the name out, the single syllable rolling over his tongue. It sounded good. "My Trip." That sounded even better, it sounded right. He wiped his hands again, willed his body back under his control.

It wasn't his fault really. It wasn't his fault that blond and blue-eyed with a honey accent touched every nerve in his body and made it sing. It wasn't.

He had done his best to control his emotions, something that usually wasn't a problem, but Trip just did something to him: some combination of charm and cockiness that was irresistible. It rankled him, which was most likely the reason he needled the man, trying to get under Trip's skin as much as the engineer was under his. Lately, though, he had taken to avoiding the blond temptation, unless he needed to help in engineering. Like tonight.

Malcolm wondered, as he picked up the silver cases that held his phase pistols off the floor of the armory, if the Captain knew more than he let on. After all, the Captain had approached him personally and asked him to relieve Trip tonight, when T'Pol could have done the same. He didn't think he had been obvious; he treated Trip with nothing but professionalism while they were on duty together, but the Captain seemed to have some idea. Maybe it wasn't so bad that Archer involved himself in his crew's lives.

Trip was interested—he was sure of it. The man watched him when he thought no one was watching, had asked him to dinner and to lunch had asked him to be a partner in crime when breaking into the repair station.

He switched a case to rest under his arm while he keyed the door open and made a vow to himself: This time he wouldn't let his fears be his only company, he would invite Trip into his life.


Trip didn't notice how loud the engine was until he was alone with her. The thrumming seemed to fill engineering, and he could feel the vibration of her clear to his teeth. It was just more thing, among many, that made him feel at home.

He stood at the railing and watched the readouts fly by on the console. She was running smoothly at warp three, not a glitch to be seen, which left him with even less to occupy his mind, and he found himself thinking back to when he had first met Malcolm.

The banquet room of the Mark Hopkins hotel in San Francisco was full. He had moved slowly away from the throngs of people crowding the room until he had found a small niche to conceal himself. Jon had practically begged him to go and Trip had given in. As much as he hated being in a room full of "stuffed shirts", he knew Jon wanted and needed his support. Tonight Starfleet was unveiling the detailed replica of "Enterprise" in a small private party of no less than three hundred of San Francisco's upper crust. The replica was to be the model for a sculpture that would grace the new wing of the Planetarium. A glimpse of dark, blue-eyed and very handsome had caught his eye and he had watched in open admiration as the lithe body wove in and out of the crowd. He had followed the man with his eyes for a good ten minutes before he lost sight of him in the crowd. At the Enterprise crew announcement he had been shocked and pleased to find that "dark, blue-eyed and handsome" was Lieutenant Malcolm Reed.

Trip smiled at the memory and turned to see the lieutenant walk in, a silver case in each hand.

"Commander Tucker," Malcolm said by way of greeting. "Is there somewhere I can disassemble the phase pistols? I was hoping to ascertain why number four has a decreased energy signature." Malcolm winced inwardly at his tone. It was small wonder people thought he was so unyielding—he sounded like the bloody Queen to his own inner ear.

Trip hopped down from the platform, and tried hard not to smile. Something about the way Malcolm held himself and managed to look dangerous and sinuous at the same time. And stuffy, just a bit stuffy. A smile quirked the corner of Trip's mouth, "Is my workstation okay? It's a little messy, but I think I can clear enough room for you."

"That will be fine," the armory officer replied as he picked up the cases. "Shall I follow you?" He hoped so, hoped to watch the shift and pull of the dark blue fabric as Trip moved. Indecent, but delightful.

Trip nodded and led the way to his office, imagining Malcolm had said "Your quarters would be fine". He shook his head to clear it, but the image remained of Malcolm pausing at the door to his cabin; a cheeky grin that refused to leave lifting one corner of his mouth. He was worse than a lovesick puppy, he berated himself, and about as useful as one. Reports from the last shift still hadn't been read; one Malcolm Reed had occupied his thoughts completely.

"Over here, Lieutenant," Trip said, and led the way to his workstation. "If you give me a minute, I'll get a space cleared off for you." He should have cleaned earlier; PADDS and reports littered the top of his desk. Suddenly an image sprang to life in his mind of Malcolm in his arms, leaning against the desk as they scattered the PADDS onto the floor in their haste to see who would be undressed first. He shook his head and willed his libido down. It didn't work.

Malcolm noticed the mess, but he had the grace not to comment; instead he set his burden down and looked around the small space. The room screamed of Trip's presence to anyone who cared to look: slightly disheveled, relaxed, and comfortable. "I don't need very much space, enough to set a case down, and to monitor the console."

"Not a problem," Trip said, stacking the nearest pile of PADDS, clearing just enough room. "Will this do?" He looked contrite. "I haven't had time to get around to these reports today." He would have read the reports if he hadn't spent the day thinking about Malcolm, but faced with reading reports or imagining all the things he wanted to do with Malcolm…it was clear what had won.

Malcolm carefully set one of the cases in the space Trip had cleared, and set its twin under the desk. He undid the latches and opened the case, running a hand over the phase pistols nestled within. Trip would feel like this, he thought, smooth and hard and…hard. He smothered a groan at the wicked thought and began counting backwards from one hundred until he felt in control once more.

Trip looked over Malcolm's shoulder and said, "Is that the one that's not working?"

Malcolm sighted the pistol and set it on the desk, moving another pile of pads to make room. "Yes, I hope to find what's causing it to malfunction." He held the next pistol in his hands, holding it with care and sliding his hand down the casing absently.

Trip's eyes were riveted on the hand running down the length of the pistol. His mind quickly supplied him with the image of Malcolm doing the same to his cock and desire raced through him. Taking a half step back, he told himself he was ten kinds of an idiot for even standing so close in the first place. He took a breath. "I'm sure you'll be able to figure it out." His voice was calm and even, not betraying a hint of the desire he felt.

"I hope so," Malcolm said and looked back, "I think—" He began and trailed off, distracted at the sudden gleam in Trip's eyes. He shook his head, to clear it and turned his attention back to his phase pistols. "I think it's time to get to work." He could ignore the light caress of Trip's breath on his neck; he could control the burning in his groin, the heat blooming in his chest.

"Can I help?" Trip asked, his lazy drawl pulling the words out. He reached over Malcolm's shoulder and plucked the casing from the lieutenant's fingers.

Malcolm held back the urge to take the piece from Trip's fingers; he didn't think he could handle his temptation for very much longer. The warmth of the other man's body was beginning to seep into his uniform. "I wouldn't want you to be late for the party," he replied after a few seconds, when he knew his voice would sound strong, not breathless.

Trip shifted forward and set the pistol back onto the table. "They're gonna give me a call when the party's ready to start." The weapon was forgotten as Malcolm's warmth blended with his own.

"Oh," Malcolm replied, smiling. "Do you see this area here?" Malcolm pointed to a tangle of circuitry inside the newly exposed barrel.

Trip leaned in closer, his shoulder brushing Malcolm's. "That knot of wires?" Picking up speed, his heart began to beat faster when Malcolm didn't move.

Malcolm could feel the press of the engineer against his body, contact from shoulder to knee. He leaned back slightly. He couldn't help it. "Ah, yes, there seems to be a short in one of the…" His words dropped off when Trip leaned in closer and reached over his shoulder to touch the wires. All his thoughts of keeping his distance left with the speed of a falling star. His wish was Trip, had been for months, and he couldn't turn away from his wish coming to life.

"A short? That won't be too tough to fix, will it?" Trip turned his head and found Malcolm's eyes centimeters from his own. His world narrowed, focused on the man standing in front of him.

Malcolm's breath seemed to freeze in his chest. Engineering and the phase pistol fell away from him as he stood, transfixed by the commander's eyes. He smiled and forced his brain to work. "I think…"

"You know what I think?" Trip asked, interrupting as his body vibrating with the nearness of the lieutenant. He leaned forward and brushed his lips against Malcolm's, feather light, a whisper of touch. "I think I've been waiting too long to do this." His lips brushed against Malcolm's again, harder, and he placed a hand on the back of Malcolm's neck and urged him closer. The other man's lips opened under his and Trip traced the edge of Malcolm's lips, before delving inside to learn what he tasted like. Spicy, and hot, just like he imagined.

Malcolm pulled away first, flushed. "The comm."

Trip stared at Reed for a few seconds more, aware of nothing but wanting to dive back in and explore again, before his hearing kicked in.

"Hess to Tucker. Hess to Tucker."

He glared at the comm unit, reached over and opened the channel. "Tucker here, go ahead." His other hand reluctantly fell away from Malcolm's neck, trailing down his arm.

"It's a go in mess hall and O'Neil's on her way." Hess said, excited.

Trip sighed before responding. "Be there in a few. Tucker out." He closed the channel and turned to Malcolm. "I'm -um- sorry for that. I—"

"Its fine." Malcolm said a little too quickly. "Actually, it's more than fine." He smiled and reached out for Trip. "I'd like to try that again, without the interruption." He smiled. He couldn't help it, couldn't kept the joy inside.

Trip grinned back at him and let Malcolm pull him closer. "I'd like that." He said in a near whisper. His cock began to throb painfully as Malcolm took the lead and kissed him, lightly nipping his bottom lip. He wanted to undress Malcolm right there, touch him, taste him, and learn his smell. Already he knew Malcolm's hair was baby soft and felt like silk in his hands. He wondered if Malcolm would feel the same in his hands, in his mouth.

The kiss was over too soon, Malcolm pushing him gently away. "You need to go." That was hard to do, hard to tell the man he wanted so badly to go, but they had waited this long, he could endure another few hours.

Trip looked at him blankly for a moment before memory flooded back. "I guess so." He ran his fingers through his hair. "What do we do now?" Trip asked.

"I fix my phase pistols, you go to your party. The rest we can work out over breakfast," Malcolm said and smiled. "Is oh-seven-hundred too early?"

Trip grinned. "No. It's just fine. Do I get one for the road?"

"The road?" Malcolm asked.

"Yeah," Trip said, his accent thick. Leaning down, he caught Malcolm's lips with his own and for a few minutes lost himself in the joy of it.


Trip stepped out of his uniform and threw it unceremoniously onto the couch, where it landed in a rumpled heap. The party for O' Neil had lasted far longer than he had counted on, but it had the advantage of keeping his mind off Malcolm—until now.

His regulation blues joined the coverall and he picked his favorite pair of sweats from his dresser. They had started out a deep navy blue, almost black, but repeated wearings had faded them to a blue-gray, the color of Malcolm's eyes. It was sensual, wearing the sweats, imagining Malcolm surrounding him, caressing him. The image grew stronger in his mind: Malcolm sliding his hands under the shirt, exploring Trip's skin. Without thought, Trip's hands followed the path his mind mapped out. He settled onto the bed as he touched himself, his work-roughened hands tracing a path from the taunt skin of his abdomen and up and over his nipples and then down, fingers sneaking under the waistband of his sweats.

He freed his cock and started stroking himself to hardness. In his mind Malcolm was doing all the work, kissing his chest, nuzzling the spot on his side that never failed to make him laugh, touching him with hands that burned with desire. He remembered the way Malcolm tasted, the way his lips felt, the way Malcolm's hair felt, like silk, on his fingers. That had been a surprise. He had expected Malcolm's hair to be stiff and unyielding, like Malcolm could be, not soft like the wings of a butterfly.

He found an easy rhythm, circling the head of his cock with his thumb, and he imagined Malcolm's lips following the shape as he went down on Trip. He would melt like butter in Malcolm's mouth, slowly, giving in to the slide of lip-covered teeth grazing his rock-hard cock. His hands would be wrapped in Malcolm's hair, then they would slide down to grasp at the muscles hidden under the silken skin of Malcolm's shoulders, as Malcolm pulled harder with his mouth, wringing moans from Trip.

A final stroke and Trip came as the images he created drove him over the edge. His breathing and heartbeat calmed from their frantic pace and he lay, sated, before the need to clean up drove him from the bed.


Malcolm woke and stretched like a huge feral cat before looking at the clock for the time. It was early. The lighting was low, mimicking that time just before dawn that was neither light nor dark. It was his favorite time of day, this twilight, and he looked out the view port at the stars rushing by.

He thought back to the night before and smiled. Trip wanted him, needed him, just as much as Malcolm needed Trip. The kiss had been worth the wait, fueled by fire that had been left building over the past months. Malcolm's body responded freely to the memory of the kiss, to the memory of the warmth that had surrounded him when Trip had pulled him close.

Malcolm rolled out of his bed and straightened the covers before walking into the head. He didn't turn on the lights, not wanting the harsh glare to wake him completely. He turned on the shower to let the water begin to heat and looked over his reflection in the soft light of the early morning.

He looked well-rested and scruffy, with a day's growth of beard clinging to his chin, but his eyes looked different. His eyes held a twinkle that hadn't been there before last night. Happy—he looked happy, and it felt wonderful.

Stepping away from the mirror, he stretched and stepped out of his regulation blues. Back on earth he would have stepped right into the shower, nude, but here on Enterprise he had compromised and wore his blues to sleep in, just in case he had to dress in a hurry.

The water felt good. Enough heat to be almost too hot, but it felt perfect against his skin. He leaned his head under and let the water run down his face and wash away the previous day. He reached out and picked up the soap, keeping his eyes closed against the rush of water. Working up a strong lather he began washing his neck, kneading the tight muscles as he worked over to his shoulder. He switched hands and spent a few minutes working out a knot at the back of his neck, groaning out loud at the pleasure and pain of it.

With sure hands he finished washing, shut off the water and stepped out of the enclosure. Steam hovered in the air, obscuring the mirror. Malcolm wondered if the need he felt for Trip shone in his eyes. His body almost vibrated with it. He had almost given in and washed longer than needed, but he wanted to save every bit of desire for Trip. After all, he could hold out for one day. He smiled, used the edge of a towel to wipe the mirror dry, then used the towel next to dry himself. The clock chirped, and he realized he had less than half an hour before his date with Trip. He caught his reflection in the mirror, and his smile faded as old doubts surfaced. Was he too stiff? Too cold? Could he be the kind of person Trip deserved?

Trip was like the sun, brilliant, intense, and fierce; and Malcolm wanted nothing more than to bask in Trip's presence and absorb the incandescent light of his heart.


Trip self-consciously brushed a hand over his hair as he walked into the mess hall. Malcolm was already seated at a corner table. He waved at the lieutenant and picked up a cup of coffee on his way to the armory officer's table. Nervousness assailed him the closer he got to the table but he shoved it away; this was the same person he had worked with for over a year, someone who seemed to return his more-than-professional interest. The one who returned his interest, he told his insecure heart.

"You look well-rested," Malcolm said as Trip joined him, coffee in hand. Malcolm's stomach was too tight to eat this morning, too wound up about the man his wished would be his lover. Toast and tea were all his stomach could handle.

Trip grinned. "Let's just say I had good things to dream about."

"Is that so?" Malcolm replied, biting into his toast.

Trip sipped from his mug. Two could play coy. He let the silence stretch between them as he watched Malcolm eat, each movement precise.

Breakfast completed, Malcolm folded his napkin and set it next to his plate. "How was the party?"

"It was fun, I think. I was a little preoccupied."

It was Malcolm's turn to smile. "Were you really?" he asked in a teasing tone, his voice light.

"I was." Trip leaned in over the table, and in a stage whisper said, "by a fellow officer."

"Anyone I'm acquainted with?" Malcolm asked, falling into the game with a ready smile. He loved how lighthearted Trip could be.

"I wouldn't want this getting out all over the ship, but I guess I can tell you, if you want to know." Trip loved seeing that little smile light Malcolm's face, loved how it made his eyes light up.

Malcolm leaned closer, "I do, and you may trust me not to say a word."

"All right, it's Malcolm Reed. That sexy Brit in charge of the armory." Trip breathed the words into Malcolm's ear, and sat back in his chair, waiting to see if the game would be continued.

Malcolm looked thoughtful. "I see. I've heard he's rather… mmm… austere. Are you positive you want to get involved with him?"

Trip heard the undercurrent of uncertainly to the lieutenant's words and moved to disarm them. "Oh, I'm sure." He leaned in again and held Malcolm's hand tightly for a second. "You know, I've seen another side of him."

"You have?" Malcolm asked his curiosity piqued.

"I have. He's passionate, and noble, and has a great sense of humor." Trip leaned in again. "Plus the way he calls me 'Mr. Tucker' sends chills down my spine." Better to try to set Malcolm straight right now.

Malcolm let out a soft laugh. "Enough."

Trip joined him. "Okay, but just remember I see past the uniform."

Malcolm turned serious again. "What do you mean?"

Trip sighed and gave Malcolm's hand another squeeze. "The Malcolm you present to the world isn't the same one locked away under all the rules and regs."

"Oh," Malcolm said in one long breath. He hadn't realized he was so easy to read.

Trip decided to let Malcolm off the hook. "So, have any exciting plans in the armory today?" he asked, knowing he'd done the right thing as Malcolm relaxed, his smile returning as his shoulders dropped a fraction of an inch.

"I have plans to run computer simulations against ships listed in the Vulcan database, to gauge the phase cannons against the weaponry we may face. And what are your plans for the day?"

Trip set his empty mug aside. "I'm planning on routine maintenance. You know the kind of stuff that bores you to tears. That way I'll be able to keep my mind off what I want to do to you." He knew he was pushing it a little and gave Malcolm his best innocent smile.

Malcolm's eyes widened just a bit and he stood hastily. "Speaking of duty, I'd best be off." The smile Trip gave him only served to make him excited and nervous and he needed to get back on familiar ground.

"Why don't you head over to my quarters after shift, Lieutenant?" Trip noticed the mess had started to fill up and suddenly felt the need to protect this—thing—growing between them. "We'll have time to go over the reports then."

Malcolm nodded and the officer mask slipped into place. "As you wish, Sir." He turned and with sure, measured steps, walked out of the mess hall.

Sighing, Trip stood and followed Malcolm out of the mess and made his way to Engineering. It was going to be a long day.


Malcolm looked at the console, nodding and making small changes as the simulation placing the Enterprise against a Nausicaan ship ran its course. He was pleased with the results so far, though if they could understand more of the Suliban cloaking device and apply it to the ship, they would have a much stronger defense. He turned away and looked out over his domain as his stomach growled, reminding him it was close to lunchtime, which explained the small numbers of crew working in and around the armoury.

He decided to skip lunch and continue to monitor the computer. Besides, his stomach, as well as his mind, had been in knots since last night. Breakfast with the Commander, despite his acting to the contrary, had only tightened them. He looked at his watch: only six hours before he would be announcing himself at Trip's door, looking for what?

Another kiss.

The last kiss had been heavenly, full of promise, hinting of what they could have together. All that remained was for him to take the chance, a leap of faith, and land safely.

Last night he had felt warmth seep into him. Warmth, as Trip had kissed him. Warmth he was certain he had no right to share, or to be a part of. Yet this morning, Commander Tucker had smiled, flirted, used words to reassure him, and he had played the game, even let a bit of his fear show through. Malcolm smiled, the glow lightening his features for a split second. Trip knew him—had told him as much—and still wanted to be with him.

The smile grew brighter.

Only five and half hours left.


Trip's eyes nearly crossed as with boredom as he led the computer through another set of exercises programmed to purge the ships systems of defunct files. He could have asked any number of his staff to complete the job, the equivalent of taking out he trash, but he needed to let his crew grow and learn. Taking out the trash was something everyone knew how to do.

Sighing, he looked out over his baby, his engine, and saw the staff purposefully working, patting her sides as they completed diagnostics or routine repairs. He sometimes thought of this room as a beehive, and the engine as its queen. He just happened to be the head soldier bee. Actually, he thought, Malcolm was the head soldier: protecting the hive with a ferocity that left him scared and breathless at times. The Captain had told him what had happened while they were stuck out on the hull; it chilled him to think that Malcolm would place so little value on his own life.

He thanked whoever had designed the environmental suits for adding an area to hook up another air hose. It had saved Malcolm's life. It was one of the many things he wanted to talk to Malcolm about.

Looking down at his watch, he saw he had two hours left until Malcolm would be at his door. He didn't let the possibility of Malcolm not coming take hold in his brain; ruthlessly he pushed the thought aside and moved onto another bit of maintenance on the computer, wondering if there was any way he could sneak away early.

He smiled. No one would miss him if he scooted out a little early. O'Neil had reported for duty early to thank the alpha crew for their part in the surprise party. He saw her across the way and motioned her over. It was time for a little bit of sweet-talking.


Sweet-talking O'Neil hadn't accomplished much for getting him out early, in fact, Trip was running a little late. He rounded the corner at a fast walk and saw Malcolm standing nervously at his door, fidgeting with the zipper and collar of his uniform.

"Hey Malcolm!" Trip called out when he was about ten feet away. "Hope you weren't waiting long."

Malcolm looked up, startled. "No, not very long, a few minutes at best."

"Good." Trip hated the flash of hurt that shone briefly in Malcolm's eyes. "I got caught up by the staff, wanting to thank me for letting them have the time off for the party." He keyed the command to open his door and waved Malcolm inside as it slid open.

Malcolm smiled at the disarray that greeted him. The bed wasn't made, a spare uniform hung over the back of a chair. The closet door was held open by the toe of a shoe. It looked lived in, a far cry from his sparse quarters.

Trip looked around the room and groaned. "Sorry, I was hoping to get back here to clean up." He picked up the uniform and threw it into the hamper, where other uniforms awaited cleaning, and quickly drew the covers up over his bed.

"You needn't clean on my behalf." Malcolm said and laid his hand on Trip's arm. "I rather like it, truth be told."

Trip turned. "You like it?" He watched as Malcolm's fingers roamed up his sleeve.

"It's you," Malcolm replied, and again threw caution to the wind. "Besides, we'll only clutter the room more."

The last words were spoken in Trip's ear and he shivered at the promise in Malcolm's words. It was all he could do not to pull Malcolm into his arms. "And how will we do that?" He gave into his need and snaked his arms around Malcolm's waist and drew him closer.

"I can think of a few ways that will make the girls on Risa seem tame." Malcolm's fingers wound into Trip's hair and tugged. "Shall we start where we left off last night?" He whispered the words across Trip's lips.

"Hmm…" Trip replied and pulled Malcolm closer. "I like the way that sounds." He groaned as Malcolm's lips met his, sighed as Malcolm's tongue teased across his lips.

"And I like the way that sounds." Malcolm murmured and whispered against Trip's lips. He smiled and kissed Trip deeply, reacquainting himself with the feel and taste of the engineer.

"Do you?" Trip asked, drawing back and looking down into the blue gray eyes that had haunted his thoughts for the last countless months. "Let me tell you what I like: I like knowing you need me too. I like knowing how you feel. I'd like to know if you steal blankets."

Malcolm looked up. "If I steal the blankets?"

Trip tipped Malcolm's head to the side and kissed the distance from Malcolm's collarbone to right behind his ear. "When we're wrapped tight around each other. After."

"Will you tell me what comes before?" Malcolm sounded breathless to his own ears and loved that Trip could make him feel this way, lost and found at the same time.

Trip sucked gently on Malcolm's earlobe. "Mind if I show you instead?" Hands tugged down the zipper and pushed the uniform off Malcolm's shoulders, followed the fall of fabric with his hands and slid the uniform slowly over Malcolm's ass. He smiled down at Malcolm and took his lips in a searing kiss, one that shot heat straight to his groin.

Malcolm let Trip undress him, marveling that someone would want and need him like this, and when he felt the rough scratch of cloth against his chest he returned the favor, undressing Trip with nimble fingers.

Trip felt the warm brush of Malcolm's lips against his neck and the quick glide of fingers across his chest, back, stomach. Groaning, he gave Malcolm a tug and controlled their fall onto the bed. As much as he wanted to kiss every inch of the body under him, as much as he wanted to lose himself in the desire of the moment, he needed to make Malcolm understand this wasn't a one-night fling. He wanted Malcolm, all of him, and he wouldn't continue if he couldn't have it all. He changed the tone of his kisses from deep and soul consuming, to light feathery kisses and waited.

Malcolm opened his eyes and leaned into the light stroke of fingers across his brow. His expression clouded. "Is something the matter?" His body was hot, heavy, aching with desire from the hard length of Trip's cock pressing against his own. He had lost himself for a few heavenly minutes, and wondered at how quickly Trip had been able to take him so completely away from himself. It scared him and thrilled him at the same time.

Trip kissed the tip of his nose. "I want this to last… I don't mean just what's going to happen tonight." He smiled at the wrinkle that furrowed Malcolm's brow. "I'm talking about us, Malcolm. I don't want just a one-night thing. I'm in this for keeps." He nuzzled Malcolm's chin and nipped his earlobe. "For keeps."

"I see," Malcolm replied, smiling. He caught Trip's head in his hands and thrust his hips while taking the blond's lips with his own, creating friction that had them both panting. "I think that can be arranged."

Trip buried his head in Malcolm's neck and breathed deeply. For a split second he had been sure Malcolm would reject him; now the relief made his heart thump almost painfully in his chest. He pulled Malcolm tight against him and rolled over, until Malcolm's head rested on his shoulder. "I was worried you'd say no."

Malcolm nipped Trip's shoulder. "And I was worried you'd never ask. Now, if you don't mind, I'd like to find out what I've been missing."

Trip leaned over and repeated Malcolm's words, "I think that can be arranged," before kissing Malcolm with a passion that surprised them both.


Trip sneaked out of his quarters a few hours later and made his rumpled and wrinkled way to the mess hall. He picked up a tray and placed a cup of coffee for himself and a pot of hot water with an assortment of teas for Malcolm. Chef had laid out a number of small pastries and breakfast breads and Trip picked out a few he thought Malcolm would enjoy.

Trip turned, balancing the tray on one on hand and ran right into his Captain.

Jon righted the tray before it could topple and smiled at Trip. "You're looking like the cat who ate the canary." He looked over the tray and smiled wider. "Since when did you start drinking tea?"

"It's what the canary likes," Trip said with a smile. He stepped around Jon.

Jon laid his hand on Trip's shoulder, halting the engineer in his tracks. "And the canary is?"

Trip turned and winked. "In my bed, wrapped up in both blankets. I better get back before he wakes up."

Jon picked up a mug of coffee for himself and nodded in the direction of Trip's quarters. "You better get going." Trip looked genuinely at peace for the first time in months. Jon was sure Malcolm looked the same.

"Yes, Sir," Trip replied as he left the mess hall. Malcolm was waiting for him in his quarters, sleeping like a sated tiger. They had made love until the early hours of the morning, exhausting the pent-up longing of so many months. He liked knowing that Malcolm could sleep so soundly in his arms, and had curled up against him, sharing body heat and a bit of his soul.

He liked it, a lot.

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