Title: Disconnected

Author: Kipli

Author's email: kipli16@yahoo.com

Author's URL: http://kipli.net/fiction.html

Date: 04/04/03

Archive: Yes to EntSTSlash, Linguistics Database, Luminosity, WWOMB, Archers_Enterprise, and ASC*, otherwise ask first pretty please.

Fandom: Star Trek: Enterprise

Category: Slash

Rating: NC-17

Status: Complete

Pairing: Reed/Mayweather/Sato; Tucker

Summary: After their return to Enterprise, Sato, Mayweather, and Reed have to reestablish their previous lives and duties, leaving them with less and less time together.

Warnings: AU, Nonconsensual groping

Sequel to: Togetherness

Beta: Oh my, where to begin. First, a million and one thanks to Sphynxie. This fic would not be what it is without her. Writing this fic has been a royal pain in the rear, but she's seen my plotbunny (and me) through thick and thin. She is a writer's best friend, and she probably deserves co-authorship status on this fic, although she never ultimately wrote anything. Next I have to thank KylieLee and Squeaky. They are both so awesome, I cannot thank them enough. Their kind thoughts on the first version of this fic (oh yes I rewrote 25 pages…) and then thorough betas of the second version are so very much appreciated. All three of you are far too good to me! ;)

Spoilers: Enterprise's Season One and slightly for the film "Men in Black"

Disclaimer: Paramount owns the universe. I just live there.

Author's Notes: This fanfic includes m/m, m/f, and m/m/f romantic and physical situations. If any of these combinations bothers you, do not read this fic. There is a third and final chapter to this series that I'm hoping to get out faster than I did this one. ;)


Hoshi loved the taste and the feel and the sound of them. Two men panting and groaning her name. She couldn't get enough of it—the scents, the sounds, the touches. She dug her nails into dark skin as light fingers clamped onto her hips. She reveled in the attention and the power. She was at the center of it. She was at the center of their love. It radiated through her between all three. They were hers; she was theirs.

Fingers laced into her long, dark hair as Hoshi licked her way up Travis' shaft in slow, calculated strokes. Travis shivered beneath her as his panting grew more frantic. Her tongue swirled around the tip, making a survey of the folds, before taking him into her mouth.

"Oh, yes, don't stop," Travis gasped, moaning as Hoshi lightly drew her nails along his stomach.

Hoshi sucked in time with Malcolm's steady thrusts. She was positioned on her knees, bent over Travis, who was lying on his back in front of her, while Malcolm was on his knees behind. Malcolm's fingers tightened their hold on Hoshi's hips as his harsh panting turned into low grunts, his thrusts into her accelerating a notch. She could hear and feel the change. He was nearing the edge.

She sped up the bobbing of her head—to Travis' gasping delight. She could feel the climax coming, and she wanted them to all share in the moment. The two men's orgasmic shouts and moans were always music to her ears, best sung in harmony together.

Malcolm had moved from steady to delirious thrusting, and Hoshi released Travis from her mouth to whimper a moan as Malcolm found her clitoris with his thumb. She was quick to continue stroking along Travis' thick erection, stabilizing herself with one arm as she pumped his shaft with her free hand, licking at the head.

Travis moaned her name as his hips bucked, his climax rushing over him. He arched beneath her as she wrapped her mouth around his tip to swallow his seed and drag out his release, continuing to pump his pulsing shaft. She thrust back against Malcolm, and then she lost herself as she heard his ragged moan join Travis'. Malcolm held her tight as he shuddered with one last thrust into her. Hoshi floated in the haze of her orgasm, aware of the wonderful sounds of Travis and Malcolm.

Then Malcolm collapsed against Hoshi's back, and she crumpled with the extra weight onto Travis' stomach. Hoshi listened as they all worked to collect themselves.

"We're going to do ourselves in with much more of this," Malcolm sighed, kissing along Hoshi's slender shoulders.

"It would be one hell of a way to go," Travis replied. He caressed his fingers through Hoshi's hair.

She smiled up at him as she nuzzled her cheek against his well- defined stomach.

"I can't believe we've been at it all day, like damned wild rabbits," Reed said.

"You aren't enjoying our company, Malcolm?" Hoshi teased as she turned her head to look at him over her shoulder.

He purred softly, a noise he rarely made, and kissed her cheek. "I've enjoyed myself immensely, my lovely Goddess."

Hoshi grinned and reached to run a hand along his cheek as he settled his head on her shoulder. "Hm, just lovely?"

Malcolm chuckled lightly, chest vibrating against her back. "My stunningly beautiful Goddess?"

Hoshi paused for a moment as she pretended to think it over. "I suppose that will have to do for now, sugar." She smiled.

"You're so demanding, Princess," Travis said.

"That's Goddess to you," she corrected.

Travis snorted playfully. "Says who?"

"The gorgeous man with gray-blue eyes lying on my back."

Travis leaned his head up to glance at Malcolm. "Ah, him. He's a troublemaker."

"Me?" Malcolm replied innocently.

"Yes, you. The one who brought whipped cream back from the galley when he went to get us dinner."

"That was a damned fine idea, wasn't it?" Malcolm flashed them a cocky grin.

Hoshi giggled. "A very fine and tasty idea."

Malcolm licked his tongue along her shoulder, as if cleaning up the last of the sugar from her skin. "Yes, quite tasty."

She turned herself enough to kiss him; Malcolm's lips were too tempting to resist. It was wonderful to see Malcolm this relaxed and at ease. Of course, spending a whole day in her quarters together had quite a lot to do with it. She was more than glad the captain had given them the day off. With the stress and excitement of returning to *Enterprise* after a month on a planet with only each other, it was nice to forget everything and just be together. Their romantic relationship had just begun when they were rescued, but this little "honeymoon" was helping to cement everything. They would be all right. She was going to be able to keep both of them. Hoshi wouldn't have had it any other way.

"Okay you two, off my stomach," Travis interrupted, pushing gently at their shoulders.

Hoshi broke the kiss with a smile, and she moved up beside Travis, Malcolm squeezing in behind her. Her bed was far too small for them all, but somehow they managed. Having a wall to one side helped to keep them all pinned in the bed.

"How many times does that make it?" Travis teased as he reached over to play with Malcolm's mussed hair.

"I lost count after lunch," Malcolm laughed.

"Do you think we could weasel another day off from the captain?" Hoshi asked, curling an arm around Travis' chest.

"I doubt it. We're quite fit to return to duty," Malcolm said. "I don't know. I'm going to be pretty sore tomorrow." Travis grinned.

"And it's nice here, with just us," Hoshi said simply.

"That it is," Malcolm said. He kissed Travis' hand when it came close enough to his lips. "But we can't lock the door and never leave this room."

"I guess not. Tomorrow should be interesting."

"It'll be kind of hard to get back into the swing of things," Travis admitted. "But we'll do okay."

Hoshi nodded. There wasn't any reason to worry. They fell into a companionable silence as they drifted off into their own thoughts, bodies warm and cozy. The room was a mess—clothes here and there, dishes stolen from the galley, towels left over from a forgotten war—but it was a safe haven. Hoshi closed her eyes, taking in the feeling. She wanted to remember it when life got hectic the next day.

"So, Princess," Travis said as he broke the silence, running a hand along her side. "When are we going to get you in the middle?"

Malcolm perked up at his comment. "Yes, you've been pretty sneaky in order to avoid it. Is it something you forgot to declare a distaste for?"

Hoshi blushed just slightly, which quickly garnered the complete attention of both men. "I…um…It's just that I've never…" She trailed off as she noticed them both staring at her.

"Well, this is front page news. There's actually a sexual position Hoshi's embarrassed about," Travis teased, although he was running his fingers reassuringly through her hair, tucking loose strands behind her ear.

"You've never done what?" Malcolm pressed. "Two men at once, or anal sex?"

"Both." She flashed them an embarrassed smile. "Hey, I might not act like it, but I haven't done *everything*."

"True, you are just a young pup," Malcolm smirked before receiving a retaliatory pinch from Hoshi.

"It's just…Well, you two seem to like it just fine, but…I mean, I still don't see how it would work with both of you…at once."

"We would be extra slow and gentle, hon," Travis soothed. "We don't want to pressure you into something you don't want to do, but we'd never hurt you."

"I know." Hoshi leaned back against Malcolm. "Just…could we hold off on that idea for now?"

"Of course, love," Malcolm said. "We'd just like to overload your senses for once."

She smiled at him. "I'll think about it."

"Maybe we need to give her another demonstration that it doesn't hurt," Travis said as he grinned over at Malcolm.

"You're ready to go again?" Malcolm asked, startled.

"Always ready for more Malcolm lovin'," Travis teased, giving Malcolm a wink.

Malcolm laughed and shook his head at him. "Give me a moment, love."

Hoshi, giggling, was about to suggest they settle down for the night and clean up, when the door chimed.

They froze.

No one had interrupted them all day. Their only mild disturbances had been Malcolm's trips to the galley for food. Who could be here now? The captain with some news? A steward wanting the mess hall dishes returned?

Hoshi was the first one to come around as the door chimed a second time. She climbed her way out of bed in search of her robe. "Hurry up and get dressed."

The two men were quick to follow her as they located errant clothing. She pulled on her robe and ran her fingers through her hair. Malcolm found his gray boxers and shirt, then shoved some of the stray plates and clothes under Hoshi's bed. Travis tugged on blue pajama bottoms, and Hoshi walked to the door. The room smelled of sex and sweat—not that whoever it was couldn't tell what they had been up to by just looking at them.

The door chimed for a fifth time before Hoshi answered it. She was surprised to see Trip Tucker standing outside with three PADDs in his hands. "Commander?"

Trip looked just as startled to see Hoshi in her robe. "Did I wake you up?" Then he glanced over and took in Malcolm and Travis beside the bed, and his face changed to a different look: a look of surprise.

"Not exactly." Hoshi noticed Malcolm's nervous fidgeting, trying to smooth out his hair, and she smiled warmly before shifting her attention back onto Trip. "So, what can we do for you?"

"I, um, just had some reports the Cap'n wants each of you to look over before you head back to duty tomorrow." He handed her all three PADDs. "I guess this means I don't have to track down Malcolm or Travis."

"I'll be sure they read everything over," she told Trip. She turned to hand the PADDs to Travis. "Anything else?"

"Yeah, the Cap'n wants to see all three of you on the Bridge first thing tomorrow morning. I'm guessing that won't be too hard for you to work out?"

"Nope, we should manage it. Thanks Commander." "No problem." Trip turned to go.

Hoshi watched him leave, puzzled. Malcolm and Travis had reported teasing Trip the night before about Hoshi needing a larger bed. According to Malcolm, Trip had looked envious. But he didn't look very envious this evening. Trip looked a little disturbed, watching Malcolm fidget. Then again, catching fellow crew members that had obviously been romping around in bed together was probably a case of too much information.

Hoshi turned around as the door shut, sighing. "Looks like the fun's over."


Cautiously ecstatic. Yes, that was about right. Malcolm hid away the silly smile that wanted to form on his face. He'd never get over waking up sandwiched between Travis and Hoshi.

Breakfast had nearly been their "coming out" announcement: it was their first public meal in the mess hall. They'd joked and touched as usual, and it had gone well, Malcolm decided. Doctor Phlox had joined them halfway through. He was more than comfortable with the easy-to- spot threesome. Malcolm was only mildly concerned about their transition back to ship life. The only sore spot was Trip's quick pass by on his way to breakfast in the captain's mess. He seemed to be in quite a hurry to get away from them.

Malcolm pulled his mind back onto the present as the lift came to a stop. He had to get serious. This first day back was going to be trying, and they had a meeting with the captain, which Malcolm was nearly certain would have very little to do with the few reports they had read the night before.

Malcolm stepped out of the lift, leading as always, as Hoshi and Travis followed. They fell back into their old planetside routines and behaviors. Malcolm had been the protector, and he continued to be even now. He was ready to take any blows there might be for starting a relationship with subordinate officers. And for as long as the other two were interested in having him around, he wasn't prepared to give up waking up in the middle.

T'Pol sat in the captain's chair. She turned as they approached. "Lieutenant, ensigns, you appear well rested."

Travis smiled. "Thanks, Subcommander. We had a nice day off."

T'Pol nodded, and before Malcolm could ask, she said, "The captain is in his ready room."

Malcolm nodded in return and made his way over to press the call for the ready room. At a "come in" from Archer, they filed into the office. Malcolm tried not to appear too protective as he stood just a hair in front of both junior officers.

Archer glanced up from his computer screen before standing. He gave them a small smile, which Malcolm took to be a good sign.

"Did each of you enjoy your day off?" Archer asked as he stepped around to join them.

"We had…a relaxing time, sir," Malcolm replied.

"Good." Archer paused for a moment as he leaned back against the edge of his desk. "Chef would like his dishes back, though."

Travis nodded, eyes smiling. "Aye, sir."

"And could we drop the formality for a minute and just talk?" Archer asked. "You're not officially back on duty for another five minutes."

"What would you like to discuss, then?" Malcolm fought back the automatic "sir" at the end of his sentence.

Archer was watching them thoughtfully. "This is completely off the record, of course. I've just gotten the impression that there's…something going on. Between the three of you. I'd just like to be clear on everything."

Malcolm cleared his throat, going into an at-ease position unconsciously as the subject shifted into personal matters. "There is something. But I don't believe it will hinder our job performances—"

Archer interrupted, "I'm not worried about that, Malcolm. I know you're all professionals."

"Well, then, to come clean," Travis said. "We did start a romantic relationship during our time on the planet."

Malcolm looked for understanding in Archer's eyes, once again reminded of the very different command style of the man.

"And we want to continue with it," Hoshi added, putting a hand on Malcolm's shoulder.

Archer nodded slowly. "I suspected as much." He folded his arms across his chest. "While neither of you are directly under Malcolm's command, there's still probably going to be some uncertainty from others when the three of you do interact while on duty. I'd suggest being as open as you like on your off time, but perhaps being overly polite to each other during your shifts. Any small act could be seen as your favoring one another, especially any moves made by Malcolm."

Malcolm nodded. He thought the suggestion was well thought out. "I believe that would be the appropriate way to handle things."

"No kissy-faces on the Bridge. Got it," Travis joked, earning himself laughs from the rest.

"At least, not when I'm around, Travis," Archer grinned, before continuing. "Personally, I think this is a good idea. You'll be good for each other. But I can see it taking quite a bit of work on your part to keep everything stable."

"We're ready to put in the effort to keep this going," Hoshi said.

Archer shifted away from his desk to standing. "I hope everything goes well for all three of you, then. Any of you are free to talk to me any time, if you need someone to talk with. But keep in mind, I won't hesitate to chew any or all of you out for inappropriate behavior while on duty."

"Understood," Malcolm replied, while Hoshi and Travis nodded in agreement.

"Now, I believe it's about time you three got back to work…" Archer turned to sit back down at his desk.

"Yes, sir," Malcolm said before they headed out the door. That had been surprisingly painless.


Never rely on anyone else to do a proper job. Malcolm frowned at the computer readout for the phase canon alignments. Before the trio had been stranded, the canons had needed realigning; Malcolm had made his way to the armory to check on their status. It was not a complete mess. Thankfully, his people could handle a day or two without him. But the readings were still off from the norm. He suspected he would be there most of the day, tinkering, getting everything just so. It was nice to be back—to have his weapons back. And it was nice to have something complex to play with again. Malcolm didn't appreciate being out of sight of Hoshi and Travis, however. He was doing well enough adjusting, since he had left them alone most of the days they'd spent on the planet to hunt and gather, but his mind still wandered. He missed Hoshi's scent and Travis' touch. He had to work hard to keep completely focused on the task at hand. The end of the shift couldn't arrive fast enough.

After a few hours' work on the alignments, Malcolm could feel himself even more at ease with being back on the ship. This was, after all, what he really wanted to do. Hunting small game and building rustic shelters hadn't been in his career plans. Only every once in a while, he would remember that last night together. And then he longed to go back. It was simpler. There was no one else. Just the three of them—the three of them curled up together.


Startled out of his thoughts, Malcolm blinked as he looked away from the readouts. "Trip?"

Trip beamed him a wide smile. "Catch you off guard? Sorry. Just came to check in on you."

Malcolm, flustered at where his thoughts had been, quickly glanced at his display. "Back to being hard at work and keeping us all safe once again, Commander."

"No trouble feeling comfortable in a clean, intact uniform?" Trip teased. He had been the one to beam them up from the surface, and he had seen their ragged state after a relative month away.

Malcolm half-grinned. "I'm managing to survive the ordeal." He looked over at Trip as the other man leaned a hip against the console beside him. "Really, I'm adjusting rather well. It's nice to have weapons again that aren't composed mainly of sticks and rocks."

Trip chuckled. "I'd imagined you'd be glad to have your weapons back. You don't cope well without a workin' phase pistol or two within arm's reach."

Malcolm gave Trip a sharp look. "I'm simply concerned about being ever-ready to defend this ship and crew. I managed to keep Travis and Hoshi safe on the planet, with or without a phase pistol."

"Boy Scout Malcolm Reed saves the day once again."

"Eagle Scout," Malcolm corrected, eyeing Trip again.

"My apologies." Trip grinned again.

There was something different. Malcolm couldn't put his finger on it, but he could feel a difference. He watched Trip for a moment. There was a different energy from Trip—different from when he had practically ignored them at breakfast. What had changed?

"So, did you miss me?" Trip asked.

"Miss you?" Malcolm asked.

"A month away and you didn't think of me at all?" Trip batted his eyes.

Malcolm laughed lightly. "I missed everyone. You, the captain, even Porthos. But near the end, we…well, we were nearly certain something catastrophic must have happened to the ship." Malcolm pushed back the memory of giving in to that theory. They had become convinced, after a month had gone by and *Enterprise* hadn't appeared, that all of their crewmates must have perished.

"Always the pessimist."

"I'll have you know I held up a good optimistic front for my junior officers."

"I'm sure they bought it, too," Trip said, lightly.

"I'm a realist, Commander. I try not to let anything cloud my judgment."

Trip put his hands up as if surrendering to Malcolm.

There was a beat of silence, and suddenly Malcolm could almost feel the question coming. Trip was his friend. It was inevitable he was going to ask the question sooner or later. He watched Trip lightly bite his lower lip.

"When did…" Trip glanced around to see no one else was in the armory before looking back at Malcolm with clouded blue eyes. "When did the three of you start…" He couldn't quite seem to get the whole question out.

Malcolm felt sorry for the other man having such difficulties asking, and Malcolm forgot to be embarrassed himself. "When did we start shagging?" He smirked at the flush that came over Trip's face.


"Just the night before you beamed us back," Malcolm replied. His console beeped, and Malcolm looked at the readings. Damn, the canons were still off by too large a percentage. He manipulated a few numbers before glancing back at Trip, who had yet to respond. For the briefest of moments, Trip looked utterly disgusted with himself, a rare look for the man. But then it was gone, and Malcolm couldn't decide if he'd actually seen it there.

Trip was smiling at him now. "Took you guys long enough."

"I suppose it takes some doing for these sort of things. Anyway, I'm glad it's happened." Finally, he felt embarrassed himself about the topic and glanced away. "We'll try to keep a low profile now that we're back on duty."

"So you're going to keep it going?"

Malcolm nodded. "It's not exactly a relationship I planned to start, but it's working so far." He allowed himself a wide smile.

Trip glanced down at his own feet. "I just…I just hope they don't end up hurtin' you, Malcolm."

"I can take care of myself, Trip. I don't intend for things to go sour, but if they do—" Malcolm swallowed down raw emotions at the idea. "—I'll survive."

"I know. Just…a threesome isn't exactly too normal or easy. I want you to know I'm here for you."

Malcolm smiled. It was nice to see Trip's concern for him. "Thank you. I'll keep that in mind. But there's no need for worry."

Trip simply nodded. Malcolm could see he had done little to ward off the other man's concern. Before he could speak again, Trip stood up straight. "Well, I should head on back to Engineering." Trip paused for a moment. "Unless you could use a hand here, Lieutenant?"

"I might be able to find you something to do, Mister Tucker."


Malcolm was late. Even with Trip's help, it took the rest of his shift to get the phase canons properly squared away. He had taken only a quick lunch and unfortunately managed to miss Hoshi and Travis. Now it was a half-hour past the end of alpha shift. Trip had been kind enough to stay until the job had been finished. Malcolm knew his lovers would be wondering about him, but he was sure they would be waiting for him at the mess hall. Or perhaps they'd smuggled some food back to Hoshi's quarters for a romantic meal for all three of them alone. He smiled at both ideas.

The lift came to a stop, and Trip let him step out first as they headed for the mess hall.

"Already workin' late on your first day back," Trip teased.

"Whenever did I not work late before?" Malcolm returned. It had been a nice day working with Trip. Malcolm hadn't realized how much he had missed the company of others. Trip had a light, easy way about him. And Malcolm couldn't recall that Trip had been such a tease before. The man had taken every opportunity to make something into a joke. It made for a refreshing mood for the day.

"True, you could never leave a job unfinished."

"Says the engineer who nearly sleeps with his engines," Malcolm replied.

Trip grinned. "I gotta keep my baby healthy and happy."

Malcolm chuckled as they walked into the mess hall. His eyes instantly scanned for Hoshi and Travis. He spotted them in the far corner. They were sitting close and eating already. Eating without him? He could have been late by hours back on the planet, and the two would have still waited until he arrived to eat. He felt a shimmer of uneasiness settle in his stomach. Now don't be paranoid, Malcolm Reed, he thought to himself.

He grabbed a plate of food—was that meat or pasta?—and walked over to the couple. Trip followed him but went empty handed.

"You didn't wait for me?" Malcolm asked bluntly, setting the plate down as he sat beside Travis.

"We knew you'd be along sooner or later," Hoshi answered. She must have noticed his tense shoulders, because she went on, "It's easier to eat without you when we know you haven't been killed, or lost, or who knows what while you were out of sight."

That made enough sense. Malcolm relaxed. Travis rubbed Malcolm's shoulder reassuringly. Malcolm gave the other man a soft smile before he picked up his fork. Then he noticed Trip was still standing. He glanced up. "Care to join us?"

Trip appeared to almost fidget as he stood there. Was he staring at Travis? "I…ah, actually have plans for dinner with the Cap'n and T'Pol."

Travis nodded warmly. "I think they're already in the captain's mess."

"Thanks," Trip replied absently as he turned to go.

As Trip disappeared into the next room, Hoshi shook her head. "I don't think he's very comfortable around us."

"He was more than fine with just me," Malcolm said as he tried some of the food and decided it was pasta. It was still a minor wonder to eat something so thoroughly processed, as opposed to basic meat, vegetables, and fruit. Malcolm thought for a moment. "But I think he is uncomfortable with the threesome. He was concerned about it earlier."

"Tell him not to worry. We'll behave ourselves in public." Hoshi finished off the last of her pasta and turned her attention onto a slice of cake.

Malcolm decided not to mention that Trip's fears were more geared toward everything crashing and burning, rather than inappropriate public behavior. From the way Trip was acting, it must be truly troubling the other man. Malcolm hoped over time Trip would calm and see everything was fine.

"I'll try reassuring him again." Malcolm watched Hoshi and Travis for a moment. He had missed not seeing them all day. He ran his hand along Travis' arm. "So, how did you two fare without me?"


He was late. Again. Malcolm scowled at the lift door. He was always late. Malcolm had never realized how much overtime he spent finishing projects. He was the head of his department, and he couldn't simply leave something uncompleted for the next shift to fix up. He had to set an example. But Travis and Hoshi had no such demands. When it was 1700, they were free to go. Only a crisis on the Bridge could keep them after hours.

It had only been a couple of days, yet not once had he left his post on time. The worst delay had been getting off two hours late at the end of the second day, when Trip had suggested they start to inspect and recalibrate both entire phase canon relays. It was a sound idea, since the canons had been off far enough to indicate a mechanical problem. It was simply a monumental task. It was going to take them many more days to finish.

Still, he was not upset about the company. Malcolm enjoyed spending time with Trip. He was more personable and less irritating than Malcolm recalled. But he was spending far more time with Trip than Travis or Hoshi. It was starting to distract him.

And now he was late once more. He had missed dinner completely, and he was going to have to rush to make it to their movie date. Trip had left Malcolm alone in the armory to finish up when the shift had ended, but finishing up took far longer than Malcolm had planned.

Stepping out of the lift, Malcolm marched to the mess hall, picked up a sandwich, and ducked back out to the rec room. He was starving. Lunches were short and sporadic, and he only occasionally managed to eat with his lovers. Today he had missed them.

Frowning again, Malcolm stepped into the rec room. It was dark. He stood by the door as it shut behind him, letting his eyes adjust. The movie had started. He was late, again. He took a step when he spotted Hoshi and Travis, then stalled. They were up front, and there were no empty seats. They hadn't saved him a seat. Why wouldn't they save him a seat?

Malcolm's stunned staring was interrupted by a tug on his pant leg. He turned to see Trip seated along the row next to him. The man gestured to an empty seat. Malcolm suppressed a sigh, tossing one last look back at his lovers, then sat at the end of the row as Trip scooted over a chair. This was not how he'd pictured his evening. He positioned himself to have a clear view of Hoshi and Travis. Why hadn't they saved him a seat? Malcolm bit harshly into his sandwich.

"You only missed the first few minutes. Although you would have liked the gooey mess of this one alien they blew up," Trip whispered to him, leaning in close to be heard. "Where ya been?"

"Finishing up. The blasted canons wouldn't stabilize after you left," Malcolm whispered back.

"Sorry. I should have stayed." Trip sounded sincerely apologetic.

Malcolm shook his head. "No, it should have been simple. They just didn't want to cooperate."

Their attention shifted to the screen as the action started back up, one man chasing another down the streets of old New York City. Which ridiculous movie were they showing this week? Oh, yes—*Men in Black* Malcolm recalled. Why couldn't they ever show one of the epic pieces of cinema? Why was it always this Hollywood drivel? If it wasn't some romance from the twentieth century, it was a horrific modern monster movie, like the aptly named *Warp Core Slug Monster.* Strangely, the creature had looked strikingly similar to the tentacle alien that had once captured Archer, Trip, and a number of the crew in a cargo bay—except for the added fangs.

Malcolm was pulled out of his thoughts as he noticed something was odd about the man the police officer was chasing. The man on screen blinked two sets of eyelids—one human and one decidedly not. Perhaps the movie wouldn't be too boring.

The film's continued alien premise was enough to hold Malcolm's interest—as well as, of course, the explosions and large guns. He was contemplating how close in design some of the "futuristic" on- screen guns had come to modern phase pistols, and if bigger was really better, when his attention shifted off screen. Hoshi and Travis were cuddling, in public and without him. His eyes narrowed. Didn't they care at all that he wasn't there? Apparently not, as Hoshi whispered into Travis' ear before nuzzling his neck and nearly curling up in his lap. Travis ran his hand through her hair and along her shoulder. And then they stole a kiss, deep and meaningful. Jealous insecurities flashed through Malcolm in an icy-cold rush. How could they have not saved him a seat? He froze, unable to look away, even as the film's climactic ending boomed through the rec room. He could barely hear it over his own frantic thoughts.

They hadn't saved him a seat.

Malcolm started as he felt a warm hand on his shoulder. He turned to see Trip beside him, eyes concerned and compassionate, even in the darkness of the room. Malcolm had to look down at his hands. It wouldn't do to fall to pieces in public and in front of Trip. Malcolm was sure there was an explanation, a quick and easy reason why that would be handed to him the moment he spoke to his lovers. But deep inside, Malcolm was starting to wonder if Trip wasn't correct, if this just couldn't work. His two lovers seemed to be doing just fine without him. More than just fine.

His bitter thoughts were interrupted by a whisper in his ear from Trip.

"It'll be okay, Malcolm. I'm sure they don't…mean anything by it." Trip tried to sound optimistic, but his tone was still uncertain.

Malcolm gave Trip a small forced smile for his attempt at comforting him. Then suddenly the credits were rolling and the lights came up. Malcolm blinked as his eyes adjusted. People started to stand, talking as they mingled on their way out.

Hoshi and Travis followed suit, and they nearly passed Malcolm by before noticing him. But then Travis stopped and came over as he saw Malcolm, Hoshi following after. "You made it, Malcolm? I thought—"

"He managed just in the nick of time," Trip answered as he and Malcolm stood.

Malcolm didn't miss Trip placing himself a little defensively between Hoshi and Travis, and himself. Trip was a good friend. Malcolm squeezed the man's arm lightly as he moved around him to his lovers.

"So, you gave up on me, then?" Malcolm asked. He tried to keep the mood light.

"We just thought you hadn't been able to come. You work too late some nights." Hoshi took one of Malcolm's hands in hers.

"And miss the weekly monster movie?" Malcolm forced himself to tease. He buried his concerns and his hurt at hearing the oh-so-innocent reply he'd known he'd receive from his lovers. Travis was watching him carefully, though. Malcolm made a show of yawning, covering it up as if embarrassed. "It has been a long day, however."

"Let's get you to bed, then." Hoshi smiled warmly.

Bed? Malcolm's shoulders tensed unconsciously. Straight off to bed? What was he to them? How did they think of him, really? They didn't truly need him. Especially now, back on *Enterprise*, there was no reason not to toss him aside. But there was one thing he was instantly certain of—he did not want a romp in bed tonight.

"Actually," Malcolm lied quickly with a straight face, "I have a lot of reports to review and reply to tonight. And I have a few last things to discuss with Trip. You two can go on. I'll just rest up tonight in my own quarters."

Travis and Hoshi both stared for a moment, before Hoshi asked, "You still have work to finish?" "Why don't you stop by Hoshi's after talking with Trip?" Travis proposed.

Because he'd rather think alone in his quarters, but Malcolm didn't have the courage to say it. "I need to get this work done. I'll be far too distracted with you two close by." He pulled his hand out of Hoshi's grasp but smiled to alleviate their worry.

"You can have him tomorrow night, Travis. Give him a night to recover." Trip went along with the lie. "We'll be done with everything in the next couple of days."

Travis and Hoshi gave in. Hoshi kissed Malcolm on the cheek. "Don't work yourself to death. Sleep well. If you start to miss sleeping in the middle, don't hesitate to drop by." She flashed him a smile.

Malcolm smiled back. But as Travis and Hoshi walked out the door, Malcolm suddenly realized from the way Hoshi talked that his absence wouldn't stop the two of them from curling up together tonight. Malcolm's smile turned into a frown as he watched the door shut. "Maybe you should talk with 'em," Trip said quietly beside him.

The room was empty except for him and Trip.

"I need to think." Malcolm sighed and ran a hand over his face as he slumped down onto a chair at the end of a row. He spoke mostly to himself, "They didn't miss me. And off they go to sleep together without me."

"They asked you to come with them."

"But they didn't press the issue."

"Maybe they want to give you some space."

"And maybe they were just quite happy to take this chance to have a night alone without me."

Trip sat down in the next row beside Malcolm, reaching to rub Malcolm's shoulder gently. "You really think they're taking advantage of you?"

"I don't know." Malcolm stared at the floor for a moment, his mind reeling. They hadn't saved him a seat. They hardly protested his disappearing for the night at all. Malcolm swallowed as he pulled his thoughts back. "I don't want it to end."

Trip was still rubbing Malcolm's shoulder. "Don't jump to too many conclusions, Malcolm. You don't know if it's over yet."

Malcolm managed a smile at Trip. "Thank you."

Trip smiled back. "For what?" He patted Malcolm's shoulder as he stood. "Get some sleep, Lieutenant."

Malcolm nodded as he stood and followed Trip out into the hall. "I'll try my best, sir."

"Oh, no you don't. You be sure and sleep well, Malcolm. That's an order." Trip shot him a playfully stern look.

"Aye, sir." Malcolm felt his heart warm a little. At least Trip cared about him. They reached Malcolm's quarters first and he nodded to Trip as he stepped inside. "Goodnight."

"Sleep well." Trip paused for a moment outside Malcolm's door, perhaps contemplating saying more, maybe still concerned Malcolm wouldn't manage to get to sleep, but then Trip was quickly off down the hall.

Malcolm shut the door and turned to survey his quarters. He had not spent more than five minutes here since they'd returned. The room seemed cold and sterile. Hoshi's quarters were a mess, even with Malcolm's attempts at keeping it clean. There just wasn't enough room in these quarters for three people. Not enough room for three…

Malcolm swallowed and walked slowly over to his bed, sitting down and ruining the flat lines of the tightly straightened bed sheets. If Hoshi and Travis were tired of him and didn't know how to tell him, or if they were just using him until they got bored, then he couldn't allow everything to continue. He didn't want to be used, and he didn't want to be tossed aside. Reeds did not allow themselves to be manipulated. They stood up for themselves. They had enough self-worth to back out of a difficult, unsettling situation.

But damn it, did he love them. He covered his face with his hands, rubbing his forehead with tired fingers. Why did all of his relationships have to end badly? Why couldn't he get a damn break? He took a deep, uneven breath and then let it out slowly. He would give them one more chance, one more time to prove they really did want him there. If anything…questionable happened again, he would end it. It was better to cut ties this early in the relationship than to wait a month for them to drop him, wasn't it?

Malcolm stood up and walked to his desk. He might as well get some work done. Tired as he was, he wasn't going to get to sleep any time soon.


"One more scan should do it," Trip said as he punched a few commands into the device he held. He watched the readout for any fluctuations, then turned to Malcolm behind him. "Good enough."

Malcolm nodded and crawled his way out of the repair tunnel. He stood once he exited into the armory, running smudged fingers through his rumpled hair. What time was it? Malcolm glanced at the nearest readout. 1845. He shook his head. Oh well, late again. He wasn't too terribly interested in interacting with his lovers anyway. He felt far more relaxed working with Trip.

"Man, did that take long enough," Trip sighed as he climbed out and straightened up, stretching out his back.

"At least we should be done tomorrow." And then Trip would return back to Engineering. Malcolm fought off the urge to frown at the idea. He walked over to the main console and double-checked that everything was running smoothly and wouldn't blow apart while he was gone for the night. When he turned back around, Trip had put away all their tools and equipment.

Trip gave him an exhausted smile. "Time to hit the showers now, I think."

Malcolm nodded as they headed out and onto the lift. "A nice, long shower does sound good."

"You need one." Trip wiped a smudge of grease off of Malcolm's right cheek, not coming close to getting it all.

"Speak for yourself," Malcolm grinned, swiping his fingers over a dark smudge on Trip's neck.

Trip stiffened and froze for a moment under the touch. Malcolm pulled his hand back quickly. It seems he had just stepped over a line. But Trip had touched him first. He had just been returning the gesture. Malcolm looked away, embarrassed.

Trip cleared his throat and started a new line of conversation as the lift came to a stop. "Decide anything last night? You certainly didn't get much sleep, despite your orders to rest." He looked over at Malcolm's exhausted features. They stepped off the lift toward the senior staff quarters. "I thought about it. I'm not ready for…It's not over yet." One more chance. Things had been hectic lately. Perhaps that was all that was going on. Just conflicting schedules. Perhaps.

Trip nodded. "If you ever need someone to talk to, or well, whatever, my door's always open."

They stopped for a moment at an intersection of corridors, needing to go in separate directions. Malcolm smiled a little, glad to see his error in touching Trip hadn't truly put Trip off. "Thanks, Trip."

"Good luck."

Malcolm snorted as he turned down the opposite corridor, heading straight for Hoshi's quarters. It was bound to be 1900 by now. Would they be there or off someplace else? He was starving and exhausted, but he wanted a shower before anything. Arriving at Hoshi's quarters, he punched in the security code and stepped inside.

Time came to a sudden, crashing halt. He couldn't seem to move, couldn't seem to breathe. He could hear the door close behind him, but his ears were filled with the sounds of Hoshi and Travis making love on the bed. Flesh pressed again flesh flashed into view from underneath the blanket. Moans and groans and the end to a wet kiss. So much heat in the room, and he wasn't part of it.

His shock shifted into sheer disappointment. So this was it. Everything was over and done with. No more waking up sandwiched between two beautiful, vibrant bodies. It was time for him to return once again to his own empty bed. How could they do this to him? How could this happen to him once more?

Travis looked up, as if for the first time noticing that Malcolm was there. He seemed not to be embarrassed at all at being caught. He smiled at Malcolm and reached a hand out to him, as if to pull him into the mix, however far along they were.

Before despair could fully take over, Malcolm regained himself with a deep seeded flash of anger. How could they do this to him, indeed! Was he just a damn toy? Something to play with whenever he managed to drop by? Didn't they care at all that he hadn't been there up until now? What would they have done if he never showed up tonight? He stepped back against the door, out of Travis' reach.

"What the hell are you two doing?" Malcolm shouted, stunned at how steady his voice was despite his rage.

"Waiting for you to show up," Travis said, puzzled as he slipped out of bed onto his feet.

Malcolm glared at the naked man in front of him. "Seems I arrived a little late for the start of the festivities."

"Well it *is* 1900. Where have you been?" Travis shot back.

"Working! You know, an activity that requires commitment and responsibility," Malcolm spat out. "Although it seems neither of you has a solid grasp on either of these concepts."

Hoshi was quick to get onto her feet now. "We were really waiting for you, Malcolm. We weren't doing anything—"

"Oh, like fuck you weren't doing anything!" Malcolm could feel himself start to tremble with anger. "You don't wait for me at meals, you don't save me a seat at the movies, you don't even give a damn if I don't come to bed with you. Clearly, neither of you give a damn if I'm even around anymore at all!" Malcolm gestured violently at the unkempt bed.

Hoshi stared in stunned surprise at the outburst, but Travis was quick to start shouting back.

"Well, just who the hell hasn't been off his shift on time for over a week? You're late by two hours, Malcolm. Two hours! Are we supposed to just sit around and starve and stare at the ceiling while we wait for the magnificent Malcolm Reed to grace us with his presence?"

"I have responsibilities," Malcolm snarled. "I have to work extra hours. It's part of my job."

"You haven't made us a priority at all, Malcolm! You're always late, no matter how much time we give you. You're a lieutenant, not the damn captain. Hell, then again, Captain Archer even gets to *his* dinners on time!" "I can't drop my work to run and eat dinner, Travis, even if I wanted to! I have bloody fucking responsibilities! Don't you understand? I'm not a damn ensign!" Malcolm's fists clenched and he struggled with the rage running through him, taking deep, harsh breaths.

Travis growled and opened his mouth to reply, but Hoshi placed a hand on his shoulder and he stopped himself.

She turned to Malcolm, carefully reaching a hand out to him. "Travis, Malcolm, please let's just all calm down."

Malcolm jerked himself away from her hand, pressing himself up against the door in the process. "I've had enough of being calm." His eyes clouded over with a combination of sorrow and anger, but then he blinked and shook his head. "I can't take this any more." He quickly turned and opened the door.

"Malcolm, wait, please," Hoshi called after him.

"Enjoy the rest of your evening together," Malcolm tossed over his shoulder as he rushed out.


The door shut behind him, and Malcolm didn't know where he was going. His feet simply carried him down the hall. All he knew was that he wanted to get away, and get away quickly. He listened for the door to reopen behind him, for anyone who might come after him. But the seconds ticked by, and no footsteps followed. So that was it. That really was the end of it. He guessed it was too much to ask for one or both of them to come after him. His thoughts turned bitter. Well, it wasn't like they were too sorry to see him go. They probably cheered with relief when he finally left.

Yet his rage started to fall away and crumble as the situation became stark and clear. Tears began to cloud his eyes, but like hell he was going to cry. He would never give Hoshi and Travis the satisfaction. Reeds do not cry. Blinking his eyes, he tried to see where he was going.

And then he found himself in front of Trip's quarters. He stared for a moment at the deep gray door. Yes, Trip, the only person who had had a clue as to what was really going on. Trip was the one person who understood. He was a real, true friend. He'd been kind and supportive, sympathetic. Malcolm decided he could use a little bit of that support at the moment. He took a deep, ragged breath as he reached to press the chime.

Trip answered the door himself, and he stared in surprise at Malcolm's current disheveled state. "Malcolm, what happened?" He stepped aside for Malcolm to come in.

Malcolm fought to keep his composure together. "I…" He stepped inside and instantly started pacing the small length of the room. "It's over."

"Over? Just like that?" Trip reached to relock the door before he pulled on a shirt to go with his pajama bottoms. His hair was wet—apparently he had just gotten out of the shower—but Malcolm's mind barely registered the fact.

"I caught them. I caught them—" Malcolm's voice cracked and he swallowed before shouting, "Damn it, Trip, why does this always happen to me? Why can't I have a normal relationship?"

"What happened? Maybe you're taking everything the wrong way," Trip said gently, watching Malcolm's pacing.

"Oh, I assure you, there's only one way to take catching your lovers in bed together! And they expected me to be fine with it!" Malcolm's body started to tremble with a mixture of rage and despair. "It's the three of us. It's always the three of us. We don't pair off." It was all too much to handle. He turned sharply and punched the nearest wall, fist slamming hard against the unforgiving barrier. The sudden, painful sensation was a wonderful release, and he slowly slumped forward to rest his forehead against the cold surface. He focused on the burning feeling in his knuckles. "I can't believe they'd…I must mean so little to them."

"Shhh, Malcolm, maybe it's all for the best."

"Maybe…" Malcolm closed his eyes as he fought back the wave of depression washing over him. He didn't mean a damn thing to anyone, did he? He breathed deeply to calm himself. Then Trip's warm hands were rubbing his shoulders and back. Malcolm fought to retain control as he pressed his face harder against the wall. "I can't believe I didn't listen to you."

"You didn't know," Trip soothed. "It's okay. At least you found out now instead of months into it. Everything will work out in the end."

Malcolm turned his head to press his cheek against the wall, eyes still closed as he tried to take comfort in Trip's hands. "Damn optimist."

Trip chuckled softly. "Damn right."

Malcolm smiled just slightly at Trip's laugh. He opened his eyes as Trip pulled him away from the wall and into a hug. Malcolm made no objections to the idea. Instead, he wrapped his arms around Trip and let the man press him closer. A warm body…How was he going to cope with sleeping alone again? Last night he had tossed and turned for hours in his quarters. Even before the romantic relationship started, he had become used to sleeping with two other warm bodies beside him. Now he had only a cold, empty bed. He shivered and clung to Trip, finding himself burying his face against Trip's neck. "It's okay, Malcolm," Trip whispered, rubbing circles on Malcolm's back again. "It'll be all right."

Malcolm swallowed hard. "I thought we had something. I thought I'd finally found something real."

"I'm sorry it had to end like it did. You deserve better."

Malcolm sighed. His whole body was starting to feel limp and heavy, exhausted from the emotional roller coaster of his day. He pressed more of his weight against Trip. "Thank you, Trip."

"I'll take care of ya. Don't worry."

The room went quiet for a moment. Malcolm relaxed completely as he concentrated on Trip's rubbing hands. Softly, he interrupted the silence, "Your quarters are warmer than mine. I can never seem to get my thermostat to work properly."

Trip smiled. "I'll have to take a look at that." He pulled back enough to look at Malcolm. "You want to take a shower? Lie down? You look exhausted."

Malcolm watched the expression in Trip's eyes for a moment before he flicked a glance around the room. He desperately wanted to take Trip's offer. He didn't want to return to his spotless quarters and cold bunk. Then again, Trip was the one offering a shoulder for the night. Finally, exhaustion won over. He did not want to walk the distance to his own empty bed, so he nodded. "Thank you."

"Do you want to clean up a little?" Trip rubbed the last of the grease off Malcolm's cheek.

"I don't think I can manage to stay awake long enough for a shower." Malcolm blinked eyelids that were suddenly quite heavy.

Trip laughed softly. "Okay. Suit yourself." He pointed them toward the bed before letting go of Malcolm and pulling back the covers.

Malcolm fumbled as he kicked off his boots. He looked down at his uniform, decided it was too much trouble to take it off, and climbed into the offered bed fully clothed.

"Afraid I'll act indecently?" Trip teased.

"Too damn tired," Malcolm yawned. He rubbed his eyes, trying to keep himself awake. When he opened them again, he realized Trip was still standing beside the bed. The man looked conflicted, glancing over at his desk and then back at Malcolm in bed. Offers up his bed but then can't decide what the gentlemanly thing to do next is, Malcolm decided. He turned up his lips in a small smile. "I don't mind sharing. Although you have to promise not to snore in my ear."

"I don't make promises I can't keep," Trip replied with a smile. He timidly climbed into the bed, reaching to turn off the light.

Arms wrapped around Malcolm before Malcolm could turn toward the wall and not further embarrass Trip. Once given the invitation, it seemed Trip lost his tentativeness. Malcolm was grateful and pressed himself against the other man, letting himself fully relax. He managed to mumble "Thank you" before drifting off into a dreamless sleep.


Something was wrong. Mentally floating between deep sleep and full alertness, Malcolm could feel the customary warm body pressed loosely against his front, but his back felt cold and stiff. Where was the second—? And then the events of the previous day caught up with him. He opened his eyes with a start, jerking back from Trip but finding himself pressed against the wall beside the bed. Malcolm's mind whirled for a moment. How had he managed to get here again?

Trip half woke up from Malcolm's movement, and he mumbled as he tightened his hold on Malcolm.

The breakup and the preceding ranting in front of Trip raced through Malcolm's mind. He groaned. Raving and punching walls—it was a wonder Trip hadn't thought he'd lost his mind.

Malcolm's groan woke Trip up fully. Trip blinked his eyes open sleepily and squinted at Malcolm. "Somethin' the matter?"

Malcolm blushed as he realized he was curled up nose-to-nose with his commanding officer and best friend. But, selfishly, it was nice to have at least one warm body to wake up curled against. It was far better than waking up alone. "Um, nothing."

Trip sloppy smile in reply faded into a deep yawn. He let go of Malcolm to lean back and stretch. "You sleep okay?"

"Just fine. Thank you."

"Warm enough?" Trip asked, his arms curling back around Malcolm as he settled down again.


Malcolm adjusted himself slightly in Trip's arms. It felt…nice. He smiled at Trip, but then his smile froze. The way Trip was looking at him—Malcolm could see a new look in Trip's eyes. Adoration? Desire? Malcolm couldn't believe it, and he stared openly, but the look remained. There seemed to be something else going on here that Malcolm hadn't realized…Yet it all made perfect sense. Trip's overprotectiveness. His comforting and consoling. His offering his bed. Hell, that had been a very open, frank signal of interest. Malcolm had just been too out of it to notice the night before. But Tucker? Trip? Interested in him? Since when?

Trip moved his hands slowly down and up Malcolm's back, fingers stroking more intimately than the night before. "Malcolm, I need to tell you something." His eyes were a piecing blue.

"Yes?" Malcolm managed to say. His heart pounded in his chest. He'd never been propositioned less than twelve hours after ending a previous relationship. What on Earth was he going to say in reply? What could he say that wouldn't crush the man next to him?

"I've always…" Trip swallowed. He looked adorable, with his hair ruffled and unkempt, and he glanced away at an invisible spot on the wall over Malcolm's shoulder. "I'm sorry things had to end for you with Hoshi and Travis. You were happy with them." Trip paused to take a deep breath. "I know it just ended. And I know you wish things had gone differently with them. But I…" Trip finally gazed back into Malcolm's eyes. "I think I would treat you better than they ever could."

Malcolm couldn't look away from the intensity in Trip's eyes. The emotional level reflected in them was an immense contrast to how easygoing Trip always seemed to be. He was quietly begging Malcolm, pleading with him not to push him away. Raw want and need were there for Malcolm to see.

Trip cupped Malcolm's cheek with one hand when Malcolm didn't reply, thumb running along light, scruffy stubble. "I've always wanted to tell you, Malcolm. I've wanted to tell you for the longest time. But I never thought you'd ever consider anything like that. I couldn't picture you wanting to fraternize with fellow crew members. And then, there you were suddenly involved with Travis and Hoshi. I couldn't believe I never told you—never chanced it."

"Trip," Malcolm whispered, "this is all so—"

"Quick. I know," Trip interrupted. "I can take goin' slow, Malcolm. I can go as slow as you wanna go. Just, please, say you'll sleep here again tonight. And the next night. And the next. That's all I'd want for now." Trip leaned forward, pressing his forehead against Malcolm's and forcing Malcolm to keep eye contact with him. "I need you. God, do I need you. You have no idea what you do to me."

Malcolm stared into the intense blue eyes mere centimeters from his face. Every fiber of the man seemed to plead for Malcolm to say yes. He would disappoint Trip to no end if Malcolm declined. And Malcolm suddenly couldn't bear to do that to him after suffering so much heartache himself the night before—suffering so much still. He still loved Travis and Hoshi. He longed to pretend yesterday never happened. But it was over. He couldn't return to them. And he liked Trip. He was a good man. He would be faithful and kind. And he was a warm body to curl up with at night. What more could he ask for?

There was only a slight hesitation. Then he said, "Okay, Trip. But I'll need time."

Trip let out the breath he was holding, a large grin plastered on his face, and tugged Malcolm tighter against him. "You've got all the time in the world, darlin'. I'll be ready for more whenever you are."

Malcolm smiled at both the ecstatic grin and the sudden use of the word "darling" in relation to him. He could do this. Malcolm ran a hand through Trip's hair to smooth it down, then he noticed the time on the readout on the desk. "We should be getting up."

Trip nodded, staring at Malcolm's lips and for a moment clearly contemplating kissing him, but then he looked away and slipped out of bed onto his feet. "You want to shower here or your quarters?"

Malcolm watched Trip. He wasn't sure if he'd ever met someone so considerate. Trip was clearly longing for Malcolm, but he still kept himself in check. A warm feeling settled in Malcolm's stomach. He would be taken care of and treated right. He could learn to forget about Travis and Hoshi. They didn't deserve his attention any more. And it wasn't as if they were fighting to get him back. Standing, Malcolm took one of Trip's hands in his and held it open, brushing a kiss onto the palm. "I think I'll go back to my own quarters. I need a change of uniform as well."

Trip looked taken aback by the tender gesture, and he sighed deeply as Malcolm turned to pull on his boots. "See you in the mess hall in twenty, then?"

Malcolm simply nodded in reply, turning for the door.

He could do this.


He couldn't do this.

Travis watched Hoshi as she lay asleep on her bed, curled up tight, blankets pulled around her, clearly cold alone. Travis made no move to join and warm her. Instead, he stayed seated at the small table nearby. A robe hung loosely around him, and he leaned an elbow against the table as he rested his head against his hand. He stared at the bed and Hoshi—and the emptiness their missing third partner created. Travis could feel the wound the absence made. It hung in the air. It tugged at his chest. They couldn't do this without Malcolm.

The sudden shouting match between himself and Malcolm had pushed all of Travis' buttons. It was, after all, Malcolm who never seemed to have any time for them. Travis knew of Malcolm's responsibilities, but the man hadn't made their relationship any kind of priority whatsoever. It stung to hear Malcolm raving at them, blaming them for their difficulties. And to be accused of cheating on Malcolm was nearly unbelievable. They really had been waiting, albeit eagerly, for Malcolm's arrival. They would never have moved on from kissing and touching. He could always feel the absence of Malcolm, no matter how heated things became. Everything was so much *more* when Malcolm was around.

Travis let out a long breath, closing his eyes. He should have run after Malcolm. He should have chased the man down the corridor completely naked. He should have dragged Malcolm back to Hoshi's quarters and pinned him down until he talked. But instead he had been too stunned, too upset. For the longest moment, he hadn't been able to move after the door closed behind Malcolm. He couldn't believe what had just happened. He still couldn't believe it. Were they broken up? Had Malcolm ended everything that evening? Was it over?

By the time Travis had come to his senses, he'd hurriedly looked for clothes before looking for Malcolm. But even then, it was too late. They couldn't find Malcolm. He wasn't in his quarters. He wasn't at the mess hall or the gym or the armory. Hoshi and Travis checked every place they could think of, even Sickbay, but Malcolm had disappeared. They'd even finally tried Trip's quarters, to see if the commander had seen him, but no one had answered the door. Completely dejected, they'd returned to Hoshi's quarters and curled up together, trying to take comfort in one another, but both had tossed and turned most of the night.

At 0500, Travis had given up on sleep and quietly crawled out of bed. It was now getting late enough that he should probably wake Hoshi soon. He had just hoped to have a plan formulated by now—something ingenious that would get them back Malcolm. Something to prove to the man that they wanted him, needed him. But he hadn't come up with anything yet—well, short of tying Malcolm to the bed.

"Why do you have to be so damn paranoid all the time, Malcolm?" Travis quietly asked the empty space beside Hoshi. And why hadn't they seen it coming?

Travis sighed and shook his head. His mind had circled around in a continuous cycle of guilt for long enough. He glanced at the time. Yes, the alarm would go off any minute now. He stood to wake Hoshi.


She woke up cold.

The bed had been empty when Travis nudged her gently awake. Hoshi felt physically and mentally frozen. Even after taking a hot shower and dressing, she hadn't thawed. She felt just as distant and cold. Malcolm had left. And then he'd hidden himself away. He'd disappeared. She had wanted to rip the ship apart to find him, force him to talk, force him to be up front and honest about his emotions for once, but instead, she had had to give up. If she could just snap out of it and find him today, then maybe things would go back.

"Come on," Travis soothed, rubbing her shoulders gently as she stared at the mirror in the bathroom. "We should go eat something before our shift starts."

"Do you think he'll let us talk to him?" Hoshi asked Travis' reflection.

"I'll tie him up and make him listen, if I have to," Travis muttered, turning them toward the main room and the door.

She smiled just slightly. At the very least, she knew Travis ached for Malcolm as much as she did. How they hadn't seen how paranoid Malcolm had become, she didn't know. He had become so worked up over so little, but they should have known to keep an extra eye on him. It was just hard with his late hours.

Travis walked with her down the corridor, arm around her shoulders in reassurance, and Hoshi tried to get her mind straight. She needed to be focused. Sometime today, they had to confront Malcolm. The longer they waited, the worse things could get. Neither she nor Travis wanted to continue without Malcolm. They needed him. They needed to convince him to come back and not end things. They would have to try and hunt him down during one of today's meals. She had little time to figure out what she was going to say, and she had a feeling it would take a lot of convincing to change his mind.

As they entered the mess hall, both of them stopped and stared. There he was, sitting at a table as if nothing in the world was wrong. He was eating with Trip and facing away from the door. Trip spotted them over Malcolm's shoulder. He frowned at them.

Before she could stop herself, Hoshi was marching her way over. She should have taken a moment to figure out what they should say. Only, they'd found him so quickly, and she wanted to know what was going on. Travis followed right after her.

"Malcolm!" she cried, rushing up to him, "There you are! We looked all over—"

"Ensign," Trip interrupted, his voice cold, "I believe the Lieutenant and I were having a private conversation."

Hoshi watched as Malcolm stared at his plate, not bothering to look up at them. She glanced to Trip, frowning. "Well, if you don't mind, Commander, we'd like to speak with Malcolm for a moment."

"I don't think he'd enjoy a conversation with either of you right now," Trip replied as he stood, creating a barrier between Hoshi and Travis, and Malcolm.

"Maybe Malcolm could speak for himself," Travis snapped.

"And maybe you two should learn to tell when you're not wanted." Trip's fists clenched as he stared both of them down.

Hoshi was struck by the flash of anger in Trip's eyes, but she held her ground and returned the stare. "With all due respect, sir, I'd like Malcolm to dismiss me if he doesn't want to talk, *not* his self- appointed bodyguard."

Travis moved to go around Trip, and Trip quickly stepped over to stop him, grabbing Travis tightly by the arm.

"He doesn't need *ex*-lovers manipulating him," Trip growled.

"We just want to talk," Hoshi defended.

"You've done enough to him—"

"Trip." Malcolm soft voice broke the escalating tension. He took Trip's hand in his and pulled the man down to sitting beside him again. Trip allowed himself to be moved, but not without releasing Travis' arm roughly. Malcolm kept Trip's hand in his as he looked blankly up at Hoshi, his voice flat and hollow. "Really, I have nothing to say to either of you. Please, leave us alone to finish our breakfast." Hoshi mentally shivered. Malcolm had completely cut them off. There was more emotion in Malcolm's eyes when he looked at a phase pistol than when he now looked at her. She could see his mental walls blocking all memories and emotions surrounding them. She looked down at her hands. They did this to him. She felt sick. "Sorry, Malcolm. I…Enjoy your meal."

Malcolm simply nodded and returned his attention to his food, his hand gripping Trip as if the man were a lifeline.

Hoshi turned and quickly fled the mess hall with as much dignity as she could muster. Travis followed after her as she headed straight into the nearby lift. The lift's door shut, and she stared at the rounded walls for a moment in silence. Finally, she said distantly, "He's never going to talk to us."

"We just need to get him alone."

"Didn't you see the look in his eyes?" Hoshi asked, turning to Travis. "He's done with us. He's decided that's it."

"We'll just have to change his mind." Travis pressed the controls for the Bridge. "Sure you don't want to eat something before the shift starts?"

Hoshi stared at him. How could he be so cool and calm? "I don't feel like eating any more."

Travis faced her and swallowed hard before saying quietly, "We can't give up on him. We just need to get him alone, without anyone there to distract him, without Trip." Trip's name was spat out, and Travis' face was harsh as the door opened.

Hoshi frowned as she recalled the way Trip had acted—and the way Trip and Malcolm had interacted. Was that just the "good friend" Trip? Or was there something else going on? Her frown deepened as she took her station.


Archer walked into Engineering, unofficially checking on his best friend. Trip had put in a lot of overtime with Malcolm during the canon repairs, and now both men seemed to be avoiding the Bridge. At first Archer had decided that they were merely catching up on missed work, but then he'd noticed the cold distance between Malcolm, Travis, and Hoshi. Malcolm had barely looked at the two ensigns and had only given clipped answers the half-a-dozen times he'd been on the Bridge. And the few times Trip had graced the Bridge with his presence, he wouldn't speak with either ensign unless spoken to first.

It didn't take long for Archer to realize that the threesome was over. It was too bad; he had hoped something good would come of the relationship. He couldn't help but be curious about its ending so abruptly, but no one had told him and he wasn't about to ask.

Archer did, however, need his engineer and tactical officer to return to being comfortable again on the Bridge. He knew he could count on Malcolm—he could be professional about anything, under any circumstances. Trip was most likely in protective friend mode. He could be fiercely loyal and was no doubt holding a grudge simply because Malcolm was hurting. Archer needed to snap him out of it and get things headed back to normal.

Alpha shift was just finishing up as beta shift took over their stations in Engineering. There were a few people in the wide-open reactor room; others were working on repairs throughout the ship. Trip was rushing back and forth between his desk and a nearby systems control panel. His hair was a little mussed, his face smudged with grease. He definitely had no idea his shift was over; he was completely engrossed in his work. Yes, Trip had "worried friend" written all over him. He tended to get obsessive about little things when he worried, and he would dive into his work to compensate for his anxiety over the situation. Archer also recalled Trip usually became defensive and irritable when he got like this.

Time to keep things light and easy, Archer decided. "You weren't planning on standing me up again at dinner tonight, were you?"

No response. Trip's back was turned to Archer as he mumbled calculations to himself, punching in commands.

Archer raised his voice to catch the man's attention. "Trip? Dinner? You're coming to dinner, right?"

Trip tossed him one surprised glance, probably just noticing Archer was there, before turning back to his work. "Dinner?" Trip's voice was vague, as if he was unaware of the meaning of the word.

"Yes, dinner," Archer teased. "A social event where friends and family get together to eat. Usually occurring after one's work day is over."

"The shift is over?" Trip asked, turning back to Archer. He looked utterly surprised, glancing around Engineering at the beta shift crewman. Then he shook his head and strode quickly over to his desk, shuffling stray PADDs around until he found the one he wanted. "Damn, I hadn't realized it had gotten so late."

"Don't worry about it," Archer said. Trip was more worried about Malcolm than Archer had realized. "Wrap things up and we can head on out when you're ready. I'm sure T'Pol won't miss us too much if we're a little behind."

"Actually, I was going to go check on Malcolm after my shift." Trip hurriedly entered data onto his PADD before double-checking it against the systems panel he'd been using. "Make sure he has someone to eat with him." Trip glared at the displayed readings, then punched in some more commands.

Had all of Trip's missed or rushed meals lately been because of Reed? "So you were going to stand me up."

Trip quirked a grin, looking a little like Malcolm with that smile. "No offense, Cap'n. Just trying to keep Malcolm happy."

Happy? Quieting his voice a notch to keep anyone from eavesdropping, Archer said, "Malcolm's a grown man. I'm sure he can handle a meal or two alone."

"Malcolm needs my support. After all he's been through…He needs me." Trip focused for a moment on the panel. Then, finished, he turned completely to Archer, his face dead serious for a moment. Then he smiled. "Don't worry, I'm not neglecting you, Cap'n. We'll watch water polo together or somethin' in a few days. Right now, though, I think I should track Malcolm down. Did the shift just change?"

Trip didn't wait for Archer to answer, instead looking at the nearest time readout as he headed for the door. Archer trailed behind him. "I'll take that rain check, Trip. I'm sure Malcolm will get tired of your company soon enough."

Archer's smile disappeared at a sudden glare from Trip.

"Tired of me?" There was a challenge in Trip's voice.

Archer quickly backpedaled. Some dynamic was going on here that he didn't understand. "I didn't mean it like that. It's just he's not exactly the social butterfly that you are. You'll wear him out." Archer clapped Trip's shoulder, trying to show he had only been teasing.

Trip relaxed, looking chagrined at his overreaction. "I won't drag him out dancing, then."

Archer nodded as he followed behind Trip; they walked into a lift and Archer absently set his destination. Trip was sincerely concerned about Malcolm, and that meant it was going to be more difficult to snap Trip out of it than Archer had thought. "I'd be surprised if anyone could drag Lieutenant Reed out dancing." He finally got a chuckle out of Trip. "Well, get him relaxed enough, and you can get him to do a lot of things…"

Archer raised his eyebrows. "Not corrupting Malcolm, are you?"

Another embarrassed look passed over Trip's face. "I would never exploit Malcolm."

Exploit? That's not what he'd said. Something didn't feel quite right. Trip looked like he'd just been caught stealing rations. "Wait, I didn't—" Archer began.

He never finished. The door to the lift opened, and Trip rushed off and headed straight for the mess hall. "See ya, Cap'n," Tucker shot over his shoulder. "Say hi to T'Pol for me."

Archer frowned, then exited the lift slowly. When he walked in, he found Trip already seated with Malcolm in the busy mess hall. He passed them with a nod and entered his own dining area, where T'Pol was waiting. This was more than Trip's usual little obsessions. What exactly was going on?


Everything was warm, soft, and gentle. He was bathed in a comforting light, pressed tight between his lovers. There was nothing else but them—belonging, needing, having.

Malcolm couldn't see where he was, the world around him a blur except for his two naked lovers, but he didn't care. He captured Travis' beautiful, smiling mouth in a kiss and quickly lost himself in the incredible sensation. So good.

Deep in his stomach, there was a pang of sorrow and disbelief that Malcolm couldn't identify. Why was he sad? He was sandwiched between Hoshi and Travis. The world was right.

Hoshi's hands stopped their caressing to work more diligently on Malcolm's erection, arms twining around him from behind. Her lips kissed circles between his shoulders, her breasts brushing against his back. Hard nipples, wet tongue, firm strokes. Malcolm leaned back against her as he rocked his hips in time to her touch.

Travis ended the soul-searing kiss and maneuvered his way down to Malcolm's nipples. He sucked on the hard nubs, working each of them with his tongue. Malcolm lost himself in the sensation.

He'd missed them both so much, but the sense of loss was confusing. They were right here. He was forgetting something. Malcolm dismissed it, body craving touch. Malcolm reached for Travis' hard shaft, ready to pump its length.

Travis was suddenly wearing briefs, which were getting in the way of the whole operation. He fumbled to get his hand underneath, desperate for the contact, and finally found a hard, hot erection to stroke. Travis pulled away for a second, as if surprised, but when Malcolm's stroking continued, he turned more fully toward Malcolm. One of Hoshi's hands squeezed both erections together, and Malcolm's hand, and Hoshi's hand, worked in tandem. Malcolm could feel Travis' excitement grow as Travis' hips began to buck.

Then there was a moan, but it was off. The pitch wasn't right. Travis almost growled as he grew excited, a low, throaty noise. Hoshi's voice was feminine. Malcolm pressed Travis' length harder and was rewarded with another groan.

Malcolm's eyes flew open. Starlit quarters. Cramped bed. Hoshi wasn't behind him any more; instead, there was a cool wall. And in front of him…

"Oh, yes, Malcolm."

In the dimness, Malcolm, panting from his own incredible arousal, took in Trip. Malcolm's hands had pressed their cocks together, and Trip was moaning.

Shit! Malcolm yanked his hand away and reached to push Trip's hand away, gasping, "Wait, stop—please, stop." He felt hard, and he wanted to come, but—he wanted Travis and Hoshi. He wasn't ready to do this with Tucker yet.

"Stop?" Trip asked, confusion and hurt mingling in his voice. "Oh, Jesus, Malcolm." He gasped for breath.

Malcolm swallowed, trying to clear his mind. "I was dreaming. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to…to start anything."

Trip rolled away from him and knelt on the bed, panting, striving for control. His erection was huge. "Dreaming?" Barely audibly, he added, "About them." It wasn't a question.

Malcolm looked away, focusing not on Tucker's magnificent and all-too- available body, but at the darkness of the room. "Yes." His heart ached, the dream fresh in his mind. "I'm sorry I woke you," he added inadequately.

"Oh, lord, you sure know how to tease a guy. Do we really have to stop?" Trip pleaded. He leaned over Malcolm, stroking Malcolm's chest. He rubbed his nose against Malcolm's, then dropped his voice to a more sultry tone. "You wouldn't have to do anything. I'd do all the work." His lips were mere centimeters from Malcolm's. Malcolm could feel Trip's unfulfilled desire. It was palpable.

"I'm not ready," Malcolm said, moving his head away slightly, before Trip could kiss him. "I'm so sorry I started all of this, but I can't…not tonight."

"Not tonight? And just when will you be ready?"

"I don't know. Give me a few weeks—"

"Weeks?" Trip asked, dismayed. His hand traced circles along Malcolm's chest. "I said I could wait, Malcolm, but weeks?" His voice lowered as he whispered, "I could help you get over them. Just let me touch you."


He was about to tell Trip that it wouldn't be right to do this when he was thinking about someone else—two someone elses—instead of the person he was with, but Malcolm cut himself off as Trip pressed a leg between his, upper thigh rubbing against Malcolm's crotch. Malcolm's breath caught; he was taken aback by the move, and even if his mind knew it wasn't right to allow Trip to bring him to completion, his body didn't seem to know that.

Trip took the noise as encouragement. He continued his ministrations, kissing his way down Malcolm's neck. His lips were soft and warm. "Let me show you how much I want you here with me, Malcolm." His hands worked up underneath Malcolm's tank top, and Trip's weight pushed him hard against the mattress.

The sense of eroticism shifted suddenly to a sense of being confined. Stop, Malcolm's mind screamed. Panic rushed through him. Trip's fingers found his nipples as the man's leg ground harder against him. Malcolm stared wide-eyed at the darkness around him, not looking at Tucker. He wasn't ready. He wanted Travis and Hoshi. They weren't here. He had to get Trip to stop. He had to get his voice to work. Stop. Stop. "Stop!" his strangled voice managed.

"Ya sure, darlin'?" Trip whispered playfully, not stopping. He pressed himself fully against Malcolm. "You seem to be enjoyin' it." His hand circled around Malcolm's cock.

"Yes, stop. Please, I'm not ready. Not tonight." Malcolm was finally able to move, and he pressed his hands against Trip's shoulders, pushing him back. There was an edge of panic in his voice.

Trip stopped, breathing hard, and then groaned and pulled away. "Sorry. I didn't mean to…I'm sorry." He rolled onto his back. "I thought you wanted it. I'm so sorry."

"It's my fault—" Malcolm said, suddenly contrite, "I dreamt—"

"It's okay, Malcolm." Tucker pulled up his briefs, his erection tenting them out, then turned his back to Malcolm. "It's okay."

Malcolm panted next to him, still throbbing and hard. He worked to slow his rapidly beating heart. Trip had stopped. Everything was fine. How could he have been so enraptured by his dream as to start touching Trip? Damn it, he didn't need to encourage the engineer. The man already ached to touch him. Malcolm could see it in his eyes whenever they were together. Trip's patience was wearing thin, no matter how much he said he could wait, and Malcolm's little dream hadn't helped things any.

And just how long would it take Malcolm to get over Travis and Hoshi? His chest clenched at the thought of his ex-lovers. God, however much he hated them, he missed them terribly. Why did he have to find them together? Why couldn't he have been blissfully unaware for a few months? At least then he would have had more time with them. Bitterly, he shoved his thoughts aside.

Even in the dark, Malcolm could see Trip's slumped, dejected shoulders as he lay with his back to him. Malcolm felt horrible for raising Trip's hopes. Just image waking up to a hand job, only to be pushed harshly away. Okay, Trip had done some pushing of his own…but Malcolm couldn't blame him. He was sleeping in Trip's bed, after all, which was one kind of tease, and then he'd begun stroking Trip, which was another. If only he could give Trip what he wanted; if only he could really be ready to move on; if only he could be happy being with Trip. Malcolm reached out and rubbed Trip's back before sliding behind him.

Trip whispered without turning around, "I'm sorry. I thought maybe I could change your mind. I just want you so much."

"It's all right, Trip. Let's just curl up and go back to sleep." Malcolm pulled his arms around Trip, pressing his face against his the back of Tucker's neck. "Is that all right? Or—do you want me to go?"

"It's just fine." Trip cupped his hands over Malcolm's on his chest, fingers playing along his. "Please don't go."

Malcolm sighed. This was going to be harder than he'd thought.


Over taut muscles and along dark skin, a single bead of sweat worked its way slowly down Travis' biceps, taking the path of least resistance. It slid down and around his pumping upper arm. There was a momentary pause at Travis' elbow as he pulled the strap up to his chest; then the small drop continued on its way as Travis released the weight, arm dangling straight down.

Hoshi watched absently as the bead slipped down to Travis' wrist, clinging to clenched knuckles, then ended its journey and landed on the gray floor beside the workout bench.

Gray. Gray floor. Gray eyes. Gray eyes smiling at her. Gray eyes laughing as both Malcolm and Travis flexed and posed at the end of her bed. Gray eyes blocking her out—cold and empty.

Hoshi blinked as she pulled herself back to the present, resisting the urge to shiver. She was thinking about him too much. Travis was supposedly formulating a plan, a way to talk with Malcolm alone, but Hoshi had little hope that they'd ever manage to corner him, not to mention change his mind. He was avoiding them completely. If it weren't for his few extremely professional stints on the Bridge, Hoshi might have wondered if he was still on board. It was obvious he had no interest in talking with them.

She slumped against the back rest of the incline bench, propped up nearly vertical. She was officially taking a break, but she was really simply waiting for Travis to burn himself out. She was too tired to start up another set.

What were they going to do? How many days had it been? When would Malcolm stop hiding out in Trip's quarters?

Hoshi frowned as she cut short her last train of thought. She didn't want to know what happened behind those closed doors. She'd lost her right to care what happened, hadn't she? And then in walked the center of her thoughts—along with, of course, his ever-present bodyguard. Or perhaps, Hoshi mused, guard dog was a better description. Trip followed after Malcolm both protectively and possessively, body posture defensive toward anyone other than Malcolm. No, for Malcolm he flashed smiles. Hoshi's nails dug into the bench beneath her as she watched them casually enter and cross the gym.

Travis continued with his workout, arms bending toward his chest and back down again, tugging against the mechanically weighted straps gripped tightly in his hands. Although he didn't stop his slow, controlled movements, he watched Trip and Malcolm closely. His eyes followed them as they walked to the treadmill furthest away and set down towels.

Malcolm ignored them. He turned his back to them. She could tell he knew they were there. His shoulders were tense, back stiff. He hadn't missed them on the way in. He just didn't acknowledge them. Instead, he leaned in close to hear Trip whisper something. And then he chuckled. Hoshi stared, riveted on the open laugh Trip got out of Malcolm. A knot of jealousy formed in her chest. They teased and touched one another as they stripped off sweats to lighter, looser clothes underneath. They were flirting. In public. In front of them. Her jealously flared again. So they really were an item now? Trip sure knew how to step in and comfort a rebounding friend.

Travis finished his rep and came to a rest position, panting, as he watched the pair across the room. Hoshi could feel a wave of anger roll through Travis. Don't play with fire, Malcolm, she thought.

Trip and Malcolm seemed to break apart, but Malcolm soon needed assistance getting his treadmill to start.

"I'm sure it just needs a little encouragement is all," Trip said, words drenched in double meanings. He stepped up behind Malcolm on the still treadmill and reached around him to fiddle with the buttons. His front pressed tightly against Malcolm's back.

Travis released the cords, sitting up straight away from the back rest.

One of Trip's hands continued to adjust the machine; the other hand, the one farthest from Travis and Hoshi, was out of view. Hoshi shifted her gaze to the full-length mirror covering the opposite wall. Trip's hand was caressing up and down Malcolm's far side.

Then Malcolm turned his head and suddenly met Hoshi's staring gaze in the mirror, unreadable eyes locking onto hers for the briefest of moments, acknowledging that she was there, before he deliberately turned and kissed Trip.

Hoshi couldn't feel the bench beneath her any more. Her knuckles turned white as her hands clenched into tight fists. He was taunting them.

Before her anger could catch up with her shock, Travis leapt to his feet, slamming his hand hard against his back rest. A loud clang reverberated through the nearly empty gym. Hoshi stood up, read to stop him before he could kill either of their superiors. But instead, he sent an ice-cold stare at the pair as he strode quickly for the door. Hoshi hurried after Travis, tossing one last look over her shoulder at Malcolm. There was no more need to talk with him. She had her answer.


Sorrow, hurt, anger, guilt, betrayal. Malcolm hadn't expected to see so much in Hoshi's eyes before the door closed behind her. Had he made a mistake?

"I don't think they'll bother you again, darlin'," Trip's voice almost gloated as he purred, nibbling at Malcolm's ear.

Why did he suddenly find that prospect so upsetting? He'd been avoiding Travis and Hoshi, spending as little time on the Bridge as possible. He made sure he was never alone on his off time. Hell, moments ago, he'd kissed Trip in order to piss them off. So then why would he be upset if they never spent another moment more with him than they had to?

It was because the kiss had upset them, he realized. Both reactions, both looks—they weren't reacting as someone happy to see him ship off. They'd barely restrained themselves. Were they just sorry their toy was gone, or were they actually missing him?

His thoughts halted as he was turned completely toward Trip and pressed back against the treadmill hand railing. Before he could say a word, Trip's mouth was on his, demanding yet gentle. His arms wrapped around Malcolm.

Malcolm pulled his head back from the kiss. "Trip, stop."

Trip frowned deeply. "Now, please, don't go sayin' that again." He kissed his way down Malcolm's neck. "You can't still be thinkin' about them. They don't want you. But *I* want you. I need you, Malcolm." His hips rocked against Malcolm's, hands slipping up underneath Malcolm's loose shirt.

"We're in public," Malcolm gasped, voice strangled.

"Nobody's here," Trip pointed out. His hands slid down to hold Malcolm by his hips. He licked at the base of Malcolm's neck, tonguing his collarbone. "Please, Malcolm. Don't you want me?"

Did he want Trip? Did he need Trip? Did he crave the man's attention, the man's touch? No. He froze as the thought echoed in his head. No, he didn't. Malcolm was startled by the clarity of his realization. He didn't want Trip. He didn't need him like he had Travis and Hoshi. Trip was a good man, a great comfort, and a wonderful friend, but Malcolm didn't want him as a lover. He didn't want him. He probably would never want him. But then what did he want? As he closed his eyes, he imaged two pairs of bright, loving eyes staring back at him. Yes, he needed to talk with them. Everything was all wrong.

"Trip, stop." He kept his voice gentle.

"Please, no, just let me—" Trip begged, reaching between them to cup Malcolm's groin.

It was too much. "Stop!" Malcolm's body tensed before he shoved Trip away from him. Trip slammed back against a handrail. "I don't want you. Not in the damned gym, anyway."

Pain flashed over Trip's face. "And just where and when *will* you want me?"

"I…I don't know." Malcolm couldn't maintain eye contact with Trip. He felt guilty—he thought he had wanted Trip, had told Trip to wait, and Trip had waited. Impatiently, but had still waited. He looked away from those hurtful blue eyes as he stepped off the treadmill.

The next question was quiet and simple. "Do you think you'll ever want me, Malcolm?"

"I don't know," Malcolm repeated, unable to think of anything else to say. He was ripping Trip up inside and he knew it. Damn, what had he done?

"Nothing ever works like you plan it to…" Trip muttered to himself. Then his voice soured. "You gonna go talk to *them* aren't you? Try and work things out?"

"I might." Malcolm busied himself by picking up his sweats and towel. Working out was the last thing on his mind now.

"Shit, Malcolm, they hurt you. They cheated on you. They don't understand what you need, how to treat you right." Trip stepped off the treadmill and turned Malcolm toward him. "You deserve better than them."

"But they deserve a chance to explain themselves. I haven't even let them say a word—"

"They don't need you as much as *I* need you, Malcolm!" Trip's grip on Malcolm's shoulders tightened, fingers digging into his shirt. "Don't you understand how much I want you? They'll only hurt you again if you go back."

"Please, Trip." Malcolm reached to detach himself from Trip. "I need some time alone. I'll see you tomorrow."

Trip's face fell. "No, no please, Malcolm. I can wait. I can wait forever. You go think, just come back and sleep with me tonight. Just don't—" His voice caught in his throat, hands grabbing at Malcolm as he stepped away, clinging to his shirt. "I've wanted you for so long. Please."

Malcolm pried himself away from Trip as he headed for the door. "I'm sorry, Trip. I just need to think." Trip's eyes begged him to stay, but Malcolm reached a shaky hand to open the door. "And I need to be alone."


Archer was surprised to find a disheveled Trip at his door. Trip was dressed for a workout in the gym, but obviously he'd never gotten there. Archer stared for a moment before stepping aside, giving Trip enough room to slide past. "Come on in. What's wrong?"

"Everything," Trip sighed. He slumped down onto a padded chair. He looked defeated.

Archer considered. Something must have happened. Trip, although pretty outgoing, often bottled up his emotions, covering them behind a cheerful mask that hid his feelings. But when he had problems, he usually slunk Archer's way for a beer, and Archer would have to pry the problem out of his best friend. He wondered what the problem was tonight.

"Everything? Such as?" Archer sat on the corner of his bed. Porthos moved onto his lap, and he rubbed the beagle's ears absently.

"He doesn't want me," Trip said as he stared at his shoes, clearly talking to himself. "He thinks he doesn't want me. But he's got to want me. It's how things are supposed to be. I planned it all out. Why is he still saying stop? Why does he need to be alone?"

"He who?" Archer interrupted, frowning at the stream of sentences from Trip.

Trip blinked as he looked up at Archer, blushing slightly. "Oh, um, Malcolm."

"Malcolm? You're this upset over Malcolm Reed?"

Trip shrugged noncommittally and looked away, then returned to staring at his feet. It looked to Archer like he was mentally beating himself up.

Archer reached over to pull two beers from his mini-fridge. He opened one and hand it to Trip. Trip took the bottle, but instead of drinking from it, he only worked a thumbnail under the label.

"So you had a fight with Malcolm?" Archer prodded gently.

Trip didn't look away from his bottle. "Kind of. Malcolm said stop. Why would he want me to stop?"

"Stop what?" Trip's shoulders slumped more. "I like Malcolm. I…I'm not sure if he really likes me."

"Of course he likes you, Trip. You two are always together—"

"No, I mean *likes* me." Trip finally took a long drink from his beer. "He drives me crazy. I want him so bad. But I never let on, never told anyone, not even you, Cap'n. 'Cause I mean, really, this was Malcolm Reed. He wasn't going to be interested in fraternizing, and definitely not with me. Only, maybe he is interested in fraternizing, just *not* with me."

Archer blinked. "You and Malcolm—?" Damn, why hadn't he realized something more was going on? Archer knew what an attracted yet concerned Trip looked like. Why hadn't he spotted it? "You told him you were interested?"

Trip nodded, watching the beer swirl in his bottle. "Yup. Planned it all out. He even said he'd give it a try, just take things slow. Shit, I should have taken things slower. But if he doesn't want me period, then it wouldn't have mattered anyway. Why doesn't he want me? He's supposed to want me back." Trip covered his face with his empty hand.

"Malcolm's a complicated man. And he's just ended a sticky relationship—"

"Cheatin' fuckers, I don't understand why he keeps thinkin' of them," Trip spat.

Archer blinked at the venom in Trip's voice. Overprotective Trip was in full force tonight. Travis and Hoshi had cheated on Malcolm? That didn't sound quite right, but then he didn't know the whole story.

Archer said carefully, "He spent an entire month alone with them. And he was happy with them. I don't think that's happened often for Malcolm."

"But they screwed up and used him, just like I knew they would. Set up all the pieces and watched it fall. Why can't Malcolm just be mine? Why can't he forget about them and want *me*?" Trip kicked Archer's desk chair, sending it rolling into the far wall.

Porthos jumped in Archer's lap, surprised by the loud clank of the chair against the wall. "You break it, you buy it," Archer chided. What was that about watching all the pieces fall? Archer hid a frown. "He's his own person, Trip. You can't control him."

"Yeah, well, maybe, maybe not." Trip glared at his beer. He was definitely not looking at Archer. "I saved him and nobody cares, not even Malcolm."

"So he's told you he's not interested any more?"

Trip replied bitterly, "He needs some time to think, but I know he's gonna go runnin' back to *them*, just so they can use him all over again."

"Are you sure? I don't see Hoshi or Travis as the type of person who would take Malcolm back just to—"

"I'm sure! I saved him the first time. Now he'll really fall hard, and I won't be there to catch him. They'll do the same thing all over again."

"I know this is hard, Trip, but you don't know for sure what will happen. Maybe it is best if Malcolm at least talks with them. Who knows what will end up happening."

Trip finally looked at Archer, but it was a glare. "You want him to go back to them."

"I just don't see them intentionally hurting him," Archer replied. "They were good for him."

"And *I'm* not good for him?"

"I didn't say that."

"But you meant it."

Archer sighed. "I think you need to calm down, Trip. Back off and give him some space."

"He'll just end up runnin' to them again. Not that *you* seem to care," Trip snapped, rising to his feet.

"You don't know that." Archer set Porthos aside as he stood too. "He could come back to you. He probably just needs to get his head straight."

"They won't leave him alone long enough for that." Trip handed his mostly full beer back to Archer before turning for the door. "I got to talk with him first."

"Don't push him, Trip."

Archer got no response as Trip disappeared out the door. Archer, shaking his head, turned to Porthos. "Think this will end well?"

Porthos cocked his head to one side.

Archer sighed. "Didn't think so," he told the beagle.


"We need to talk to him."

"He's never alone. He won't talk with us." Hoshi followed Travis as they exited the lift.

"He's not at the gym or Trip's. He has to be in his quarters." Travis' anger had only cooled to a dull rage. He had to talk with Malcolm. Something wasn't right. He had to be sure this was really it, really the end of the road. He wasn't giving up until he was completely sure.

"What makes you think he's alone? And didn't you see them? He doesn't want us anymore."

"He was just throwing it in our faces. He thinks we cheated on him, just the two of us, without him. He's trying to get us back. We need to talk with him." Travis rounded the corner. They just needed a damn moment alone with Malcolm. Was that too much to ask?

As they approached, Travis spotted Trip coming down the corridor from the opposite direction. Travis worked to stay calm. He managed to keep from tensing up as Trip came to a stop beside Malcolm's door just as they did.

Trip wasn't trying to hide his emotions at all, however. He openly glared at them. "What are you two doing here?"

"We were hoping to catch Malcolm alone."

"You mean just catch him," Trip muttered under his breath, pressing the call for the door. Then he flashed them an overly polite smile. "Well, if you don't mind, I need to speak with him."

"Actually, we do mind," Hoshi challenged. "We just need a few minutes alone with him. Then you can go back to playing bodyguard."

Trip scowled, but Malcolm's door opened before he could reply.

"What are you three doing here together?" Malcolm asked.

"These two were just leaving," Trip snarled.

Hoshi ignored Trip and turned to Malcolm. "If we could just talk with you. Just for a few minutes, Malcolm, please. We need to figure out…"

Trip opened his mouth, but Malcolm held up his hand, cutting him off.

"Fine. We do need to talk." Malcolm turned away from the door. "We all need to talk."

"They have nothin' to say that you need to hear, Malcolm," Trip said, barging his way into the quarters.

Travis shot Trip a sharp look as he entered, followed by Hoshi. "Let him make up his own mind for once."

"Now what's that supposed to mean?"

"You heard me, Commander."

Malcolm barked, "Everyone quiet down." When they hushed, he let out a long breath, looking drawn and tired. He glanced to Hoshi and Travis. "Say whatever it is you have to say, whatever I've been avoiding these past few days."

"Can't we speak alone?" Hoshi asked.

"No," was Malcolm's short reply.

Trip smirked, arms folded across his chest.

Hoshi tossed Trip a look before turning back to Malcolm. "We miss you," she said simply. "We weren't cheating on you, Malcolm, I swear it. We had no intention of ever hurting you."

"Nothing is the same without you," Travis added. "We can't stand to have you running away from us. We want you to know we'll do anything to convince you to let us at least try to work things out. We still want you, Malcolm."

"But we'll understand if…if you move on," Hoshi said, feeling anything but.

"He's already 'moved on'," Trip growled, turning to Malcolm. "Don't listen to them. They just want you back so they can drop you again in a couple months, whenever they get bored of cheatin' behind your back."

"We weren't cheating on him," Hoshi said angrily. "And some friend you are, Trip. How long did you wait until you pressured him into sleeping with you?"

"I offered up my bed to comfort him for the shit you pulled!"

"Right," Travis said, voice deceptively calm. "And you weren't in the least bit happy to see him leave us?"

"I was a perfect gentlemen," Trip snapped back. "He'd be mine now if he could just stop thinking about you two cheatin' bastards!"

"We didn't cheat on him!" Hoshi shouted.

"Then why the hell did you run off to snuggle at the movies after the mere suggestion that Malcolm wasn't coming? Or why you hopped into bed together even though he wasn't there?" Trip yelled. "You two are a real pair, you know that?"

"Wait!" Malcolm barked, interrupting the bickering. "Who suggested that I wasn't coming to the movie? I never said that!"

"He told us you weren't coming!" Travis said, looking at Trip accusingly. "He said you had work to finish up and would meet us after!"

Malcolm turned to glare at Trip. "I never told you to say anything."

"Well, I knew you'd be running late," Trip said. "I thought I'd do you a favor, is all."

"I should have been finished soon after you left. How could you know I would be late? I was only delayed because—" Malcolm stopped mid- sentence and narrowed his gaze. "Did you engineer my being late?" Malcolm asked, voice deadly quiet, "Did you sabotage the equipment?"

"Come on, Malcolm, I would never do that," Trip said emphatically. "Maybe some of my numbers were off accidentally, but I wouldn't intentionally try to stall you, you know that! "

Travis glared, keeping a tenuous hold on his anger. Hoshi put a restraining hand on his arm. "Then why did you tell us he'd be late?" she asked, trying to keep her voice calm.

"None of this matters anyway!" Trip shouted. "You two still groped each other in public!"

"All we did was kiss!" Travis shouted back, hands balled into fists.

Malcolm took a menacing step toward Trip. "And why didn't you mention this to me that evening?" he said, his voice growing colder. "You knew I was upset!"

"They're the ones who couldn't keep their hands off each other," Trip said, a note of desperation in his voice, "even when you weren't around. It doesn't matter how it happened. It still happened!"

"You lied to us?" Hoshi asked roughly. "You lied to Malcolm?"

"I only showed him the truth about what was going on," Trip defended. "You two would have used him no matter what I did or didn't do."

"I'll show you the truth," Travis growled, his control snapping as he grabbed Trip in one swift move and slammed him back against Malcolm's locker. His fingers dug and twisted into Trip's loose shirt. It had been Trip's fault. Travis couldn't believe it. He quickly reevaluated every comment and every move Trip had made before and after Malcolm left them, and suddenly they all had new meanings—telling them Malcolm wouldn't make it to movie night, reassuring them that Malcolm wasn't drifting off, calling ahead to say whether or not they were finishing up. He'd been manipulating them, making sure they did just what he'd wanted them to do. And who knew what thoughts Trip had put into Malcolm's head! Everything made sense now. Malcolm had been exceedingly worried and uncertain about the threesome working to begin with. All it took was a few orchestrated wrong moves on their part, and Malcolm ran—ran straight to Trip.

"Travis," Hoshi warned.

Trip was shocked for a moment by Travis' move, eyes wide at being hauled off his feet. "You're really upset?" A moment later and the look was gone, replaced with a glare. "Well, you can't fool me! I know you were using Malcolm. Why else would you want him?"

Travis' grip on Trip tightened. "You bastard!" Travis yelled. "We love him!"

Trip scoffed. "You both can't love him and each other at the same time."

"Why the hell not?" Hoshi asked, hands on her hips.

"Because…because a threesome is not normal." Trip spat. "One of you was bound to be dropped along the way, and Malcolm is older than either of you. He'd be the one left behind. He'd have to be the one. I needed to be there when it happened."

Travis pushed Trip harder against the locker. "They're our lives to mess up, Trip. No one asked you!"

The surprised look returned, Trip staring at Travis. "But you both acted just like I thought you would. I was so sure you were going to drop him…"

"We were never planning on 'dropping' him," Hoshi said emphatically. "We didn't know we were hurting Malcolm so much. We should have realized what was going on, but we didn't until it was too late."

Malcolm stepped up behind Travis to search Trip's face. "You did all this because you thought they were going to hurt me?"

"I…" Trip glanced at Malcolm's face, then looked down at the floor. "Shit. I wanted you to be happy, Malcolm. I was so sure they'd end up hurting you. I just wanted you to be happy."

"Wanted Malcolm for yourself, you mean!" Travis' grip tightened at his statement, but he was still surprised by Trip's sincerity. Trip had been trying to save Malcolm. All this trouble had been started by Trip, but then Hoshi and Travis had also screwed up along the way. Why hadn't they seen how upset they were making Malcolm? "Why didn't you just ask me and Hoshi about our intentions?"

"And what if you lied?" Trip asked.

"So you made sure they had opportunities to cheat, if only a little, and repeatedly made sure I knew about it and that you were there to pick up the pieces." Malcolm shook his head. "Trip, how could you—?"

"I only wanted what was best for you, Malcolm," Trip said, eyes pleading.

"But it *wasn't* best for me, Trip," Malcolm replied. "It hurt me a great deal."

Trip closed his eyes, speaking as if talking to himself, "I was so certain about everything. I swear I knew it was going to end badly…" Trip blinked his eyes open and tugged his way free of Travis' grasp, backing up for the door. "I'm so sorry. I didn't mean…"

Malcolm stepped after him. "You were doing what you thought was right. I…I'm sorry too, Trip." He glanced away for a moment, biting his lower lip before looking back at Trip. "I really never wanted you as anything more than a friend. I simply wanted some comfort, and you were willing to give that to me. I didn't mean to string you along." He gently squeezed Trip's shoulder. "You shouldn't worry so much about me."

Trip swallowed at the admission. "I should have figured as much. You were always thinkin' about them, and not me." He looked to Travis and Hoshi. "I hope you two really will treat him right."

"If he'll have us back, we will," Travis said.

"You better." Trip shot Travis a hard look. Then Trip turned and fled quickly, with only a "Later, Malcolm" tossed over his shoulder. Travis wasn't exactly sorry to see him go.


He was emotionally exhausted. Manipulations and mistakes had occurred on all sides. And he hadn't seen it coming. Malcolm stared at the door as it shut after Trip.

"Malcolm…?" Hoshi asked quietly from behind him.

"You love me? Still?" Malcolm asked bluntly without turning to face them.

"Of course. We've been trying to talk to you ever since that night you ran off and disappeared."

"You weren't…That night you weren't…"

"No," Travis answered firmly. "We were kissing and touching but nothing more, I swear." Travis walked up behind Malcolm, steps sounding. "We haven't been able to sleep very well without you. The floor is a little hard on my back, and Hoshi tosses and turns most of the night in her bed."

"The floor?" Malcolm asked, finally turning around.

"It got too difficult to sleep in the same bed after the first night, but I couldn't leave Hoshi to be alone in her quarters." Travis tentatively reached out a hand, tracing Malcolm's jaw. "We miss you, Malcolm."

Hoshi cautiously joined them. "We're so sorry. We never meant for any of this to happen."

Malcolm closed his eyes, overwhelmed for a moment. Could everything really go back to the way it was, just like that? There was so much guilt to go around. He said softly, "I'm sorry as well. I overreacted and I didn't speak my feelings. I…" He opened his eyes, more than glad to see two pairs of warm eyes staring back at him. "I didn't sleep with him. I couldn't bring myself to do it. No matter what Trip did to bring about our…fight, he was gentle around me. If we try this again, I want everyone to try and forgive one another."

Hoshi and Travis nodded. Hoshi whispered, "We need to put this behind us."

"But if you come back, I'm never letting you leave again, Malcolm," Travis said firmly. "I'll chase you down corridors completely naked if I have to."

Malcolm chuckled softly. "Now that would be quite the sight."

Travis grinned and kissed Malcolm's cheek. "I've missed that laugh, sugar."

"I've missed you so much." Malcolm wrapped his arms around both of them, leaning their heads together as he took in the feeling of having them so close once again. He whispered, "I love you. I love you both. I never want to do this ever again."

Travis turned his head and kissed Malcolm, lips soft and gentle. "I love you." Then he turned and kissed Hoshi. "And I love you."

"I love you both too," Hoshi answered. "And you boys are never leaving me with an empty bed again."

"Never again," Malcolm agreed with a smile. He kissed her, just to keep things even.

Hoshi leaned into him, hands moving to cup Malcolm's face as she soundly returned the kiss. Lips brushed against Malcolm's neck as Travis moved to press Malcolm between them, chest against Malcolm's back. A euphoric feeling of belonging, of possessing and being possessed, of mutual give and take, settled in Malcolm's stomach and crept its way throughout his body. He belonged here with them. They wanted him here as much as he wanted to be here himself. Oh, how he had missed them.

His fingers tangled into Hoshi's hair as he pressed firmly back against Travis, his legs giving out and slowly dropping them to the floor. As they settled onto the carpet, he invited Hoshi's tongue into his mouth, suckling gently, before he broke the kiss to twist around and kiss Travis. They were one, each giving to the other. Malcolm was never again giving this up.

Hoshi's fingers caressed his skin under his loose workout shirt, skirting along well-known paths. She slipped it off when he broke from Travis for air. She kissed patterns around Malcolm's chest and stomach, murmuring, "Missed you so much, so sorry, never again."

Malcolm sighed, melting against Travis. He took in the sight of her, reached to pull her loose shirt off, as well as her sports bra beneath. She cooperated, but quickly returned to his chest, finding a nipple and working it hard with her tongue. Malcolm sucked in a breath. Travis wasn't idle behind him. Malcolm could feel Travis pull off his own shirt, hands busy running a circuit down Malcolm's back around to his stomach and thighs.

"So warm," Malcolm said, not sure how else to describe the calm burning in his veins. He felt wrapped in warmth and heat, joy and light. They wanted him.

"So hot," Travis teased into his ear, tongue flicking out to trace and lick. His hand snaked down to rub flat against Malcolm's shorts.

"Oh, yes," Malcolm gasped, hips rocking up.

Hoshi kissed her way to his other nipple, teeth scraping his skin, and Malcolm suddenly realized he was being far too inactive. He cupped her breasts, playing with her nipples as she attacked his again. His thumb circled in time with each lick, pulled with each suck. He turned to kiss Travis again, tongues battling. They were exquisitely intertwined.

When Hoshi's kisses turned southward, Malcolm broke the kiss with Travis. Travis' hand moved to remove the last of Malcolm's clothing, laying the man on the floor between them. They tugged off their own clothes before both kissed paths down Malcolm's stomach and spread thighs.

"We never want you going anywhere again, Malcolm. We love you," Travis purred, nuzzling his face against Malcolm's shaft as Hoshi kissed her way up its length.

Malcolm trembled with pleasure at the sight of them between his legs. "I love you both," he said, breathless.

Travis licked firm strokes along Malcolm's sacks, playing with them with one hand. Hoshi reached his tip and licked away white precum before taking his head into her mouth.

Malcolm moaned, hands reaching to bury fingers into their hair.

Travis left his hand tugging and rolling at Malcolm's sacks, while his mouth moved to lick up Malcolm's erection around the base, leaving Hoshi to the rest. They worked together, driving Malcolm mad.

"Oh, god, please," Malcolm whimpered, hips bucking against Travis' restraining hand.

Hoshi seductively released him from her mouth, tongue flicking over his tip as she pulled back. "Please what?"

"Please" was all Malcolm got out as Travis quickly took him completely into his mouth, sucking deeply when he reached the base. "Oh," Malcolm shuddered, back arched and mouth hanging open as he panted. "Anything, please, anything." Travis slowly released him, teeth lightly scraping the sensitive skin. He ordered, voice deep with need, "You. Middle. Now."

Malcolm nodded, hastily pointed to the nightstand. "In there."

Travis moved to get the lube, and Hoshi crawled her way up Malcolm, kissing him as they rolled over onto their sides on the floor. Malcolm's hands found her breasts again, his tongue mapping out her mouth. She tasted wonderful—a mixture of spices, sugar, and himself.

Travis was quick to return. He was already slicking himself up, groaning at his own touch, but then he was rolling them over again so that Hoshi was on her back, with them above her. "Not too much weight?" he asked her. He was propped on his knees. "No," she purred, interested in the new position as she spread her legs and arched herself up against Malcolm.

Slick fingers pressed inside Malcolm, stretching and massaging. Malcolm groaned, pushing back. He propped himself up on one elbow. His other hand found Hoshi's folds and explored, two fingers teasing her entrance before pressing inside, thumb rubbing against her clitoris. She gasped beneath him, head rolling back. He licked at her throat.

Travis repositioned himself, trying to keep as much of his weight on his own hands and knees, as he pressed his hard erection into Malcolm's tight, warm body. He took his time, panting against Malcolm's back. He stilled once he completely sheathed himself.

Malcolm moved his hand and placed more of his weight onto his elbows. His mouth hung open in a silent moan as he buried himself deep inside Hoshi. Filling and being filled—he'd never ever get over the sensation. They lay still for a moment.

Then Travis pulled slowly back out of Malcolm, and Malcolm moved out of Hoshi, and together they set a steady pace. They rocked together, hips meeting and then separating.

"Need you," Travis moaned.

"Want you," Hoshi gasped.

"Never leaving," Malcolm reassured.

Travis kissed along Malcolm's shoulders as the pace increased. He rocked harder into Malcolm, grunting as his control wore away.

Malcolm panted harshly as he pressed back against Travis, then thrust into Hoshi. This is where he wanted to be. This was always where he wanted to be.

Hoshi seemed to lose herself in the sight of the two men above her. She dug her nails into Malcolm's hips, urging him on.

They worked toward the peak together, pressed tightly against one another, thrusting feverishly. Malcolm was the first to fall over the edge. Travis rubbing against his prostate, and he lost himself. He shuddered as he pumped deep and hard into Hoshi, his body tightening around Travis, dragging both lovers with him. He listened to them sing their climaxes, filling his ears with the most delicious sound he could ever imagine.

Travis had enough thought to collapse down beside Hoshi, not wanting to add his own weight to Malcolm's. But then he thought better, and tugged Malcolm down between them.

"You're never escaping the middle now," Hoshi sighed, stretching before curling up with them.

Malcolm groaned playfully. "I shall endeavor to endure it." Then he smirked. "Although you, Goddess, still haven't taken your turn yet."

"Later, sugar, later." She smiled warmly. Malcolm was looking and feeling much more happy, much more like he had before the entire mess had began.

"Should we get up off the floor?" Travis asked, leaning over Malcolm to kiss Hoshi. He winked at Malcolm. "We've managed to get a little sticky."

Malcolm chuckled. "Well, then, we'll just have to make use of my shower."

They leisurely stood. Hoshi rubbed her slightly rug-burned back. "Next time we use the bed, or one of you goes on the bottom."

"Yes, Princess," Travis said, ducking a smack for the old nickname.

"Don't make me have to separate you two," Malcolm chided jokingly as they stepped into the bathroom. Yes, this was exactly where he belonged.


After a shower that managed to stay just a shower and a late dinner in the mess hall, Hoshi was finally starting to feel relaxed. Life might actually return back the way it had been. The only change so far was the silent agreement to make Malcolm's quarters theirs, instead of returning to Hoshi's. Too much had happened there, and they needed a fresh place to start over again.

She smiled at Malcolm and Travis as they stood in the middle of the room in only their Starfleet blues, debating whether the underwear was boxers or briefs. Hoshi was certain they were boxer-style briefs, but she wasn't going to interrupt the friendly debate. It was wonderful to see Malcolm smiling and teasing again. It seemed like ages since she'd seen it last.

"They're tight, not loose, so they're briefs."

"But they cover up more than any pair of regular briefs would."

"I've never seen any pair of boxers this snug on a man."

"Been looking at a lot of half-naked men while I wasn't around?"

"Well there was that trip through decon with Captain Archer and Rostov…" Travis winked.

Malcolm raised both his eyebrows suggestively. "Oh really? Which one of you got the honor of rubbing down our dear captain?"

"I never gel and tell." Travis smiled innocently. Hoshi giggled from her spot on the bed, smiling warmly at both of them. It was wonderful to hear them play off one another again. Of course, her giggle won her their attention.

"Have something to add, Hoshi?" asked Travis.

"As I recall, she's been through with the captain before as well," Malcolm reminded his lover.

Travis turned to Hoshi. "Did you get to rub him down?"

Hoshi shook her head. "No. I mean, not really."

"Not really?" Malcolm asked, joining her on the bed.

"Never mind."

"You can't leave us with just that tease." Travis climbed over her onto her other side as she lounged on the bed.

"I'm not saying a word until you 'gel and tell' first."

"Fine, keep your secrets. Do you think I can start a new catch phrase on board?" Travis wondered.

"Mmm, perhaps." Malcolm settled down onto Hoshi's other side.

A quiet moment passed as they easily settled in together. Hoshi's whole body radiated with the feeling of both men beside her. She couldn't want or trust two men any more than she did them, and she had the urge to prove it. She sat up and turned to face them, tracing fingers along each of their arms. "I want to do something. But I don't want to make it into a big deal. You promise?" "Of course," Malcolm answered.

"What is it?" Travis asked.

Hoshi leaned down, hair falling around her shoulders, and kissed each of them thoroughly. Hers. They were hers. She whispered, "I want to be in the middle."

Warm, sultry smiles from both of them quickly made her blush. They pulled her down between them again, hands caressing over her.

"You have any preferences?" Malcolm asked, kissing down her neck as he turned her facing him.

"Actually…" Hoshi looked into his eyes. "I want you in back." She hoped he understood. She needed him to see that she truly trusted and wanted him. She was nervous and uncertain but she chose him.


"Yes, please."

Malcolm stared for a moment before nodding. He understood.

Hoshi kissed him, their tongues caressing; then she rolled onto her back.

Travis was grinning at them even as his hands moved to do away with Hoshi's light shirt. "And what am I? Leftovers?"

"I wasn't going to leave you out, honey." Hoshi kissed Travis, sure to keep things even, as they undressed each other.

Hoshi quickly became the center of attention, however, as the kiss ended, and Travis and Malcolm moved their way southward. She closed her eyes as Travis trailed wet kisses down her neck and Malcolm licked a path between her breasts. Malcolm circled once before spiraling licks around one breast toward her nipple. Travis made a beeline for her other nipple, and Hoshi's back arched as they both sucked hard. She moaned as teeth scraped and tongues swirled, hands roaming down her sides, across her stomach, and down her thighs.

One of Malcolm's hands replaced Travis' mouth on her breast as Travis kissed his way down Hoshi's stomach. Travis, spreading her legs apart, teased with kisses along her inner thighs. Hoshi sighed deeply and pulled Malcolm up into a fierce kiss. Malcolm groaned through the kiss as her fingers found his own nipples, rolling and tugging them as he did hers.

Travis moved toward his goal, first fingers and then mouth parting her folds and finding her clitoris. His fingers circled her entrance before gently pressing two inside, sliding in and out, grazing her G- spot.

Hoshi moaned deeply as her hips rocked, lost in the attention from both men. Her eyes fluttered open when Malcolm pulled away, nudging her onto her side. Travis moved with her and lifted one of her legs to continue his ministrations. Hoshi, panting, craned her head to watch as Malcolm grabbed the lube from the nightstand. He smiled at her while greasing up his fingers. He purred into her ear, "Try to stay as relaxed as you can, love. And let me know if you ever want me to stop."

Stop? She wasn't about to tell him to stop. Not now. Malcolm's slick fingers ran between her cheeks until they came to her anus. A pair of fingers circled, waiting for her to relax, until one dared to press cautiously inside, first just one knuckle and then up to the other. It wasn't painful, only different. Hoshi worked to keep herself from tensing as the finger pressed completely inside, rubbing and stretching.

Travis kept up his stroking tongue and fingers, making her tremble with the multiple sensations running through her. Malcolm gently added another finger as he kissed her back reassuringly. Hoshi gasped at the sensation of her two entrances being caressed simultaneously. She was beginning to understand the overwhelming nature of being in the middle.

Hoshi was squirming by the time Malcolm added a third finger. They both definitely needed to hurry up. She circled her hips panting, "Now, please, now."

Travis waged one last assault on her clitoris with his tongue before pulling himself up beside her. Hoshi kissed him, hungry for more contact with that mouth, as Travis propped her leg up onto his hip. Her hands stroked his hard shaft, her mouth sucking on his tongue. Travis shuddered, groaning as he ended the kiss, "Malcolm first."

"Nearly ready," Malcolm said, voice deep. He removed his fingers and uncapped the lube.

Hoshi turned to stop him, greasing her own hands and slicking up his erection herself, fingers stroking and squeezing. Malcolm gasped for breath, moaning his thanks. Once he was slick, Hoshi was quickly turned back toward Travis; Malcolm pressed the head of his penis slowly into her. Hoshi whimpered at the unfamiliar but not unpleasant feeling of being stretched from behind, a slight burning sensation running through her. Malcolm stopped once to let her adjust, then continue until he was completely buried inside her.

Travis held onto Hoshi's leg hooked over his hip and watched her face as he pressed his own way into her wet and waiting vagina. Hoshi's eyes widened before they snapped closed. She was swimming in the mere sensation of double penetration already—two hard shafts pressed deep inside her, two men panting for control beside her. She swallowed hard and clung to Travis' shoulders, letting herself and them adjust. After a few moments she managed to gasp, "Slow. Go slow."

There were grunts of agreement; then they started alternating pulling out and pressing in, one always pressed deep inside. Hoshi moaned and trembled, losing herself as they continued the gentle pace. It was incredible being at the center of everything. She would never give up watching Malcolm lose his self-control while pinned between her and Travis, but this she could definitely do again.

Malcolm's face was buried against Hoshi's upper back as the two men quickened the pace. She could feel Malcolm's breath against her skin, Travis' hands clamped onto her hips. Both men tried to keep together in their counter rhythm to each other, both itching to go harder and faster. It was a delightfully slow burn, building up pressure steadily, until Travis and Malcolm hit the right spots at the same time. Hoshi's climax rolled over her, body tightening and pulling as her hips ground down against them. Her moans were drowned out by the men, dragged over the edge with her as her walls massaged their pumping shafts. Her climax rolled on until she nearly couldn't stand the pleasure, when Travis and Malcolm slowed, and all Hoshi could hear was her own pounding heartbeat.

Hoshi shivered as Malcolm, spent, pulled out. He kissed along the back of her shoulders. Travis sighed and moved Hoshi's leg down off his hip, kissing her forehead.

"That was…I'm going to need days to recover." Hoshi grinned.

"Told you it overloads the senses," Malcolm said. He propped himself up and kissed Hoshi and then Travis. He didn't say it but she could see it in Malcolm's eyes—he was overwhelmed to be lying there with them once again. She felt the same way.

"You've still got your spot in the middle, don't worry." Hoshi tugged Malcolm over her, pinning him in the middle. "You'll always have the middle reserved for you."

"Oh, do I now?"

"Always," Travis said, pulling the blankets up over them and turning off the lights.

Hoshi curled herself up against Malcolm, kissing Malcolm's cheek as Travis' arms circled around Malcolm from behind. She whispered, "I'm so glad to have you back."

"So am I," Travis agreed.

"I wouldn't want to be anywhere else. But we should all get some sleep," Malcolm said, fully relaxed between them.

Hoshi nodded as they fell silent. They would need their rest tomorrow. Who knew if everything was really back to normal. They would have to learn to interact professionally again. And each of them would have to figure out how to interact with Trip, on and off duty. But for the first time in a long while, she wasn't going to spend the night tossing and turning in her bed.


He couldn't sleep. The gentle, quiet humming of the warp core thrummed through Trip's ears. He leaned back in his chair, feet up on his desk as he looked out his window and the stars floating past. His fingers absently played with the drawstring to his pajama bottoms. His mind was far from the dark, empty quarters.

How had he managed to get so obsessive over Malcolm? There had been times when he'd been too close to his work to see what was going on, but he'd never been this interested in a person not to see what he was doing. Had he just been jealous? Had he been manipulative? Why did he feel like he deserved more than just being shoved around by Travis? A few good punches would have at least given Trip something else to think about, another pain to contemplate. But he was stuck questioning himself alone. Was Malcolm just as bad for making promises he never intended to keep? Were Travis and Hoshi's slip-ups really so unintentional? Did he fail Malcolm? Did he fail himself?

The call for the door chimed but Trip ignored it. If it was any of the three, he didn't want to speak with them. As he heard the doors open after a third chime, Trip knew who it was, but he didn't turn away from his view.

Trip could hear the padding of Porthos' tiny feet against the carpeted floor, an interesting duet with the warp core's humming. Archer's heavier footsteps followed the dog. Trip didn't react as the door closed and blocked out the shaft of light from the corridor. Paws pressed against Trip's hip, and a wet nose nuzzled his hand.

"Sorry for letting myself in. I thought maybe after running away from my quarters this evening you might want someone to talk with."

"Figured it wouldn't end well for me?" Trip reached down and picked up Porthos, setting the dog in his lap. Porthos licked at his neck and chin before settling down.

"Call it a hunch," Archer said, then fell silent. Trip absently petted Porthos, rubbing his ears. He watched the stars, each one a fleeting sight. What could he tell Archer? He had so much to come to grips with, it was nearly impossible to explain it all.

"I should have left Malcolm alone," Trip finally whispered. "They're back together now."

"You were only trying to help him."

Trip shook his head. "I only ended up causing a bigger mess."

"Your heart was in the right place, Trip."


Archer squeezed Trip's shoulder. "You're a good friend. Malcolm will still need you."

"But Travis and Hoshi—"

"—are adults," Archer interrupted. "They'll deal with this and move on. If they don't, I'll make sure they do."

Trip chuckled softly. "Big brother Jonny will make sure of that."

"Hey, what are best friends for?"

Trip turned away from the window, feet moving down onto the carpet, and looked up at Archer. "Do you mind if I keep Porthos for the night?"

Archer smiled. "Not at all. Just remember, he won't stop hollering until you take him for his walk at 0700."

Trip returned the smile as he stood with Porthos in his arms. "I've been meaning to get up early one of these mornings." His smiled faded and he sighed. "Thanks, Cap'n."

"No problem, Trip. Porthos is a good listener. Talk things over with him. But do try to get some sleep." Archer patted Trip's shoulder before heading for the door.

"I promise. Someone will be getting me up bright and early, so I'll have to get some shut-eye."

Archer nodded with a reassuring smile. "Good night." The door shut behind him.

Trip looked down at Porthos. "I think I've done enough wonderin' about all this tonight. How about we just head to bed?"

Porthos barked once in answer and squirmed to get down onto the bed.

"I'll take that as a yes." Trip pulled back the sheets and climbed in, Porthos curling up happily beside him. He wrapped an arm around Porthos and closed his eyes. Tomorrow. He could worry about it all tomorrow. For now, he listened to the small dog's breathing and the gentle humming of the warp core.

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