Title: Intonation

Author: Mareel

Author's email: Mareel@earthlink.net

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

Date: 09/25/03

Archive: Permission to archive granted to EntSTCommunity, Archer's Enterprise, Tim Ruben, Reed's Armory, and BLTS. Others please ask.

Category: Slash (m/m)

Rating: R

Status: Complete

Characters: Tucker/Reed; potential Archer/Reed

Series: Indiscretion

Previous: Introspection

Disclaimer: Still not mine. And they probably hate me for this anyway.

Summary: Malcolm and Trip finally talk. But do they listen?

Author's Notes: This is not the end, but it was a hard segment to write. Malcolm put this off as long as he could, and so did I. My thanks to Nadai for the good advice!

"Malcolm?" The voice was quiet. If he didn't know exactly who would be trying to comm him in the armoury at 2130, he might have needed to think twice about whose it was. This wasn't Trip's normal speaking voice, or even the lower, more throaty voice that his lover sometimes used over the comm when he was halfway certain that Malcolm would be alone. It was the voice of a man whose lover had just stood him up for a dinner date at 2100, after avoiding him for two days.

Bloody hell, will I never stop hurting him! I agreed to meet him for dinner in his quarters because after two sleepless nights, I was too exhausted to come up with a good reason why I couldn't. But when the time came, and I was no closer to knowing what I was going to say to him…well, I'm still here. And he's there, waiting for me. He'll even believe me if I tell him something came up that kept me in the armoury. He wants to believe me, wants to trust me, wants to think that things are going to be fine between us once I get over my guilt. He says he still loves me. So I'm going to have to hurt him at least once more.

"I'm still in the armoury, Trip. I'll be there directly." What else could I say?

"Okay. Dinner's waiting." I heard the rest, the part he didn't have to say aloud. 'And so am I.'


Oh god. Candles, music, wine. He's not making this any easier. If he's trying to remind me of when he was first courting me, he's succeeded. But he shouldn't have done. He should have just told me to get the hell out of his life, or never to darken his doorway again, not…not all this.

"Trip, we need to talk."

"I know, Mal. But can we please just eat first? I'm starving—haven't eaten anything since I took an early lunch, and Chef's done some nice work here. And you—when the hell did you last eat, Mr. Reed?"

I let him fill a plate for me, and might even have swallowed a few bites if his eyes on me hadn't been so haunting. I don't know if he ate anything or not.

"Trip, I can't eat anything right now. Can we please talk first?"

"Whatever you want, Mal. I just thought…" His voice trailed off and he dropped his eyes for the first time. "Oh shit, Malcolm, I wasn't thinkin' about you at all, was I? I should have known you were probably not gonna be in the mood for a romantic dinner, not until we've had a chance to clear the air some. I'm sorry, darlin'. C'mon, sit with me here and let's work this out."

He had taken my hands and was drawing me with him, inexorably it seemed, toward the couch. Thank god, he didn't head for the bed. I would have preferred to stand, but allowed myself to be pulled down beside him.

So this was it. I took a deep breath. I could tell he wanted to say something, but I raised my fingers to his lips to quiet him.

"Trip, what I did the other night—what I said—was inexcusable. I don't expect you to forgive me for it; I have no real explanation to give you."

He took my hands in his and those blue eyes bored into mine. "Malcolm, it's okay. Stuff like that happens sometimes, I guess. I told you about Nathalie, and me callin' her Lisa and all. Did I mention that she told me I'd best learn to stick to screaming 'Oh, GOD' in bed. But I wasn't thinking about Lisa then, hadn't thought of her for years. It just popped out somehow. Maybe it's kind of the same thing here."

He paused, but I didn't say anything.

"Mal, before I…before we got together…it kinda looked like you an' Jonny might been sizing each other up a bit. I tried to stay out of the way—Jonny and I were both attracted to the same person once before and it nearly ruined our friendship. I wasn't gonna let that happen again. If the two of you had gotten together then, well, I would have been disappointed, but happy for Jonny if he'd finally fallen in love. And glad for you, too—glad you'd found somebody you could care about.

But like I've told you before, I was the happiest man in the world when you agreed to go out with me. I don't need to know anything about what happened back then with you two. It's none of my business, and Jonny's never said anything about it. "

"He wouldn't have. There wasn't anything to talk about." My voice sounded strained, even to my own ears. I pulled my hands from his and clasped them tightly in my lap, keeping my eyes on them as if I were afraid they'd somehow escape my control and go flying off on their own.

"It sounds like maybe you wish there had been."

The brightness faded from his voice for the first time. I didn't trust myself to look up at him, but he knows me too well. He turned my face to his with a gentle hand, searching it, perhaps, for the man who'd shared his bed and his life.

"But I thought you were happy, too, Malcolm! I love you so much, darlin'. Have I done anything that's made you doubt that?"

The look in his eyes was nearly unbearable. I don't deserve that kind of love. But I knew he wasn't finished yet. I think I closed my eyes.

"And I thought you loved me too…" Trip's voice broke and he looked away.

No more. I have to end this.

"Trip, listen to me. I loved you. I meant it when I told you I did. I still do. But I think it's not the way you need me to love you…"

I risked touching him, finding his hand and clasping it tight between my own. I'm not sure which of us was the anchor and which the one adrift.

"I'm not sure I understand what you're saying, Malcolm."

His words were cautious, measured, his voice tentative. I think I could deal better with his anger than with this fragile wariness.

"Trip, please know how much I've been thinking about this, trying to understand it all. I think…I think I might have been in love with the idea that you loved me. No one ever has, you know. And I'd just walked away from someone else who might have…who wanted…

But I loved what we had together, the way you made me feel cherished, valued for myself. It was almost overwhelming to be loved by such a beautiful, vibrant man. I could scarcely comprehend that I had anything to offer you! I'm afraid this was all completely outside my frame of reference. How could I not want to respond in kind? To return what you were giving me, as best I could."

"And you did, darlin'! I never doubted for a minute that you felt the same as me, not after what you told me that first night when we…"

I can't listen to any more of this. I cut him off with a kiss. He tried to deepen it—god, even now he still wants me—but I just needed him to know I care about him, and I pull away slowly, keeping eye contact.

"Let me finish, Trip. I'd had so little experience with relationships. All I knew was that I wanted to respond to you, on every level, and that this must be how it felt to be in love.

The feeling was so intense that I was sure I'd forgotten…that I'd gotten over…whatever else I'd ever felt for anyone."

"You mean, 'felt for anyone' as in 'felt for Jonny'?"

There was an edge to his voice now, but I think I'm beyond the point of no return.


"Well, I guess you haven't quite gotten past all that, had you, Mal? Wasn't I a good enough substitute for Jonny? I might not be a starship captain, but I'm pretty good with my hands…as you sure as hell ought to know!"

"Trip. Don't…please don't. I know how much I've hurt you, and don't expect you to forgive it, but please remember one thing, love—you weren't a substitute for anybody. What I felt was for YOU. You're the one who showed me what love could be. I'll never forget that.

I'm the one who decided not to pursue any relationship with Jonathan Archer, for all manner of reasons. You were no part of that decision, and he was no part of my decision to get involved with you.

And yes, after what happened the other night, I realized that there was something I'd buried, but not expunged. I didn't want to believe it, that I could still feel anything for him, especially in the midst of such an intense relationship with you. But when I was talking with him in the observation lounge the other night—he was walking Porthos, and didn't realize I was there-it all surfaced again. Not buried very well, apparently.

And it's not as if I'm going to do anything about it. All my reasons for not getting involved with him are unchanged. But there was one moment of clarity. He touched my shoulder as he left—you know how he touches everyone. Trip, I felt that touch burn through me."

"Fuck it all, Malcolm! Do I have to sit here and listen to you tellin' me how Jonny got you all hot an' bothered? How far did it go, Mal? Did his touch make you hard? As hard as my hand on your cock always does?"

His hand was ready to follow where his words were leading, but I grasped his wrist and he froze. I turn his face toward me with my other hand and make my voice as gentle as I can manage. This is goodbye.

"No…it made my heart sing."

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