Title: Call It What You Like

Author: Qlara2002

Author's e-mail: letterq@appleisp.com


Pairing: Tucker/Reed

Rating: NC-17

Archive: EntSTSlash

Disclaimer: Don't own them, just imagining the possibilities.

Summary: Words get in the way, and then there's a steamer trunk wanting to go through first. Both encounter boundaries. Zany hi-jinks ensue.

Author's Notes: Beta'd by Chris, TheGrrrl, Cincoflex and Shi Shi. Generous friends, and great betas. Their insights and comments were occasionally mortifying, but never less than valued.

"Well, love, under the circumstances I'm more than willing to compromise. How do you feel about 'hot monkey love'?"

Please tell me ya didn't hear that. Oh, well I wasn't talkin' to you. I mean I was talkin' to myself. What I'm sayin' is…oh, shit. Look, while you were in the bathroom, I was goin' over that story I promised. The one about the first time Malcolm and I fucked. Here, why don't you have a seat and I'll pour us a couple of drinks. Judgin' from the way you look, and the way I feel, we could both use one right about now.

There now, that's much better. That liquor ya brought has been keepin' good company. I think it might be a good idea for me to start the story a bit before what ya heard me say just now. That'll put it into some kind of perspective—now, let's see…

Malcolm and I had just started seeing each other. Just so we're clear—"seeing each other" is a euphemism for seein' each other naked on a regular basis. As new relationships usually go, ours went unusually well—especially given the somewhat unusual circumstances. By that I mean that Malcolm was breaking his own rule by fraternizing with a superior officer, and I was breakin' my own pattern by fraternizing with another man. You'd think that either one would be enough to throw a wrench into the works, but it didn't happen. Not only did we hit the ground runnin', but runnin' for the bed as well. I just can't say enough for the power of good sex to smooth over any potential rough spots in a new relationship—at least most of the time.

In the couple of weeks that we'd been together I think I had more sex than in the previous couple years. The term 'sexually active' didn't even begin to describe us. 'Sexually rampant' would've been closer to the mark. For the first time in my life I knew what it was to have so much sex as to leave ya walkin' bow-legged. Funny, I expected to pick up a lot of skills on this mission, but the ability to remove come stains from my uniform wasn't one of 'em. Oh, sorry—too much information? Okay, back to the story.

We were gettin' along great—both in bed and out. In fact we were gettin' along better than we ever had before. I think it was because we each let the other see more of the likeable parts of our personalities—and I don't just mean our dicks. Then we managed to refrain from sayin' something stupid and ruining the effect—at least most of the time. Really, it was just a little thing that started it, until that little thing became a big deal. I guess that's where the story really begins.

We'd been rollin' around on the bed for quite some time- you know, kissin' and huggin' and touchin'—a touch longer than usual in fact, but I had no complaints. I've always enjoyed sex, but bein' with Malcolm had made me really appreciate and value foreplay. With him it's like a really fine set of movie previews that are great in their own right, as well as in what they give ya to look forward to. Still, I had started to wonder why every time I moved downward—on to the main feature, as it were—he'd pull me right back up again.

"Trip, I love the way you stroke me off."

"I love it too, Darlin'. God, it turns me on to hold your dick in my hand."

"And I adore the way you suck me."

"Oh yeah, Baby. There's nothin' better."

"Actually, love, there is. Mind you, it's not that I'm less than completely satisfied, but I was wondering when you think that you might like to fuck me."

"Excuse me?"

"I mean…"

"I know what you mean, Malcolm, what I meant was what you said."

"Well now it's my turn—excuse me? Oh, perhaps I didn't make myself clear. What I meant was, umm, anal intercourse."

"Darlin', I said that I knew what you meant. The problem is the way that you put it."

"What—'fuck', Trip? Are you telling me that you now have a problem with that word—since when? For heaven's sake, love, you toss that one out like beaded necklaces from a Mardi Gras parade float."

"But not in that context. There's a difference."

"Well, forgive my ignorance, but could you please define the distinction."

"Malcolm, in the beginning there was sex. Once we'd gotten to know each other better, we started makin' love. And I think by now you know that I really like both. But, to my way of thinking, 'fucking' is just a shade away from 'rutting', and frankly, that's not a color I find very appealing."

That's when he said what you heard me say when you came outta the bathroom -

"Well, love, under the circumstances I'm more than willing to compromise. How do you feel about 'hot monkey love'?"

"I feel like your monkey's tryin' to get my goat, and succeeding beyond his expectations. Let's just call it a night, okay? I'm kinda tired, and I'll bet the mattress could probably use a rest as well." "Trip, it's obvious that I've said something to offend you—and only made it worse with that stupidly ill-timed effort at flippancy—but I've no idea what it was and, quite honestly, I don't appreciate being made to guess."

"I'm not makin' you do anything, Malcolm. All I'm sayin' is—good night."

Then I turned over, turned out the light, closed my eyes, and pretended to go to sleep. Now, you know the man, but I should've known better. Malcolm's never met a worry he didn't like, and he wasn't about to let that one get away.

"Trip, leaving me in the dark—literally as well as figuratively—doesn't mean that this conversation is over. Now, look at me. I've got something to say, and I'd like to think it worthy of a better audience than the back of your head."

So, I turned over to face him, just in time to meet his hand reaching out for my face. It was a gentle touch, conciliatory even—like he knew it had all gone too far, and it didn't matter whose fault it was, he was willing to apologize.

I don't know why I did it. Maybe because I didn't see his hand coming, maybe because I didn't see any of it coming, maybe because I was literally and figuratively in the dark myself. When I felt his hand on my face, I jerked back away from it. Suddenly, the biggest reason I couldn't talk about what I was feeling was that all I could feel was his heart breaking. Have you ever had a time in your life when you'd sell your soul to have five seconds back?

"Very well, Trip. I get the message. Maybe we should both just try to get some rest."

Then it was his turn to close his eyes, and pretend to sleep. He didn't even say "good night". Turned out that the mattress didn't end up getting' much rest after all. We both kept tossin' and turnin', and he kept flinchin' away from me every time we accidentally touched. I guess he was just tryin' to give me what he thought I wanted. In truth though, all I really wanted was to reach out, pull him close, and tell him everything. The problem was that "everything" wasn't real clear to me right then. It was like I had part of the first piece of a puzzle, but no idea where it fit in, or what the final picture would be.

Oh, don't go pullin' a face—or worse yet, take your liquor and leave—let me explain. That happened months ago, I've gotten some perspective since then. Now I know that I had a good reason for actin' the way I did, a good excuse even. In fact it was the best and oldest excuse in the world for weird, unusual, and generally inexplicable behavior—family.

See, when I was growin' up, one of my Grannies' nicknames for me was Good Prince Potty Mouth, and not just when I was bein' a royal pain in the ass. I had some righteous cussin' skills learned at the knee of the king himself—her son, my daddy.

Don't get the wrong impression, though. Daddy was an intelligent and thoughtful man fully capable of expressing himself in an articulate manner. It's just that he also believed cussin' to be an equally valid—and occasionally necessary—means of expression. He used to say that words were tools, and he'd be damned if he sent his kids out into the world only half-equipped. He believed that good speaking skills would serve us well in life, as would the ability to punctuate a well-spoken sentence with a better-chosen cuss word—but only when appropriate. See, in showin' us how to let loose, he was also teachin' us when to hold back, and he taught by example. He was always a gentleman, until it was time not to be. And when that time came—look out.

There was one incident I'll always remember. Some guy at his work had done him dirt; claimed one of his ideas without tellin' where it came from. Then came the time when Mr. junior deputy vice president of the not a clue department finally realized that stealin' the idea didn't include the talent to execute. He needed my dad for that. Well, what does this thievin' clown decide to do but offer daddy the 'opportunity' to be on his team—like he was doin' the man some big favor—and where does he pick to do it but in the middle of festivities at the yearly office picnic. Like my father would just take that shit because he was bein' asked to in front of co-workers and family. Not only did this guy not know when to quit; he obviously didn't know my daddy. I clearly recall a look coming over my father's face that I'd never seen before, but swore from that moment on to never have pointed in my direction. The rest—as they say—is history.

'Son, before I respond to your offer, I want you to know that I admire your pluck for askin' at all. It takes a set of balls I never thought you had. Nevertheless, through your own lack of foresight—and even worse, lack of honor—you've managed to get your dick into a jam. Now you're offering me some so-called 'opportunity' to be on your team, which to my way of thinkin' amounts to nothing more than the privilege of lickin' it and makin' it better. Friend—while I've nothing against those who do—I myself do not suck dick, but even if I did, I wouldn't suck yours. In fact, I wouldn't be bothered enough by your plight to pull out my own, and take a piss down your shit-eatin' throat if your goddamned guts were on fire. Have I made myself clear? Now, unless you've got something to add, I think I'll go indulge in some of that fine potato salad my dear wife brought. She always makes it the way I like—extra onions and pickles.'

I swear, even before my ears had stopped ringin' from the deafening silence following that one, I was lookin' around for the hand of God to descend from the heavens and slap my daddy a big ole high five. That must not have been my impression alone, cuz not only was my father made head of the project that was his idea in the first place, but junior deputy vice president of shit on a brick ended up lookin' for another place to spread it. What I'm tryin' to tell you with that story is that I respected my father tremendously, and still do. That's why what he had to say about the word "fucking" used in a particular context had such an impact on me.

Yeah, you guessed it, another of Trip's tangents. But I'll try to keep it brief.

It was one of those family gatherings that seemed to exist for the main purpose of allowing the adults to get drunk. As you may have noticed, the only thing we Tuckers like more than our liquor is talkin', and we like nothing better than sharing both with each other. I think it was some uncle—it's always an uncle-recounting some youthful moment of sexual exuberance spent with an unusually willing female acquaintance. She actually ended up becoming his second wife, and the cause of his third divorce, but that's another story. Anyway, at some point he described their experience as fucking, what daddy thereafter referred to as 'that word'. Well, first he apologizes to everyone for Uncle's use of 'that word', then he tears into the man himself-

'Brother, you ought to be ashamed of yourself, cuz I know you were raised better. Now, I'm not talkin' about your little story. I quite enjoyed it, until you started usin' 'that word'. To my way of thinking, it takes the most beautiful experience two human beings can share with one another, and reduces it to something crass and crude, vulgar, and downright ugly. That word serves many necessary functions, but none have anything to do with the way you treat someone that you care about.'

I admit that my daddy's way of thinkin' had a lot of gray areas—actually, the man himself was so damned colorful that I think of his gray areas as bein' closer to shades of pastel—but he never had any trouble drawing the line between right and wrong, and callin' sex, or making love by the word 'fucking' was clearly and definitely wrong. I don't think he was tryin' to instill any kind of idea into me—hell, I don't think he even knew I was in the room—he was just tossin' out an opinion that ended up stickin'.

I'm sure that I'd been with women who'd called it fucking, but I guess it never mattered because the relationship itself hadn't mattered as much as the one that I found myself sharing with Malcolm.

There's a lot of stuff from your childhood that you'll forget, some that you'll always remember, and then there's the crap that you carry around in back of your head, like it's forgotten in storage until someone or something reminds you that it's there. That's always the shit that demands to be claimed at the worst possible moments. That night with Malcolm was one such.

First he used "that word" in that way, then I started thinkin' about my dad, and then I remembered what he'd said. Look, it's nearly impossible to even think about your father when you're about to have sex, and have it turn out well. So, that particular combination of events added up to three strikes on my 'turned off' button, and I had nary a clue how to get it back online, much less conversationally functional. I knew what I was feelin', but had no clue how to even begin telling him in a way that I didn't think would just make matters worse.

Oh, and don't even start on that "Well, if it had been me, and I had been there" shit. You weren't there, and you're not me. Add those two colors to your little black and white picture—then tell me what you see. And if it's anything other than me up shit creek without a paddle, scrape the paint off, and try again.

Anyway, the next day, we were too busy not speakin' to each other to find time to talk about anything. I knew that I needed to talk to someone though, so I made an appointment to hook up with Jon in his quarters. I'd already bent his ear plenty on the subject of Malcolm and I, and he'd always patiently heard me out. I knew he could be counted on for an objective opinion if he had one, and an honest answer if I needed it. The night we got together, after I gave him my version of events from the night before, I guess I got what I had comin'.

"Trip, have you been sniffing warp core coolant? Let me get this straight—you're upset with Malcolm because he referred to sex as 'fucking', and he's upset with you being upset by his usage of the word, but he doesn't know that, or why exactly you are upset, because you didn't tell him? Frankly, I'm upset because I don't think Porthos is old enough to hear this conversation, and furthermore I'm not sure that I'm up for it myself."

"Oh shit, Jon. I'm sorry. I should've known you'd get tired of hearing about this eventually."

"Oh, why should I get tired of hearing about your sex life? It's the closest I get to actually having one of my own. Listen, I'm not dismissing your concerns, but do you have any idea how long it's been since I had anything that could even remotely be called sex—much less, fucking? Frankly, Trip, at this point you could call it cheeseburgers on a grill for all I care, just as long as you call me when it's ready."

Jon and I are close, but that doesn't mean we don't have boundaries, every friendship does. Oftentimes, you don't even know where they are until they're talkin', you're talkin', then—bang—invisible wall with a slammed door in the middle—or in Jon's case, a closed one. See, we'd never talked about his sex life before because he'd never brought it up before. I just took it to be a "members only" part of his life and took no offense at never being invited in. Shit, if the worst thing you can say about someone is that they don't kiss and tell, by my reckoning, that makes them a friend ya wanna keep. But—"cheeseburgers on a grill"? I took that as an invitation to come on in, have a seat, and pass the condiments.

"Jeez, Jon. How long's it been? Truth to tell, I thought that as Captain, it just seemed like you'd have more important things to worry about than…"

"My sex life, Trip, or lack thereof? Somehow or other Starfleet forgot to include celibacy as a given part of a Captain's duty to the mission. And, please, don't even mention masturbation. The other night it seemed as if my right hand had a headache, and the left one appeared only long enough to say that it wanted to turn in early. Trip, what do you do when your own damn hands are tired of fucking you? Oh, there's that word again."

"Why don't we just set my concerns about that word aside for the moment, and concentrate on how you're not gettin' any. Crew members?"

"Not the kind of trouble I signed on for."

"Sorry to say, but—exactly."

"Exactly squared, Trip. On the one hand, what happens if it doesn't work out? It's not like either of us could just move away. On the other hand—and in some ways, it's even worse—what happens if it does work out?"

"The preferential treatment issue."

"And even though, in my own mind, I'd guard against it, the suspicion would always exist in someone's else's."

"So, you end up kinda caught between a rock and a hard on."

"Or just plain shit outta luck—you pick. Trip, remember those hours before we launched, when I was offline, out of reach, incommunicado? Do you want to know what I was doing?"

Did I want to know? Was that a rhetorical question? I admit that I'd heard a few things. Okay, I listened to a lot of rumors—some more "interesting" than others—but none made me lower my opinion of Jon. Still, I wasn't gonna pass up the chance to hear whatever version of the truth someone who'd actually been there chose to offer.

"Yeah, Jon. I've always wondered."

"I spent eight hours out looking for—and finding—every opportunity for guilt-free, no tomorrows, 'tips are not required, but kindly appreciated' anonymous sex the city by the bay had to offer. I had a flight instructor who said that San Francisco was just a small town with a big dick. I'm here to tell you, Trip—that big dick is generous in more than size."

I was just about to ask a follow-up question, when a different one cut into line.

"You did pack some protection along with that hard-on, right? It's a blessing that AIDS has become history, but it remains a horror story nevertheless. And STDs—those clever little buggers—are still alive and well, and smarter than ever. Stoppin' them before they start still remains the same ole same old—condoms."

"I never leave home without them, Trip. In fact, it's my understanding that Starfleet has begun issuing them in survival packs."

"Well, ya know, I heard tell that if properly used, they make for a truly devastating water balloon offensive. But gettin' back to your sex life…"

"Or lack thereof."

"Whatever. I seem to recall some rumor about you gettin' more than rest on Risa."

"Trip, you hear rumors; I read the reports. Nobody got any rest on that rest stop. I'd think that you, of all people, would know that."

"Asked and answered at the time, Cap'n—but what about you and that shape shifter? Gotta tell ya, Jon, some of the stories I heard were pretty wild."

"And pretty bullshit, Trip. Strange that no matter how wide rumors get spread, they rarely manage to cover the truth. For all that I'm grateful for what our shape shifter friend gave us, I'm still a little peeved that it didn't include giving me any. Is that too much to ask, Trip?"

"Not at all, Cap'n, time and trouble count for something. Back home—when an older kid bought liquor for a party, and claimed one out the six pack—we just called it road tax."

"Trip, I'm wondering—do all of your stories in some way involve liquor?"

"Only the good ones, Jon. You were saying?"

"That you're a great friend to have, Trip, and the only person I could say this to. Look, I never thought that being a Starfleet Captain would grant me any sort of gravitas among the races we'd meet on this mission, but…"

"Meaning—get you laid?"

"In so many words—yes. Though I did think there'd be a certain novelty effect—show me yours, I'll show you mine, and we'll both see something new."

"Not to mention what you'd have for breakfast the morning after."

"Couldn't say, Trip. I've never gotten that far. I know this is going to sound weird, but sometimes it almost seems as if someone has already been where this man hadn't gone before. I swear, Trip, sometimes I think some alternate universe Starfleet Captain has cut a swath of sexual conquest across every known galaxy. Every planet we set foot on, I look around half-way expecting to see a sign bearing the message—'We already gave.'"

"Jon, I think you're lettin' your imagination run away with yourself."

"Currently, Trip, my imagination is the only part of me getting any play at all. But enough about my miserable, non-existent sex life. Let's talk about yours—the one focused on the man sitting miserably in your cabin, whose existence is currently riding on your ability to pull your head out of your ass long enough to smell the roses, and fuck him silly."

"If it were that simple, Jon, do ya think I'd be here talkin' to you?"

"Fuck, Trip, what the fuck? What's your sudden fucking problem with the word 'fuck'? I've heard you use it as every fucking form of punctuation, and with a certain fondness for it as a fucking adjective as well."

Every now and then Jon or myself will find reason to kinda throw down the gauntlet; either a challenge to be better than we'd ever thought ourselves capable, or worse than we'd ever been before. Maybe it's a guy thing. Maybe it's a friend's thing. Maybe it's a guy friend's thing. Or maybe, it all comes down to context.

"Oh, you think that's good—well, fuck this. I am fuckin' tired of people listenin' to what I fuckin' say, but not hearin' what I fuckin' mean because they're either too fuckin' busy tryin' to get fucked, or too fuckin' concerned about the fact that they're not."

"Okay, Trip. You win. Porthos is starting to sniff his ass. I take it that the word 'fuck' is fine by you in one context, but when Malcolm used it in another, you had a problem."

"Fuckin' A. I know I told ya about that one Tucker family reunion."

"Which gathering of the tribe would that be, Trip—the one where everybody got drunk, or the one where everybody got shit-faced?"

"Very funny, Jon. I'm so glad you can make yourself laugh. Now all you need is a moonlit walk on the beach by yourself, a candlelit dinner had with your lonesome, and you'd be a one-man couple."

"You forget, Trip—my hands aren't speaking to me."

"Then you'd best better respect the friends who are. I was referring to the one with my uncle."

"Trip, all your family reunion stories include outrageous behavior by uncles."

"Jon, if you'd rather not talk about this…"

"Okay, okay. You mean the time one of them told that story about some wild sexcapade, referred to it as fucking, your father went ballistic, and…that's what this is about?"

"Daddy said that his use of that word to describe making love made it something dirty, and ugly, and…just not done. And he was right, Jon. And I'm not just takin' what he said as word of law because he was my father. I've had plenty of time to form an opinion of my own, and the one I've come up with agrees with his."

"Okay, Trip. Let's just leave your father out of this for the moment, and talk about you. You're the one who said that you were tired of people listening to what you said, but not hearing what you meant. What do you think Malcolm meant when he said that he wanted you to fuck him?"

"That he wanted me to do something to him that was mean, and crude, and ugly, and…"

"Trip, in words other than those that your father used."

"Oh. So the vocabulary I use to express my opinion can't include any derived from its source? I'm just tryin' to get the rules straight before I start to play the game."

"Trip, when it involves somebody you so obviously hold dearly—I'd hardly call it a game. And I'm not trying to restrict you—quite the opposite, in fact."

"What—free me to think my father an ignorant, narrow-minded, self-serving fool whose words and deeds deserve absolutely no bearing on my life?"

"I didn't say that, Trip. And I'm not going to mention the fact that you did. What I will say is that I think your father was much more than that. And I know his words and deeds have served you well in your life. I'm just wondering how much benefit you're getting from them in regards to your sex life."

Ya know, I'm not gonna sit here and lie, and try to tell ya that I've never had a threesome fantasy. But I can say in all good conscience that I've never knowingly had one that included my daddy. Yet, right then I realized that in some way, he'd always been there. He was like a big steamer trunk parked in front of a pile of luggage stored somewhere in the back of my head. When it's time to offload, or move on toward the next part of the journey, he'd either have to be dealt with first, or worked around. And, on top of that, it was a big steamer trunk with eyes. Eyes that watched everything I did with my life, and everything I did with Malcolm.

That's a pretty disturbing image. What was even more disturbing was seeing it clearly for the first time. Not only that my father had been watching us, but that I was aware of it while it was happening, and watching him while he was at it. I knew that my father loved me, and I knew his love was unconditional; but then I realized that what I'd really been doing all along was watching for something I did that might be the deal breaker. Some "thing" I might do that was just too much, too far, too "fucking" much for him to still love me. But, the shame wasn't his for placing a condition on his love; the shame was mine for thinking that it ever existed.

"Hey, Trip, Earth calling—or at least its intergalactic representative. You look like you've seen a ghost. It was just a suggestion. I could be full of shit."

"No, Jon. I'm the one that's full of shit. Here I've been more or less blamin' my father, when all along I've been the one at fault. Lordy, lordy, what would daddy think of his bright-eyed boy now?"

"Trip, if your father is even half the man you've described, I'm thinking he'd be pretty happy right now. He wanted to send his children out into the world to make their own lives using the tools he had to offer—but not lives completely tied to his own. I don't know where you went during those couple minutes of complete zone out, Trip—but if it included cutting ties to things that were holding you back from being the man he'd want you to be—I think your father would count that as a success, and be proud of you."

"Talkin' from experience there, Jon?"

"Oh, Trip, one way or another, doesn't it all come from that? Now, look, we could spend the rest of the evening discussing the full ramifications of the word 'fucking', but I'm thinking Malcolm would have more pertinent points to make than I."

"Actually, Jon, I'm thinkin' the only point Malcolm wants to make with me comes with a big stick attached."

"Oh, nonsense—besides, how would he dispose of the body?"

"Well, that's a comforting thought."

"Trip, Malcolm loves you despite himself, despite yourself, despite every reason he could find that he shouldn't—otherwise, we wouldn't even be having this conversation. Love isn't about just dancing through the good times, but sticking through the bad. When you get back to your cabin, he'll probably be angry, but he'll also be there."

"Think he'll be willin' to help me pull my head outta my ass."

"And, if you're lucky, maybe even let something else slip into his."

"Oh, Jon, that's really bad."

"What can I say? I'm distracted. During our conversation, I couldn't help but notice my right hand sending some definitely flirtatious signals toward my crotch. I'm thinking I may get lucky tonight. Thanks, Trip."

"Thank you, Jon."

When I left Jon's cabin, I felt like I'd just had the shit beaten out of me—but in a good way—a weight off my mind, and pounds lighter as well. I was surprised to find myself eager to get home—home, and Malcolm. Even the pointy stick was startin' to look not that bad. I couldn't wait to get there and get started, because I felt like we were just beginning. The only resistance I felt was caused by the wind—cuz man, I was flyin'.

On the way I imagined a little make-up scenario. No words, but lots of understanding looks and touches that led to make-up sex, maybe even make-up fucking.

You know how it is when you learn a new word and suddenly start to see it everywhere, and you just want to use it on every possible occasion? I wanted to fuck Malcolm. I really wanted to fuck Malcolm. And I really wanted Malcolm to fuck me back. Fuck, I wanted to fuck in upper case, italicized letters that added a new definition to the word, because I was just starting to understand what it really meant—what Malcolm really meant. And—if I played my cards right—I'd be gettin' his up close and personal tutorial on the subject, once I got home.

Well, let me tell ya—that thought caused a big enough hitch in my britches to cause me to slow to a walk. If things went as planned, I'd have plenty enough time to get out of breath. No need to arrive in that condition.

I remember thinkin' about a conversation Malcolm and me had back in our flirting days—or more accurately, our flirting months. I'd stopped by his cabin because…I wanted to. We did a lot of that back then; never makin' dates, just gettin' together—in the mess, the observation lounge, or my quarters. And the fact that we were still together after a couple of hours, and neither one of us showed any signs or desire to leave, didn't bear mention. Though I should mention that even though I've never had a problem with people droppin' by my cabin to just shoot the breeze, Malcolm wasn't like that at all. He was more of a "scheduled appointments" kinda guy. So, you can imagine that I was a little nervous the first time I decided to just swing by his place.

I knew he didn't mind my company, but I wasn't sure how he'd feel about finding it uninvited at his door. But, he bid me enter, made me welcome, poured me a glass of what I call his sippin' liquor, and curled up at one end of the couch with one of his own.

Several hours, and several glasses later, we started talkin' about the strangest thing we'd brought with us from home. I'd only had one drink, because I was due to start a shift after I left. But he had the next day off, and had enough to make him not really drunk, but definitely rosy. Liquor lowers inhibitions, and there's nothing like the lowering of his inhibitions to put a healthy glow on Malcolm's face—though, of course, I didn't know that then.

Anyway, the subject was the strangest thing we brought from home, and the best I could come up with was my harmonica. I wasn't about to admit to the comic books because…well, because a man has his pride. Then it was Malcolm's turn. At first he just sat there, all curled up with his head tilted off to the side, thinkin'. Then, he got that little smirk on his face—like he knows exactly what he thinks, but has yet to decide if you're good enough to hear it. That little smirk of his can really be infuriating. Sometimes I wonder how he's managed to get this far with both it, and all of his teeth, intact.

Then he looked directly at me, and smiled—all warm eyes, and rosy glow—and I suddenly wanted to tell him that the strangest thing I had in my personal supplies was an intense desire to share my bodily fluids with him. Thinkin' back on that one, it's maybe a good thing that he spoke first -

"Strawberry flavoured lube. One of the last stops I made before leaving on this mission was to this little sex shop I used to…hear about. It was an impulsive action, but I thought I owed myself at least one as it would probably be the last for a long time."

I told ya we were dating, but not callin' it dating. Well, we were also flirting, but not callin' it that. Nevertheless, whatever we didn't call it, we were at it—big time.

"Did ya ever think you'd get a chance to use it? I mean for weaponry and such. It could have chemical components amenable those…applications."

"I'll have to look deeper into that. It just may work. Heaven knows, Trip, I've had bigger surprises on this mission."

"Oh yeah, Malcolm? How big?"

I love my staff, I really do—every engineering geek, dweeb, nerd, and spaz among them. But sometimes, their timing just sucks. Right when Malcolm and I were about to get something straight between us—if ya know what I mean—one of 'em comms me about the latest breakthrough with his pet gadget, guaranteed to make something one-tenth of one per cent more efficient. "Trip, the look on your face could curdle milk. As much as I'd love to continue this conversation, you really should be going. Duty calls, love."

I'm not sure which was faster—Malcolm's gettin' off the couch, or me findin' myself standin' on the wrong side of his door. But he didn't let me go without a hug that did nothing toward making me eager to leave, and a few words whispered into my ear as he pushed me off.

"Maybe you could drop by another time and we could discuss the…less theoretical uses of lube."

I don't know what I thought he meant by that, cuz I don't think I was thinkin' much at all. Other than that he'd called me "love", and that I was either gonna have to increase that tech's hours so he'd be more busy, or decrease them so that he could get a fuckin' life.

I am not breathin' hard. That was just a lot of story to tell on one drink. Pour me another—and not so stingy this time. There's half a bottle left, and a hell of a lot more story to go.

So, anyway, for all my recollection of memories, by the time I got home I was well ahead of myself—and, apparently, Malcolm too. I think I bounced off the door because it didn't open fast enough, and then fell, more than walked, into the room.

"Hey darlin'. God, I'm glad you're here—Jon said you'd be. That's where I just came from. Man, he really opened my eyes. Listen, about last night, I am so sorry. It was my fault, my fault entirely. I finally figured it out. Turns out it was all about some stuff I've been carryin' around havin' to do with my daddy. Didn't even know it was there, but it's all been cleared away now, and I love you so very much. We can talk about it later, cuz right now I'm hopin' we can finally have that discussion you promised me about the less theoretical applications of strawberry lube—startin' with 'Where is it?'"

Like I said, I was flyin', but one look at Malcolm reminded me that the previous night I'd left him stranded at the boarding gate, worryin' that he'd been bumped. Despite his outward tendencies, Malcolm really doesn't like to worry. He does it because he has to, because someone has to. He does not like it. And, based on his appearance, he liked the threat of being bumped even less. We won't even talk about how he felt about being stranded. In a word, Malcolm was pissed. His eyes were like a pair of blue steel daggers held at my throat while the rest of him decided whether to kill me now, or make me suffer. That pointy stick thing was startin' to look better by the second.

"Trip, somewhere between the Captain's quarters and ours, you seem to have lost your mind. I'll give you two options—1) you could retrace your steps and find it, or 2) you could have a seat so we can talk this outŠslowly."

"Uhh, is 'slowly' how you want me to talk, or how you want me to have a seat? Just tryin' to make sure before I get ya any more riled up."

He didn't quite give me a smile, but he didn't toss one of those shitty little smirks into my face either. I wasn't prepared to gauge my odds at gettin' any make-up sex, but the chances looked better for a good night's sleep without keepin' one eye open for a totally pissed off armoury officer waitin' for the chance to show me what he could do with a sharp pencil.

"Come on, Trip. Have a seat, I'm not going to bite you."

"Actually, it's not the bitin' part that worries me. In fact, I was kinda hopin' we could do that first."

"Love, you're about as subtle as a hand grenade. I like that in a man. But we've a long way to go before strawberry lube has any part to play. Now, you've apologized for last night, and seem to know—to your own satisfaction, at least—what exactly it was you apologized for. It also seems to be something quite enlightening, and I could use a dose of that myself, so, please, Trip—and from the beginning."

"How 'bout from my conversation with Jon? That's when everything really came together."

So, I took a seat next to him—slowly—not takin' any chances because I knew this was also where things could start to fall apart between Malcolm and me. See, he didn't have a problem with my friendship with Jon. He never went in for jealousy, or suspicions that we were ever anything more than friends. Malcolm's concerns were strictly professional—that during some off-duty conversation I'd let slip personal details of our off-duty relationship that would come back at him on-duty. Yeah, like Jon needs to know how sometimes during sex, Malcolm likes me to practically gnaw on his nipples. He might like to know that, of course, but it wouldn't have any bearing on Malcolm's work performance. Shit, Jon might even see it as some kind of advantage—Malcolm's personally innate ability to spot weaknesses in defense. Hey, solid theory has arisen from stranger sources.

"Trip, you were saying?"

"I wasn't sayin' so much as waitin' for your response. I know it makes you a little uncomfortable that I talk to the Captain about us."

"Oh, love, who else would you talk to, especially considering the fact that you and I weren't speaking? I know that in the past I've been a bit pissy about that, but now I know that as much as he's our Captain, he's even more your best friend. Just be a dear, and leave my nipples out of the conversation if you could."

"How'd you know I was thinkin' about them?"

"You once said that I get a certain, particular look on my face when you lick them. Well, dear, you yourself get a certain, particular look on your face when you think about doing so."

"And I hope you know, darlin', that your nipples are safe with me."

"As well as the Captain's assumptions, Trip? Completely off topic, but out of curiosity—does he still think no one knows about that little fling he had with the steward?"

"Yeah, Malcolm, he does. But more importantly, he still believes that I myself don't know—and if you don't mind, I'd like to keep it that way."

"Fine and good, Trip. Just one suggestion: should the Captain ever again have such an opportunity—with discretion being his secondary objective—he might consider choosing a partner capable of keeping their mouth shut about something other than his dick. Honestly, Trip, I think word of that torrid little affair got out before the lube even had a chance to dry. Just something you might mention."

"Yeah, darlin'—from my mouth to Jon's ear. The minute we hear that hell's frozen over, I'll be sure to pass your message along."

One word—boundaries, three words—Jon's sex life, five words, only what he chooses to tell me. Oh, that's seven words? Shit. When did I get too drunk to count? Okay, Einstein, tally up the total for this one; Jon doesn't mind my knowing that he's not totally straight, but he does have some reluctance with lettin' me know that he's not been totally straight about an affair with a male member of the crew. It's called boundaries, it's called friendship—it's called respecting the boundaries of friendship. Now, why don't you respect the boundaries of my ability to tell this story with what's left in my glass, and pour me another drink. Do that, and I'll forget that you just said "forty-nine". You wanna spend the rest of the night countin', or hearin' the rest of the damn story? Yeah, I thought so.

"I don't really want to talk about Archer, Trip. Just tell me what you two talked about."

Then I told him the whole fuckin' saga. Probably took longer to tell him than to tell you—but we've got liquor.

"Hmmm. Not quite what I was expecting, Trip. Never factored in your father, though I should've expected him to crop up somewhere. God knows mine has at variously inconvenient moments. Can you imagine, Trip—your father and my father meeting, and talking about what's become of their sons? What do you think they'd think?"

"Actually, I'm thinkin' they'd be just fine, darlin'—at least, my dad."

"And mine?"

"Well, if our sex life were a dance club—my daddy would be on the dance floor gettin' his groove on, and hopin' that I was havin' a good time as well. Yours would probably be standing in the bar, latched onto Hoshi for company, and complaining because they don't have first bloom Darjeeling on tap."

"God, Trip, I can practically hear him—'Is this any way to run a ship, er, bar?' Hoshi would hate me forever for that one."

"Nah, she's good that way. Besides, she'd probably find something they had in common. She is a communications officer, after all."

"All right then, Trip. That's your father disposed of, and my father reasonably occupied. What's left?"

"Well, darlin', I'm thinkin' the answer to that one is—not much."

"Trip, you can't honestly believe that I'm going to just forget everything you said, and didn't say, last night."

"No. I don't think that you will. I'm just hoping that for this one night you can focus on what really matters."

"And that would be?"

"Sharing everything you know about fucking with someone who's just spent the last twenty-four hours thinking about what that word meant, and what that word means, and come out of it more than ready to explore how it all fits into the life he's made with someone that he loves. I guess what I'm sayin' here, Malcolm, is that I'm not just ready to fuck you, but I really want to as well."

"Subtle as a hand grenade, Trip."

"Yeah, but Malcolm, you like that in a man."

"Yes. I do, Trip. But what I'd most like to know is what that man would like."

I've told you how Malcolm looks when he's slightly drunk, totally rosy, and happy. I've also told you how he looks when he's eyeballing steel daggers at my throat, and decidedly not. Imagine the combination—when he's feelin' good, but not yet nearly satisfied. Just imagine it. When you're done, imagine my having the live, full body version, sitting within reach.

"Malcolm, if you think I'd say anything other than—'Us, naked'—then this whole evening's been a waste."

"Sweet talker."


"Kettle, there's a message coming in from the pot. You might want to listen in, Trip, there's something in there for you as well. It says that at its best, fucking isn't something that's done to anyone, but rather something done with someone. It's much more about what's given and shared, than what's given up, or taken. Yes, it can be angry, and vicious, and suffered and selfish. But it can also be furiously loving, and desperately honest. Trip, call it fucking, call it what you like—I call it what I want with you."

Whatta ya mean—what am I doin'? I'm wigglin' my fingers in the air to symbolize the passage of time—specifically that between my last statement, and our gettin' to the bed. It's about boundaries—remember boundaries? I'm willing to tell you about the first time we fucked, but there are parts of how we got there that are kind of personal. Plus, you've hung in there with me glass for glass, but I'm startin' to think that if we're gonna get to the end of this story with you in any condition to remember it, I'm gonna have to cut the entrée, and get on to dessert. You do eat dessert, right?

Let it suffice to say that clothes were strewn, mouths were kissed, and I ended up flat on my back—naked as the day I was born, and almost as clueless. The only thing that made it bearable was having an equally naked Malcolm on top of me.

"Malcolm, darlin', can we stop for a minute? Look, everything we've done so far has been what felt good—and I am very good with that—but what we're about to do requires a hell of a lot more than good intentions."

"You're absolutely right, Trip. I forgot the lube. Now, I'm going to have to lean over you to reach into the drawer. No distracting me with any offhand nipple licking. Promise?"

"Word of honor."

What can I say? They were right there, all pink, and pointy, and distracting. And technically, I didn't break my promise, because I didn't lick his nipples—I sucked them. Somehow though I don't think he minded much. Anyway, eventually he found the bottle and settled himself on top of me, straddling my hips. He looked real good sittin' there, and I took my time appreciating the view, especially when I got to the sight of our dicks laying next to each other. I don't know which was sexier—the way they looked together, or the way his felt next to mine. He must've been feeling the same way, because next thing I knew, they seemed to havin' a race to see which one could get hard first.

"Before this gets out of hand, perhaps I should begin that conversation I promised you about the less theoretical uses of lube. Don't pout, Trip, it's accompanied by a demonstration. Now then—this is lube. You may recognize it from a recent appearance during a handjob. Always remember, Trip, lube is our friend, and one can never have too many friends, especially at parties where dicks and arses are expected to get together. "

"Darlin', just for tonight, can we declare this cabin a double entendre free zone. Otherwise, I don't think I'm gonna make it through this."

"Good idea, love."

"Also, while I'm sure you have lots of interesting things to say about that stuff, I'd really rather have less conversation and more demonstration."

"Now, why does it not surprise me in the least that you'd be one to top from the bottom? But that's another conversation, and you've already said that you want less of that, and more of this."

Then he squeezed some into his hand, warmed it up a bit, and Šengineers aren't the only ones who do it with their hands.

"Goddamn, Malcolm. I thought I had some skills in that department, but you've got technique."

"It helps to have some inspiration, and motivation."

"And frustration. Darlin', that feels great, but with you sittin' on top of me, I can't move my hips."

"I'm merely allowing you save it up for later, love."

"Moving on to the next part of the demonstration, Malcolm."

Which involved him moving up my body, and across my dick, and this little hip pump move that got it behind him. Then he reached back, pressed it against his ass, and started to slowly move his hips up and down. I couldn't tell you which one of us enjoyed that more. Shit, by then I couldn't have told you my middle name. A little frustration is a good thing, but a little goes a long way.

"C'mere, darlin'. The meet and greet is over. Let's get on with the party."

Then I showed him a little hip pump move of my own, and got him flat on his back next to me.

"Trip, you realize, of course, that I let you do that."

"Oh yeah? What else are you gonna let me do?"

He didn't say anything to that. He just smiled a little, and spread his legs a lot, and got his message across perfectly. I love Malcolm's skin. It's not so much soft as it is sleek, like there's energy contained in it, or maybe even by it. Anyway, my favorite is the skin on the insides of his thighs. I could get lost there. I'd started stroking him down one side, up the other, with stops in between to pay some attention to his dick. I loved watching it rise up and down on his belly as he breathed, and how hot and hard and heavy it felt in my hand. I loved the sounds he made -heart-deep moans and purrs that seemed to be made even sweeter after passing through his lips.

"Here, Trip. Have a little more lube, and you can take over this part of our little demonstration. I believe you mentioned having some familiarity."

"I take it you're referring to my night with me, my butt, and I."

"Which should nicely translate to a night with us, my arse, andŠoh Christ, would you just please put a finger in?"

When we first got together, I was curious, and spent a night by myself lettin' my fingers get to know my ass in the biblical sense. It was fun, and it was good, but it went no further. And Malcolm and I hadn't been averse to a little ass play—but again, it went no further. I suppose I'd been tellin' myself that as long as it was because I was just curious, and we were just playin' around, it didn't count, and it didn't matter. Until it did -


"Damn, Malcolm. I'm sorry. I was tryin' to be gentle."

"It's fine, Trip. Really. I just forgot that some things don't translate as well as one would like. Especially things done to oneself and then practiced on another. You never really notice untilŠ"


"Well, yes."

"Ya know, darlin', this might be a little easier if I could see what I was workin' with."

"Thus spake an engineer. All right—just so long as you promise not to make any comments about seeing a whole new side of me."

Before I had a chance to even think about the consequences of breaking that promise—he rolled over, scrunched up a pillow for his head, and spread his knees and legs and body apart and open for me.

Don't get me wrong here; in that moment, Malcolm looked amazingly sexy and hot and inviting. Unfortunately, it was also the moment my brain decided to override my eyes and break out a memory of me standing at my first boy/girl dance, petrified and shit for brains tryin' to decide how to ask whatsername out onto the floor. It's amazing how many parallels exist between that, and putting your dick into your boyfriend for the very first time.

"Love, the means of making this decidedly ungainly position somewhat less embarrassing are most efficiently achieved through distractive attentions."

"What do ya want me to do, Malcolm?"

"What would you like to do, Trip?"

Imagine, if you will, Malcolm—bare-assed naked, ass in the air, flushed of inhibition face turned toward you, asking that question.

While you're doing that, what I'd like to do is take a deep breath, cuz this is where things really started to get interesting. I thought I knew what I wanted—Malcolm on all fours, waitin' for me. But, somehow it seemed like clearing away all the things that held me back just made way for another—this little something else that stopped me in my tracks. Some thing in the way back part of my head that jumped up for the sole purpose of telling me that while I had gone far, I was fooling myself. That what I was about to do was bad—just bad all ways round. Bad act, bad consequences, bad smell. Some fuckin' little leftover voice in the back of my head that hadn't been given enough fuckin' attention, and was fuckin' letting me know it right then. Fuck that.

All of a sudden, nothing else mattered but being with Malcolm the way we both wanted. It wasn't like a weight had been lifted—I wasn't pounds lighter—but I did rise above, and onto my knees, and then between his legs.

He might've said something, told me what to do, but I wasn't really listening, because I realized that I already knew. I knew because I let myself stop thinking about it, and just "not" think about it. I knew because I'd always known what would make Malcolm feel good at a time like this, and I'd always wanted to do it. All it took was just letting myself do it, letting myself have him, letting him give himself,—and just do it. Who'd have thought that my sex life would be summarized in a Nike commercial—or that they'd still be using that slogan?

He calls it his "hall"—that strip of skin between his hole and his balls. I knew he liked being touched there, but I never before knew how much I loved touching him there. How much I loved seeing him respond to my touch. The way he'd arch his back to get closer, and spread his legs to get more. The way he dug his head into the pillow to muffle those sounds that I think he enjoys as much as me.

This time, when I put my finger inside him, it went past anything and everything that had ever held us back.

"Oh yes, Trip. Yes. Please."

It was different. Not different—strange, but different—Malcolm. I didn't know if I was feelin' his muscles, or his heartbeat, or his moans. I just knew that every time I pulled my finger out, I couldn't wait to get it back in again. Then I realized that all the time we'd been at this, we'd hardly even yet kissed. Frankly, I'm not sure if I kissed him, or licked him, or left a trail of hickeys up his back, but I do know that it was sleek and sweet and salty, and the best fuckin' thing I'd ever tasted, next to his dick.

I think I kinda went outta my mind there for a minute, cuz all I could think about was how I could suck his dick, and keep my finger up his ass at the same time.

"Another finger, Trip. A little more lube, and another finger."

Even the second pillow he pulled to his head wasn't enough to hold the sounds that came out of him then. It was a night for revelations, or at least revealing thoughts. I could see how someone could've looked at him then, and thought—'He's obviously wanting to give it up. Take it.' And then shove their dick in, get it off, and throw away the best offer they'd ever had in their life, and Malcolm along with it.

Then I wasn't thinking—I was hurting. I was hurting for all the things that Malcolm had only just managed to suggest had happened to him. I was hurting because I so didn't want to be another one. I was hurting because I wanted him so damn much.

But when he screamed my name, and begged me to fuck him, I knew exactly what he meant, and what I meant, and what my daddy meant—and what we all wanted.

I admit to having had the occasional, just for fun fantasy of us in the midst of a good, hard, loving—what I wasn't then willing to call—fuck. Well, fantasy sucks when put into practice, at least mine did, as it didn't include the particulars of how we got there. When I pushed my dick inside him, nothing—including his reaction—could've convinced me that it felt good. He didn't push back against me to get more, he forced himself to stay still and not squirm away. I wanted to hold him, but not keep him in his place. I wanted to have what he offered, but not take it. I hadn't thought it would be such a challenge to make to make this right. The only thing that saved me was the knowledge that it was too precious to waste—that, and the sound of his voice.

"It's all right, Trip. It's not so much that it hurts, it just doesn't feel good just yet. Stay there, love. Stay with me."

Then he took over—slowly. After that night, it became my newest favorite word. That's how he took me in. And, visceral—letting the body speak for itself, and have want it needs.

Every moment is colored, and shaded, and sketched, and etched into my memory—that foreign feeling of intrusion, that welcoming of the prodigal son. That recognition of a place you should have been long ago, and holds nothing against you for any time lost, but his body.

How do I tell you what it was like to be inside Malcolm that first time? How do I share something that isn't rightfully yours to have? Boundaries, my friend—it's called boundaries—and I think you've gone far enough.

Shit almighty, Christ on the cross—saved by the bell. I must have forgotten to take the lock off the door when you got here. That'll be Malcolm ringin'. Let 'im in, will ya? I don't think I can get up right now.

"Well, and what do we have here? Let me figure—a half empty bottle of Scotch roughly equals a half done in boyfriend. And, by the way, what are you doing here?"

"Oh, darlin', we're justŠ 'We've only just beguuun, to live.' Ya know, I've always considered that to be our song. Did I ever tell ya that? I just love the Carpenter's. Karen had the voice of a sultry angel, and Richard wrote music that could break your heart, or save your soul."

"Oh, please not. You did not let him get drunk to the point of singing Carpenter's love songs? Now he'll be up forever."

"White lace, and promises. A kiss for luck, and we're on our wayŠ."

"I'm sure you two had a lovely evening, parts of which Trip will likely remember tomorrow—that is, if he doesn't throw them up on our bed tonight. Thanks so much for the good times. Happy to see you, dear—we'll talk -but in the meanwhile, goodbye, good luck, ta, and good night. No, really, you can leave the bottle. Wouldn't want to unduly burden you on your way home. Cheers."

"Malcolm, that there was just plain evil. Takin' the bottle like that. That's justŠ 'We've only just beguuunŠ'"

"No more evil than my having to listen to that song all night. Trip, you smell like the grossly abused floormat behind a frat boy bar."

"Oh, come on. We had a good time. I told the story about the first time you and me fucked."

"Wait, do you mean the first time we made love, or the first time weŠ"

"What'd I say, darlin'?"

"Oh, Christ. No, Trip. I come off lookin' like some sex starved weasel."

"I think the term you used was 'hot monkey'."

"You didn't. You told that part? What else?"

"Just the good parts, darlin'. And I'm here to tell ya, Malcolm, the good parts were pretty damn good. C'mere."

"Trip, you are plonked, drunk, and three sheets to whatever wind will have your stinky, smelly arse. Now get into the shower, find the bed, and sleep it off."

"Darlin', you've forgotten things that you should remember. I'm a Tucker, of the Florida strain. I was learnin' how to drink when other kids were dealin' with trainin' wheels."

"Then I suppose you can toddle off to the bathroom by yourself."

"To the bathroom, and into our bed to give you one of the best fucks of your fuckin' life—unless you'd like to join me in the shower, and we could do it there. A mite slippery for my taste, but it does pose an interesting challenge."

"Why don't I just join you there, and help you get cleaned up. Then we can go to bed."

"And I will fuck you so good, Malcolm, cuz—We've only just beguuun, Š"

"Trip, I will stick a pencil in your eye as you sleep if you sing that damned song one more time."

"Ya little sweet talkin' tease. You are so sentimental. I knew ya loved me."

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