Title: Pictures and Promises

Author: Weebob

E-mail: weebob@fsmail.net

Date: 12/27/2003

Archive: Permission to archive granted to EntSTCommunity, Reeds Armory, Archer's Enterprise—and probably anyone else if they ask first!

Series/Fandom: ENT

Category: Slash

Rating: NC-17

Status: Complete

Pairing: Tucker/Reed

Summary: Malcolm channels Martha Stewart and Trip—is just Trip.

Warnings: None

Series: For Better or Worse

Sequel to: More Than Enough

Spoilers: None

Disclaimer: I don't own or have any rights to the Star Trek universe, "Enterprise", or any of its characters—they belong to UPN/Paramount. I am making no money from this story

Pictures and Promises

Trip Tucker turned up the volume on his sound system so the Christmas music he was playing could be heard above the excited laughter of his two sons as they tore around the living room, engrossed in their presents. This was the family's first Christmas in their new home—built on the site of their old one and designed to meet the requirements of the Tucker-Reeds, while still reflecting the style of the neighbourhood.

It had been a long haul since the fire that had destroyed Aunt Minnie's legacy to them—a dingy, run-down, old-fashioned house that he and Malcolm had somehow transformed into a happy home. The family had lost all their possessions, and barely escaped with their lives, but the trauma had drawn them even closer together and brought about a surprising reconciliation between Malcolm and his estranged father.

Months of living with Admiral Reed, and his new wife, Marsha, had been stressful—if well intentioned—but they had given Trip the chance to get to know his father-in-law and the joy of watching him discover Malcolm for the first time.

The Reed men were still somewhat formal around each other, but now there was mutual respect between them and, Trip was certain, the beginnings of affection. The Admiral was tentatively learning to treat Malcolm as an equal and recognise that he'd spent a large portion of his life being a total bastard—withholding his love and approval from his shy and sensitive son whose only fault was to be himself.

Glowing with contentment and goodwill to all mankind, Trip sauntered through to the dining room and admired the table—set for Christmas lunch and looking extremely festive as it awaited the two sets of grandparents who, along with Malcolm's sister Madeline, and her fiancÚ Crispin Green, had been invited to share it with them.

Another by-product of their enforced homelessness had been that Marsha Reed had shown Malcolm how to cook properly. He'd already been proficient enough to keep his family fed—unlike Trip, whose culinary skills extended as far as ordering in pizza—but lacked confidence and relied heavily on packaged foods.

Aware that the Tucker-Reed finances were not particularly abundant, Marsha introduced him to raw meat and taught him how to stretch a chicken until it squealed! Now, Trip reflected happily, home-cooked meals were the norm and pan-fried catfish Ó la Reed was a weekend treat worth fantasising about.

A stream of expletives suddenly issued from the kitchen, rudely halting his pleasant contemplation. "Everything okay in there Malcolm?"

Bothered by the lack of a reply, he made sure the boys were still safely occupied then headed off to check on his husband.

Malcolm stood at the sink running cold water over a large, livid burn on his left wrist. Trip sighed and reached for the first aid kit. "Not again, darlin'! Its supposed ta be the turkey yer roastin'."

Wincing as he dried his wrist with kitchen paper, Malcolm turned and glared at the cooked turkey currently resting on the countertop. "Trip, that sodding bird's out to get me! I'm sure the bloody thing's still alive. Its fighting back!"

He held out his arm and let Tucker inspect the injury. "Good. Skin's not broken. Another couple of squirts of Phlox's magic burn spray an' a dry dressin', just in case, an ya'll be good as new."

The engineer grinned at his husband, currently wearing an oilcloth apron bearing the Starfleet Catering Corps insignia and the legend 'When in doubt, stuff it!'. "Why in hell did ya have t' buy a turkey almost as big as yerself? Its too hard t' handle."

Malcolm yelped as the ice cold spray hit his flesh "It was a bargain at the store, love. There's enough for a proper, English, Christmas lunch for all of us and I'll get, at least, another three meals and a huge pot of soup from it."

The ringing of the doorbell made both men jump. Suddenly, Malcolm darted to the stove and manhandled a large pan over a colander. "Bloody Brussels sprouts! Almost forgot them. They'll be boiled to mush. Get the door, love, and don't let anyone into the dining room until I say so."

Grinning, Trip headed off to greet their guests. "Jeez, darlin', if only the Xindi could see ya now!"

Malcolm's growing burn collection didn't prevent him from producing the most perfect and delicious Christmas meal Trip could remember enjoying—and it was with deep satisfaction that he watched his husband, looking pretty appetizing himself in a forest green sweater, with white trim and snowflake motif, and sinfully tight black leather pants, blush his way through the compliments being showered on him by their guests.

As the dishes were cleared away, he cornered Malcolm in the kitchen "That was fantastic darlin'. Even yer own poppa said so!"

Blushing again, Malcolm smiled. "Aah, thanks love. Mind you, I don't think Madeline and Crispin were too impressed. They wouldn't have come if it hadn't been for Father. She ships back out tomorrow and she wouldn't have seen him otherwise."

Tucker laughed "Crispin Green. Momma likes her broccoli that way! Why the hell's Maddie engaged ta that creep? He ain't even a sailor!"

Switching on the dishwasher, Malcolm sniffed "Father would be upset otherwise. She's pregnant, Trip."

The southerner's eyes widened. "Well, well, darlin'. Looks like we did somethin' right after all. At least ah married ya before ah got ya in the family way! So…what does Crispin do fer a livin'?"

"He's a diplomat, love, like "Papa" before him. Madeline met him at the British Consulate in Malaysia when we were youngsters and his father worked there. She carried a torch for him for years after our Father's temporary posting ended and we moved back to England. They lost touch, then she walked into him at some Naval bash at the Admiralty. He always hated me. Knew I was queer before I did and made sure the kids at school knew it too. Bullying bastard."

Grinning, Trip gave Malcolm a hug. "Lucky Madeline. He sounds quite a catch!"

Malcolm returned the hug "Mmm. She's going to put Bleak House up for sale so they can buy something together in London and get married." He fell silent for a moment and Trip was beginning to worry about the stillness when he suddenly looked up and smiled brightly, noticeably brushing away the cobwebs of his past. "Anyway, love, let's hope my luck holds for the buffet tonight and I turn out something edible and to their liking. Remind me: when did you tell the others to arrive?"

Relieved, Trip pulled the smaller man more tightly into his arms. "6.30 for 7. That way, the boys'll be tired out by the time supper's over and we can get them ta bed.."

Malcolm yawned. "Bed. Now that sounds delightful. All that damned turkey-wrangling has worn me out." He rested his head on Trip's shoulder "Don't let me nod off this evening while we still have guests, will you?"

His husband laughed and slid his hands down to squeeze Malcolm's leather-clad rear. "Ah don' believe any of the plans ah have fer tonight involve lettin' ya sleep!"

The afternoon passed pleasantly enough, with the boys taking centre stage and being fussed over by all the adults except Madeline and her beau. With the innocence of childhood, Charlie—who daily exhibited more and more of Trip's curiosity and "foot in mouth" tendencies—eventually asked Maddie if Crispin was the same person he'd sung about in a Christmas carol!

It was Trip who—clearly on a similar wavelength—finally fathomed his meaning and, with a touch of devilment, announced to the assembled group: "No Charlie, sweetheart, it's the snow in the song that's 'Deep AND crisp AND even."

Malcolm just rolled his eyes.

Like the Christmas lunch, the buffet was a resounding success and, as Malcolm returned from reading the boys their bedtime story, he was gratified to see his guests mingling happily—except for Madeline and Crispin, who had been trapped in a corner by Phlox and were being quizzed about the differences in mating behaviour between the English social classes.

He let his gaze rove over the friends and family draped around his living room and smiled, pleased that they were so comfortable in his home.

Having left Hoshi's parents babysitting for them at the Mayweather flat in Tokyo, Travis and Hoshi had talked the Tucker-Reeds into hosting an Enterprise-style "Movie Night". They were currently passing round popcorn and pictures of their three, exotic-looking, daughters with their rather large Japanese Akita.

In a corner of the room, Momma and Poppa Tucker were deep in conversation with Jon and Annabella—who had recently become Mr and Mrs Archer—learning about their new business venture, "Pup's Paradise".

After years spent working with the cutting edge of technology at his disposal, Jon had opted for a simpler life—running an exclusive boarding kennel with a doggy beauty parlour and—thanks to Annabella's catering expertise—"Canine Cuisine", a neat line in gourmet dog food, including ready meals delivered to the pet owner's door.

The profits from the business went to straight to running his real passion, a sanctuary for unwanted dogs, which operated a strict "no kill" policy.

He was proudly showing off the artwork for the "Pup's Paradise" publicity, which showed an aging, but still adorable, Porthos—alongside a perky female beagle—trying out a designer doggy bed.

Aunt Cherie had just arrived from Paris, attired in a low-cut scarlet mini-dress and hooded cape, trimmed with fake ermine and complimented by knee-high black stiletto boots! Towing her latest "young man"—a sprightly 70 year-old Frenchman named Claude—she looked flushed and girlish, her white hair upswept to reveal a long and surprisingly wrinkle-free neck. Malcolm fervently hoped he would age so disgracefully himself!

Something made him glance at his father and he saw the Admiral sigh and roll his eyes—making him shudder as he realised where he'd picked up the gesture himself—before getting up to surprise his elderly sister-in-law with a kiss of welcome. Aunt Cherie looked momentarily stunned, then smiled and sat down with Claude, crossing her legs to reveal a goodly amount of black-stockinged thigh, no doubt for the Admiral's benefit!

She spotted Malcolm on the stairs and blew him a kiss before leaning over to speak to Marsha Reed, steadying herself with a hand planted firmly on the scandalised Admiral's knee. Malcolm smothered a laugh then startled as Trip, seeming to appear from nowhere, caught hold of his arm and dragged him down the rest of the stairs. "Kitchen. Now!"

As the door closed, Malcolm suddenly found himself backed against the kitchen table with his pants under siege. Before he managed to protest, they were removed completely and he was tipped onto his back, his knees pushed back somewhere around his ears! "Trip! What the…?"

Trip fumbled frantically with his own clothing before scooping some leftover brandy butter from a bowl waiting its turn in the dishwasher. "Sorry darlin' but ah just gotta do this right now! Ya've been drivin' me crazy all day in that cute sweater an' those goddamned pants!"

Gasping as a couple of slippery and alcohol-laced fingers slid inside him, Malcolm hung his head back over the edge of the table to get an upside-down view of the door "My God, Trip! We're in the kitchen! Its unhygienic and someone could walk in on us. This isn't the time or the—Oh! Oh! Oh! YES!"

Something considerably larger had replaced Trip's questing fingers and Malcolm's objections died on his lips. Tucker grinned as his husband squirmed and pushed back against him. "Like that darlin'? The brandy stings a little but that just makes it wilder, don' it?."

Malcolm didn't answer: he was concentrating on hanging on, with both hands, to the edge of the table, trying to stop himself being pushed off the other side with the force of Trip's passionate attentions, and biting his lower lip in an effort to muffle his ecstatic cries.

Just then, the kitchen door opened and Travis Mayweather peeked in. "Hey guys, the movie's about to start and…" His smile almost lit up the room as he took in the scene before him: "All riiiight!"

Chuckling, he closed the door.

The lights in the living room were about to be dimmed as the two men, having tidied themselves up as best they could, slunk back to their guests. Malcolm was scarlet with embarrassment. "Trip, how could you? A quick wipe down with damp kitchen paper isn't very effective. I feel absolutely filthy!"

Unrepentant and grinning widely, Trip squeezed his hand. "Oh yeah, sure was good an' dirty, wasn' it? Looked like ya were enjoying yerself too. Ya ain't gonna look at that kitchen table in the same way ever again."

Sighing, Malcolm lowered himself gingerly on one of their settees and glared at Travis who had noticed and begun to laugh. Trip sat beside his disgruntled husband and hugged him close then addressed the assembled company. "Sorry ta keep y'all folks. Had ta attend ta some urgent business in the kitchen."

There were several other knowing sniggers then the film began and Malcolm instantly felt uneasy as he recognised the narrator's voice as Jonathan Archer's.

"Once upon a time, there were two sweet little boys…"

Horrified, he turned to Trip and found his husband grinning in delight at still and moving pictures of them both as babies and children—Trip, a handsome and athletic extrovert, Malcolm, a dark, waiflike creature, trying hard to blend into the background. A glance at his father told him the source of his discomfort!

"…who grew up, became Starfleet officers and fell in love."

To the great amusement of the "audience", carefully edited footage showed them both, at various times and in diverse places, bickering fit to bust. Malcolm was shocked to see just how often he appeared sporting evidence of some injury or other, acquired in the line of duty.

The narration continued: "Eventually, realising they just couldn't live without each other, they were married…"

On screen, Trip appeared, halfway into his dress uniform (to ribald whistles from around the room) then standing, beaming with happiness, in front of Jonathan Archer, awaiting his fiancÚ.

Malcolm appeared next, similarly clad but ashen faced, wringing his hands and pacing in his tiny cabin, muttering "I can't do it. This is madness. He'll drive me crazy!" until a disembodied hand appeared and snagged his wrist, obviously dragging him out of the door!

The brief ceremony was shown in its entirety, then followed film of the happy couple cutting their wedding cake and dancing the first waltz together. Malcolm thought he looked rather traumatized by the whole business but Trip was enraptured beside him, so he made no comment.

Again, Jon narrated: "It wasn't very long before the newly-weds decided to start a family…"

Now driven to peeking at the film from between his fingers, Malcolm watched himself in various stages of pregnancy as a montage of pictures and film taken by various friends and family members tumbled onto the screen. Aunt Cherie began to cry at the sight of her nephew and his husband showing off their firstborn, Trip drawing attention to Charlie's likeness to himself then kissing Malcolm's stretch marks!

There were a multitude of scenes of the family together as Charlie grew, then the room became quiet as the film switched to Malcolm's second pregnancy. He tensed as he saw himself go from radiant good health to feeble weakness, in a hospital bed, as the birth approached—then arrived with complications.

Trip's arm tightened around him and the engineer gently nuzzled his ear. "Ma brave darlin'. Ah can never thank ya enough for goin' through all that."

Glad that the room was dark, Malcolm scrubbed angrily at his suddenly tear-filled eyes as Jon's voice interrupted:

"Most of you know that Malcolm had a few health problems during and after his second pregnancy…"

Momma Tucker, a mainstay of Malcolm's eventual recovery, smothered a sob at the sight of her favourite son-in-law, fragile as fine porcelain, in a family portrait with an ebullient Charlie, a three week old Jon-Henry and a haunted looking Trip. Both men were smiling for the camera but there was no light in Malcolm's eyes and the protective arm his husband had around his shoulders seemed to hint of desperation and fear that he would slip away completely.

Even years later, in the security of his own living room, Malcolm shivered and burrowed into Trip's chest for comfort as he remembered the despair and helplessness he'd suffered.

Jon continued "…but the love of a good man, the skill of Dr Phlox and Malcolm's own bloody-mindedness pulled him through."

The pictures became happier again and there was a tangible sense of relief in the room: Trip playing with the boys, Malcolm bathing them, Jon nervously changing Jon-Henry, Charlie chasing Porthos…

Admiral Reed had contributed pictures of the homeless Tucker-Reeds surveying the wreckage of their burned-down house, various stages of the rebuilding, their participation in his own wedding and, finally, them moving into their brand new home.

Jon's voice suddenly stopped coming from the projector's speakers and, instead, the man himself stood up and the lights went on again.

"Ladies and gentlemen, Travis and Hoshi Mayweather have done a fantastic job in compiling this record of Trip and Malcolm's life together so far, but Trip also came up with another idea which, I think, is a great one."

He reached into his pocket and removed a battered, old-style, notebook. "I'd like to invite he and Malcolm to come up and stand with me, in the presence of their family and friends, and renew their wedding vows."

The visual history of his marriage had touched Malcolm more deeply than he could have imagined. To his immense surprise, he was immediately on his feet and actually led Trip to Jon's side. With no advance warning, and no time to get nervous, he enjoyed the short ceremony and was gratified to note that neither he nor Trip needed to read their self-composed vows from Jon's notebook—remembering them clearly and speaking them with as much sincerity and love as they had done years before.

Afterwards, Stuart Reed was first to congratulate them: "I never thought I would say this, but tonight you've taught me a lot and I'm deeply sorry to have doubted it in the past. I've seen very clearly that love and commitment are what matter in a marriage, not the gender of the people involved. You're an excellent team and superb parents, even though you, Malcolm, had no parental role models to help you. I'm proud of you both and hope that Maddie, and that bloody idiot she's engaged to, will learn from your example."

After their last guests left, Trip reverently placed the chip containing their biographical film show in the small, fireproof safe in which they now stored their valuables. "Ya know, ah think this has been the best Christmas we've ever had. All those precious moments we thought had gone up in flames an' here they are again—from someone else's viewpoint but just as special. An' good ol' Travis filmin' our vows so he could put them on at the end…Ain't that somethin' darlin?"

Malcolm was stretched out on the settee and favoured his husband with a dazzling smile. "Definitely—although I felt a little uncomfortable being filmed, proclaiming my undying love to you, with my own semen drying in my hair!"

Laughing, Trip hauled him to his feet, hugged him close and began kneading his behind through the soft leather of his pants "Ain't no better way ta do it darlin'!"

Squirming away, Malcolm smiled and began leading him towards the stairs. "Agreed. Bed."

Much later, nursing a seriously sore arse and almost purring with contentment, Malcolm lay in bed and listened to his husband's gentle snoring. It was the first time he'd made love with someone who was wearing musical reindeer antlers and a flashing, red, Rudolf nose!

Yes, it had been the best Christmas ever.

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