Title: The Food of Love

Author: MJ

Author's e-mail: mjr91@aol.com

Author's URL: http://www.geocities.com/coffeeslash/mj/

Date: 04/30/03

Pairing: Reed/other (yes, you read that right)

Rating: G

Series/sequel: This fic has a companion piece, Food for Thought

Spoilers: No real plot spoilers for any episode, though references to all kinds of things.

Archive: Sure, usual offenders go right ahead (if I posted to your list you have archive permission). Anyone else, ask first. I'll say yes.

Betas: Kyrdwyn, Red.

Author's note: All Kyrdwyn's fault. Really. I blame her entirely. A couple of liberties with canon, but it's all in a good cause.

Jonathan Archer sprawled out on his bunk as his best friend, "Trip" Tucker, chief engineer of Enterprise, fiddled with the viewscreen in Archer's cabin.

"Best I can do with the picture, Cap'n," Tucker said. He grabbed his beer and sat back down in the chair near Archer's bed.

"It's good enough for right now. We'll just have to get it fixed before the Stanford playoffs arrive from Earth."

"As long as I can watch the Dolphins kick some Denver butt, fine," Tucker replied. "Water polo's fine but it's no substitute for football."

"Bull." Archer grinned genially at Tucker over his own beer bottle. "Water polo any day of the week."

"Whatever." Tucker scrounged behind himself to reach for the pretzels on Archer's desk.

Archer stretched out his hand. "Toss me a couple of those."

"Sure thing." Three salted hard pretzels went directly into Archer's palm.


There was considerable munching in the cabin for several moments.

"You got these from Chef?" Archer asked.

"Sure did. You'd think you were tryin' to get gold bars out of the bank hittin' Chef up for snacks, ever notice?"

"I have."

The buzzer at Archer's door sounded. "Come in, Malcolm," Archer called.

Malcolm Reed, the ship's armory officer, strolled into the cabin with his arms loaded. "I thought you might want some more snacks." He stopped at Archer's desk and put down two kinds of cheese, sleeves of two kinds of crackers, a bag of chips, and a bag of cookies.

Tucker stared. "Malcolm, where'd you get all that stuff?"

"Here and there," Reed laughed. "It helps to win at poker against a galley crewman."

"Gotcha." Tucker headed for Archer's small refrigerator and withdrew a bottle. "Here. Have one."

Reed uncapped the bottle. "When *will* you Yanks learn how to drink beer? This poor Andorian ale is nearly freezing."

"Tastes better that way," Tucker replied as he returned to his seat.

"That swill you Americans brew, maybe, but decent beer should be warm enough to be able to taste it. Still," Reed continued, pausing to take a gulp, "cold Andorian ale is better than no Andorian ale."

"Amen to that."

The three sat companionably during the match, drinking and passing snacks, while Tucker and Reed made occasional rude comments on their captain's favorite sport. Reed made no bones about considering the sport merely an excuse for watching wet, nearly naked men.

"And this bothers you?" Archer joked.

"Not in the least—I just wish you'd cease telling anyone who will listen that it has merit as anything except the next best thing to a hidden camera in a men's locker room."

Archer and Tucker both snickered. Once the armory officer had become close enough to the others to feel comfortable being social with them, they had found him remarkably open in his comments—except about his personal life. Reed was unabashed about his preferences, but neither of the other two could have named a man they had any reason to think Reed had ever been involved with. Whether his silence was discomfort with that much personal revelation or was merely gentlemanly silence about his lovers, if any, neither knew.

Finally, the match was over. After finishing his third bottle of Andorian ale shortly after that, Reed departed, citing an early round of crew recertifications on phase pistol the next morning. He took his leave, the uneaten snacks remaining behind. Tucker looked over the stash.

"Poker with the galley crew, my Aunt Sally!"

"What?" Archer stared at his friend.

"Last three nights, Malcolm and I have been recircuiting the power grids. The last poker game was four nights ago and there wasn't anyone from the galley in it. And those are fresh chocolate chip cookies."

"You don't have a lock on every poker game on this ship," Archer chided.

"Wanna bet?" Tucker affected righteous indignation. "There's an engineerin' game tonight in Hess's cabin. The sciences team is playin' in the mess hall. And Travis's poker game isn't till tomorrow. I know every poker game on this ship—been thrown out of most of 'em at least twice,"

"Okay, I believe you—but what's your point?" Archer asked.

"The *point* is that Malcolm's *always* got snacks. I don't think he even eats 'em, but he's got 'em. There's pineapple on the menu one way or another two or three times every week. He's not playin' poker with the galley crew—he's playin' footsie with someone in the galley crew."

Archer raised an eyebrow. "You think so?"

"Betcha anything. Betcha…I betcha a bottle of Scotch I've got stashed in my diving helmet that ol' Malcolm's got himself a honey workin' in the kitchen. And y'know—if he is, Jon, they're all crew, no officers. No wonder he's bein' so damn tight-lipped about it."

"And just how do you intend to prove this?"

"I'll think of something."


Tucker was, he fancied, a resourceful man, and an imaginative one. He was also, as his mama had once told him, "the nosiest thing short of a starving raccoon."

And so he set out diligently to solve the question—was Lieutenant Malcolm Reed involved with someone who worked in the galley? Someone in the kitchen? One of the stewards? It had to be someone…someone was plying Reed with chips, cheese, pretzels, and desserts, all the things Tucker had seen Reed haul along to poker games, and that someone obviously had access to all the food anyone could spirit out of the place.

A review of the personnel list meant nothing—Tucker was too devious to eliminate the female staff. After all, given Reed's reputation, if he were in fact involved with an enlisted female, he would certainly want it kept quiet. Fraternization with enlisted crew was already against the rules, though that was hardly enforceable on this mission, and if Reed *were* seeing a female crew member, it would probably be something he didn't want announced anyway.

Tucker decided to start with the simplest and most effective means of investigation—direct observation.

For a week, he watched Reed in the mess hall. Reed's behavior around the enlisted galley staff was unexceptionable. He was polite. He was respectful. He was a perfect gentleman. He was frustrating the hell out of Tucker.

The engineer tried following, then preceding, Reed in the food line. Reed was quiet, Reed was polite, Reed was only mildly fussy. Once he sent a question back to Chef, which was answered directly by Chef since Reed's finicky moments were difficult while they lasted. He didn't so much as bat an eyelash at one staffer.

Archer had Reed to lunch with Tucker in the captain's mess. Reed was polite to the stewards. Reed was no more polite to one than to another. No batting eyelashes. No ogling. No barely suppressed breath at the sight of a favorite bed partner.

Damn, the man was cool in public. Butter wouldn't melt in Reed's mouth.

As far as Trip Tucker could tell, Malcolm Reed was celibate and chocolate cake dropped from the sky into Reed's cabin through the ministrations of angels with aprons and rolling pins.

But no way had the wedge of Cheshire Reed was snacking on that week while working late come from angels. Someone had gone out of their way to have Reed nibbling at Cheshire with cream crackers. And it wasn't someone at Reed's poker game, either.

If there was one thing Tucker knew on that ship, it was who was at which poker games. And no one had brought stakes like that to the game Reed had been in that week.


"Have you thought," Archer said thoughtfully, "that it might be someone in engineering?"


"Suppose Malcolm's hiding an individual resequencer in his cabin. That would explain a lot."

"It wouldn't explain the food in the mess hall," Tucker snorted. "Pineapple sundaes this week. Pineapple chicken."

Archer shook his head. "I think you're barking up the wrong tree there," Archer sighed. "Chef's in charge of the menu. He knows Malcolm likes pineapple. And he knows the captain of this ship went out of his way to find that out. Chef's just pandering. I think Malcolm has an individual resequencing unit in his cabin."

"Easy enough to find out," Tucker told his commanding officer.


He ran it through the computer. No unusual equipment in Reed's cabin.

He checked power usage. No resequencer-pattern energy cycles coming from Reed's cabin.

He wasn't going to search Reed's cabin when Reed wasn't there—that was possibly deadly. Reed could have that cabin booby-trapped; you never quite knew what he was going to do in his quest for ever-greater security on board Enterprise. Now, Reed *had* proposed personally conducting mandatory strip-searches of male crew returning from away missions, but he'd been drinking with Archer and Tucker at the time he'd proposed it, so that didn't *really* count as something he'd do. Besides, it had nothing to do with the dangers inherent in searching Malcolm Reed's cabin.

He monitored who was visiting Reed's cabin. Hoshi and Travis visited, but not with food. And Reed was disappearing at night, but no one was bearing food and sneaking into Reed's quarters.

That meant following Reed to see where Reed was going, who he was seeing.

And that sounded even more dangerous than searching Reed's cabin, because if Reed discovered that anyone was sneaking around after him, they'd be dead. Probably literally, and not figuratively, dead.

Besides, Reed was trained in skulking around silently. He could be sneaking anywhere on the ship and it would be impossible for Tucker to follow. It would be especially impossible for Tucker to follow sufficiently quietly not to attract Reed's attention and die.


"Sickbay? What happened to him this time?"

"Well, Malcolm was right about needing security along on that landing party," Archer explained to Tucker. "A couple of their soldiers started shooting right away. Malcolm took a couple of hits while he was getting everyone else back on board."

"Shit. Is he gonna be okay?"

"He'll be fine. But Phlox wants him in there for a day or two to monitor his recovery."

"Mind if I run down to see him?"

Archer chucked. "Go ahead. He's probably dying of boredom in Sickbay."

"I know how he gets."

Tucker found Reed in a biobed looking just as irritated as he'd anticipated. Reed was just possibly the worst patient in the history of the galaxy. "You okay?"

"I'm fine, thank you. Or I will be as soon as I'm released from this medical prison."

"Now, now, Mr. Reed," Phlox called cheerily from across Sickbay, "you'll be out of here soon enough."

"Can I bring you any dinner while I'm at it?" Tucker volunteered. Eating often calmed Reed when he was particularly crabby in Sickbay.

"I'm afraid Mr. Reed's dinner has already been arranged, Commander," Phlox announced.

"Why? Special diet?"

"As it were, Commander, as it were," Phlox chuckled.

That was when the doors to Sickbay parted. A wheeled food cart was pushed into the room, with a series of covered dishes on it. "As I mentioned, Commander," Phlox stated.

The cart went to Reed's side as a Sickbay bedside table was pushed over. Dishes were uncovered and placed on it. Fruit salad. Prime rib. Yorkshire pudding. Mashed potatoes, ones that bore no resemblance to hull sealant. Asparagus—asparagus? Since when was there asparagus on board? A small cheese plate. Pineapple.

Tucker gaped. The food array Reed had been brought was astonishing. But even more so was the bearer of the food.

Who placed a quick kiss on Reed's forehead before departing as silently as he'd arrived, in a swirl of white uniform.

No, Tucker thought as he slowly became coherent, that hadn't been enlisted galley crew. It was the one person on board even more famously taciturn than the armory officer himself.

Reed looked over at Tucker, sighing. "Strawberries. I *told* him I didn't really feel like strawberries. Want one?"

"No, thanks, Malcolm. I'll catch ya later."

"Phlox," Reed called, "I think I have a snack for your bat here."

Tucker beat a hasty retreat from the premises.

There were some things man *wasn't* meant to know.

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