Author: Kylie Lee
Length: ~9000 words
Fandom: Star Trek: Enterprise
Type: Slash M/M
Summary: During "Fallen Hero," Tucker and Reed, now broken up, try to remain friends as the friendship between Tucker and Archer escalates to something more as a result of the alien Unity that melded their minds.
Feedback: Yes, please.
Archive: Yes, at EntSTSlash, Tim Ruben, Archers_Enterprise, Allslash, Situation Room, Luminosity, Complete Kingdom of Slash, and WWoMB; anyone else, yes, but ask first.
Disclaimer: Original material copyright 2002 Kylie Lee. Material taken from the episode is copyrighted by Paramount. This is not an attempt to infringe on Paramount's copyright. No money changed hands; no profit was made; blah dee blah blah blah. They make 'em. I play with 'em. Enough said.
Spoilers: "Fallen Hero"
Comments: This fic was really hard for me to write and it's been through major, major revision every step of the way. Extra big kudos go to Kim, The Grrrl, and Sarah, betas extraordinaire, because if this makes any kind of sense at all, it's thanks to them, not to me.
He was first aware that something was different when he ran into Lieutenant Hess, the second in Engineering, at breakfast. She sat right down, without asking whether she could join him (which, with Hess, was, frankly, par for the course), and said, without preamble, "What's up with Trip and Malcolm Reed? Did they have a fight or something?"
"What?" Captain Jonathan Archer asked, confused. He didn't dare say anything else because Commander Trip Tucker and Lieutenant Malcolm Reed were lovers, but he didn't know if Hess knew that. He didn't think so, because it was secret, but Hess was nobody's fool. "What do you mean?"
"They've stopped arguing."
"That is a bad sign," Archer said ironically.
"No, really, I don't get it," Archer said.
Hess sighed and took a bite of French toast. "Trip and Malcolm are always sniping at each other, but it's kind of affectionate. Lately, they're ultrapolite. There's this--this tension between them. You could cut it with a knife. I just wondered what was wrong. I don't want to ask Trip directly, so because you two are such good friends, I thought I'd ask you."
"This is the first I've heard of it."
It was. Archer was usually attuned to his crew and aware of friction or unhappiness. However, when it came to Tucker and Reed, he had been letting his attention slide, and for very personal reasons. After having been taken over by an alien that melded the minds of five crew members, including Archer and Tucker, Reed had walked in on the five of them--well, there was no easy way to say it. All five had had sex in Tucker's room. Reed had found them together, leaped to all the correct conclusions, and had, unsurprisingly, felt betrayed. Archer thought Reed would get over it, but apparently he and Tucker hadn't reached an understanding yet. But that had been, what, two or three weeks ago?
Hess put her coffee mug down. "I guess I can ask him." She didn't sound thrilled about it.
Archer was struck by a thought. "Are they working well together? Is it causing a problem?" He had a hard time asking. He should know.
Hess didn't seem to think there was anything odd about the question. She considered, then shook her head. "No, not really. They don't seem to be avoiding each other or anything. They're just interacting differently."
"If it's not affecting their job performance, then I won't worry about it, but I can talk to Trip if you like."
Hess sighed. "No, no, never mind. But I like those guys. It bugs me that maybe their friendship is on the rocks. Maybe they're fighting over a girl or something."
Archer thought he should encourage this line of thought. "Like who?"
"I don't know. Hoshi, maybe?"
"Why do you think Hoshi?" Ensign Hoshi Sato was the communications officer.
"I'm just speculating, you understand," Hess confided. "But Hoshi does target practice with Malcolm twice a week, and she goes to movies with both of them. And with Travis Mayweather," she added fairly.
The conversation turned to other topics, but Archer had received his wake-up call. He needed to pay attention to Tucker and Reed; pushing them away because he didn't feel comfortable was not an option. He felt a pulse of guilt when he saw either of them. Archer's own interactions with Tucker seemed the same on the outside: friendly, even affectionate. With Reed, Archer was more cautious. Archer had a history with Tucker: they had been friends for years. He had no such history with Reed, but because Archer and been linked with Tucker, he knew much, much more about Reed than their relationship warranted. He had to be careful about what he said to Reed.
He found that Hess was right: over the next few days, he watched the two men. Tucker and Reed didn't exactly avoid each other, but they didn't exactly seek each other out, and they seemed to lose all sense of humor when around the other. They were brittle and very polite. Archer waited for Tucker, a good friend of his, to say something to him, but Tucker didn't say a word. Meanwhile, even though Archer knew exactly how Tucker felt about Reed, he found himself aware of Tucker's presence and body. They hung out together, drank beer, watched sports, all things they did together anyway, but instead of the good buddy Archer had considered Tucker before the alien Unity, he saw a man he found incredibly attractive. They had had sex exactly once--well, two or three times--with three other people, as they sought to regain the Unity they had shared when they were linked by the alien being, and it had been an intense experience, the pleasure of five people looped back on itself. Unity had taught Tucker that Archer wanted him.
Archer had to face facts: yes, he wanted Tucker, but he knew Tucker wanted Reed. The possibility of a rift between the two made him feel hopeful. And he despised himself for it.
Archer mashed a pillow under his head and resumed staring at the wall. It was completely dark in his room, so he couldn't see it, of course, but he imagined he could. He could see a faint shivering in the blackness, which occasionally ghosted to a gray. He flipped over to his other side and watched the small lights on his console flicker. Next, he flipped onto his stomach, arms spread out, filling up the entire bed, but he couldn't get comfortable. Surely it was almost morning. Surely hours had gone by.
He checked the time. A half hour had passed. It wasn't even midnight. He considered reading for a while, but he was too distracted. He kept thinking about one thing. He turned on the night lights. He heard his dog, Porthos, stir.
"Shit," he said aloud. He was disgusted with himself. He reached out a hand and pulled open his nightstand. He rolled the small plastic container of lube between his hands to warm it slightly, then squirted some into one hand. He slid it up and down his semierect cock as he returned the lube to the nightstand. There was only one way he was going to get to sleep tonight, but he felt like a horny adolescent.
When he closed his eyes, his saw Trip Tucker, but he imagined his Tucker as he had been on Earth one night when they had gone out with friends: spiky, messy hair, a little blonder than now, his trademark loud shirt, tight black trousers. He hadn't wanted Tucker then, but he wanted Tucker now. When he saw Tucker kissing Reed in sick bay, when the universe had shifted, he had realized that what he felt for Tucker was more than friendship: it was lust.
He'd thought Tucker was unobtainable, that Tucker only dated women. He was wrong. Tucker had begun sleeping with Reed only a few months ago, but Archer's attraction, the simple liking of Tucker, which was in fact all about sex, about wanting Tucker, had lasted three years. He had only just admitted it to himself. For three years, he admired his friend's voice, body, and personality, and he'd managed to convince himself that they were just friends--this despite Archer's homosexual experiences, which included an intense love affair during his undergraduate years with a water polo teammate.
His cock had grown hard. Archer stroked himself, fingers squeezing, fingertips swirling around the head, the lube slick and warm from his body heat. He imagined himself and Tucker in that alley in San Francisco; in reality, they had been waiting for one of their friends to relieve himself behind some garbage cans, but in his fantasy, they were alone, and Archer leaned against the brick wall as Tucker opened Archer's trousers and fell to his knees to take Archer into his mouth. He imagined that head leaning into him, sucking up and down, moving rhythmically back and forth. Part of his fantasy was the publicness of the place: someone could turn the corner and walk into the dimness of the alley, then see them. But in San Francisco, one man giving a blow job to another in an alley was not exactly unusual. He had picked the scenario because of the way Tucker had looked that night: tousled, casual, confident.
With one hand, he continued stroking himself, and with the other, he rubbed his lower stomach with the flat of his hand, just above his pubic hair, and felt heavy desire spread through his abdomen. He ranged his hand higher, tweaking his own nipple, then pushed hard as he stroked his hand downward, feeling the roughness of his chest hair against his palm, simulating the feeling of skin against skin. He was breathing hard. His hips bucked slightly as his hand worked. His thumb pushed right below the cap of his dick, describing a small circle as his fingers kneaded up and down the shaft.
In his fantasy, Tucker increased the pressure and the pace, and Archer laid a hand gently on Tucker's spiky hair. It felt rough, almost like straw, from whatever Tucker put in it to make it stick up like that. Tucker's head moved under Archer's hand as Tucker continued to tease his friend's rock-hard dick, mouth gliding up and down, tongue pushing against his hardness, flicking around the cap, then sliding back down the shaft. Tucker reached up a hand and stroked between Archer's belly button and pubic hair, his hand warm, then lazily stroked it to one side and up his stomach and chest. The touch ignited the desire curling under the surface.
When the pleasure broke over him, he said Tucker's name, come spattering on his chest and stomach, imagining that Tucker's hot mouth was licking and sucking his shaft, imagining that his hand was on Tucker's head, stroking his hair and behind his ear, as his knees turned to water and he collapsed against the wall in the alley as he came and came.
When his heart stopped pounding, he used a tissue to wipe the come off, pulled up his pajama bottoms, turned off the light, and went to sleep.
Archer was greeted by a loud banging sound.
"Trip? Are you okay?"
"Yes. I'm fine." Tucker's voice echoed. He was halfway inside a conduit. He reached one hand out to grab at a tool by his side, miscalculated, and banged his head. "Oh, damn," he swore fervently. "Captain, can you hand me that? I'm almost done here."
Archer knelt by the conduit, picked up a device he didn't recognize, and passed it to Tucker. "I came by to tell you that Malcolm Reed just canceled dinner tomorrow. Something about a meeting with Hess."
"Oh, that's too bad," Tucker said, distracted, eyes affixed on some goal above him. "Got it," he said in satisfaction, twisting the tool. A moment later, he was scrambling out of the conduit. Archer, rising, gave him a hand up. Tucker's hand was warm and strong in his. He felt a pulse in his belly at Tucker's touch. He held onto Tucker's hand for an extra moment before he reluctantly let go. Tucker looked at him quizzically but didn't say anything.
"Trip, is there something you're not telling me?"
"This is the third time Malcolm has canceled."
"Is it?" Tucker blinked. "I guess you're right. I wasn't keeping track."
"Trip." Archer's voice sounded a warning. "Are you two fighting or something? Because Hess has noticed too. She asked me if everything was all right between you two."
"Ah." Tucker wouldn't meet Archer's eyes. He bent down and gathered his tools together, tossing them a little too enthusiastically into a toolbox. "Well, we're not exactly fighting." He kicked the box aside, then looked covertly up and down the corridor. It was empty. "Malcolm broke up with me."
"What?" Archer said, startled.
"Malcolm broke up with me," Tucker repeated, with the exact same inflection. "A few weeks ago, now, I guess."
Archer tried to dam back the feelings this revelation occasioned. "That's--that's terrible. I'm so sorry. I know how you feel about him." He meant it, but the words sounded hollow. He wanted to ask Tucker why he had waited so long to tell him, but he didn't. He was pretty sure he knew.
"He won't unbend. He says the world ended when he knew that you and I had been together, that we--that we felt something for each other." Tucker paused. "He said he didn't buy that an alien influence forced us to have group sex."
Archer found himself laughing. "It sounds so--so stupid when you put it that way."
"It does, doesn't it?"
"So how are you holding up?"
Tucker shifted his eyes so he was looking over Archer's left shoulder. Archer recognized this strategy: it meant that Tucker was working hard to maintain control. "Sometimes it hurts a little bit," Tucker said softly. "Like a cut. Sometimes it hurts a lot. Like being eviscerated." Then he turned his eyes to Archer's for a long moment. They were wide and clear, but they betrayed the pain. Then Tucker turned aside and sealed the conduit. "I'll talk with him," Tucker promised. "We're all grown up. We can have dinner together. We can work together." He leaned down and picked up the toolbox. "Our grand experiment of dating men failed, I guess."
"Malcolm says he's back to women. I'm with him on that one. Women are less direct, but at least I know what to expect. And I like women." He and Archer headed down the corridor together. "I like women a lot."
"I know you do," Archer said, because he couldn't think of what else to say. He looked sideways at Tucker, and his stomach clenched. He wanted to knock Tucker against the wall, hold him against it with his body, and kiss him until he stopped struggling and gave in. He didn't, though, because Tucker was emotionally fragile. And even though his desire for Tucker burned through his body, he wasn't sure Tucker shared it. He was positive Tucker wasn't over Reed.
Archer choked as Tucker coughed.
"I asked if--" T'Pol began.
Archer cut her off before she could repeat her previous outrageous statement. "We heard you. What makes you think we're suffering from a lack of sexual activity?" He chose his words carefully. He tried to keep the amusement out of his voice.
T'Pol provided her rationale. "Starfleet forbids officers from fraternizing with subordinates. Unless you've been violating regulations...."
Archer avoided looking at Tucker. Tucker and Reed had technically been violating regulations. Although they were both officers, Reed, as the armory officer, reported nominally to Engineering, and Tucker was in charge of Reed's performance evaluations. And he supposed Tucker had been suffering from a lack of sexual activity lately. Was T'Pol psychic?
Tucker put in, "Those regulations don't apply to you. Have... you been... suffering?"
"On Vulcan, we mate only once every seven years," TPol said, intriguing Archer. Although Vulcans had had a presence on Earth for many years, he knew little about their social practices.
"That's a hell of a dry spell," Tucker noted.
"Why are you suddenly so curious about this?" Archer asked.
"It is my understanding that your mating ritual is effective in easing tensions."
"That hasn't always been my experience," Tucker said. Archer shot him a glance. Tucker was keeping it light, but meaning was layered under that statement.
Archer decided to go with amused. "And you think we need our tensions... eased?"
"Efficiency is down three percent."
"H'm," Archer mused. "We've gone about ten months without a break. I think it's normal for people to get a little... sloppy."
"Perhaps it's time the crew takes shore leave."
Tucker eyed Archer. "Well, I like the sound of that."
"I took the liberty of locating a suitable planet approximately nine days from our present location. It's called Risa."
"What's your idea of suitable?" Tucker asked. Archer had visions of fasting, meditation, and praying.
"It's tropical, with an abundance of pristine beaches. You'll find more information in the Vulcan database."
That was more like it. Archer and Tucker shared eyebrow raises. Rarely was T'Pol so amusing at dinner.
"Is it, uh, populated?" Archer asked, taking a bite of food.
"Yes. By a humanoid culture receptive to easing tension."
By the look on Tucker's face, this could be just what the doctor ordered. Tucker smiled and sipped his coffee. Archer considered. Risa? Shore leave? T'Pol could be on to something.
Knowledge of Risa spread through the ship like wildfire, fueled by Tucker. Archer thought that Tucker's enforced sexual dry spell, plus his stated desire to hook up with women rather than men, had something to do with his excitement. In addition, Tucker must have had that chat with Reed he had promised. The two now seemed friendlier, although still distant; they tended to use titles when they addressed each other. It was a good strategy on Tucker's part, Archer thought. Reed, who came from a military family, understood rank and gratefully used its protocols. Archer watched the slow dance of the two men as they sought to become colleagues once again.
But when Tucker stepped out of the lift onto the bridge wearing not his uniform but a loud Hawaiian shirt, Archer had to chuckle--it was so true to form for a Tucker on the prowl. Tucker was engrossed in some padd readouts, so he didn't notice the amused glances of the bridge crew.
T'Pol was the first to say something. "If you're wearing that to impress the women on Risa, you may as well stay on board," she said acidly.
"Rule number one," Tucker informed her. "You've got to be seen to get noticed. And I plan on getting noticed."
"Don't say she didn't warn you," Archer advised.
"Figure out your itinerary yet?" Tucker asked. Everyone had been accessing the Vulcan database to read up on Risa, and Sato had hooked up a com connection to the planet's communication grid so everyone could research the facilities there. It seemed that the planet specialized in vacations.
"I think I'm going to pass," Archer said.
"Captain, you need this as much as I do."
Archer chuckled. "Nobody needs this as much as you do. The ship will be nice and quiet. I've got some astrometric surveys that have been piling up. It will be a good chance to get some work done."
"We're going to a planet with over two hundred registered Nuvian masseuses. And you're going to sit in your cabin with a bunch of star charts."
It sounded stupid when it was put like that. "Mr. Tucker has a point," T'Pol interjected.
Archer looked at T'Pol. Was she teasing him again? He could never tell. "You think I need a massage," he said to her, making it more a statement than a question.
"The safety of this ship depends on its captain being at his most efficient," T'Pol responded.
He supposed that that was a yes. Archer turned back to look at Tucker, who lifted both arms up in an exaggerated shrug, then returned his gaze to T'Pol. "I suppose I could read those surveys on a nice beach," he acceded. He had a sudden vision of Tucker in wet, clinging swimming trunks and nothing else, a vision he pushed away quickly.
The com beeped. "Incoming message from Starfleet Command," T'Pol said.
"Transfer it to my ready room," Archer said, and fled.
Archer set his padd next to the computer and activated the uplink. The padd beeped as the data flowed.
"Got it, Captain?" Hess asked, looking over his shoulder.
"Yes. Thanks a lot."
"Okay, I'll leave you to it. It should only take about five, ten minutes."
"No problem. I appreciate your help, Lieutenant."
Hess waved as she exited. Archer couldn't find a handy chair, so he sat cross-legged on the ground next to the console. He was near the power couplings, and he could hear the footsteps of repair crew on the catwalks.
Then: "--peaceful exploration," said Tucker's voice, amused.
Archer looked up and around. He saw Tucker and Reed walking together, feet ringing on the metal gridwork. When he saw them, his heart constricted. Tucker looked open and friendly, and Reed looked the same. Comfortable.
"I need something to do on this ship, Commander," Reed responded.
"Fair enough," Tucker said. "I'm just hoping we don't keep you quite so busy." They stopped walking and bent to their task. "I read those Nuvian masseuses have twelve fingers... on each hand."
"Then I'd say Starfleet needs to make its presence known on Risa," Reed said, voice amused.
Tucker made a noise of agreement. There was a long pause while the two men worked on the power coupling. "Okay, that's it, Lieutenant," Tucker said. "What else?"
"Nothing else. That's all."
"Great. I'm heading to the mess, then. I need a snack. Want to join me?"
There was an awkward pause. Then: "No thanks, Commander," Reed said, pleasant.
Archer watched Reed watch Tucker as Tucker stowed the tools, then descended a ladder and exited into a corridor. Then Reed swung himself onto the ladder and let himself down. Just as he reached the bottom, Archer's padd beeped loudly three times. Archer stood up and turned his attention to the padd. It was done loading. He broke the connection and automatically scrolled through the data. It looked good. It had flowed correctly into the field parameters he had set up. He didn't see any holes.
"Captain," Reed said, walking over to him. "Was that you beeping?"
"Hello, Lieutenant. Yes. Well, my padd, anyway. I'm just getting some information I need for some simulations I want to run." Archer waved the padd vaguely. "Are you on repair duty?" He met Reed's eyes and smiled.
"Yes, Commander Tucker and I were just repairing the power couplings that blew during the attack."
Archer tried not to notice the shape of Reed's body inside that uniform. He couldn't see Reed without thinking of how Tucker saw Reed: exciting, electric, interesting. He found himself focusing on the way Reed's dark hair brushed back from his forehead, the way Reed's eyes changed color in this light. An image flashed through his mind of Reed's face, smiling and relaxed, just after he had been thoroughly kissed. Except that it was Tucker's memory.
Archer managed to find his voice. "I want to run my simulation by you. I was thinking about making the ship's defensive capabilities more redundant."
"Oh?" Reed looked interested.
"But that'll come later. I have to crunch the data. Right now, I'm much more interested in any progress you could make on the plasma cannons. I want to be able to fire them at warp."
Reed sighed, then half sat, half leaned against the console. "I'm sorry about that, sir. I do believe I can fix that little problem."
"Good. And the sooner, the better."
They chatted for another minute or two, and then Reed pushed himself off the console, gave Archer one of his little half salutes, and sauntered off. Archer looked after him, a little shaken at his response to his armory officer. Unity with Tucker had foregrounded his physical response to Tucker, but he hadn't expected to respond so strongly to Reed. He liked Reed, but he barely knew him. He knew his response was the result of Tucker and Tucker's memories: Tucker loved Reed, and Tucker knew Reed the best of anybody. They had shared a life-and-death experience; they had both descended into darkness and come out broken but alive. Even if they weren't lovers any more, they had forged an unbreakable bond.
Archer had known he was strongly attracted to Tucker. But until now, he hadn't realized that he would respond to Reed as well.
Archer watched as the door slid shut behind T'Pol, then shook his head. He had just ordered Ensign Mayweather to turn the ship. He felt like they were flying in circles. "Porthos, I sure hope T'Pol's right," he said ruefully. He patted his dog, then pulled off his long-sleeved blue shirt, turned it right-side out, and absently folded it. After stowing the shirt in a drawer, he rooted around for his pajama bottoms. He planned to get some sleep while he could.
The Vulcan ambassador currently on board, V'Lar, apparently a well-respected diplomat, was jerking him around, and he didn't like it. She wouldn't tell him what her mission on the planet Mazar was. Admiral Forrest at Starfleet Command told him to convey V'Lar to the Vulcan ship Sh'Raan, which would in turn take her to Vulcan. Then he learned that V'Lar had apparently abused her position on Mazar and was guilty of criminal misconduct. After the Mazarites turned V'Lar over uneventfully, they suddenly wanted her back, and they shot up the Enterprise in their bid to take her by force. When V'Lar refused to provide any kind of explanation, Archer was forced to put the well-being of his crew above that of V'Lar and the success of the mission: he ordered the ship back to Mazar. He would return V'Lar to them, as requested. Admiral Forrest would back him. He absolutely declined to fly blind.
But then T'Pol had interceded on V'Lar's behalf. Without telling him too much, she revealed that V'Lar would be killed by the Mazarites, should they get their hands on her. She looked him in the eye and said, "Since I've served aboard Enterprise, I've never asked you for anything. Captain, I'm asking for this now. Don't return the ambassador to Mazar. Please."
The "please" did it. Archer had nodded and ordered Mayweather to turn the ship. Then T'Pol left. When it came down to it, it was all about trust. He didn't trust the Vulcans, and they didn't trust him--and neither of them trusted the Mazarites. Now lives were on the line. He had come to trust T'Pol. He fervently hoped that trust was not misplaced.
His door chime rang. "Come in," he said, turning to the door, expecting T'Pol; she had left only a minute or two ago. He should probably put his shirt back on. He grabbed it in anticipation.
Instead, it was Trip Tucker. "We've turned back around?" Tucker asked, stepping inside the room so the door would close behind him.
"T'Pol made a case for V'Lar that I accepted," Archer explained, setting the shirt down again and closing the drawer. He sat cross-legged on the bed and snapped his fingers at Porthos, who jumped up. Archer absently fondled Porthos' ears.
"Well, I hope we get out of this crisis situation soon, because I don't know how much more of a beating the ship can take. Plus I am determined to get to Risa."
Archer laughed. "I'm sure we'll be at Risa in no time."
Tucker sat down on the bed next to Archer and patted his own lap. "Come here, boy," he invited, eyes on Porthos. Porthos immediately abandoned Archer for Tucker. "You never play with this dog," Tucker accused him. "Look at him. Poor little guy. You're a terrible dog owner."
"I don't feed him either," Archer said, as Porthos climbed into Tucker's lap and sniffed for a treat. "Here." He opened the treat container and handed one to Tucker, and Tucker hid it in his hand, making Porthos work for it. Archer sat back down, then smiled as he watched Tucker play with his dog. Tucker finally opened his hand, and Porthos delicately lifted the chewy treat out with his teeth, then hopped down to eat it on his cushion, chewing determinedly.
"No more cheese for Porthos?"
"You know what the doctor said."
Tucker grinned, then put one of his hands on top of one of Archer's. Archer was suddenly aware that they were sitting close together. On a bed. Shirtless. He gently loosed his hand and drew it back, then folded his hands in his lap. "Don't," he said quietly. His heart rate picked up. Suddenly he felt naked. He should have put his shirt back on regardless.
In response, Tucker hitched closer. He turned to face Archer, then deliberately swung one leg around both of Archer's, the other curled underneath him. "Do," he responded, and he leaned in the last distance and stroked his nose and lips against the side of Archer's face, following the pressure with a gentle kiss. It was the gentleness more than anything that undid Archer. He turned his head and looked into Tucker's eyes. The kiss that followed was almost chaste. Then Tucker deepened it. Their tongues met, and after a long, pleasurable pulse, Archer pulled his head back. "I don't think this is a good idea," he said. "You're on the rebound." He was actually shaking. "What about Malcolm?"
"Malcolm... Malcolm...," Tucker said thoughtfully, the tone of his voice indicating that he wasn't quite sure who Archer was talking about. "Malcolm who?" Tucker's face was still close. Tucker stroked Archer's bare chest, then ran his hand up over Archer's shoulder.
"All right. Sorry. Malcolm doesn't want me anymore. And I'm thinking about the Unity." Tucker pulled back slightly so his eyes could focus on Archer's face. Archer was acutely aware of Tucker's leg pressing against him. "Remember in my quarters? It was like all my senses got mixed up. Denise was dark red and pressure all around. You were black, and I got a sense of pushing in from you." Tucker chuckled. "Well, maybe that was literal. You pushed inside of me, and you triggered it all. Do you remember?"
"I remember," Archer said, his voice hoarse.
He had pushed the tip of his cock inside Tucker when Tucker was inside Denise Kelly. He had felt Tucker's intense pleasure at penetrating and receiving simultaneously, and that pleasure had pushed him, Archer, over the edge. Archer had pushed himself into Tucker's slick warmness, the ridge of Tucker's tight asshole almost painful against Archer's large cock. Tucker's body had closed around him, and Tucker's mind in his had dissolved into joyful physical sensation only, with pressure and color crowding out rational thought and words. Then Archer had pushed in and out slightly, just a few centimeters, just one back-and-forth motion, and had come, exploding into Tucker. It triggered the orgasm of the five: one being, comprising five individuals, caught fire and pulsed, the ecstasy circling around, and part of that ecstasy was their being one mind.
"I remember too," Tucker whispered. "I want to feel that again. I want to feel you inside me again." He smiled, then said, voice low. "I was sore for two days afterward. I could barely sit down. I guess I want to feel that again too." Tucker leaned forward and kissed Archer, and Archer didn't pull away. Tucker pushed into Archer, plundered his mouth, used his teeth and tongue to tell Archer exactly how much he needed him.
The two men fell back on the bed, bodies pushing together, hands stroking, mouths warm and wet. Archer had given up the pretense of holding back. Tucker seemed desperate: his hands pushed hard against Archer's body, his muscles standing out. Tucker lowered his mouth to Archer's bare chest, tongue licking, teeth nipping gently. He found a nipple and set his mouth on it, tongue swirling. Archer pushed his erection against Tucker's stomach, and in return, Tucker pushed his stomach harder against Archer, mouth still busy on Archer's chest. Archer tugged at Tucker's uniform, and then Tucker knelt next to Archer, unfastening the coverall. They tugged off Tucker's uniform and Archer's trousers so bare skin could meet bare skin. Then they lay on their sides, face to face, legs entwined, cocks pulsing, arms wrapped around each other, kissing desperately, Tucker's hand on Archer's ass, stroking hard. Archer's erection felt huge and hard.
"God, you're big, Captain," Tucker said breathlessly, moving his hand from Archer's ass to his cock. Archer groaned at the touch. "And circumcised."
"Yes to both," Archer responded. Reed wasn't circumcised.
"H'm," said Tucker thoughtfully. "It feels strange. Naked. I need to research this further."
He kissed his way down Archer's chest and stomach, leaving a trail of wet warmth that his hands spread out across Archer's body a moment later. Archer felt a jolt of anticipation. Tucker was going to take him in his mouth. Tucker's mouth was going to slide around him, and his tongue would swirl against the cap of his cock as the heat descended, mouth sucking.
Instead, Tucker slid his nose and mouth down Archer's hardness, just as he had brushed against Archer's face a few minutes earlier, only lightly touching Archer with his tongue. Tucker's fingers slid through the pre-come standing at the tip of Archer's cock, then spread it down over his shaft. Then Tucker's hand closed around Archer's length and his tongue licked hard down toward Archer's balls. Tucker's nose stroked Archer's sacs, and then he was licking again, tongue demanding, hand closed loosely around his cock. Tucker urged Archer's legs up so they were bent on either side of Tucker's head. Then he slid his tongue a little lower, licking the expanse of flesh between his balls and his asshole, pushing hard to avoid tickling. Archer moaned. Then Tucker moved back up to his balls, reducing the pressure of his tongue.
Next, Tucker tilted his head to the side and pressed his mouth against Archer's shaft, sucking. He softened his mouth and kissed Archer's dick again, tongue pushing against his hardness. He continued this, moving his head around to reach different spots, until Archer said, "God damn it. Suck me, Trip."
Tucker laughed and obliged. It was just as Archer had imagined it in his masturbation fantasies. Tucker closed one hand around the base of his shaft, then slid his mouth down over his cock. Tucker bent to pleasuring him, and Archer closed his eyes and focused on the sensation. When he began thrusting, Tucker released him and clambered up his body. "No," he said. "Inside me." He loomed over Archer and kissed him. "I need you inside me. Like you were before." His eyes were focused on Archer's face, his voice intense, his cock hot against Archer's bare skin.
Archer rose to his elbows, still kissing Tucker, pushing him back, then off the bed and across the room. "Here," he said hoarsely, placing Tucker's hands on his desk, which was the correct height. "Legs a little more apart." He arranged Tucker, then hastily and liberally applied lubricant to Tucker's crack, then his own cock. He placed himself behind the standing man, then put his arms around Tucker, fingers stroking up and down Tucker's chest and sides. He slid his cock between the cheeks of Tucker's ass and worked his hips up and down, sliding his cock in Tucker's groove, pushing his chest against Tucker's back. He felt Tucker's ass tighten, trying to trap his dick. He continued to stoke Tucker with his entire body, feeling the pulse in his groin grow more insistent. His hands stroked down Tucker's side to his hips, then moved in to the center of Tucker's body, brushing Tucker's cock on the way back up, circling it with his lubed fingers, spreading slickness. He nipped gently at the bony place where Tucker's neck joined his body, tasting salt. Tucker bore down on the desk with his arms and rotated his bottom up and down. The movements threw his body into relief, transfixing Archer with the sight of rippling, well-defined muscles. "Captain," Tucker gasped, and he leaned his lower body back in invitation.
Archer stroked his own cock up and down, then found Tucker's asshole. He slid in a finger first, spreading lubricant, feeling Tucker's body ripple around him, then grabbed his dick again and pressed the cap into Tucker. He paused for a second to let Tucker get used to the feeling. "I don't want to hurt you," he gasped. "I'm big."
Tucker relaxed his asshole, then rotated his hips in a small circular motion, urging Archer in. "Oh, please." Tucker gasped as Archer slid in halfway. "Deeper."
"I'm hurting you," Archer said, because the muscles in Tucker's upper body were clenching. He didn't know if he could stop.
"I don't care," Tucker responded. "I don't think it's pain." And then he leaned forward again, supporting his weight on his arms, thrusting his ass at Archer, and deliberately pushed himself back, impaling himself on Archer's huge cock.
Archer, feet wide, slid in the last few centimeters, balls brushing against Tucker. Archer moved his hands down to Tucker's hips and pulled him even closer, straining his body against Tucker's, pushing in as deep as he could. Then Tucker jerked his lower body forward, and Archer found himself thrusting out and in. Tucker was incredibly tight, the ridge of his sphincter pressing hard against Archer's cock, squeezing it as Archer thrust strongly. Archer's body was on fire, with the heat concentrated in his groin.
"Oh, god, Trip, you're so tight," he managed. "Tight and hot." He felt Tucker clench slightly around him at his words, and Tucker inhaled sharply. "I want to make you come hard." Tucker moaned. Archer, thus encouraged, voice hoarse, told Tucker exactly what he felt, what he wanted to see Tucker do. Tucker responded to his words and to his thrusting, and Archer was having trouble holding on. "I'm so close," Archer continued, his cock feeling enormous. "Oh, god. Work your ass, Trip. Make me come. You're so tight. Oh, god--" He gasped for air. "God damn it, Trip." He stroked back, paused, pushed his hips forward. "I can't hold back. I'm going to come any second." He groaned and thrust. "Make me come," he repeated. "Oh, god, Trip, make me come."
"Deeper, Captain," Tucker said, and he reached for his own cock. Archer slid one hand around, and both their hands squeezed Tucker's throbbing dick. Then Tucker's hips began bucking back and forth, and Archer felt Tucker's cock pulse in his hand, then warm wetness. "Captain, I'm coming. I'm coming hard. Oh, god--don't stop--oh, god--"
Tucker groaned, cock spurting, ass rotating, as Archer increased the tempo, pushing as far as he could into Tucker's body, until the heat and pressure sent him over the edge. He jetted deep in Tucker's body, moving rhythmically, milking his cock, stretching out his pleasure. When he was done coming, he rubbed his face between Tucker's shoulder blades, then used his hands to stroke up and down Tucker's body. Tucker's upper body was trembling slightly from reaction. Archer pulled out, cock dwindled to half-mast, and Tucker turned to face him. "I didn't know you could talk so dirty," Tucker teased, voice a little breathless, setting his butt gingerly on the desk and opening his legs wide. He drew Archer in.
"You seemed to like it."
"I really, really did," Tucker agreed, turning his face up for a kiss. It was long and lingering. "Lord, I needed that."
"Yes, you did. And happy to oblige." Archer stroked Tucker's face. There was a long silence while they wrapped their arms around each other, sated, their movements now gentle instead of frantic. Archer was going to suggest they head for the bed, but it was too much work. He pressed himself against Tucker's warmth, and they gently touched each other, curious now, exploring. "What was it you were saying about women?" Archer asked at last.
Tucker laughed. "I like women."
"Mmm." Tucker grew serious. "I thought it was just Malcolm. Just two straight guys who happened to sleep together. Until--well, you know."
Archer nodded. Until they fell in love. Until they broke up.
"Judging by my reaction to you, I guess it's not," Tucker continued. "I guess I like both men and women."
"Is that okay?"
"Maybe. Maybe not. I have to think about it." Tucker hesitated. "I don't think about men that way usually. With women, I'm kind of always interested, kind of always on the prowl. I'm not that way with men. So I'd say I see women--women of a certain age, of course--as sexually available or sexually interesting, but I see men more as just people. Neutral. What about you?"
Archer slid a hand down Tucker's chest, enjoying the feel of Tucker's skin and hair. He remembered talking to Reed and being drawn to him. "Everywhere I look, I see tits, asses, and cocks. Everyone of a certain age is sexually interesting." He kissed Tucker. "Everyone."
"Especially Vulcans. So unobtainable. Very sexy."
"You're too young for T'Pol, you know," Tucker informed him. V'Lar, the Vulcan ambassador, had told them at dinner the other day that he and Archer were dining with the oldest people on the ship. T'Pol looked to be in her midtwenties, but apparently she was far older. "You're just a pup compared with her."
"I like older women. More experienced."
"Oh, so maybe V'Lar is more your speed?"
Archer laughed. "Exactly." Then he grew serious. "Trip, what was all that about?"
Tucker shook his head. "I'm not sure. I was just thinking about the Unity, is all." He put his hands on Archer's hips and drew him a little closer. "I think it was about really, really wanting sex." He shrugged. "I liked the way you saw me, that time in my quarters. And I know you want me."
That was an understatement. "The thing about the Unity," said Archer, choosing his words carefully, "is that it gave us a closeness humans can't normally have. We usually can't read each other's minds. We usually don't want to merge our bodies."
"Now, I disagree with that, Captain," said Tucker. "That's what sex is--two people trying to be one person. The Unity just made it literally possible."
"I guess that's true." Archer pondered, then shivered slightly. He was getting cold. "Come on, let's go clean up." He took Tucker by the hand and they headed for the lavatory.
"Are we going to do this again?"
"Oh, god, I hope so."
Tucker smiled at him. "Okay, good. Just checking."
Malcolm Reed seemed entirely at ease at dinner at the captain's table. He had not declined or canceled his last invitation. Now he smiled at his captain as Archer refilled Reed's glass of iced tea from the pitcher on the table; the ensign who was on serving duty was off to the kitchen to get the dessert course. Reed politely thanked Archer and broke off a piece of roll. He buttered it with a corner of the little pat of butter he had transferred to his bread plate. Reed had very good table manners.
"I'm very pleased with the progress," Reed continued. Now that the Mazarite adventure was over and V'Lar was safely aboard the Vulcan ship, he was updating everyone on his work on the plasma cannons. "Lieutenant Fielding did some wonderfully innovative work on the power couplings."
Tucker, glass to his lips, snorted, apparently inhaled some of his iced tea, and began coughing and laughing at the same time. Tucker didn't like Fielding much, although he did his best to hide it under professionalism. He tried to say, "Fielding?" but couldn't speak.
"Commander?" T'Pol asked, setting down her fork. "Are you all right?"
Tucker nodded and waved ineffectually at her, still gasping for air. Archer rose and patted him hard on the back. Tucker, turning sideways, settled into a racking cough. "I'm fine," he said at last, breathless, tears on his face. "I'm done coughing. I'm fine." He wiped his face, reached for his water glass, and took a few sips. Archer realized he had been standing behind the engineer, one hand on his back. He hastily removed his hand and sat back down, returning his napkin to his lap.
"Sorry, Malcolm," he apologized to Reed. "You were saying? Power couplings?"
Reed had been looking at Tucker. Now he turned to Archer. Archer met his eyes, and he knew Reed knew. Reed's gaze was appraising, aggressive. Then Reed turned and looked at Tucker again. Tucker wouldn't meet his eyes. Instead, he turned his attention to his plate and took a bite of food. There was an awkward silence. T'Pol didn't seem to notice anything amiss; she methodically speared her green beans and continued eating.
"Yes," Reed said, at the absolute last moment required for pretense and politeness. "Lieutenant Fielding suggested that we cycle the power through in controlled bursts, rather than routing it directly in a continuous flow." He cut his meat and took a bite. He ate European style, keeping his fork turned under and in his left hand, knife in the right.
"What's the advantage of that?" Archer asked.
"It avoids energy buildup in the buffer," Reed responded. "It should result in a more stable power source, with fewer fluctuations." He turned to Tucker. "What do you think of the idea, Commander?"
"You're the armory officer, Lieutenant. If it has something to do with weapons, it's your baby."
"Nevertheless, I'd appreciate your input."
"I'd be happy to review the specs and simulations and give you my thoughts, then." Tucker, finished, set his fork and knife in the middle of his plate, then deliberately flipped the knife so the edge faced the fork. "Just send the information to my console with a due date."
"I'll do that. Thanks very much."
The door slid open, and an ensign rolled in a cart with the dessert course. "Oh, good," Tucker said in relief. "Key lime pie."
There was a general bustle as the ensign cleared their plates and set out the pie, and when everyone was resituated, the tenseness had dwindled. Tucker brought up the topic of Risa over dessert, and the rest of the meal was spent in wild speculation about the planet. Reed wanted to know what a Nuvian masseuse was, exactly, and Tucker was forced to admit he didn't know. T'Pol wanted to send down a survey team so they could update the information in the Vulcan database, "while we're there anyway," she said.
When Archer stood up to indicate dinner was over, T'Pol and Reed rose to their feet too. Tucker pushed his chair back but didn't get up. "Malcolm, could I have a quick word with you?" he asked. "About the--the power couplings. I had a thought."
Reed sat back down. "Certainly. I'd love to discuss the power couplings." His voice was ironic.
Archer picked up his cue. "Come on, T'Pol. They're going to talk shop." He met Tucker's eyes for a long moment on his way out. Then he herded T'Pol before him, out the door. He was ready to accompany her to the lift, but she paused a few meters from the dining room door and turned to him.
"I sensed tension at dinner today," T'Pol said baldly.
"Yes, I did too," Archer agreed. There had been so much subtext flying around during dessert that he was still sorting it out.
"Precisely my point in suggesting shore leave."
"Is shore leave your metaphorical way of saying 'sex'?" Archer asked. "Because you could just say it. After all, you're the one who suggested that the crew is suffering from a lack of sexual activity."
"Your reactions have given me to understand that this subject is not discussed in such direct terms."
Archer smiled, thinking of the term "power couplings," the ostensible topic of Tucker and Reed's current conversation. How apt. How very apt. "No, it's not," he said.
"Captain, are you suffering from a lack of sexual activity?"
Archer raised his eyebrows. "That's a very personal question. I decline to answer. Are you?"
T'Pol inclined her head. "That's a very personal question. I decline to answer."
Archer laughed. "Good response. But you should know that sex doesn't always alleviate tension. Sometimes, it creates it."
T'Pol gave him a look that he absolutely couldn't interpret. "I'll remember that."
They both turned when the dining room door opened and Tucker, then Reed, stepped out. "--of my business," Reed was saying, pissy and nasty.
"Damn straight," Tucker tossed over his shoulder, equally angry.
"Gentlemen," Archer said mildly.
Tucker stopped short, and Reed stepped quickly to the side to avoid running into him. "Captain," said Reed after a moment.
"Everything all right?"
There was a pregnant pause. T'Pol surveyed their faces, one after the other, her own face impassive as usual.
"Yes," Tucker said at last. "Everything is just fine."
"Good," Archer said pointedly. "Because we are colleagues. And friends." The tone of his voice said it loud and clear, so he didn't say the words: "Cut it out."
"Aye, Captain," said Reed quietly. "Sorry, Captain." His edge had softened. "Excuse me, please." Archer watched his back as he walked down the corridor, then turned out of view.
"Shit," Tucker said fervently. "Something's still there." Then he walked off too.
T'Pol and Archer, alone in the corridor, looked at each other. "Something's still there?" T'Pol said after a moment. "Do you know what he means?"
Archer sighed. "I think so. I guess I'd better to talk with him, get all this sorted out."
"Does this have something to do with power couplings?"
Archer's voice was rueful. "You have no idea."
Archer rang the chime on Tucker's door later that night. Tucker let him in without a word and waved him to a seat.
"Sorry," he said at last. "Sorry. I thought I'd better have a talk with Malcolm, and he got mad, and I got mad, and then everybody got mad. I think he was just surprised about--about you and me."
"T'Pol is concerned about the power couplings."
Tucker snorted. "T'Pol knows more than she lets on."
Archer was not convinced. "Do you think?" he asked dubiously.
Tucker nodded. "Oh, yeah. It's that nose of hers. She smells us."
"Well, if you say so," Archer responded. "You and Malcolm were getting along really well until tonight's dinner."
"And we will again. Really." Tucker sighed. "I actually like Malcolm--like him as a person, I mean. But he and I are through as a couple."
Archer thought he'd better not go there. "You said in the hall that something's still there. What's still there?" He had to ask, but he dreaded the answer. Would Tucker admit to attraction? Or, worse still, love?
Tucker looked uneasy. "There's this--this thing between me and Malcolm. I don't know what to call it. Anger, or friction, or something." He busied himself by digging beers out and pouring them into glasses he pulled out of a cabinet. "Just this--thing. Malcolm perceived it as sexual tension, and I perceived it as anger."
"But Malcolm was right?"
"Malcolm was right," Tucker admitted. "I don't know what it's going to turn into now that we're not lovers any more. Maybe I get to be right this time. Here." He handed Archer a beer and sat back down. "Anyway, that's still there between us. That's what I meant."
"And did you talk to him about--about us?" Archer tried to keep his face neutral. He sipped his beer and crossed his legs.
"He accused. I confirmed. End of discussion."
"Pretty much, yes." Tucker played with his glass, then took a long sip. He set the beer down on his nightstand. He was sitting on the bed.
"Okay, so now I have to ask about us."
"Is there an us?"
"I don't know. Do you want there to be?"
Yes. Yes. Yes.
"I'm not sure," Archer hedged. "I'm not in the mood to compete with my armory officer for the affections of my chief engineer."
"Oh, I don't know. You could duel over me. So romantic."
Archer chuckled. "I don't think so. Malcolm would win. He's an expert with hand-held weapons."
"Oh, dang. I didn't think of that. What could you beat him at?"
"The man is my superior in every way. He's a superb tactician, an expert with weapons, and no slouch at hand-to-hand combat. He even has more Scout badges than I do. Why do you think he works for me? He makes me look good."
"You outrank him, though. Power and position--very sexy." Tucker stood up and went around behind Archer's chair. His hands descended onto Archer's shoulders, and Tucker leaned his head down. "And you're bigger than him. Much, much bigger. If you know what I mean." His breath tickled Archer's ear. Tucker kissed the nape of his neck, tongue tickling. Archer closed his eyes and enjoyed the sensation.
"Trip, why do you want to be with me?"
Tucker kissed some more. "I'm sticking with hot sex. And plenty of it." He slid his tongue around behind Archer's ear, then set his mouth there.
Archer shivered. He was already hard. "No, really, Trip." He gently drew Tucker around, and Tucker knelt at his feet, placing his hands on Archer's legs.
Tucker looked serious. "Okay. During Unity, I found out you liked me. A lot."
"You saw me as smart. You--you respected me for my abilities, and you respected me as a friend. You saw me as--as worthy. Now, I never understood how I could be worthy of the friendship of someone like you, but I guess I was." Tucker ran his hands up Archer's legs and placed them on his hips. "I had this little hero-worship thing going," he confided. "But you know that. I came to you that night because Malcolm rejected me and because you and I had already had sex once, so I figured we could have it again." Tucker brought his body weight up on his knees, face to face with Archer. "I want you now because of the way you see me--as worthy. Because I don't think you will reject me. Because I am attracted to you. And because I had a really good time that night."
Archer stroked the side of Tucker's face. Tucker didn't speak of love. He spoke of affection and desire. He spoke of validation. He tried to analyze the feeling coiling in his abdomen. Desire, yes. Absolutely. He met Tucker's eyes. They were clear and guileless, as always. His heart constricted in his chest. His feelings for Tucker had circled through the Unity, an endless iteration of longing. He shouldn't be surprised when they were reiterated through Tucker. And vice versa. What did he really feel? What did Tucker feel? Whose thoughts were whose? Was there love?
He opened his mouth under Tucker's when Tucker leaned in to kiss him, and then they stopped talking. When it came right down to it, Archer didn't really care. He wanted Tucker. He could have Tucker.
There was nothing else. Nothing but touch, and sensation, and then pulsing pleasure. Nothing but desire.
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