Magnet for Danger

by The Grrrl

Title: Magnet for Danger

Author: The Grrrl

Author's email: thegrrrl2002@yahoo.com

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

Archive: Ask first.

Fandom: Star Trek Enterprise

Pairing: Tucker/Reed

Rating: PG

Summary: A 1.24 "Desert Crossing" postep scene.

Author's Notes: Much thanks to Kim and Kylie for their beta'ing!

"Hey, where've you been? Phlox let me out this mornin', but I'm stuck in this damn bed for two more days. I'm bored to death—I haven't hardly seen you at all. What have you been doin'?"

The verbal onslaught would have continued if Malcolm hadn't captured Trip's mouth with a gentle kiss. He carefully set the tray upon the desk and eased himself onto the bed. Trip's room was in more disarray than usual, he noted. As Malcolm reached to kiss Trip again, he belatedly realized he was sitting on a data padd. As he reached for it Trip tugged on his shirt, attempting to undress him.

"You're supposed to be recovering," Malcolm scolded. He stopped Trip's hands and set them aside. Curiously, Trip did not protest, confirming Malcolm's suspicion that he was not yet recovered. The vivid memory of Trip being dragged into shuttle, semiconscious, was still fresh in his mind, despite his attempts to not dwell on it. He held his lover close, cheek rubbing against his forehead, thankful to have him back safe.

"What did you bring me?" asked Trip, twisting around to peer at the tray behind them.

Malcolm let go of Trip and reached around for the tray, balancing it on his lap. "Milk, cookies, pecan pie. And some tea, for myself."

"Thanks." Trip picked up the pie, and paused to scoop up a forkful. "You know, I thought you'd be here earlier." He sounded troubled.

"Sorry, I was taking care of a problem with the sensors," said Malcolm, sipping his tea. "You know, we still had a ship to run while you were down there frolicking in the desert with the Captain."

"Frolickin'? Right. I should have let the Captain take you with him instead," Trip said. "How do you feel about blood soup? And you don't really want to know what was floating around in it." He regarded his forkful of pie for a moment, then set it back down.

"That bad?" asked Malcolm, taking note of the disgusted expression. Trip winced and nodded. "Well, it certainly wasn't any picnic up here, trying to convince Zobral to help us find you both," Malcolm continued. "I was on the verge of assaulting that pompous alien."

Trip stared at him quizzically, not stating the obvious.

"He wasn't that much bigger than me. Fortunately for him, T'Pol appealed to his sense of responsibility."

In fact, he had been quite impressed by T'Pol's approach. Appealing to his emotions—very insightful, especially for a Vulcan. Malcolm had been on edge, had been, in fact ever since the shuttle left the Enterprise. The discussion was reasonable in the beginning. Malcolm, jaw clenched, had patiently explained the reality of the situation at the Tandaran prison camp, that he was not experienced in desert warfare. But then the alien refused to assist in finding them, and began bellowing that he was not responsible for them, pushing Malcolm to the limits of his self-restraint. It would not have been particularly diplomatic of him to attack the man, but with visions of Trip being blown to pieces, it had become difficult to think clearly. He shuddered, recalling how helpless, how furious he had felt—and how terrified he had been of never seeing Trip again.

Trip was oddly quiet. Now he was mashing the pecans down into the sticky pie filling with his fork, creating an unappetizing mess on his plate. Setting the plate aside, he sighed, then rested his head on Malcolm's shoulder. His weight was heavy against Malcolm's side. Malcolm noted the uneaten pie. He could feel the lethargy, the dullness from Trip and was deeply troubled by it. "Are you sure you are feeling okay?" he asked.

"Yeah, I'm okay. It was nothing, really," responded Trip, his voice quiet. "I just got a little overheated."

"Come on, Trip. I spoke with the doctor. It was classic heatstroke. You were in pretty bad shape when we brought you in."

"You know how doctors are. I wasn't doin' that bad," Trip retorted.

"Trip, you went into convulsions, your kidneys shut down—why are you lying to me? I was there when we dragged your sorry arse into the shuttle, or don't you remember that?"

"I'm not—" He lifted his head and took in Malcolm's expression. "Okay. Whatever." Trip laid his head back down against Malcolm's shoulder, then took Malcolm's hand in his, playing absently with his fingers. "I just know how worried you get."

"Trip, I worry every time you leave this ship. Hell, I worry whenever you are out of my sight. You are a magnet for danger. Since this mission began you've been pregnant, engulfed by a slimy alien life form, completely stoned by alien pollen, almost frozen and asphyxiated on the shuttle, and now nearly baked to death on a desert planet."

Trip interrupted him angrily. "This from the walking human target." He dropped Malcolm's hand.

Malcolm ignored the jab. "It's all part of being on this ship. The point I'm trying to make is that it's something I have to live with."

"No, you don't. You don't have to be with me," Trip stated flatly.

Malcolm was taken aback. As if I could turn my love for you off with a switch, he thought. "Not be with you?" He set the tray of food aside and shifted his position to face his. "That's ridiculous. You've got to know I've never loved anyone like I love you. I can handle being worried. If we weren't lovers I'd still be worried. I'd be worried, miserable, heartsick, and lonely. And terribly horny. Wouldn't be much of an improvement, now, would it?" he asked gently. This was quite a role reversal, he thought. Usually it was he who was insecure, uncertain. There had to be something more going on.

"Trip." Malcolm paused to kiss him, lips brushing against the stubble on his cheeks. "What is bothering you?" With an exaggerated version of Trip's drawl, he coaxed, "C'mon, talk to me."

Trip smiled faintly at the words, ones that he had said so often to Malcolm. "It's just that, well, I really let the Cap'n down. Again."

"Let him down? How? He's the one who dragged you out into the desert—" Malcolm wasn't sure if he would ever forgive the man for that, captain or not.

"Yeah, and I folded like a house of cards. I was nothin' but a burden to him. I pushed myself as hard as I could but I couldn't do it. He had to drag my butt the last mile."

Malcolm was surprised; he did not know what to say. "You did the best you could. And you survived. That's what matters." His words sounded weak, ineffectual, even to his ears.

"Malcolm, he nearly got blown sky-high because of me. Seems like no matter how hard I try, in the end he has to save me. Just like that time on Jupiter station. And in the cave on that M-class planet—when I was stoned and wanted to kill T'Pol. And when we both got sucked up by that thing in the cargo bay. I was freaking out and he had to calm me down. I'm sure he's regrettin' ever bringing me on this mission."

"I seriously doubt that. Don't be so hard on yourself." Malcolm searched for more comforting words but could find none. Then the realization dawned. Magnet for danger. Pushing himself.

"Trip, why do you keep trying to prove yourself to the Captain?"

"What?"

"Ever stop to think that, at least in some cases, you may be throwing yourself into these situations heedless of the danger just to prove to the Captain you've got the right stuff?"

Trip frowned and shook his head. "You're talkin' nonsense."

"Right, and you are going to kill yourself trying to live up to some imagined expectation." How could such a smart man be so dense? Time to leave before he said something he'll regret. As he sprang from the bed, the recoil of the mattress bumped the tray, dislodging the contents, spilling the untouched glass of milk onto the bedcovers. Damn.

"Real smooth, Malcolm," said Trip, sounding a little like his old self.

Dismayed, Malcolm grabbed a handy towel and attempted to clean up the puddle that was rapidly being absorbed by the blankets—and the mattress itself, unfortunately. He was surprised to hear a soft chuckle from Trip.

"Forget it. I think it's hopeless," said Trip as he gingerly climbed out of the bed, avoiding the stain. "I'll deal with it tomorrow. How about I just stay your place tonight, if—well, if you'll have me."

Malcolm looked at Trip, resting against the desk, shoulders slumped, arms wrapped around himself. His anger was beginning to fade. They could discuss the hero-worship issue another time. All that seemed to matter now was spending the night with his lover's warm body pressed against his.

"Of course I'll have you. Silly question." Malcolm tossed the towel on the bed and held him close. "Just think about what I said, okay?"

Trip pulled back and regarding him seriously. "Okay. But you're way off base with this."

Malcolm shook his head, wondering how soon it would be before Trip yet again threw himself headlong into danger. Then he took Trip's hand and led the man out into the corridor, bare feet and all.

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