Simmering

by The Grrrl

Title: Simmering

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

Date: 7 Apr 2003

Pairing: Tucker/Reed

Rating: NC-17

Summary: First time fic. Malcolm and Trip go off on a little adventure, and discover each other.

Author's notes: Thank you to my beloved betas, Kylie and Kim, to whom I owe all commas, continuity, and correct verb tenses.

This fic also works as a response to Kageygirl's Birthday Challenge, how about that? Happy Birthday, dear!

PART 1

He showed up at my door that morning. I knew it was him. It's something about the way he rings my chime.

I opened the door and grinned at him. Couldn't help myself. "C'mon in, Lieutenant," I said. "What can I do for you?" I pulled my coverall up, somehow managing to get my sleeves bunched up under it.

Malcolm entered my quarters, looked around curiously, and then waved a padd at me. "I went over your proposed upgrades for the alert system, as requested, sir."

"I only gave that to you last night, Malcolm. Mighty efficient of you. What'd you think?" I hunted for my shoes, finding one under the desk. And wondered how Malcolm could be so formal at this hour of the morning. I felt a slight caffeine headache coming on. Or maybe it was just Malcolm getting me all stirred up.

"Excellent plan," he said. "Meets my approval."

"Glad to hear it."

He was in his standard Malcolm stance, as I call it. At ease, legs slightly spread, one arm behind his back, the other holding the padd. "I had a few minor changes regarding the phase cannon back-up system. And," he paused, pursing his lips and giving a little sniff, "I made a few grammatical revisions. Are you aware that you ended most of your sentences with a preposition? What do they teach you in those bloody American schools?" he finished with a weary sigh.

"Malcolm—" I started. I had half a mind to drop down to my knees and show him exactly what I learned in those bloody American schools. It would wipe that snide, superior look right off his face. But I only said, "Malcolm, I'm sure the cap'n's gonna appreciate that." I plucked the padd from his hands. "Listen, I'm starvin' and I haven't had my coffee yet. Let's take a look at this over breakfast, okay?"

"Very well, sir." Like he hadn't just insulted me.

I spotted my other shoe across the room, and in a moment we were out the door. We walked shoulder to shoulder down the corridor, to the lift. It was crowded this time of morning, with sleepy crewmembers still rubbing the sleep out of their eyes, and the third shift crew heading back to their quarters. As Malcolm stepped past me, his ass brushed against my hip.

"Pardon me, sir," he murmured, glancing at me from under his lashes.

I told myself it was just an accident.

***

After we finished eating, I leaned back in my chair, tilting it back as I clasped my hands behind my head. "Looks good, Malcolm. I'll pass it along to the cap'n before we go off on that survey."

The proposal did look good. Malcolm's suggestions were right on the money, and well, he did polish up my sentences real nice.

Malcolm nodded to me over his mug.

I regarded him for a minute. He could be such a little snot sometimes. But he was a bright and capable officer. And my heart beat faster whenever he was around, as if I were more alive than when he wasn't there. So I brought my weight forward in the chair with a little thump to get his attention. "Good job, Lieutenant," I said, with all sincerity.

Malcolm's eyes widened a bit. He looked both pleased and uncomfortable. He carefully placed his mug down and clasped his hands. "Why, thank you, sir. I'm looking forward to getting started."

The guy was actually flustered.

"As long as the cap'n approves, we can get started when I return tomorrow." I looked up. "Oh, Cap'n, there you are—" Speak of the devil.

Jonathan came to our table, looking pale and a little unsteady. "Trip—" He stopped, coughing violently.

Malcolm and I both jumped up, and Malcolm guided him to a chair. Malcolm offered him his tea, and the captain took a few careful swallows. "Thank you, Malcolm," he croaked.

"Cap'n, why do I get the feelin' you're not gonna be doin' the survey with me?" I asked. "An' shouldn't you be in Sickbay?" If he was blowing the doc off, I was going to have something to say about it.

"I'm on my way back from there. And heading straight to my quarters," he added hurriedly, seeing the look on my face. "Enolian flu. Doc says I'll be fine as soon as the medication kicks in. Meanwhile—" He started coughing again.

"How 'bout Malcolm and I do that survey?" I suggested.

He finally stopped coughing, his face red. He didn't speak, but just nodded at me and pointed.

"In the meanwhile, I have a little light readin' for ya." I handed him the padd. "Now let's get you back home so you can get some sleep."

As we escorted our captain to his quarters, I entertained pointless, romantic thoughts about spending twenty-four hours in a shuttle with Malcolm. I can be a damn fool about guys sometimes.

***

"I should be evaluating the relays for the back-up system," Malcolm informed me sourly.

"You'd rather be doin' that than exploring?" I asked.

"I'd feel more comfortable exploring if I knew our tactical alert system was working at its highest efficiency. Sir."

That was Malcolm in a nutshell. All tactics and efficiency. And discipline. Military discipline. Which, as he once pointed out to me, I was sorely lacking. Sure, we weren't exactly in our right minds because of that singularity. I still can't believe I got so wound up about that goddamn chair. Captain still teases me. But that was nothing compared to Malcolm. He was a real bastard. When he started snarling about having me taken out and shot something in me just snapped. I remember lunging at him and it felt so damn good when our bodies collided that I wasn't pissed anymore. I just wanted him real bad.

I could feel my cock filling as I thought about it. Malcolm, all sweaty and breathless, shoving me down. Sometimes, alone in my bed late at night I think about what might have happened if the captain hadn't pulled us apart.

"Commander—"

Malcolm's voice snapped me back to the present.

"I'm getting an anomalous energy reading from the surface."

I was at the console in a flash. "Oh, yeah, now that's—wait, damn, it's gone." Strange. Our long-range scans back on the Enterprise should have picked that up. The planet was supposed to be uninhabited. "Did you get the location?"

Malcolm was shaking his head. "No. Maybe. Wait—I've got it narrowed down to a 5-kilometer area. Right…here, on the main continent. Near the equator."

I considered our options, feeling a prickle of excitement, the thrill of the unknown deep in my belly. "Let's go check it out, Lieutenant. Set a course."

Malcolm regarded me coolly for a long moment. "Do you think that's wise, sir?"

I couldn't help but grin at him. "C'mon, we'll just go down there, take a quick look around then report back to Enterprise."

He looked out at the Class M planet looming in our viewscreen, then nodded. Just like he did on that spooky repair station, when I coaxed him into crawling into the air duct with me. And on that amazing ship, when he followed me down that ladder into part of the ship that just shouldn't have been there. Sometimes, I get the feeling that he'll follow me anywhere.

***

We landed in a hell of a storm, but Malcolm was steady at the controls, and we touched down with only a little bit of a bump. I complimented him on it and I swear he looked suspicious.

We set ourselves down in a rainforest. Even though it was raining hard, I couldn't resist taking a peek. We were the first humans ever to be on that planet, and I don't think I'll ever get over how great that feels. So I opened the door and got a face full of hot, wet air. Despite the steady rain there was a heavy, sweet smell, the kind that can make you feel queasy. I saw low, greenish clouds, and weird, tall, skinny trees rustling in the wind, like they were whispering to me. Then the wind shifted and the rain was stinging my face.

"How 'bout we wait till the rain stops?" I suggested to Malcolm, blinking and wiping at my face.

"Good idea." Malcolm frowned at the less-than-welcoming surroundings. "Rather messy out there right now."

I pulled the door shut. "Yeah, and I didn't get a chance to install any showers in the shuttle," I couldn't resist adding. "You know, Southern boys and indoor plumbing…" Not very mature of me, I know. It's been a couple of months but his bitching about the lack of showers in the nacelles still irritated me.

Malcolm rubbed his face. Then he raised his eyes to me. "Trip—"

I waved him off. "Forget it." I was a little embarrassed to have brought it up.

"No." He sat next to me, and put his hand on my shoulder. "I want to apologize. I was out of line."

"It's okay, Malcolm, we were all gettin' on each other's nerves by then." I let out a little laugh. "You remember those old studies with mice, the ones that showed they chewed each other's tails off when they were overcrowded?"

He gave me an odd smile. "At least it didn't come to that." He squeezed my shoulder, then got up. "Would you care for some tea while we wait?"

"Nah." I sat back, watching him as he moved gracefully around the crowded interior of the craft. I could hear the rain hitting the shuttle, and it soothed me as I pondered the mystery of Malcolm. It's been well over a year and I still didn't quite know what to make of him. There was definitely a spark between us, no doubt about that. And every now and then I'd catch him giving me that look that men sometimes give each other. But more often than not he'd be in my face giving me shit about something or another. Or there'd be long stretches where he'd be cool and distant, quietly going about his duties, the ultimate professional officer.

He intrigued me.

And, I thought, as I watched him bend over to retrieve his cup, he really turned me on.

***

We walked around the shuttle, pushing our way through the hot, wet air. Strange-looking trees surrounded the small, mossy clearing, where we had landed. The trees were tall and skinny, with greenish-yellow leaves about as big as my hand. I saw that there were some fleshy things rising up out of the ground beneath them. Reminded me of mushrooms.

"It's bloody hot out here," Malcolm said, glaring at me as if it was somehow my fault.

"Damn right it is. Reminds me of home." Especially reminded me of those hot, humid summer days in Florida, where it's just too damn hot to move. When no matter what you wear sticks to your body in all the wrong places and you just want to be naked. Days that felt like sex and sweaty sheets and promises.

Malcolm stalked around to the rear of the shuttlecraft. "We came down rather hard," he said. "I'd like to check out the shuttle before we go."

I let him check the shuttle over to his heart's content, and entertained myself by watching bright blue beetles scamper up and down the trees. The heat was melting my bones. I thought about my youth and summer break and days that seemed to last forever.

"Oh hell."

"What is it?" I asked in response to the muttered curse. I turned to see Malcolm kneeling in the moss, peering under the thrusters.

"Nothing serious. But there seems to be some minor damage here." He gestured with the scanner.

I couldn't quite see it. I hunkered closer, and Malcolm pointed at the aft thruster. He kept leaning in until his shoulder was touching mine. "Right here."

He was close enough that I could have licked the sweat from his face. I considered it. Instead I moved my leg on the wet moss so that my knee was touching his. "Just a ding. Doesn't look too bad to me."

He didn't move away. "Right, sir. A 'ding'." Malcolm sounded amused. His body shifted, and next thing I knew the length of his thigh was pressed against mine.

I turned to face him, and found myself staring into cool, gray eyes. One brow was slightly raised. No accident this time. I was sure of that. Then he looked past me and his eyes narrowed. "We have company," he said quietly.

God damn. Nice timing. There was this alien standing there, watching us quietly. Neither of us heard him approach. The mossy ground must have absorbed his footfalls. We scrambled to our feet, and Malcolm fixed his phase pistol at him.

"Easy Malcolm, he don't exactly look dangerous," I said.

Our alien was a fair-skinned, slightly built humanoid, dressed simply in white robes. He wasn't holding any weapon that I could see. He was hairless with a smooth, unlined face. Kind of delicate looking. Could have been a woman—I wasn't sure. He, or she, smiled gently and bowed its head, saying something in a language I could not understand. The voice was deep, so I assumed it was a he.

"Uh, hello there," I said, feeling a little awkward. For a second I wished the captain was with me. He always seems to know what to say in these first contact situations. "I'm Commander Tucker, and this here is Lieutenant Reed. We're from the Enterprise." I waved my hand in the direction of the sky as I said "Enterprise", hoping somehow to convey where we came from.

I could tell by the blank look on the alien's face that he didn't understand a word I said. But he looked remarkably calm, so I figured he must have encountered visitors before. I could see next to me that Malcolm was scanning him, while keeping the phase pistol trained on him. "So Malcolm, if this planet is inhabited, why didn't this fellow show up on our scanners earlier?"

"Good question sir. I'm reading him fine right now."

Our visitor was speaking again, and gesturing into the forest. I waited politely until he was done. "I'm sorry," I said. "I don't understand you. But Malcolm is going to fetch the UT, okay?"

My trusty lieutenant scowled at me, then reluctantly handed me the phase pistol. I held it down at my side, not wanting to seem overly aggressive. Malcolm slid his eyes from me to the alien then back to me again.

"Go on, Malcolm. I can handle him." I wasn't sure whether I found his over-protectiveness flattering or insulting.

Malcolm still hesitated, then capitulated. "Of course."

He returned with the UT. I encouraged the alien to speak some more, and finally the gibberish began to make sense.

"rabix nebine ur. Slala? Nikka welcome you in the name of the great god," our alien intoned.

"Well, alleluia, it worked," I exclaimed. "Let us give thanks to Hoshi." Malcolm and the alien both looked at me, kind of puzzled. "Just a joke," I said to the alien. Malcolm rolled his eyes. I'm sure he was wishing the captain were here, too.

"Welcome to our humble planet," the alien said. "I am Unine, of the Holy Order of Butu." His voice was slow and calm.

"Well, thank you. We're happy to be here. Didn't know anybody was home, or else we would have called first," I explained. One thing we've learned so far is that aliens are a lot touchier than we expected. I didn't want him to think we were just barging in on him and his Holy Order. "I'm Commander Tucker, and this is Lieutenant Reed. Pleased to meet you."

Lieutenant Reed gave a curt nod, and I knew he was still expecting the worst. And I appreciated that.

We continued with the introductions, with me being vague about the Enterprise for security reasons. Malcolm didn't even have to remind me. We showed him the inside of the shuttle, and Unine told us about their temple up in the hills. It seemed they were a bunch of monks, spending their time praying and meditating. To me, that seems like a strange way to spend your life. I thought about the religious folks that visited the Enterprise to view that plume a while back. If this guy was any indication, their race wasn't quite as advanced, but there was still one thing bugging me. Malcolm got there first.

"How come we didn't detect your people with our scanners?" Malcolm asked. I knew that the casual tone was deceptive.

Unine's serene expression didn't change. "Our force field. Left behind by those who came before us. Only—" he paused. "Only it has not been working very well of late."

"Really? What seems to be the problem?" I asked.

"Unfortunately, we do not know. The knowledge has been lost. We can make minor repairs, but we don't understand the workings. Our order shuns technology, only using it to hide us from unwelcome outsiders. We simply wish to be left alone to do our duty in the name of the Exalted One."

"So we're 'welcome' outsiders?" I was being blunt, I know. But we've dealt with alien subterfuge before, and it gets old real quick.

"You did not come here heavily armed. And we hoped that—perhaps you have the knowledge to repair our system?"

I looked at Malcolm, he looked at me. He was the closest thing we had as an expert in the field. And I've been known to fix a few things in my time. "Listen, Unine, I'd like to discuss this with Mr. Reed here. Can you just hang out here for a few minutes?"

I'm not sure what I said translated well, but he seemed to catch my drift. I motioned for Malcolm to follow me, and we walked around to the other side of the shuttle. It was midday by now, and the sun had burned through the haze. There were sounds of life all around us, buzzing and chirping, and the air was perfectly still. A small furry creature, no bigger than a mouse, dashed across the moss ahead of us. It was all familiar, yet strange at the same time. Everything was slightly off, from the colors to the smells and the sounds, just enough remind me I wasn't on earth. I leaned back against the shuttle, feeling beads of sweat under my clothes as they rolled down my stomach.

Malcolm stood before me, looking impossibly alert. I swear the man never relaxes. "Commander," he said, "I would like to get a look at this force field of theirs."

Now this was interesting. I had expected him to firmly suggest we contact the Enterprise, check with the captain first, get T'Pol involved, and so on. I wondered if I was rubbing off on him, and if I'd find him eating pecan pie next. Or maybe, just maybe he just didn't want anyone else joining our party.

"Well then, let's do it. Be nice to get to know some friendly aliens, for a change," I added.

***

"Welcome to our humble home. I must ask you to first cleanse yourself before entering the main area of the temple, where the unit is housed." Unine said, as he swung open the heavy doors.

I was sweating buckets from our hike so needless to say a "cleansing" sounded pretty good to me. "Sure thing," I told him. I looked to Malcolm. He was wiping his forehead with his sleeve, looking a little wilted.

He agreed with me. "I daresay it's a fine idea."

It was wonderfully cool in the temple. The hallways were dark and gloomy and it took a few minutes for my eyes to adjust. We went down a flight of stone stairs, and I began to smell something kind of nice. Flowery and just a little spicy. Sandlewood? We came upon a room with a large sunken pool, lit by torches. Four monks were sitting cross-legged on floor, heads down, eyes closed. They were just as bald as Unine. As we arrived they opened their eyes and stood.

"These are our novices," explained Unine. "They will assist with the bathing ritual."

Okay, so this was a little weird. "Ritual? Hey, where I come from we don't need assistance—" But Unine was gone, and the novices were approaching us.

"Trip?" Malcolm sounded as dubious as I felt. The water was tempting though, clear and sparkling in the firelight. I was grubby and hot, my clothes were sticking to me and making me itchy. Two of the novices came to me and began to tug at my zipper. "Hold it." I said. "I can undress by myself, if you don't mind." I slipped off my boots, and unzipped my uniform. The novices assisted silently, despite my best efforts to dissuade them. There was something strange about them, but I just couldn't put my finger on it.

"Trip, do you think this is—"

"Malcolm, if this is what it takes to get us in there," I cut in. "An' I'm feelin' a little stinky anyway."

Malcolm looked unconvinced. His novices had watched mine undress me and now were trying to unzip him, despite Malcolm's iron grip on their wrists. Poor guy, I could tell he was torn between getting a good look at alien forcefield technology and fleeing an uncomfortable situation. With a resigned sigh he apparently made up his mind, and let the aliens undress him.

I turned away quickly. Watching Malcolm being undressed by aliens was kind of kinky. That's the kind of thinking I didn't want to broadcast. I thought hard about big bugs and stinky flowers and pretty soon my body was under control. Only then I dropped my Starfleet regulation briefs, and stood naked as a jaybird. My assistants were eyeing my body with undisguised curiosity. Maybe it was all the hair? I glanced down just to make sure my cock wasn't acting up again.

"What?" I finally asked them, looking from one to the other. Then I realized what was so strange. Their faces were practically identical. They also looked very much like Unine. Clones? I wondered. "Hey, are you guys related to Unine?" I asked.

They didn't answer me. I don't know if they had taken some vow of silence, or just had nothing to say. They just led me into the pool, their smooth hands touching my arms lightly. The water was as wonderful and cool as it looked. I stepped down into it gratefully. "Oh god, Malcolm, this is so good," I called back to him. I sat on one of the steps, so the blessedly cool water splashed up past my waist. I grinned when I realized there were flower petals floating in the water.

The novices sat on either side of me, still fully dressed, and began chanting in low tones. It was vaguely unsettling. The situation reminded me a bit of a movie I once saw about these explorers who got sacrificed by some native tribe they had found. And were eaten for dinner. But I pushed those unpleasant thoughts aside and shamelessly watched Malcolm being led to the water. He was naked, and he looked damn tasty. His skin was fair, his chest nicely defined, and his waist and hips were slender. I noticed his nipples were reddish and peaked. I noticed his soft cock was tucked against a nest of black, curly public hair, and that he hung to the left. I also noticed that he wasn't a bit shy, meeting my eyes briefly before carefully stepping into the water, silently acknowledging my scrutiny. I was glad for the cool water at my groin.

I wondered if he watched me as I got into the water.

My novices stopped chanting just as Malcolm's started. The fellow on my right began washing my arm with sweet-smelling soap. "Hey," I protested. "Now the last person who washed me was my momma, and that was at least thirty-five years ago. Now give me that damn soap." But now the other one produced a sponge and began lathering my back. Both ignored my outcry.

I decided I didn't care whether or not I was rude. "Malcolm, this is just plain weird."

"Just close your eyes and think of alien forcefields," Malcolm replied. "As I am doing."

"Real funny, Malcolm."

Once I got over the weirdness of it all it wasn't so bad. I kind of liked being fussed over. They washed my back, my shoulders, my hair. I sputtered when my now-chanting novice poured a pitcher of water over my head. "Give a guy some warning—hey!" My voice must have gone up two octaves. "Get that sponge away from there, I'll do that part myself." I snatched the sponge away. Now things were getting out of hand.

I wiped the water out of my eyes and took a peek at Malcolm. He was getting into it too, leaning forward, eyes closed, stretching his back out as the aliens washed him with long, smooth strokes. I'll be damned. Lucky aliens.

My assistants were tugging at my arm, indicating it was time to leave the water. I did so reluctantly. All in all it wasn't that unpleasant an experience—especially because I got to see Malcolm completely naked, not just partially naked, like in decon.

Afterward, we sat next to each other on the wooden bench, wrapped in fluffy towels, watching the aliens do some ritual thing with incense. "I hope the captain appreciates that I let a spooky alien wash my dick in the name of interplanetary goodwill," I muttered to him.

Malcolm chuckled. "I'll be sure to include that in the report. I, on the other hand, snatched the sponge from their hands in the nick of time," he said, looking smug.

Figures.

Our assistants finished with the incense and handed us some clothing, which turned out to be robes identical to theirs. The pants were loose and airy, and the top flowed almost to our knees. They didn't seem to have any underwear, unfortunately. I don't really like to have my parts dangling around like that, but I gathered I didn't have much choice.

Malcolm finished dressing, then stepped up to me to adjust my robe. "You look lovely, Commander," he teased.

"Thank you Malcolm. I feel lovely," I told him.

He turned to the novices. "Are we sufficiently cleansed?"

PART 2

Apparently the cleansing ritual was successful, because the novices led us back to Unine, who was waiting on one of the terraces. Along the way we passed a gathering area where more monks were on their knees, chanting. I was starting to get used to the sound. It was just another background noise on a summer day, like the buzzing of cicadas. When we reached Unine there was another monk with him, who was introduced to us as Alsune. He resembled Unine, too, but I just chalked that up to them being hairless and all. I noticed Unine deferred to him, so I figured he was in charge.

We were only allowed to take our tools and our scanners with us. Malcolm put up a real stink about leaving his phase pistol behind, not to mention our communicators. But it was my call. I weighed the options, thought about what Jonathan would do. There was something vaguely unsettling about the place, but they hadn't been aggressive toward us at all. We were assured it would all be waiting for us, along with our uniforms, when we were through. I like to think I have respect for other people's religion and beliefs. So I agreed to their conditions and ignored the exasperation radiating out of Malcolm.

They led us down several flights of stairs to another room, bright with artificial lights.

"Oh," said Malcolm. I think we both immediately forgot all about phase pistols and communicators when we saw the room. There was a shiny white column running down the middle, with light flashing in pulses along the length. The walls were lined with wires and boxes. There were symbols of some sort on the boxes. It wasn't like anything I had seen before, and I couldn't wait to get my hands on it. Malcolm already had his scanner out.

Unine turned to me. "Do you think you could help us?" he asked.

I shrugged, trying to seem nonchalant, as if we saw stuff like this every day. "Hard to say. We'll have to take a look at it, and then I can let you know."

I was barely aware of them leaving the room.

Exploring that forcefield generator with Malcolm turned out to be one of the most enjoyable experiences of my life. We started out totally clueless—we couldn't even figure out where the power supply was. There was a whole lot of head-scratching in the beginning. But Malcolm and I worked well together, and our skills were pretty complimentary. So we persevered, and the system eventually yielded its secrets, much to our mutual delight. Most of them, that is. We never quite figured out the writing.

"What do you suppose this says?" I asked Malcolm, tapping on one the mysterious blue boxes.

"I believe it reads 'do not tap on this box under any circumstance'."

"Oh, real funny, Malcolm."

"Seriously, though, I do hope we don't end up breaking the bloody thing," he added, frowning. "That would be rather embarrassing. Toss me those calipers, will you?"

"Breaking it? Are you impunin' my engineering skills?" I lobbed the calipers to him.

"I'm not impunin' anything," Malcolm replied, mimicking my accent perfectly as he caught the instrument.

I laughed. "I get a real kick out of how you do that. I—hello there."

A monk had crept into the room with a tray of food and drinks. My stomach growled immediately, earning a bemused look from Malcolm.

"Don't know 'bout you but I'm starving," I said, lifting the lid of the tray.

"I heard the announcement."

"Oh, and you're too well-bred to make any of those bodily noises?"

"Absolutely. I don't fart or shit, either," he informed me.

I laughed. I was seeing a rare side of Malcolm, relaxed and playful, and I liked it.

In the end we succeeded in making some minor repairs to the generator. There were some units that simply needed to be replaced but it was beyond our current technology. I explained to Unine that the Vulcans might be able to manufacture the parts, or at least know who to contact. He looked dubious about contacting more aliens though. Said it was up to Alune. I was getting the impression Alune was the one who dealt with the more worldly matters of the order.

Unine thanked us nicely and offered to put us up for the night. I accepted, telling myself that wandering through the forest at night wasn't in our best interests.

***

We had been given a small room with windows that opened out on another terrace. The night air was heavy, expectant. I thought I could smell rain in the distance.

Malcolm was leaning out the window, looking about, listening. Finally he moved away and came to sit across from me, on his mat.

"You're enjoying this," he said with a little smile. "You like being here."

He was facing me, sitting cross-legged, and the candlelight did wonderful things to his face. He looked good in those robes, too, his throat exposed and shadowy. Softer than he did in his uniform. More touchable. Almost vulnerable.

I answered him carefully. "Yes, I am enjoyin' myself, but it's not just bein' on this planet." I moved so that I was sitting on the mat next to him. Part of me realized this wasn't the best time or place, but I was doing it anyway. I've never been the most sensible officer in Starfleet.

"Trip?" Malcolm asked softly.

I think he knew what I was up to, but he didn't move away from me. Just watched me settle in next to him. I took that as a good sign and went for the direct approach. "Malcolm—can I kiss you?" I asked.

"Kiss me? Why?" His eyes narrowed.

It figured that he would make this difficult. "Because you're you, and how could I not want to?" I said, desperate not to mess this up.

Malcolm regarded me with a whole lot of suspicion, like I was some bizarre alien creature he just ran across.

"I've never kissed a man before," he said at last.

I knew a challenge when I heard one. So, feeling young and reckless, I leaned over and pressed my lips against his, just for a second. It was awkward. We bumped noses along the way. But his lips were softer than I expected.

I pulled back and saw the surprise on his face. Surprise and something else—I wasn't sure what. "Wait," I said before he could speak. "I can do better."

I went in to kiss him again and this time he met me halfway. And that's a real nice thing. He kissed me back this time, his lips sweetly pressing against mine. It was nice and gentle. He tilted his head slightly and kissed me again. And again. His kisses were cautious, like he was just checking out the territory. I let him lead, not wanting to push him into anything more. And I was enjoying myself enormously. It had been a long time since I had been kissed so sweetly.

Then Malcolm let out a small sigh and relaxed, like he was surrendering. Our kisses grew into something more restless and wanting. His lips parted and I tasted him for the first time. His mouth was wet and hot and his skin smelled of the spicy stuff that was in our bath. I put a hand on his shoulder, and he rested his hand on the back of my neck, his fingers playing with my hair. So I put my other hand on his thigh, stroking the hard muscles under the silky material of the robes. It's hard to explain but it felt so right to be kissing Malcolm here on this strange planet.

"So, what do you think?" I asked when he pulled away, trying not to sound anxious. Me, I've done my share of kissing both men and women. But maybe for Malcolm it was a bit of an issue. And I knew I was being judged here.

"I think—" he whispered, dropping his hand to rest on my thigh. My upper thigh. "I think I'd like to do it some more."

His words sent a thrill through my body. I kissed him again, and it got a little rougher this time. He was right there with me, kissing me hard, his clever tongue seeking mine. I was hungry for his touch. My hands roamed around his body, and when I fingered a hard nipple through his clothes he whimpered. I sort of lost it then. Turned me on so much I didn't know what to do first. I wanted to suck on his cock, I wanted to jerk him off so that I'd be covered with his come, I wanted to fuck him, and I wanted him to fuck me hard enough to make me bleed. I wanted everything.

I yanked him hard against my body, practically dragging him into my lap. I went right for his cock, squeezing it. He was as hard as I was. He clutched my robe at my touch and moaned into my neck. "Oh, Trip. Please."

"'Please' what?" I asked, mouthing his ear, his jaw. I petted his cock through his clothes, then gave it another squeeze. "What do you want?"

Malcolm trembled all over in a good way. "What the bloody hell do you think I want?" he growled.

Next thing I knew he was pushing me so that I was lying on my back. He spread himself out over me and held my head in his hands as he kissed my face, dropping sweet little kisses on my forehead, nose, eyelids—everywhere. He was intent, like he was afraid there was a spot he might miss. Meanwhile his leg slid between mine and he rubbed his erection against my hip, while I rocked mine against his leg. There wasn't much finesse to it, but was all so good and we weren't even naked yet.

I finally got him to move enough so that I could get a hand between us and undo the fastenings on the front of his robe. I opened it and pushed it back over his shoulders. His skin was beautiful. Silky smooth and mine to touch. I stroked up and down his wiry body, wrapping my arms around him and pulling him back down on me. He had gotten my robe open too, and we gasped together as our chests touched.

"We shouldn't be doing this, not here," Malcolm panted into my ear.

"You're absolutely right, Malcolm." My hands found their way under his pants and clamped onto his tight, hard ass—the ass I had had my eyes on for months. "Let's stop this right now."

He suckled my neck and managed to find all the right spots to nibble at. "Because we really need—need to keep our wits about us," he added. His body never stopped writhing against mine. I was burning from the friction.

"Yeah, that's right. Wits. Oh—god, do that again—"

Malcolm obliged and sucked on the side of my neck again, putting some teeth into it this time. It was so fucking good I thought I was going to explode. "I got no wits left, Malcolm," I confessed. "Lost 'em durin' the first kiss."

His face appeared above mine. He had a little half-smile and even in the dim candlelight I could see the hunger there. He looked like he wanted to eat me alive. My Malcolm might run hot and cold, but right now he was so hot he was burning me up.

I rolled so that we were both on our sides, facing each other, our legs tangled, our mouths locked together. He put his hand flat against my chest. I realized then that he was used to being up against a women's chest, and women's chests tend look a good bit different from mine. He pressed his fingers into my muscles, kneading, feeling the hardness under my skin. He touched my nipples, first one, then the other, rolling them under his fingers, then running his nails over them. I groaned and bucked my hips against his, helplessly, breaking off the kiss, then mouthing his neck, his shoulder, anyplace I could reach. My hands went to his pants, and he pulled back a little, his eyes wide. But he didn't try and stop me so after a bit of fumbling I got them down around his hips and his cock was in my hand. It was hard and heavy and I could feel the wetness when I ran my thumb over the tip.

Malcolm started thrusting into my hand, while he grabbed me and kissed me, sucking my tongue into his mouth. I decided I liked the way he kissed—even frantic and losing it he kissed so damned thoroughly that it was like it was the most important thing in the universe. I was disappointed when he stopped to look down at my hand stroking his cock. But then he smiled a little, like he couldn't quite believe what he was seeing. He put his hand over mine, then moved it to my wrist and up along my arm.

"Oh—oh—" He gasped and shuddered, clutching at my arm.

"That's it, baby," I whispered against his cheek. "Just let it fly—"

And he did. With a low, guttural groan, Malcolm came, spattering my stomach in long, hot spurts. It was all so god damn good I couldn't take it anymore. As soon as he finished I fumbled with my pants and took my own aching cock in hand.

Before I even started to jack myself off, Malcolm's hand was there too, slick with his come. I was on the edge, just from doing him. A few strokes and my balls tightened up, I was crying out Malcolm's name and oh god, I was there, I was coming and holding Malcolm tight and almost sobbing it was so good.

I stayed tucked up against Malcolm afterward, my body completely limp. He held onto me, and stroked my hair silently. I realized it had begun to rain.

My body must have tensed up a little because Malcolm eased me back and gazed at my face curiously. "What is it?" he asked.

"Was that okay, Malcolm? What that what you wanted?"

Malcolm closed his eyes and let out a little laugh. "Oh yes. I wanted that. I wanted you." He opened his eyes, and looked at me, at my body. Then looked down at his own. "Oh my, look at that." He dragged a finger through the semen dripping across my stomach. "You're quite a mess, Commander Tucker."

He brought his finger to his mouth and licked it. I lay back on the mat and groaned in admiration. "You're killin' me here, Malcolm."

I closed my eyes and heard him get up and move about the room. A moment later he was back, wiping my stomach with a soft cloth.

"So you're okay with this whole 'guy' thing?" I asked.

In response he bent over and kissed me. "Yes, Trip, I'm okay with the guy thing." His eyes twinkled. "I'm even okay with the whole 'Trip' thing, shocking as it may seem."

"It is pretty damn shocking." Pretty damn shocking that he was nestling up against me like that, too. And playing with my chest hair. I held him tight, and as I drifted off to sleep I thought how strange it was to be here on this nameless planet, holding Malcolm in my arms. I listened to the rain, the wind in the trees. When I finally slept I dreamed of home, of summer and freedom and endless blue skies.

***

The tolling of bells pulled me out of sleep. The sound was deep and reverberated through the walls—and right through my stomach. I was confused and disoriented, more so when I realized I was wrapped around a hard, muscular body. Then the fog in my brain cleared. Malcolm. I grinned against his neck. Then a second burst of tolling rang out, nearly shaking the walls this time.

"Goddamn…" I mumbled.

"One hell of an alarm clock." He turned in my arms and eyed me sleepily. "Good morning."

His hair was sticking up all over, his face creased, his eyes bleary, and he needed a shave. He took my breath away. Speech was impossible, so I kissed him instead. He didn't even have morning breath. His mouth was just as sweet as the night before. As I rolled on top of him he tugged both our pants down and instinctively wrapped his legs around me.

The bells tolled a third as our cocks came into contact, making us both laugh. I liked the way he laughed, the way the sound rumbled up from his belly, the way his lips curled and his eyes danced. The next time we made love I wanted him to be deep inside me, laughing. I wanted him to put his arms around my waist and hold me close while he laughed so I could feel it everywhere in my body. And maybe I'd laugh too, out of sheer joy.

I rubbed my cock against his and he groaned and said my name over and over, like those chanting monks out there. My hands found their way to his ass and I pushed him harder against me, our dicks banging together, the soft skin of his balls brushing against mine. The air around us grew hot and heavy, making our bodies sweaty and slick. Sunlight filled the room and the bells tolled again. Malcolm gasped beneath me, his hips shoving me up roughly as his fingers dug into my shoulders. He said my name one last time, his head falling back while a wet heat blossomed between us, mixing with our sweat. As the last toll of the bells faded away, I tumbled over the edge and came, too, sharing my heat with Malcolm.

It took a while for us to come out of our post-coital haze. Not that I was in any rush to get moving—I felt like my body had melted. And Malcolm was relaxed and lazy, a side of him I had never seen before. He squirmed against me, getting comfy, licking and kissing my skin. Sex brought out the kitten in him, it seemed, something I definitely wanted to encourage.

But all too soon there was a tapping at our door. I dragged myself off the mat and made myself as presentable as possible. From Malcolm's dubious expression, I knew I wasn't entirely successful. I just grinned at him and went to the door.

"Good morning, Tucker." It was Unine, followed by novices holding trays with steaming bowls on them. I realized I was real hungry. "I hope—" Instead of going on, he brought himself up short, sniffing.

"What's the problem, Unine?" I asked. Our host had a look of utter revulsion. Malcolm was at my side in an instant.

He backed away from us. "Despoilers," he said, his voice full of astonishment and horror. The novices dropped their trays with a crash.

"What the hell are you talkin' about?" I demanded.

"How could you. You said you would help and now you have contaminated the temple." His voice rose, almost to a shriek.

"What?" I turned to the novices. "Would someone please explain to me what's goin' on?"

The novices shook their heads and moved further away from us. Malcolm and I exchanged worried looks. I thought back to the incident with Porthos, and wondered if we pee'd somewhere we shouldn't have.

"You have soiled a place of worship and now you must face the consequences," Unine exclaimed.

Soiled. It was then I realized he was talking about our lovemaking. The way he sniffed the air when he entered our room—he could smell it on us. Hell, he probably took one look at our faces and knew. "Listen," I said, holding up my hands, "We didn't know—"

He leapt back even further. He was actually cringing. "Do not touch me. You have spilled your seed and there must be a cleansing ritual—we will pray for guidance—"

I didn't like the sound of that at all. These folks were too weird—too many rituals. Two of the novices had eased out the door already, maybe to get reinforcements. This wasn't looking good at all. We had no weapons and there seemed to be lots of monks around. "Uh, Malcolm?"

Malcolm was at the door, now, checking out the hallway. He gave me a curt nod that said the coast was clear, for the moment at least.

I spoke fast. "Listen guys, we've obviously overstayed our welcome and the romance has kind of gone out of the place for me so we're just gonna hit the road now—" And I was out the door, running, Malcolm right behind me.

We dashed down a flight of stone steps into a larger room with four doorways. I was confused—last night I had been so distracted by Malcolm I hadn't paid attention to where I was being led. Thank goodness Malcolm had paid attention.

"This way," he hissed.

I ran after him, and we came upon the pool where we had been bathed the night before. Two monks were coming out of the water and they stopped when they saw us. Malcolm drew up short and I almost slammed into him. Then I saw what he was looking at.

"Well, I'll be damned," I said to no one in particular.

The monks were naked, and I saw the blank space between their legs. They had no genitals—their crotches were smooth and hairless. That explained the odd looks the novices were giving my body.

The monks grabbed their towels and backed away from us. "Oh, hell." I heard Malcolm say with dismay. I turned to look, and there were a bunch of monks, armed this time. Crossbows. Who would have thought?

***

The room was small and airless. Any other situation and I would have appreciated seeing Malcolm tied up like that, hands above his head, legs splayed out in front of him. But from the look on his face I figured it would be a cold day in hell before I got to appreciate him again in any way.

I looked away from him, and shifted around a bit, trying to find a comfortable spot for my butt on the stone floor. "Malcolm—" I tried.

"Commander."

So it was "Commander" now. Fine. I needed to focus on more immediate matters anyway. Unine was upstairs planning some ritual cleansing, Alsune was meditating and praying for guidance on how to appropriately deal with two despoilers who couldn't keep it in their pants. Speaking of which—"Malcolm, if they have no dicks, how come Unine recognized the smell?"

Malcolm stopped struggling with his restraints and scowled. "How the bloody hell should I know?" Malcolm snapped. He thought for a moment. "Perhaps some of them are born equipped."

"How do they get born at all? They kinda looked alike, do you think they were clones?"

"Excellent question. Perhaps you can ask Unine while we are being 'cleansed'."

For heaven's sake—"Malcolm, you can stop with the damn attitude. It's not like you were tellin me 'no, no, a thousand times no'."

Malcolm leaned his head back, bumping it against the wall, and closed his eyes. "I know," he said, sounded resigned. "It's just that—" He opened his eyes and frowned at me. "It's just that whenever I'm alone with you my common sense simply vanishes."

I had nothing to say to that. He sounded so dismayed by it, and I couldn't apologize, because I wasn't sorry for it at all. Malcolm might view our time together as a major mistake in his good judgment, but I never would.

We sat for an hour or so more, each silent with our own thoughts. We had only a few more hours before we were due to check in with Enterprise. The captain would definitely come looking for us after that, but since we got the force field working so nicely, it wasn't likely they'd find us. That really pissed me off. We should have just broken the damn thing.

The only sound I could hear was water dripping slowly down the walls. And Malcolm's breathing.

I think I dozed a little in the heat because I was startled by the door swinging open. In the doorway stood four novices with crossbows, and a monk I had never seen before. At least I didn't think I'd seen him. They all looked so alike it was hard to tell.

"Now what?" I asked sourly.

He didn't answer, but carefully cut the ropes holding our arms up, leaving our wrists bound. My shoulders ached from the awkward position and I heard Malcolm grunt as he lowered his arms.

"Up," the monk ordered, stepping back, presumably to avoid touching us.

We stood, both of us a little unsteady on our feet. The novices still had the weapons trained on us. Primitive, for sure, but lethal just the same.

"You guys get that cleansing thing all figured out yet?" I asked.

"Go."

Neither of us moved. "What are you planning to do with us?" asked Malcolm.

"Go."

"Chatty, isn't he?" I commented.

But since there were four crossbows aimed at us we went.

After climbing way too many stairs I began to smell the forest again. Maybe they were letting us go? Or maybe they were taking us outside to be shot—after all, there's no sense in having despoilers bleeding all over your nice, clean temple.

Then we were at the front of the temple. The doors were flung open, and we were roughly pushed outside. The sunlight blinded me. I heard the door slam shut behind us, and I rubbed my eyes, blinking, looking about, expecting the worst.

And there, right in front of me, looking mighty pissed, was Captain Archer. And T'Pol. And a little behind them, Travis. Who was trying unsuccessfully not to laugh.

***

The journey back to the shuttle seemed twice as long. The captain only reluctantly let Travis cut the ropes on our wrists.

"Cap'n—" I said, striding fast to keep up with him, the sweat pouring down my face. The heat was getting to me.

"Alsune responded when we tried to contact you, Mr. Tucker. He explained the situation to us," he said sharply. "Listen Cap'n—"

The captain held up a hand and cut me off. "No. I'll see you both in my ready room and listen to your explanation there. There will be repercussions to this, gentlemen."

"Yes, sir." Malcolm answered softly.

And I thought Jonathan was pissed when we got caught wandering through the air duct in the repair station. Now he looked utterly furious. I stole a glance at Malcolm, marching purposefully, his robes wet with sweat and his hair curling riotously. He wouldn't look at me.

"Commander Tucker."

T'Pol had come up next to me, speaking my name quietly. She was holding our uniforms, and handed my communicator back to me. "The captain was very concerned. Alsune needed to be convinced that a sacrifice was not in his people's best interests." She spoke calmly as ever, and I was grateful for that. God knows what she thought of me at that point, though.

I suspected the whole ship knew by now. I cringed at the thought. Alsune's explanation probably occurred right there on the Bridge. I wonder what he said—I could just hear him calmly explaining how two of the Enterprise's officers got semen all over their pristine temple, and now he had to kill them both.

I stole another look at Malcolm. He was the most private person I knew. It was probably his worst nightmare—the entire crew aware of the details of his sex life. I just knew I was never going to get my hands on him again. I thought back to how he said my name that morning, with such reverence. I'd never hear such a thing again. The loss was like a physical blow, leaving me nauseated and dizzy. The air around me was too hot, I could barely pull it into my lungs. At last we reached the clearing. I saw that they had landed the shuttle only a few meters from Shuttlepod One.

The captain turned to me, his eyes glittering dangerously. "Now, do I have to make you two ride in separate shuttles?"

I looked at him, then stared at my feet. "No, sir." I heard the echo of Malcolm's response behind me. I supposed I should have been indignant at the Captain's comment, but I just didn't have the energy.

"Good. Travis, would you be so kind as to escort Commander Tucker and Lieutenant Reed back to Enterprise?"

"Sure thing, Captain."

I considered pumping Travis for information on how much the crew knew during the ride in and found I didn't really care. I watched the captain walk off, shaking his head, wiping it off as he and T'Pol headed toward Shuttlepod Two. T'Pol nodded in response to something. Jonathan was mad at me, in a big way, but I told myself he'd cool down. Eventually. Our friendship has always been strong, and he's a real reasonable kind of guy. At least, he always has been.

The sick feeling in my gut got stronger, and I closed my eyes.

"Commander?" Travis called to me. "Your chariot awaits." He gestured to the open door. I walked over slowly, trying not to let my humiliation show, not in front of an ensign.

I threw myself down on a bench, exhausted. I was tired, my heart ached and the room was starting to spin. To my surprise, Malcolm came over and sat next to me. He was watching me with an odd look on his face.

"What?" I asked, seriously not in the mood for some pissy little comment from the man.

Malcolm leaned close. He smiled. I could smell his sweat, and the musky smell of sex. Our sex.

He whispered in my ear. "I can't wait to see what you have planned for our second date."

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