Andorian Adventure

by Kylie Lee and The Grrrl

Title: Andorian Adventure

Author: Kylie Lee and The Grrrl

Authors' E-mail: kylielee1000@hotmail.com, thegrrrl2002@yahoo.com

Authors' URLs: http://www.geocities.com/kylielee1000/ and http://www.geocities.com/coffeeslash/thegrrrl/

Archive: Ask first.

Fandom: Star Trek Enterprise

Date: July 21, 2003

Pairing: Archer/Tucker

Rating: NC-17

Summary: Archer, Tucker, and T'Pol are captured by Andorian commandoes.

Spoilers: 1.15 "Shadows of P'Jem," 2.15 "Cease Fire"

Beta: Kylie beta'd The Grrrl, and The Grrrl beta'd Kylie.

Comments: Posted in response to an EntSTSlash list challenge for the list's first anniversary by the Web site's section editors: Andorian commandoes bring about a change in a relationship.

1. TUCKER, THEN

"But you can call me Trip," I said to the alien.

"Greetings, Trip." He looked me over thoughtfully. "I don't believe I've ever seen your type around here before."

"Nope, probably not," I answered cheerfully. "We've come a long way. Maybe a hundred light-years."

"Then let me welcome you to this part of the galaxy," he said, sliding into the chair next to me. He waved the bartender over and offered to buy me another drink, but I shook my head. I didn't want to overdo it on our first night of shore leave. "And what do you do on board this Enterprise?" he asked.

"Chief Engineer," I said. It was nice to find a planet with friendly folks on it for once. I looked around for the Captain, but I couldn't find him—I supposed he was still trying to locate the lavatory. So I leaned in close and, with a great deal of pride, told my new friend, "Warp 5 engine, you know."

"Really?" He looked suitably impressed. He smiled and touched my arm briefly. "I know a little bit about warp engines myself."

He really was being friendly, and that was so nice—even if he was sitting kind of close to me, his knee bumping mine. I guess some species have a different concept of personal space. "So what do you do?" I asked in return.

"I develop warp field generators." He leaned his head in toward mine and said, "Come back to my place and I'd be happy to show you my specifications."

I was intrigued by the opportunity to study alien technology. "Well, that's mighty generous—" A heavy hand appeared on my shoulder, interrupting me. I looked up to see the Captain. For some reason, he looked really amused. "Hey, Cap'n," I said eagerly. "Meet Belthos. He's—"

"I heard," the Captain said, mouth twitching. "Sorry," he said directly to my new friend, "I don't think Commander Tucker is available." He squeezed my shoulder and leaned his body up against mine.

"Huh?" I frowned at the Captain, confused, even though I was really enjoying all the body contact.

The alien raised his eyebrows, or rather, he would have if he had any, and smiled contritely. "Oh, of course. I didn't realize—" He looked from the Captain, to me, and back to the Captain. "Of course," he repeated. "If you'll excuse me." With a nod, he got up and left.

The Captain slid into the seat vacated by the alien. "Cap'n," I started, a little mad. I was really interested in those specs.

But the Captain just shook his head and laughed. "Trip, really. 'Let me show you my specifications'? I don't think he was talking about warp engines."

I just stared at him. "You think he was tryin' to pick me up?" I asked in amazement. The Captain was obviously mistaken, but I decided to have some fun with it. "Oh, well, then—" I craned my head, trying to spot the man in the crowd, "Did you see where he went? He wasn't so bad-lookin', you know, if you just overlooked that thing on his forehead."

The Captain put his hand on my shoulder again, grinning, and spun me around on my stool until I was facing the bar. "Oh, no, you don't. I know all too well how much trouble you get into when you're trying to get lucky."

I wanted to tell him there was one easy solution to that. But instead I protested, "But Cap'n you never know—he might have some real nice…specifications." I was rewarded by a hearty laugh, and I couldn't resist laughing myself.

I watched him signal to the bartender, then lean forward on his elbows to talk to her. He looked so damn handsome, I thought, admiring his profile. When I accepted the assignment to serve on the Enterprise I had been flattered and thrilled. I knew Jonathan had requested me specifically, which tickled me to no end. I looked forward to being with my friend, to spending time with a man I cared about, with a man I was attracted to in a pleasant, happy sort of way.

But that pleasant, happy attraction grew, and before I knew it, I was in love. This wasn't some silly little crush, either, but a mighty force of emotion like I had never felt before. And I had no idea what to do about it—if anything. I was playing it close to the vest for now. I knew Jonathan cared about me, but I didn't know how deep those feelings went. And Starfleet wasn't too keen on their captains having affairs with crew members. But we were light-years away from Earth now, weren't we? I remembered the way he'd leaned against me when he thought Belthos had gotten too interested, the way he had put his hand on my shoulder. It felt almost—well, proprietary. I'm sure he figured he was just protecting me, keeping me out of trouble. But it was nice. Real nice.

"Ready for another?" The Captain leaned in so I could hear him over the noise.

"Yeah, sure, Cap'n," I said. Maybe if I got drunk enough, I'd blurt out my feelings, and then we'd deal with the consequences, whatever they turned out to be.

Two tall glasses of sparkling liquid were placed in front of us. The stuff wasn't bad, very much like beer, although this was a little more bitter than I was used to. The Captain picked up his glass. "Here's to…" his voice trailed off, and he studied my face so intently I almost asked him what was the matter.

"Here's to good friends," I finished for him, raising my glass. "You know I'd rather spend my shore leave with you, don't you?"

For a second there I was afraid I had said too much, but his face softened, and he looked touched by my words. He clinked his glass against mine, nodding. "Me too, Trip. Me too."

Something in his tone made my insides get all twisty. I took a sip to cover my confusion. I gathered up my courage. "Captain," I started.

And his damn communicator beeped.

"Archer here."

I could barely hear Hoshi's voice through the device, but two words were clear: "Shran" and "meeting."

Damn it.

2. ARCHER, NOW

"Anything?" Tucker asked hopefully.

Archer shook his head. "Nothing," he said, disgusted. "I can't force it. We're locked up tight." He stepped away from the door and pointed. "I wonder about that control panel."

"I advise against it," T'Pol said.

"Why? What have we got to lose?"

"Andorian technology is based on plasma," T'Pol said.

Archer just looked at her. That meant nothing to him. She clearly thought her remark made sense. It did to Tucker, because he was nodding.

"Okay, let me in on it," Archer pleaded, rubbing his head. He wondered if it would be uncaptainly of him to ask Tucker to massage it again.

"Plasma isn't stable in an oxygen atmosphere," Tucker explained. "Does your head still hurt?"

"I'm fine," Archer grunted. "Come on. Plasma. I need more." He put his hands on his hips and tried not to feel like the odd one out.

"It'll burn you," Tucker summarized. "And we won't be able to put it out."

"That I understand." He sat on the bottom bunk, defeated. After they'd been taken to the Andorian ship, they had been crammed into what was clearly double crew quarters. Andorians were smaller than humans. The beds were at least a half a meter too short, and they were bunk beds to boot. T'Pol sat in the desk chair, which she'd turned away from the empty desk, and Tucker was leaning against the bed frame, arms folded on the upper bunk. Archer admired the lean stretch of the other man's body for a moment before focusing on the matter at hand. "Do we have any idea at all why we're here?"

Archer wished they were back in the bar, drinking with Tucker. After saving the oblivious Tucker from the guy who was hitting on him, he had just wanted to gather Tucker up in his arms and hold him close, and tell him how he felt. He hadn't yet figured out how to tell Tucker that he, Archer, wanted him all to himself. He was pretty sure Tucker thought they were just friends, but Archer's feelings ran deeper. Much deeper. Maybe too deep. But one good thing had come out of Tucker's little flirtation with the alien—what was his name? Belthos? Tucker had joked about checking out another man. If he was patient, maybe Tucker would consider checking out Archer.

T'Pol was saying, "The Andorians are not trustworthy."

"Yeah, well, neither are Vulcans," Tucker shot back. "Whose listening post was that at P'Jem? Oh, wait. Let me think. Yes. Vulcans!"

"The Andorians and the Vulcans haven't gotten along for years," Archer said, coming back to the present to play peacemaker. "But what about me and Trip? We're human. Earth doesn't even have a trade agreement with Andorians. Why are they risking bad relations with Earth?"

"The thing I'm more concerned about is Shran," Tucker said.

"Why is that, Commander?" T'Pol asked.

"Because I think he sold us out. He knew that the captain would come if he asked us. But then he takes the three highest-ranking members of the crew, one of whom is a Vulcan, and—"

"The Andorians are not trustworthy," T'Pol repeated, more emphatically.

"Yes, well, that was my determination to make," Archer snapped. "I decided to trust Shran, and it turns out that was the wrong decision. But I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt." He was starting to think that he should stop. He held up his hands in a placating gesture. "We're not being ill treated. They gave us food and water. We have a place to sleep and a lavatory."

"Well, I still feel lousy," Tucker said. "And look at T'Pol."

"I'm fine," T'Pol said calmly.

Tucker eyed her. "You're pale as a sheet, and you're shaking. I don't think much of their transporter technology."

T'Pol opened her mouth, but before she could say "I'm fine" again, Archer broke in.

"T'Pol, get some sleep." He gestured. "You take the top bunk. Trip and I will take turns on the bottom one. I'm sure our…hosts will drop in eventually. Until then, let's play it cool." Not to mention, he added mentally, the room was probably bugged. The less talk and speculation there was, the better. "Here." He extended a hand and T'Pol took it. "Do you need to use the lavatory first?"

"Yes, please," T'Pol said, rising. She leaned on Archer heavily, then found her feet. She made it to the lavatory. The door shut behind her, and the room suddenly seemed much larger.

"She looks really bad," Tucker said quietly.

"I know." She had only been awake for a few hours. She had been the last person to come to after they had been transported. When Archer had regained consciousness, Tucker's hand had been on his chest, as though he'd been checking Archer's heart rate, to make sure he wasn't dead.

"And I was thinking," Tucker continued.

"What?"

"If they can't get what they want out of her, they'll try to get it out of us."

"I can't imagine what they think we know," Archer said heavily. "And T'Pol's not in the loop with the Vulcan High Command."

"How do you know that?" Tucker asked.

"Oh, hell," Archer said. "I don't. She could be a secret operative." He had known she was reporting back to the Vulcan High Command—that was, after all, why she was aboard Enterprise. He'd just assumed that it was a one-way street: she gave, but didn't get.

"Well, I don't think she's been accepting any coded messages lately or anything." Tucker hesitated. "Do you want me to take first watch?" he asked.

Archer shook his head. "I just don't think it's worth it, keeping watch," he admitted.

"You look lousy."

"Thank you. So do you. We all look lousy." Tucker's eyes were sunken, and his skin had an ashen cast. Archer hadn't realized how much of Tucker's personality was simple vigor. He seemed dimmer somehow. "Tell you what. You take the bed and I'll take the pillow and sleep on the floor."

Tucker looked doubtfully at the floor. It wasn't carpeted; it was made of a hard, shiny substance. "It looks cold," he said.

"Okay, then, I'll take the pillow and the blanket."

"There's room for two on the bed," Tucker said firmly. "We'll share."

Archer had a sudden vision of cradling Tucker in his arms and drifting off to sleep, their bodies entwined. Best not to think about that. Bad enough that they had been practically snuggling on the floor when T'Pol woke up. "Two incredibly tiny people, not two overgrown humans," Archer said. "The floor is fine."

"I'd rather share the bed and get some of the pillow and blanket," Tucker said. "Besides, we've shared a pup tent enough times."

"You know, I really should keep watch," Archer said desperately. He knew Tucker was making the offer out of simple friendship. Tucker was fond of him, he knew that. And he'd always been demonstrative and affectionate. He touched Archer freely, as he had when he gave him that massage to ease Archer's pounding headache. But Tucker had no idea how good it felt to be touched liked that—he couldn't image how much Archer longed for such physical contact with him. Sharing that tiny bunk would be far more intimate than sharing a relatively spacious pup tent, which, after all, had room for two sleeping bags. Archer imagined waking up in the small bed, with a certain part of his body very awake and eagerly poking at Tucker. He preferred to avoid that. He wanted to stay in control. "I'll take first watch," he said quickly.

Before Tucker could respond to Archer's sudden reversal, the lavatory door opened and T'Pol came out. She looked a little better. She waved aside their offers of help and hauled herself into the top bunk, then peered over the side. "I will meditate, and then I plan to enter a trance state," she informed them. "It should enable my body to heal more quickly, but I will not be responsive. I will be unable to hear or respond to you, and my respiration and heart rate will be very low."

"How long will it last?" Tucker asked.

"Several hours, likely longer," T'Pol said. "Good night."

She rolled onto her back, folded her hands deliberately on her stomach, and closed her eyes.

Archer moved across the room and dimmed the lights. He left enough illumination so they could see each other and find the lavatory. Tucker had taken the single chair. Archer pointed at the bed and indicated that Tucker should get in. Tucker shook his head and pointed at Archer, then the bed. Archer shook his head, indicated Tucker and the bunk, tapped his wrist to indicate time, and held up four fingers: he would take first watch for four hours while Tucker slept. Tucker shook his head and imitated what Archer had just done: he would take first watch. When Archer started gesticulating in reply, Tucker broke the silence.

"Just get in the damn bed, Cap'n," he said.

Archer did and fell asleep almost instantly. He woke up later—how much later, he didn't know—when Tucker slid in next to him.

"Shh," Tucker whispered when Archer started to sit up. "You were right. There's no point in being on watch. There's nothing to look out for. When they get around to talkin' to us, we'll know."

Archer was too exhausted and weak to argue. He hitched over to the edge of the bed and lay back down. Tucker arranged himself next to him, distributing the blanket over them. They had to bend their legs to fit in the small bunk. Instead of lying so they were back to back, Tucker nestled his chest against Archer's back. Archer closed his eyes and drifted, soothed once again by the faint rise and fall of Tucker's chest, the warmth of his breath in his hair. He was almost asleep again when Tucker put his arm around him. Archer instinctively scooted back so his ass was tucked into Tucker's groin and put his hand in Tucker's.

"Mmm," Tucker said sleepily as they cuddled together. "Jon."

Archer smiled and relaxed. He didn't care what Tucker thought. They were alive, and they were together. Nothing else was important.

3. TUCKER, THEN

"Yeah, some shore leave," the Captain grumbled, then yelled, "T'Pol, behind you!"

A sudden burst of flame nearly blinded me, and seconds later, I heard a loud whoosh. The Captain ducked; green fire flared by. I watched as T'Pol darted across a few meters of clear ground before throwing herself over a waist-high stone wall. The shots kicked up dirt in little puffs behind her, like a stone skipping over water. She used the wall as cover as she began picking off the Andorian commandoes. She was actually pretty damn impressive—and cool as a cucumber.

"Captain!" I yelled. He'd disappeared. Where the hell was he?

"Trip, cover me!"

There he was. I laid down phaser fire as the Captain, bent over double, ran to join me behind an old, decrepit barn.

"I'm going to kill Shran with my bare hands for this," the Captain said. "I was having fun until our little meeting." All hell had broken lose when we'd showed up at the coordinates Shran had provided. Luckily, T'Pol had insisted we show up in force, and Malcolm had insisted we show up armed. "Where's Malcolm?" the Captain demanded.

"Don't know. Lost him. No response to my hails," I told him, looking him over carefully. He was all rumpled and dirty—not very Starfleet at all. But he looked good. I was especially enjoying the part about him being alive. "You all right?"

The Captain nodded. He put his hands on his knees and panted. "Yeah. Yeah—what about Travis?"

I shook my head. "Don't know." Travis was in charge of one of the teams.

"God damn it!" the Captain exploded. He pulled out his communicator as I peered around the building, then hastily ducked back as a shot zinged my way. Nice way to get my nose zapped. "Travis, this is Captain Archer. Report."

There was a long silence, then crackling. "Mayweather here," the helmsman's voice said. He sounded calm—things must have been going okay for him, thank goodness. "Captain, we're pinned down behind the creek. Chin and Baker are injured, but not seriously. We're holding them off, but we can't take them—too many."

"Have you checked in with Hoshi back on the ship? Can you get through to her?"

"Yes, sir."

"I'm a little busy right now—" The Captain paused to squeeze off a shot at some shadow movement in the distance, then motioned for me to follow up. I listened to him continue with Travis as I fired.

"Can you contact her and tell her we need information about troop deployments? Like, where the hell are they getting their reinforcements? And can we have some?"

"Aye, Captain. Mayweather out."

The Captain pocketed his communicator and checked the charge of his phase pistol. "Damn it, Trip, I need to get back to Enterprise," he told me, wiping his face. He was dirty and sweaty—and I could tell by the set of his mouth that he was really, really pissed off. "There's no way this fight is limited to the surface. If we're going to be engaged on two fronts—here on the planet and in space—then I've got to be in the captain's chair."

I nodded. "Yes, sir. We'll get you back up there."

I risked a look around the edge of the barn. Things were quiet for the moment. Then I saw a flurry of movement as someone broke cover and dashed across the clearing, and suddenly the Andorian commandoes were shooting again.

"Oh, there's Malcolm," I said helpfully.

"Can you cover me to the shuttlepod? Then tell T'Pol to handle things here. This is right up her alley."

"Sure thing," I said. We both ducked as another large explosion hit, huddling together to shield each other as we were pelted with dirt and stones. The Captain put his chest over my back. I covered my face. We were in a tight situation, but I couldn't help but enjoy the way he was leaning against me—as he had in the bar. That was just hours ago, but it seemed like longer. He was protecting me again.

I felt the Captain's body move off mine. "Come on." The Captain grabbed my hand and tugged me to my feet. He headed for the clearing a few kilometers away where we had landed the shuttlepod a few hours earlier. "I can't believe Shran did this to me," he said. "After all we've been through. I mean, ambushed!"

"I don't know what he thinks he's going to gain," I said. "Down."

We threw themselves on our stomachs. We buried our faces in the grass, covering ours head with our arms as a volley of shots flew overhead. The Captain took a look behind us. "They can't see us," he realized. "They're shooting at those trees over there." He started to scramble up. We were about halfway to the shuttlepod.

My eye was caught by some trembling shrubbery. There was no wind. "Wait." I pressed a hand on his back, and he froze. His safety was my priority, just as, apparently, mine was his. Now I knew how Malcolm felt, worried about all the bridge crew going off on away missions together. I could feel the Captain breathing heavily in the long silence, only of course it wasn't absolutely silent. We could hear distant shouts and thuds and the sound of shots.

"What?" the Captain said after a minute.

I pointed off to one side, where I had seen movement, and the Captain nodded as a second later, five or six Andorians scrambled down a ridge onto the road. I recognized the silhouette of their jackets. Their guns looked really big. The Andorians jogged past, luckily in the direction opposite the shuttlepod. Reinforcements. When we were far enough away, we pulled ourselves up.

"I think the road is a little dangerous," I decided. "We'll stay in the gully."

"I feel like I'm running away," the Captain said glumly.

"Tell me about it."

He didn't have to tell me how he felt. We'd known each other a hell of a long time, and I knew him all too well. Every instinct of his was telling him to stay on the surface and help his men fight, but he knew his place was on board Enterprise. And to be honest, I wanted him up there too, safe and sound.

"The ship," he gasped as we pushed through the last few meters and broke into the clearing, weapons drawn. The shuttlepod sat quietly, still sealed up. He turned to me. "Oh, good god. I think they're after Enterprise."

"Wrong, actually," a voice said, and we both turned. "Captain Archer. How nice to see you. And—Commander Tucker, is it?" The Andorian smiled. His weird, light blue skin was visible in the half-light thrown by the moons. His antennae twisted slowly. His buddies accompanied him, all of them armed. Both the Captain and I had discovered the hard way that the Andorians, while smaller and slighter than humans, were pretty damn strong—and could throw one hell of a punch.

"Nice to see you again, Shran," I said. I crossed my arms and stared at him aggressively. "I'm gettin' sick of getting beat up. Just so you know."

The Captain gave me a warning look. I knew he was worried about me running off at the mouth. I was a little insulted—really, I do have some common sense. After all, we were outnumbered and outgunned.

Shran gestured with his rifle, and I sighed. "Okay," I said, laying down my phase pistol.

"Captain, you too."

The Captain followed suit. The phalanx of Andorians broke apart so that one of the henchmen could scoop up the weapons. I scanned the edge of the clearing, hoping we could make a run for it, but instead, I saw a slim, trussed-up body at the tree line. It was lying very still—frighteningly still.

Shran followed my gaze. "Oh, she'll be fine," he said, but I wasn't reassured. "Your Vulcan science officer is simply stunned. She'll come to in a few hours—probably with a bad hangover." He pondered. "Not that she knows what that is," he conceded. "But still. Headache. Nothing worse."

"What do you want?" the Captain asked bluntly. "I know you've got problems with the Vulcans, but what is your deal with us?"

"All in good time," Shran said. He jerked his chin at one of his minions, a tall woman. "Let's go. Get them ready." We stood still as the woman and two others bound our hands behind us. They seemed to take a little too much pleasure in pulling the bonds tight. "We need to chat, Captain. I am curious, though," Shran continued, "why all the command crew members are making for this shuttlepod. First the subcommander, then you two. Fleeing the scene of battle? Now, is that particularly responsible of you?"

"You can't tell me that you're not engaging Enterprise," the Captain said.

"If you say so," Shran said agreeably.

"Done," the Andorian woman called. She gave the Captain's rope an extra vicious twist, and he smiled at her sweetly. I wished Malcolm would magically appear and stun them all. Hard. Then stun them again.

"Ready?"

I watched curiously as the woman took hold of the Captain. She unhinged a gold-and-silver cuff and slipped it around his left arm.

"What—?" he began, looking at me as I received my own cuff. When it clicked shut, I felt the bones in my arm shiver, as if a high-frequency sound had passed through them. It almost tickled.

A moment later, the clearing and the shuttlepod disappeared, and I felt a moment of heart-pounding panic. Everything was black, and I couldn't breathe. I opened my mouth, and just as I was getting ready to yell, everything changed. We were now standing in a large room on a platform. Some kind of console was facing us. An Andorian was coolly watching us as she manipulated unseen controls.

"Transporter," the Captain gasped, and he fell to his knees.

"What is going on?" I asked, and suddenly I was on my knees too. My legs weren't working right at all. I half-fell over T'Pol's unconscious body. I was aware of her breathing.

The last thing I heard was Shran making a disgusted noise. Then everything faded out.

4. ARCHER, NOW

"I don't know," Archer repeated.

He closed his eyes briefly. He thought about lying in Tucker's arms, warm and safe, their bodies spooned together, T'Pol in a trance in the top bunk. That was an eternity ago. He wondered why he hadn't turned so he was face to face with Tucker. He should have looked him in the eye and told him how he felt. He wouldn't have needed to use words, after all. He could have used his body. He should have stroked the side of Tucker's face, looked into his eyes, and kissed him. For a while he had thought that everything they had done so far—the light touches, teasing, the eyes that lingered just a little too long, even the cuddling—could be explained away as simple friendship. He used to think he was reading too much into Tucker's every move, wanting there to be a feeling there that transcended the love of friends.

But he hadn't invented Tucker's arm around him. He hadn't imagined Tucker saying his name, sighing into his ear. Tucker never called him that before, not that he remembered. He only ever called him "Captain," although even when he said it, it was filled with warmth and familiarity. And he was—the captain, that is. He was in charge; he was in a position of authority. And he was Tucker's friend. He wanted to be more.

"I don't know," he said automatically, because the woman had stopped speaking and he knew he was expected to answer. He was kneeling on the ground. He'd been kneeling forever. His arms were handcuffed behind his back. "I don't know anything about the Vulcans."

"You are their allies," the Andorian commando spat. She touched the edge of the pain stick to his shoulder.

Archer felt the pain bloom down his side as if from a distance. He imagined that it was what being knifed felt like: a thud, followed by a sensation of stabbing pain. He had told himself, at first, that he would not show emotion. He had only screamed twice. The first time, she had let the pain stick rest for more than a few seconds. The second time, she had discovered that human male genitalia were extraordinarily sensitive. His passing out had been inconvenient for her; she hadn't touched the stick there again.

"They have a new listening post," the Andorian continued. She spoke very clearly, as if to a child. "We have planted false information and have seen it come back. The listening post is in the volume of space you have been crisscrossing for the last several weeks. We have established that beyond doubt. Where is it, Captain Archer?"

"I don't know anything about it," Archer said. "And why wouldn't I tell you if I knew? I was the one who uncovered the listening post at P'Jem."

The Andorian smiled. "A ruse," she said dismissively. "A game on the part of the Vulcans. They reveal a loss with much fanfare, for a greater gain. We are used to being their pawns." She pressed her face close to his. "You should get used to it too," she advised.

"Oh, I know all about it," Archer said. He staggered to his feet, vaguely surprised to find that his legs still worked. He loomed over the tiny Andorian. She didn't look intimidated. She was, after all, the one with the shock stick—and there were two guards stationed near the door. "We've been their pawns. We did what they wanted, when they wanted. They have withheld information for years. Years. They treat us like children."

"We have more in common than I suspected," the Andorian said. She held up the shock stick. "Where did your Vulcan science officer tell you to go?"

Archer shook his head. "She doesn't tell me where to go. I tell her what to do. I'm the captain." He shut his eyes as the pain crackled through his other shoulder. "Will—you—stop?" he roared, falling to his knees again. "I can't tell you what I don't know!" He bit his tongue before he could say, "Ask T'Pol." They had her. She was next. The only reason they hadn't taken her first was because she was still in a trance and totally unresponsive.

"Now we're getting somewhere," the Andorian said with satisfaction. She walked around behind him. Archer's sixth sense tingled, but he wasn't prepared when she touched the stick to his bound hands. The shock stick worked by overloading nerve endings, and there were plenty in his hands. He bent forward as his hands convulsed. He should have known better than to break their pattern by losing patience. "Where did the Vulcan ask you to take your ship?" the commando repeated.

"Asked and answered," Archer said through gritted teeth.

"Where?"

"Asked and answered!"

"What are the Vulcans planning?"

"I don't know."

The commando clearly wasn't an expert in torture. She was as angry as Archer, and she had no interest in manipulating him psychologically. Her voice rose. "What do you know?"

"Nothing."

"Again: What do you know?"

"Asked and answered."

"Ah!" the Andorian exclaimed in utter frustration, and before Archer could prepare himself, her booted foot lashed out. He couldn't dodge it. The force knocked him to his side. He lay there, panting. "Get him out of here," she said to the guards. "The Vulcan is next. Let me know when she's here. I'll be in the mess."

She turned on her heel and strode out of the room, fury in every line of her body.

"Wow, she's really mad," Archer gasped. He rolled over onto his knees just in time for the guards to grab his arms. They hauled him to his feet. "While I have your attention, could I ask for some soap to go with the shower we have in the lavatory? Unless part of T'Pol's torture is being forced to smell me and Trip. And if that's the case—it's very clever of you. Torture by smell. Sorry." The last was said to one of the guards. Archer had just lurched to the side and trod heavily on his foot. "I can't balance right with my hands tied behind my back." They all paused at the door, and a guard keyed it open. "That was a hint," Archer went on as they started down the corridor. The guards were tough nuts to crack. "It was a hint that you should take these handcuffs off. Now, I like handcuffs as much as the next guy, maybe, in some situations, even more—"

He trailed off. He saw a familiar face down the corridor. It was Shran. He was dressed in a bulky jacket, and a rifle was draped over his shoulder by its strap. When Shran spotted him, he stopped dead. His antennae began waving.

"You bastard!" Archer yelled. He tried to stop, but the guards hustled him past Shran. "I don't know anything! I can't believe I trusted you! And I'll tell you this, I don't enjoy being tortured!" He glared at Shran over his shoulder. Shran had turned to face him. Archer couldn't read the expression on his face, but he thought Shran was surprised to see him. "The Vulcans were right," Archer told him. "I never thought I'd see the day, but they were. Andorians can't trust anyone, and as a result, they can't be trusted themselves!" The guard to Archer's right shoved him to make him go around a corner. "You betrayed me, Shran," Archer yelled. "And I'm not about to forget it."

Archer was panting with frustration and rage by the time the guards stopped at a door. They made him kneel. One guard unlocked the door with a palm print and a key code. "Back," he warned as the door slid open. The guard behind Archer brandished his weapon, and Archer saw Tucker and T'Pol retreat to the back of the room. His relief at seeing T'Pol up and about was tempered by the fact that he knew she was next. A part of him was glad it wasn't Tucker. He told himself it was because Vulcans had great strength. T'Pol could handle an Andorian with a shock stick better than an ill and hot-headed Tucker.

The guard behind Archer fumbled with his wrists, and the handcuffs came off. The guard shoved Archer into the room. They had Archer lie face-down on his stomach on the ground while T'Pol was called forward and cuffed.

The second the door lock thudded, Tucker was at Archer's side, turning him onto his back. "What did they do?" he demanded. His hands lingered on Archer's face, tracing the orbit of Archer's right eye. He looked concerned. Archer figured he looked like hell. "Where did they take T'Pol?"

"They wanted to know the answers to some questions," Archer said. "And they took T'Pol to ask her."

"I can't believe this is happening," Tucker said. "Water. Let me get you some water. Stay here."

"Will do," Archer said, lying back. The floor was hard and uncomfortable, but Archer was too busy enjoying the feel of the blood rushing through his arms to pay attention to how cold and unyielding it was.

Tucker was back in a second with a plastic tumbler of water. He sat behind Archer, back propped against the side of the desk, and half-pulled Archer into his lap. "Here." He held the glass to Archer's lips, and Archer drank thirstily. "Tell me what happened."

"It wasn't much in the line of torture," Archer said. "And I should know. It was just this Andorian commando—I never caught her name—and a shock stick. She wanted to know about some new listening post that the Vulcans have up that's in the neighborhood we were just visiting. She wanted to know where T'Pol had us take the ship."

"Where T'Pol had us take the ship?" Tucker repeated. "I told them I don't take orders from her," Archer said. He leaned against Tucker's warm body as he finished the water.

"Where did they get you?"

"Shoulders and legs mostly. My hands once. My genitalia once."

He felt Tucker's indrawn breath.

"Yeah, it really hurt," Archer confirmed. "But she didn't do it again because of all the passing out that ensued."

"Jon," Tucker said in despair, and Archer's breath caught. Tucker didn't seem aware of what he'd just said.

"I'm okay, Trip," Archer said reassuringly. "I'll be fine. Nothing a few hours' rest and some time with Porthos won't cure." He tried to make his voice light. He half-turned so he could see Tucker's face, and Tucker's hands tightened on his waist. Archer looked into Tucker's eyes, startled, then amazed by the naked emotion that he saw. "Trip," he whispered, and Tucker's hand trailed tenderly up his back. Archer almost shuddered at the pleasure. He hadn't been imagining it. Tucker wanted him, maybe just as much as he wanted Tucker. The world was reduced to Tucker's blue eyes. "I waited," he said, dimly aware that the comment made no sense.

"Me too," Tucker said. "I don't want to wait any more." He leaned forward just as Archer reached for him. Tucker hesitated for a long moment, eyes locked on Archer's. Their lips were almost brushing when the door lock thudded.

Tucker abruptly sat back, and Archer put his arms around his knees as the door slid open. It was Shran. If he found anything odd with one man sitting between the legs of the other, he didn't say anything.

"I can't say I'm surprised to see you," said Archer dryly. "You want another go-round? Because I'm game." He made to struggle to his feet, but Shran impatiently gestured to him to remain where he was.

"Where is the Vulcan?" Shran asked tersely.

"She was taken," Tucker said.

"Who took her? Where did they go?"

"That would be the torture chamber," Archer said. "Wouldn't you say, Trip?"

"Yep, torture chamber," Tucker agreed.

Archer continued, "I just left there—that big room on this level? The same two guards that had me took her. A charming Andorian woman is going to have a conversation with her."

"Stay here," Shran ordered, as though they had any choice, and a moment later, he was gone.

"Okay, that made no sense," Tucker said after a second.

Archer grinned. "I think I get it," he said. "I don't think Shran and that woman get along too well."

"Hmm," Tucker grunted after he thought this one over. "I'd say you're right."

"I saw Shran in the hall. He seemed surprised to see me."

"Are you saying he didn't sell us out after all?"

"Too early to say," Archer said. "But wouldn't it be nice?"

Archer shamelessly leaned against Tucker, and Tucker put his arms around him and nuzzled his hair. The electric moment between them had passed, he realized, thanks to Shran's untimely arrival. But it had been there. Archer closed his eyes and smiled. It had definitely been there.

5. TUCKER, THEN

"Captain, please, just wake up now, okay?"

I looked down at the Captain's unconscious body, trying not to panic. I had a vague memory of a medic scanning us and giving us some shots, but I still felt like shit. He had told us it was the transporter—they didn't realize it would affect humans so badly. Maybe he told me how, but I just couldn't remember. T'Pol was still out cold, too. My head throbbed something awful, and I was still nauseous, even thought I had already thrown up everything in my stomach.

I patted the Captain's shoulder absently while I took stock of our surroundings. It seemed like we had been put in crew quarters. Even though the door was locked, I was heartened by the fact that at least we weren't in a brig.

T'Pol was lying on the floor next to the Captain. "T'Pol," I tried. I shook her shoulder gently. Her skin was cold to the touch, but her heart was beating and she was breathing. I hated feeling so helpless, but there wasn't really anything I could do. I figured at least I could make her more comfortable. I grabbed her underneath her arms and managed to manhandle her onto the lower bunk. Her legs stuck out past the foot of the bed. I stretched her out and rearranged her hands so they were on her stomach. I stood back to admire the effect, which wasn't good at all. She looked dead now. Only the slow, regular rise and fall of her chest gave away the fact she wasn't.

I sighed and sat down on the floor next to the Captain. "Come on, Jon," I told him, willing him to wake up, to be all right. I wiped his forehead with a damp towel. At least the bathroom was stocked with supplies. I took the liberty of gently pushing his hair back from his forehead. It felt dirty and gritty in my hands. "Come back to me." I couldn't seem to stop touching his hair, combing it with my fingers, feeling its coarse texture. "Jon," I sighed. I swallowed and felt sick. I didn't know whether it was the aftereffect of the transporter or the thought that he was ill, maybe dying, and I couldn't do anything to help him. "Wake up," I told him quietly. "We'll go out drinking when you feel better, to celebrate. We'll have a real good time." Only this time, when I opened up my mouth to tell him how I felt, I'd actually say the words.

I folded the towel and wiped my own face. I was cold and sweating. We were alone. Nobody was outside the door—nobody had come when I yelled that my crewmates were still unconscious and needed a doctor. The ship was vibrating the way ships do when they're in warp, so I knew we were moving.

I looked down at Jonathan's face, so odd in its stillness. This time, I touched his face. I could feel the start of his beard against my fingers as I traced his cheekbone. Through it all, when the Andorians had faced us in the clearing; when the Captain had fallen to his knees in the Andorian transporter room; when we had woken up—he was all I could think about. Jonathan. My captain. My friend. I had come so close in the bar to telling him how I felt. I hoped I would still have the chance.

My fingers were still on his face. Daringly, I stroked his lower lip with my thumb. It was soft. He still didn't move. I leaned down, putting my face close to his. I hesitated, just for a second, and then I kissed him. I got a little scared and panicky, but as soon as my lips touched his, I could imagine what it would be like if he kissed me back, and in that instant, I wanted him so much that I thought my heart would break.

I sat back and put a hand on his chest, over his heart, and willed him to get better, to wake up, to come back to me, to be all right. I sat there for what seemed like a long time, half-dozing, until I felt a hand close around my wrist.

"Trip," the Captain gasped. "Are you all right?"

"Yep," I said, relieved, trying to sound cheerful. "T'Pol's still out."

The grip on my wrist tightened. "I think—"

The greenish cast of his skin was the tip-off. "Yeah, let me help you with that."

We barely made it to the lavatory in time. He fell to his knees and I held his shoulders as he retched and heaved. I rubbed his back as he slumped over the toilet, groaning.

"Yeah, I know," I commiserated. When he was ready, I helped him up, then held him steady as he washed his face and rinsed out his mouth. "The nausea should go away soon." I didn't mention that I still felt more than a little green around the gills myself. We staggered out of the bathroom together. By mutual agreement, we sat down on the floor next to the desk, landing with a thump. I looked over at T'Pol on the bed, but she hadn't moved. The Captain leaned against me. He didn't seem to notice that my arm was still around him.

"How's the head?" I asked him.

"Huh—oh, uh, it hurts. But not as bad as before." He seemed groggy.

I hesitated, then took the plunge. "Here, let me." I shifted around so I was behind him, then began kneading the base of his neck. "Does that help?" I whispered in his ear.

Jonathan turned his head around to look at me. Our eyes met, and my heart started hammering. I thought about how he had looked at me in the bar, when I had made that toast.

"Uh huh," he grunted in reply. He closed his eyes and turned his head back. "Don't stop," he whispered, and I didn't. After a few minutes, when the tension in his neck seemed to recede, I rubbed my fingers against his temples. He smelled of sweat and dirt, but it was a good smell. I liked the way his head felt in my hands. I never wanted to stop. Then he moaned, and the sound went right through me. I wanted to hear that moan again, preferably in bed. While naked. And sweaty.

His body relaxed against mine, and I let him lean back against my chest. It was a little awkward, one leg all twisted up under me and falling asleep. But I wouldn't have moved for the world, because he was letting me take care of him, just like he had taken care of me so many times. My hands traveled down to his shoulders. I was suddenly unsure what to do. I wanted to put my arms around his chest and hug him, but I thought maybe I shouldn't. Maybe it was a little bit too much for a friend to do. And we were still friends. I hadn't said anything yet.

But then he started breathing deeply and steadily. He had fallen asleep or passed out again, I couldn't tell which. When he began sliding sideways, I did put my arms around him, holding him tight against my chest. His head leaned back against my shoulder. I sighed in contentment and held him closer, wishing we were anywhere else.

T'Pol made a sound, and my head whipped around. "Commander," she said weakly.

I felt Jon stir. We managed to untangle ourselves, and the Captain gave me an odd, sleepy look—I swore he was disappointed, or maybe it was just wishful thinking on my part. I had held him in my arms, trying to will him to get better, and even though he was dirty, rumpled, and sick, I knew what I wanted. I wanted him.

6. ARCHER, NOW

"—but I'm still not convinced," Tucker said as they exited the lift. He gave a little wave at a crew member, only the second or third they'd seen since they'd come on board.

"What, you don't believe Shran was double-crossed? It wouldn't be the first time." Archer remembered how another Andorian woman had been less than forthcoming with Shran. Andorians really didn't trust anybody—even each other. Sad.

"Well, if you want to believe him, be my guest," Tucker said. "I don't buy the whole 'I had no idea she was going to torture you' routine. I mean, Shran's the one who knocked out T'Pol and transported us up."

"Yes, but when I saw him in the hallway, he really did seem surprised to see me." Archer stopped in front of his door. He was home. "And he got us released, didn't he? I'm glad Malcolm was able to follow the warp trail of the Andorian ship. At least they stopped fighting when we transported aboard the alien vessel." He reached up to key in his access code. Shran had been manipulated by the Andorian commando. Shran had thought he'd been a go-between, but he'd been used to procure Archer and T'Pol for questioning.

Tucker shifted his weight, obviously uncomfortable. "Well, Cap'n, I'll let you get some rest. You must be plumb exhausted from all the—you know—"

"Torture?" Archer supplied.

"Yeah, that."

Archer shook his head. "I'm fine. A couple hours in sickbay fixed me right up." He tried not to smile at his friend. It was the first time they had been alone since they had returned to Enterprise, and Archer could tell Tucker was nervous. They hadn't talked about it—about how they had cuddled together, about how they had almost kissed. Apparently it took Andorian commandoes to make each realize what he meant to the other, or at least give them the courage to admit it. Archer told him, "You know, I've got these engineering specifications I've been just dying to show you."

Tucker's smile nearly blinded him. "Oh, really, now? Because you know how interested I am in…specifications."

Archer stepped through the open door. "You'd better come in, then."

He entered his neat quarters, Tucker close behind. "Where's Porthos?" Tucker asked. "He's conspicuous by his absence."

"Hoshi was keeping him while I was gone. I guess he's in her quarters. It is the middle of the night, you know."

"Yeah, I know." Tucker looked at him, and Archer suddenly felt shy.

The awkward silence stretched. Then Archer said "Trip" just as Tucker said "Jon." Tucker held up a hand and Archer quieted. "I almost told you everything in the bar, and I've been kicking myself ever since for not sayin' anything," Tucker said.

"So say it," Archer said. His eyes locked with Tucker's, and suddenly all the air was gone from the room.

Tucker stepped close and took Archer's hands. "Nah," he whispered. "Now I don't have to." He kissed Archer softly, right on the mouth. "But I plan to spend the night. Just so you know."

Archer's heart started hammering at Tucker's implicit promise. "I'd—I'd like that," he managed, his lips still tingling from the brief kiss.

"When we were in that room, and you came back with a black eye, all trussed up, looking like hell—" Tucker began. He shook his head. "I was worried sick. I was afraid you were going to die on me. And I hadn't said anything about how I felt. But I wanted—I wanted to do this." He leaned in and captured Archer's mouth again. This time the kiss was warm and lingering, and somehow, he tasted familiar. Archer fell into it. Nothing else in the universe existed.

When Tucker pulled back for a breath, he whispered, "Jon."

"Trip," Archer said. He let go of Tucker's hands and stroked his face, the familiar face of his friend. It was all too much, and he couldn't speak, so he just hugged him, burying his face in Tucker's neck, breathing deeply, and then trailing kisses up to his jaw. He felt Tucker's fingers wind in his hair, felt his sharp intake of breath. Finally, his mouth found Tucker's. The relief was incredible—relief at being alive, at finally being able to touch Tucker the way he'd wanted to for a long, long time. He was giddy in a definitely uncaptainly way, giddy with happiness and desire.

And Tucker seemed to feel the same way, leaning against him eagerly, clinging to him, moaning a little, sucking on Archer's tongue, sighing into his mouth. Archer was overwhelmed by how sweet Tucker's mouth was, by how eagerly he kissed and rubbed his body against his. Tucker wanted him, really wanted him. Having Tucker in his arms was better than Archer had imagined, and they weren't even naked yet.

Tucker pulled back, his hands holding Archer's head. He examined Archer's face in amazement, as if he had never seen it before. Archer knew Tucker felt it too: the realization that their bodies responded to each other, that a touch, a kiss could ignite the other. "Oh, god, Jon—"

Archer's mouth was captured again. Tucker's arms went around his waist, Tucker's hips shoving against his. Archer nearly laughed for joy when Tucker's hands gripped his ass. Tucker was all over him, a little clumsy and rough in his enthusiasm, which made it all the better. He pushed a thigh between Tucker's legs, rubbing it against the hardness there, and Tucker cried out in delight against his cheek. Archer felt a rush through his body, his blood surging. He was suddenly so hard he couldn't wait another instant.

"Bed," Archer panted, wanting, needing Tucker so much he was nearly incoherent. "Bed. Naked. Now." He fumbled first with his own zipper, barely getting it unzipped before he decided he'd rather get Tucker's uniform off instead. Their hands tangled, and they both laughed. Tucker grabbed him again, hugging him tight, their groins clashing together as they stumbled toward the bed.

"Now," Tucker said, pulling Archer's uniform down over his shoulders. He grabbed the fabric and pulled Archer close to him. "Need you now. Right now."

"I'm getting the idea," Archer panted, and was rewarded by Tucker's laughter. It felt wonderful, Tucker's hard body shaking, pressed so closely against his, making his groin ache even more. "What about that naked part?"

"Does that mean I have to let go of you?" Tucker asked.

Archer grinned against his neck. "Just for a second, I promise."

Tucker dropped his arms and they began stripping off their uniforms, standing so close their elbows bumped. Tucker made an exasperated sound as he tried to remove everything at once—his briefs, his coverall, his socks, his shoes. Archer grabbed Tucker's shoulders just as Tucker was about to go down. Archer's own uniform was half off, his shirt hanging from an arm. They grinned at each other.

"You'd think we never tried to get undressed before," Tucker panted. He held onto Archer, looking into his eyes while stepping out of his shoes.

Archer was mesmerized by those eyes. But Tucker pulled the shirt off Archer and tossed it at his chest. "C'mon, keep it movin'."

Archer laughed and then finally, finally they were both naked. Archer found himself staring at more than Tucker's eyes now. Tucker was gorgeous. He had always known that. He had seen Tucker's body before, had even been lucky enough to smear decon gel on it, but now—Tucker was completely exposed, his chest tapering down to narrow hips, his cock big and hard.

Tucker moved toward him, smiling wickedly. The look in his eyes was almost predatory, and Archer's mouth went dry. Their need was mutual, he realized. "I'm likin' those specifications, Jon. Likin' them a whole lot," Tucker informed him.

Before Archer realized what was happening, he found him self on the bed, on his back, with Tucker on top of him, which suited him just fine. And when Tucker's specifications slid up against his, his brain simply shorted out. He grabbed Tucker's head, kissing him as he wrapped his legs around Tucker's waist, holding him tight. Tucker was his. Tucker was beautiful. Tucker was heavy and solid and crushing him into the bed, moving and rubbing, and it was just the most wonderful thing he had ever experienced. Shock after shock of pleasure raced through Archer's body as Tucker rocked against him, making desperate, hungry little noises that drove him wild.

"Jon," Tucker panted against his mouth. "Bed. Naked. Coming. Now."

His mouth opened and Archer plundered it with his tongue. Tucker writhed against him, clutching at him, straining, fingers digging into Archer's back, his breath hot against Archer's cheek. He groaned and shook against Archer as he came, and Archer held him even more tightly, feeling Tucker orgasm against his body. It was simply amazing, that Tucker would do this, that Tucker would come all over him—

Archer shut his eyes as his own cock was smashed against Trip's stomach, rubbing through the thick, hot liquid, and then, oh, god, he couldn't take it any more, the pleasure was too intense, and Jesus, he had to let go because it was too much, it was too much. "Trip," he said in a hoarse whisper as his body exploded. "Oh, god—"

When he opened his eyes, he and Tucker were still wrapped in each other's arms, Tucker melted against him. Their kisses had turned slow and gentle. Archer could feel the warm stickiness of come all over his stomach and chest—Tucker's come, and his own. He was still stunned by all that had happened, by how fast everything had been, by how their bodies responded to each other. He felt lightheaded, relaxed. The incredible desperation was gone, but now it was replaced by soul-deep, abiding desire. Archer knew that he would never be able to get enough of Tucker's touch. And he was glad.

"I think we set a speed record," Tucker said drowsily.

"Fast and enthusiastic," Archer said. "My favorite." He unwrapped his legs, and Tucker rolled off, grunting.

They lay side by side. "You know how I said I was going to spend the night?" Tucker asked. He leaned down and kissed Archer's nipple, nipping it with his teeth.

"I remember," Archer said, running his fingers through Tucker's hair.

"I've changed my mind."

"Oh?" Archer grinned. He'd known he wanted Tucker, but he hadn't known Tucker would sweep him away like this, that he could get so lost in the man. Their Andorian adventure suddenly seemed a million light-years away. It had just been a misunderstanding after all. And it hadn't turned out all that bad. It had made them take stock. It had brought them together. Having this beautiful man in his arms, in his bed—it was well worth a little torture.

Tucker's mouth worked its way up and Archer shivered with delight, his cock stirring again. "It's not just tonight. It's going to have to be every night," he whispered into the crook of Archer's neck.

"Well, if you're sure," Archer said, wondering if he was ever going to be able to stop smiling. "My bed is too big for just me anyway. Not like one of those little Andorian things."

"That's what I thought," Tucker said.

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