Shanghaid

by The Grrrl

Title: Shanghaied

Author: The Grrrl

Author's email: thegrrrl2002@yahoo.com

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

Archive: Ask first.

Fandom: Star Trek Enterprise

Pairing: Tucker/Reed

Rating: NC-17

Summary: The boys get kidnapped, and pressed into service as crew on board an alien ship. In my own twisted little Enterprise universe, this is what should have happened during shore leave in 2D2N. I'll be posting this in parts over the next few days.

Author's Notes: Big cyber hugs and roses and champagne to Kim and Kylie for their valiant beta'ing! You two are great. And special thanks to Kim, who helped in no small way to get this plot going!

CHAPTER 1

Trip licked his lips, leaned in closer to Malcolm. "Should have gotten room service," he said suggestively. Beneath the table he gently brushed his leg against Malcolm's.

"Indeed we should have," Malcolm responded. "Particularly since then I'd be able to relieve you of that god-awful shirt."

"Hey, this is a classic—and it's a hell of a lot more excitin' than what you're wearing."

"Some would consider this dignified. Not that you'd know anything about that." Malcolm was wearing basic black. Black shirt, black pants. In precisely the same shade of black. Not like that green, red, and purple horror that Trip was wearing. It had palm trees and hula girls on it, for heaven's sake. Even Captain Archer had rolled his eyes when Trip boarded the shuttlepod.

Their shapely, golden-hued waitress arrived at their table, ready to take their order. Or rather, Malcolm realized, to take Trip's order. She smiled broadly at the engineer, bending over to speak with him, and in the process giving him an eyeful of her generous attributes. "And have you decided on what you would like?" she crooned.

"Sorry darlin', I just can't figure out this here menu," said Trip. "Can you help me out?" He smiled back at her, all dimples and boyish charm.

"Of course," she said, leaning in even closer.

As the woman began describing the various dishes, Malcolm attempted to kick Trip from under the table but the man had wisely moved his long legs out of reach.

"I'll have the roast then," Trip said. "And just what is your name?"

"Just call me Deeha. Your first time here?"

Malcolm felt he might as well be invisible. He picked up his spoon and began tapping it idly on the table, the sound causing the corner of Trip's mouth to twitch as he conversed with the waitress. Under different circumstances Malcolm may have found the woman attractive—she was certainly well built, and her yellow-gold skin and jet-black hair made a stunning combination.

"A warp drive engineer? How very impressive. You must be quite clever," she gushed.

Malcolm rolled his eyes. In another minute he was going to lose his appetite. "Pardon me—"

She turned, and seemed surprised to see him also sitting at the table. "Oh. Hello. Do you serve on board the starship too?"

Trip answered before Malcolm could speak. "Yeah, he's the ship's barber. Does a good job, don't you think?"

"May I order now? I'll have the roast also." Now Malcolm had the knife in his hand, and was turning it over and over. Trip was rubbing his nose, trying desperately to keep from laughing.

Deeha nodded, smiled vaguely at Trip, then looked warily at Malcolm and left.

Trip watched her walk away, then turned to Malcolm and smiled. "See? Some folks don't think this shirt is all that bad."

"You're impossible." Malcolm said. But he was starting to grin too.

"I love you, too, Malcolm." Now the smile faded as he gazed at Malcolm intently.

He began to feel warm from the intensity of his lover's gaze. Looking down, he began to rearrange the silverware back to its proper place. "It's so very nice to be here, in public, and to be with you. To be ourselves," he said softly.

"Yeah. I know." Trip reached across the table and they clasped hands briefly. Such a simple gesture, thought Malcolm, looking at their entwined fingers, yet so new for them. They had purposely chosen a location far from the rest of the crew so they could relax and not be Starfleet officers for a while.

They spent some time idly discussing the rest of the crew, wondering how they were enjoying shore leave. The discussion quickly veered to wondering who was going to get laid. They contemplated who needed it the most. Malcolm suggested the captain, figuring he was under the most stress. Trip decided it was Hoshi. He thought that since she had finally gotten her "space legs," she deserved to have a good time. But they finally both agreed that T'Pol actually needed it the most.

"Do you think Vulcans actually enjoy sex?" Trip asked.

Malcolm thought about it for a moment. "Maybe you should ask her when we get back."

"I dare ya."

Malcolm did not respond to the challenge. Instead, he was watching their waitress come directly toward them with a large tray of food, looking their way. Impulsively he reached across the small table, grabbed Trip by the collar and dragged him over for a passionate, lingering kiss. When Deeha reached their table Malcolm released his hold on Trip's collar. His lover fell back into his seat, mouth slightly open, face flushed.

Deeha smirked at Trip as she put his dish down with a thump. Trip grinned sheepishly at her, but she just shook her head, served Malcolm and left without a word. Malcolm chuckled. He was nearly as surprised by his bold action as Trip.

Trip beamed at him. "I just love it when you get all possessive. 'Specially in public like that."

***

After dinner, they went directly to their room. Malcolm contemplated the delightfully large bed for a moment before shoving Trip onto it forcefully. Then he leaped onto the bed with him, straddling the other man's hips.

"Now off with that bloody shirt, you shameless flirt." Malcolm began unbuttoning the protesting man's shirt, swatting away his hands.

Trip grabbed his wrists, and they wrestled briefly for control. Then Trip abruptly released his hold, causing Malcolm to lose his balance. Trip flipped Malcolm over and was now straddling him, hands pinning his wrists. Damn, thought Malcolm. Fell for the oldest trick in the book.

"Just for that remark, you're gonna have to make love to me while I'm wearin' it."

Malcolm struggled. "I'm afraid it may have a deflating effect on my enthusiasm."

"We'll see about that." Trip slid his body down until it was flat against Malcolm's and captured his mouth with a kiss, his tongue invading, possessing Malcolm. He maintained his hold on Malcolm's wrists, and Malcolm squirmed in delight, kissing him back with equal passion.

Trip finally released his wrists and ran his hands along Malcolm's chest, slipping them under his shirt. His hands were hot and Malcolm groaned at the touch. He reached for Trip and they rolled again, and then they were sitting up, facing each other, pulling at each other's clothes. As Malcolm's shirt came off, he saw something that made his blood run cold.

Two strangers were standing at the foot of their bed.

He froze, and as Trip turned his head to look they raised their pistols. Malcolm felt himself shoved down as Trip attempted to shield him. Then everything went dark.

***

He came to in a dank, dark room. He was cold and stiff, and his head ached. As he struggled to sit up, he discovered his wrists and ankles were securely bound. With a start he realized his clothes were gone, except for his skivvies. Where was he? Where was—

"Trip!" he called out, panicked.

A soft moan answered him. He was nearby, to Malcolm's left.

"You all right?" He didn't like the sound of that moan.

"Yeah. My head hurts like hell." Trip's speech was a little slurred.

"Mine too."

"God damn!" Trip suddenly exclaimed.

"What's wrong?"

"My shirt's gone."

Before Malcolm could respond, a light flashed on. He frowned and squinted against the sudden brightness, blinking, and saw that Trip was lying a few feet away, also undressed and shivering. Then he took in the windowless, featureless room, the hard floor. Where were they?

The door opened and two men walked in. One was a tall, cadaverous-looking alien, with flaky, pale skin. The other was a humanoid alien, slight, balding, with mild, blue eyes and sandy-colored hair. Across his temples protruded two bony ridges. He was wearing a brown tunic and boots—and, Malcolm noted, he was armed with a small pistol of some sort.

"Do you mind tellin' me what the hell is goin' on here?" demanded Trip.

The tall alien nodded to the man in the tunic. "That one. He's the warp drive specialist." He scratched his chin and small white flakes of skin floated to the ground.

The smaller man looked down upon Trip with a frown. "You are certain of that? I don't even recognize the species." He sounded bored, disinterested.

"They are new to this sector. But rest assured, sir, I always guarantee my goods. You will get your money's worth."

Trip had been listening with a puzzled look on his face. Now he shook his head. "Wait a minute, what do you mean, goods? Hey, I'm talkin' to you!" He was shouting now.

The man in the tunic ignored Trip. "And what about the other one?"

"Hmm. A—a barber, apparently."

Malcolm and Trip looked at each other in astonishment. "God damn," said Trip softly. Then to the procurer he said, "There has obviously been some misunderstandin'. You'd better release us right now before you get yourself in any deeper."

With a deep sigh, the balding man said, "Torlot, I prefer someone less difficult." He began to walk out of the room.

"Wait, sir—" The alien hurried after the man. "Allow me to demonstrate something." The man allowed himself to be led back to Trip and Malcolm.

Malcolm felt apprehensive as the Torlot approached him. He wished he had his clothes. XXX stood in front of him briefly, then, without warning, kicked him sharply in the ribs. Pain shot through his body and he curled up, panting, unable to speak. He could hear Trip shouting, furiously cursing the alien.

"Be quiet, or I will do it again." The alien's voice was cool, confident.

Trip fell silent. But Malcolm could hear heavy breathing, could feel the waves of anger. Damn. They had played right into the procurer's hands, demonstrating the ease with which Trip could be controlled Trip. Malcolm straightened out, painfully, and saw that the buyer was watching intently, a small, unpleasant smile playing on his lips.

"All right. I'll give you 15 bars of latinum for both of them. Final offer. And he had better be what you say he is." The voice was soft, but there was a real threat behind it.

"Then we have a deal," said Torlot eagerly, shedding more flakes as he clasped his hands in delight. "Perhaps I can also interest you in our—"

"No, you cannot. I must leave soon. I'll send my guards down immediately with the money." With that, the man departed.

"Hey," called out Trip. "You don't think you're actually gonna get away with this, do you?"

The procurer turned to Trip and spoke to him for the first time. "I always do."

"Return us to our ship and I will see you get twice the amount," Malcolm offered. The bastard seemed greedy enough, it was worth a try.

But the procurer didn't bite. "Renege on a deal with Captain Draj? Right." He sounded amused.

***

Two burly aliens released their ankle restraints and handed them pants. The taller one motioned for them to get dressed. Trip and Malcolm exchanged glances, then put the pants on. The aliens were of a race Malcolm had never seen before, somewhat humanoid, but with small gray scales instead of skin, and two slits in place of a nose. They were both broad-shouldered and muscular—useful attributes, Malcolm supposed, for guards. They were wearing jumpsuits, not the uniform-like tunic of the buyer's. Around their thick waists were wide belts, hung with many items, few of which Malcolm could recognize.

The door opened once again, and a tall man walked in. He also wore a brown tunic. Malcolm noted that this one was of the same race as their buyer, Captain Draj.

"Our new recruits, Robruth?" He addressed the tall guard.

The guard nodded.

"Mind tellin' us what's going on?" asked Trip. In response Robruth swatted him across the face with his large hand. "God damn it!" sputtered Trip, pulling back and glaring at his captor.

"Hold it." The tall man stood between them. "Once we are on the shuttle, I'll explain your new positions." His dark eyes were serious. "I advise you for the moment to stay quiet and not cause any trouble." His right hand fingered the weapon resting in his holster.

Soon they were marched down a long, windowless hallway, the air damp and foul-smelling. Malcolm realized they must be underground. Eventually they came up to the surface, in a small clearing where a shuttlecraft was docked. The craft had seen better days; its surface was pitted, and black streaks covered its sides.

Once on board, they were forced to sit on the floor, and their ankles were shackled. As they lifted off, the tall, dark-haired man crouched before them.

"My name is Beekar. I am second in command of the Sinsaral. You two are now part of the ship's crew. You," he motioned to Trip, "are our new ship's engineer. The warp engine needs repairs. It was damaged when we acquired the ship."

"And why the hell should I fix your damn engine?" asked Trip.

Beekar reached his hand out and patted Malcolm's cheek. Malcolm drew back as far as he could but came up against the bulkhead wall. "You'd be amazed to find out how much pain we can inflict without causing any permanent damage to a person."

After he left, Trip whispered to Malcolm, "What the hell kind of fucked-up ship is this?"

Malcolm couldn't answer.

CHAPTER 2

Malcolm paced the length of his cell. Fifteen steps to the wall. He turned. Fifteen steps back. He picked up speed and dragged his fingers against the latticework of bars fronting his cage. Trip. What was happening to him? It surely had been days since the shuttle had docked, and he and Trip were led away in opposite directions. He had no sense of time. The lights remained on. Food, if he could indeed call it that, was brought to him on occasion by a silent guard. But other than that, he had been alone. The hall in front of his cell remained empty. Nothing to break up the monotony of his thoughts. Fourteen steps to the wall. He stood still. Did he miscount?

His unshaven chin was intensely itchy. He fingered the stubble thoughtfully. At least four days' growth, he thought. Maybe more. Trip. He had to know what was happening to him. The lurid possibilities that leapt to mind caused a dull, grinding pain in his stomach. He came to the wall and slammed his hand against it, hard enough to hurt. He turned and did the fifteen paces again.

Trip. He recalled the first time they met. The physical attraction he felt was immediate. Disquieting. The man was handsome, charming, easygoing, voluble—everything Malcolm was not, and never would be. Malcolm had quietly ridiculed himself for his yearnings. A man like Trip—even if he indulged in same-sex relationships—would never be interested in him. Yet the man's demeanor, the sense that you were the most important person in the world to him when he talked to you, helped lead Malcolm's thoughts astray. So when he was alone in his quarters at night, Malcolm would fantasize about what it would be like to possess such a man. To feel him naked and writhing underneath him, hear him panting, gasping, crying out Malcolm's name.

Malcolm now switched to pacing the perimeter of his cell, counterclockwise. Now he slid his right hand along the wall, his fingertips rubbed raw against its rough surface.

When he and Trip finally did come together, in that desperate moment on the shuttlepod, it was more intense than anything he had imagined. And to his utter astonishment, their relationship continued afterward. Malcolm told himself it was purely physical, and although he was delighted to find that Trip was more than willing to explore some fairly kinky activities, he was certain the man would tire of him eventually. Or grow disgusted with him. So it was best not to get emotionally involved. Or so he thought.

Before he realized it was happening, Trip had managed to tease, cajole, even torment his way through Malcolm's defenses. Made him respond before thinking, made him open up in ways he hadn't thought possible. Made him fall in love. Made him fall in love, go on shore leave to what seemed to be a respectable hotel—and then here he was, frantically marching around his small prison cell, worried half out of his mind for the man he wasn't going to let himself get close to.

He stopped short, suddenly feeling dizzy. Too many circuits in one direction.

After standing there for a few long minutes, he laid on the hard floor and slept.

***

The sound of his door opening woke him. Before he could protest, rough hands yanked him to his feet, and his wrists were secured behind him. Robruth then grabbed his arm and walked him out of the cell. They stopped in front of Beekar.

"Where are you taking me?" asked Malcolm, heart still pounding, yet relieved that something was happening.

Beekar regarded him steadily. "Tucker is being rather uncooperative. The captain has requested your presence in Engineering."

Malcolm's heart leaped. Trip was alive. And causing trouble—he must be all right. He allowed himself to be walked down the corridor. Now he needed to focus, to find out where Engineering was in relation to his cell. They reached the end of the hallway and made a left. Unlike the Enterprise, the walls were smooth and featureless, with the occasional control panel, some displaying blinking lights, others still dismantled.

Ahead of him walked Beekar. The man was always armed, Malcolm noted. Curious. He could see one small pistol, slung low on his right hip. Was it a phase pistol? Seemed too small for a particle weapon. He wondered if there were more, perhaps hidden under the brown tunic.

The distant sound of a voice interrupted his pondering. Trip's voice, pleading. The hallway widened, and he realized they had reached Engineering. Trip was chained by the ankle to a large structure; although Malcolm was hardly an engineer himself, he recognized the configurations of a warp core. Trip, his voice strained, was speaking to Captain Draj, who was listening impassively, standing with his legs apart and his hands clasped together behind his back. To their left, at more consoles, were an Andorian and a Xyrillian. They were also chained to their posts. Malcolm was surprised; he hadn't contemplated the presence of other slaves aboard the ship.

"Listen, this isn't necessary. I'll have it runnin' soon. I'm sorry I lost my temper. Honest. Just don't do this." Trip's back was to Malcolm, and he could see his hands were clenched into fists at his sides.

The anguish was apparent in Trip's voice, and Draj had a pleased look on his face. Then he noticed Beekar and the smile broadened. "Ah, thank you, Beekar."

Trip turned and looked at Malcolm with horror. He looked awful, thought Malcolm with a start. His face was heavily shadowed with beard, his eyes wide and glassy, cheeks sunken. They were asking far too much of him, Malcolm realized.

Trip turned back to Draj. "Please don't." The quiet sound was a knife through Malcolm's heart.

But Draj nodded to Beekar, and in turn, Beekar motioned to Robruth.

Malcolm tried to swallow but his mouth had gone dry. The reality of the situation began to sink in. Whatever was about to happen was not going to be pleasant. Robruth unfastened a short, cylindrical device; his heart began pounding so hard he began to feel lightheaded. The thought of running crossed his mind but his feet were rooted to the ground. Robruth activated the instrument and a high-pitched whine filled the room. He lifted Malcolm's shirt and placed it against his ribs.

Malcolm first felt the cool metal, and then white-hot pain engulfed his body. It was unlike anything he had ever experienced. Agony filled his consciousness, blotting out everything else. He fell to the ground, paroxysms wracking his body. He must have screamed. His chest muscles were spasming wildly. He couldn't breathe. Couldn't inhale. He was going to die, going to suffocate right there, face down on the cold floor.

At last his muscles eased and he frantically gasped in air. One breath. Two breaths. His throat burned. The pain eased slightly. The roaring in his ears began to fade and he could hear the sound of his breathing.

"There now," Draj said. "Perhaps now, Tucker, you'll think before you speak?" As if he was scolding a small child. A pause. "Sorry, I could not hear your answer."

"Yes, sir." Trip's response was still almost inaudible.

"Good boy. Now back to work, everyone; the show is over." Face still on the floor, Malcolm felt, rather than heard, him walk away. Then a foot was nudging him.

"Up." Robruth's booted foot hit him harder.

Malcolm tried but his muscles refused to respond. Someone took both his arms and lifted him bodily to his feet. He swayed but the person maintained his hold, keeping him upright. Malcolm's head hung down, and he saw to his great dismay the front of his pants were wet. "Come on, let's get you back," said Beekar. He was the one holding Malcolm upright.

Reluctantly Malcolm raised his head. His eyes met Trip's. There was utter despair in his lover's pale blue eyes. Trip blinked rapidly, then turned back to his console, adjusting a control with trembling hands. Malcolm wanted to talk to him, tell him it was all right, that he loved him, that it wasn't his fault—but his mouth could not form the words. Then he was dragged away, stumbling, back toward his cell.

***

When Malcolm woke again, he was lying on his back in his cell. His first thoughts were of Trip. He had dreamed he was back on board Enterprise. They were under attack—Engineering was badly hit, and the door was sealed—Malcolm groaned at the memory. Then he tried to move and groaned loader as pain shot through his body. He stank of sweat and urine. Moving slowly, carefully, he managed to achieve a sitting position. How long had he been out? He scarcely remembered the trek back to his cell, although he clearly remembered the relief he felt at the sight of it, and the relative safety it represented.

At last he pulled himself up, using the sink for support. He drank some tepid water. Then saw movement in front of his cell.

Beekar was there. He slid open the small slot and tossed something toward Malcolm. Clothes. Clean clothes.

"Your friend should learn some self-control," Beekar said, slamming the door of the slot shut.

"Your captain should learn how to properly run a ship," croaked Malcolm. He staggered painfully to the front of his cell, face to face with Beekar. He clasped the latticework of bars to hold himself steady. Then saw something interesting in the second-in-command's face. "You don't approve," he said, surprised.

"It was necessary. Captain Draj knows what is best."

"You didn't answer my question."

Beekar looked thoughtful. "It's an effective approach."

"Do you really think so? I've served on ships where we'd do anything—we'd risk our very lives for our captain, out of respect, out of loyalty. Not fear." Malcolm spat out the last words in disgust.

"And do you fear me?"

Malcolm looked into his dark, hooded eyes. "No. I don't think you are anything at all like Draj."

Beekar stepped closer, now face to face, only the bars separating them. "And I don't think you are anything at all like a barber." He stepped back from the cell and walked away.

Malcolm looked after the man thoughtfully. Then he turned and painfully reached down to retrieve the fresh clothing. As he did, he felt the vibration of the ship change in frequency, and a low, soft hum filled his ears. They had achieved warp.

CHAPTER 3

Robruth slid open the small slot in Malcolm's cell. The restraints were in his hands. Malcolm backed away, until he hit the wall. Shit. Not again. He would surely die this time.

Robruth motioned impatiently. "Hands," he demanded. "Now."

"No," said Malcolm, his voice weak.

The alien made a disgusted sound and unlocked the door. Pulling his weapon, he advanced on Malcolm. He pointed the weapon at Malcolm's head and repeated his demand. "Hands."

Dutifully Malcolm held his trembling hands out to be cuffed. The cold metal wrapped tightly around his wrists as the device secured itself automatically. With his pistol still aimed at Malcolm's head, Robruth shoved him toward the corridor.

Malcolm dragged his feet every step of the way, receiving a blow to his head for his resistance. He scarcely noticed the pain. He could not go through the horror again. The pain was bad enough, but more than that, he couldn't bear to again see the defeat in Trip's face.

Finally, Robruth grasped his upper arm with his large hand and half dragged him down the hallway. Resigned to his fate, Malcolm got his feet under him and managed to somehow walk alongside the creature. Soon he was short of breath, his legs trembling and aching from keeping up with the alien. Aftereffects of the pain device, he supposed.

Instead of making the left to Engineering, Robruth made a sharp right and took him down a small set of stairs. Now where was he taking him? A new panic seized him. If not to torture him, to teach Trip a lesson, then what?

One more turn, and they were facing a dimly lit hall lined with cells much like his own. Robruth stopped at the first one, releasing the door. Grabbing Malcolm by the short, flexible wire between his cuffs, he pushed him into the room, unlatching the restraints at the same time. Malcolm jerked his hands in as the door slid shut with a bang. He spun around at a sound behind him. A whisper.

"Malcolm—"

He was stunned to find himself in Trip's arms, squeezed so tightly he could not breathe. Despite the pain in his injured side Malcolm wrapped his arms around the man and held him just as tightly. He was whole again.

"I'm sorry. I'm so sorry," Trip whispered the words over and over, his cheek pressed against Malcolm's, the stubble strange against Malcolm's face. "So sorry." Barely audible now, as if speaking to himself.

Malcolm loosened his grip, and took Trip by the shoulders. "Stop it. Please." The anguished sound was tearing his heart out. He cupped Trip's face with one hand, brushing his thumb along Trip's still-moving lips. He could scarcely discernt his lover's face in the dim light. "I'm okay. Just stop. Please."

To his relief Trip quieted. He took Malcolm's hand in his, kissing it. Then he led Malcolm across the small room, to a mattress on the floor. As Malcolm carefully eased his sore body onto it, Trip switched on a small light.

"How did you manage this?" asked Malcolm, still astonished to be with his lover.

"Don't ask," replied Trip. He lay down next to Malcolm, propping himself up on one arm.

"Trip, I am asking." The tone of Trip's reply disturbed him. "I made an arrangement with Robruth." Trip slowly traced Malcolm's profile with his finger. "End of story."

But Malcolm couldn't let it go. "Arrangement?" He did not like the images that word led to. With that repulsive creature?

"I had to see you." He ran his hand down Malcolm's chest. When it reached his stomach he slipped it under Malcolm shirt. "It almost killed me to see you hurt. To hear you scream like that. I had to be able to touch you."

The warm, gentle touch was soothing to Malcolm. Then he flinched as the Trip stroked his wounded side.

Trip jerked his hand away and closed his eyes. "Malcolm, I'm sorry—"

No, not again. Malcolm shook him by the shoulder. "Damn it, Trip, stop."

Trips laid Malcolm flat and slid his shirt up. He took in the purple, ragged-edged bruise that had formed across his left side, nearly 15 centimeters in diameter. The shadows cast by the weak light only intensified the pain in Trip's face. "I did this to you. I caused you all that pain because I couldn't keep my big fat yap shut. You could have died."

"Draj did this to me, not you. Remember that."

"He kept hoverin' around me," Trip continued, not hearing Malcolm. "Was askin' when I'd get the damn thing runnin'. Watching me. He gives me the creeps." Trip was still staring at the mark the device had left on Malcolm's body. "I just—I just lost it. Told him off."

Malcolm pulled his shirt down. "That was his goal, I'm sure. But I'm still here, still alive."

But Malcolm could only imagine what it must have been like to witness the event, thinking of how ragged his throat still felt from screaming. Draj's method of obtaining obedience was quite effective. He was afraid for Trip, afraid of the lengths the captain would go in order to get what he wanted out of the engineer. And he wondered what exactly it was that he wanted.

"We need to think about how the hell we are going to get off this bloody ship," said Malcolm.

"We have a plan. I think it just might work." Trip was lying next to him now, whispering in his ear.

"We?"

"My engineering team. The Andorian and the Xyrillian. If we're careful, we can talk without the guards hearing. So far I've got the engine up to warp 1, but there's still a lot of work to be done before we get it any higher. While I'm doin' that, I can modulate the warp fields enough to send a signal to Enterprise. That is, of course, if Enterprise is looking in the right place. At the right time." He sighed, his breath delicately caressing Malcolm's ear. "I know it don't sound so great." He draped an arm carefully across Malcolm's chest.

"Won't they notice?"

"I don't think so. The Andorian tells me that Draj is—well, let's just call it technically inept."

"Hmmm." That was useful information. Malcolm nestled in closer to Trip, the warmth of his body easing his stiffened, painful muscles. "Do you have any idea where we are?"

"We're headin' for a small system a couple of light-years away. I was up on their bridge briefly. The bridge crew seems to consist of Beekar and two other aliens—I didn't recognize them. Not a whole lot of folks on this ship."

"Good to know. Except they all seem to be well armed. It makes me wonder—do they not even trust one another?"

"No, they don't, not from what I hear. No honor among thieves, I guess." Now Trip was nuzzling Malcolm's cheek.

"I may be onto something with Beekar."

"What?" Trip stopped. "No. Malcolm, come on now, you can't possibly think you can trust him."

"You're right, I don't trust him. But he may not be so fond of Draj. I might be able to offer him something."

"Like what?" Trip's whisper was harsh.

Malcolm sighed. "I don't know yet. Let me talk to him again."

"Just watch yourself. Don't put yourself in any more danger."

"I could say the same about you and your "arrangement". Please be careful, Trip." Secretly Malcolm was glad to hear the anger in Trip's voice. It was much better than despair.

They lay together quietly for a spell, Trip running his fingers along Malcolm's chin, feeling the bristly growth. His lover's touch felt so wonderful, so healing. He wanted more, to carry him through when he was back in his cell, alone with his thoughts and fears. With more energy then he thought he had left in him, he rolled himself over, onto Trip.

"Malcolm, you'll hurt yourself—" Trip protested.

"It hurts not to," he said, and captured Trip's mouth with his. He slid his tongue past Trip's lips, tasting him. The rough stubble scratched his chin. He lingered over his lover's lips, sucking each one gently, licking them, then gliding his tongue slowly back into Trip's warm, pliant mouth. The sensation aroused him more than he thought possible in his current state.

Trip moaned softly in response, reaching his hand under Malcolm's shirt to caress his back. He continued his caress, sliding his hands under Malcolm's pants to stroke Malcolm's ass, long fingers gently grasping, kneading. Then he reached underneath Malcolm, working his hands between their bodies.

Malcolm broke off the kiss and propped his body up with his arms to allow Trip to unfasten his pants and pull them down. Then Trip unfastened his own. He slowly lowered his body back onto Trip, allowing his lover to position him by the hips. Their erect cocks pressed together, the heads cupped together in Trip's hand. Wrapping his long legs around Malcolm's, Trip locked their bodies together in a tight embrace.

Malcolm took a deep, shuddering breath and buried his face in his lovers neck. It felt so good. They began rocking their hips together, in a slow rhythm, not hurrying the moment. The fears and worries, the ship, their situation began to gradually slip from Malcolm's mind, leaving only his desire, the sensation of being with his lover, the pleasure, the sound of Trip breathing heavily, whimpering softly with every stroke of their hips. All he wanted was to for the moment to never end, for the pleasure to last forever.

That pleasure began to intensify and Malcolm gripped his lover's shoulders, pushing himself into Trip's hand with greater urgency. He felt his lover's movements become more irregular, and the hand around their cocks began to tighten and clench convulsively. With a strangled, inarticulate cry Trip began to come, and Malcolm could feel the warmth spreading over his stomach. Then he could not hold back anymore and he came, nearly sobbing as the pleasure overcame him.

Afterwards they did not speak, but just rested in each other's arms. Then Malcolm gently rested his head on Trip's chest, feeling him breathe, listening to his heart beat.

***

Malcolm Reed: dishwasher. Not exactly what he had in mind going out into space. He began rinsing the stack of soapy plates and cups, watching the water swirl down the drain. It was better than being trapped in his cell, despite being chained to the sink, and watched closely by the two guards. He surreptitiously eyed the aliens. They were, as usual, armed, but did not seem to be watching him very closely. Malcolm hadn't yet come across any knives yet—in fact, no utensils of any kind. In his search for a sharp edge, he had clumsily dropped a few plates and glasses, but he found them all quite unbreakable.

He paused at his duties, twisting to release the tension in his shoulders, and taking a quick look at his surroundings. He was in the kitchen of the ship, but the cook, assuming one existed, was not present. The workspace was empty. Not that he expected a large set of knives to be readily available; still, it would have been a pleasant surprise.

The pain in his side made him wince as he bent back over the sink, to continue rinsing and stacking the clean dishes. Then suddenly he became aware of someone next to him. The running water had masked the sound of Draj's unwelcome arrival. Malcolm immediately tensed as he recognized the man, but he did not otherwise acknowledge his presence.

"Hard at work. What a good man." Draj was standing unpleasantly close.

Malcolm still did not look up. "Yes, sir." Go away, he thought fervently.

But he felt the man press in even closer, and something hard pushed against his right flank. Malcolm hoped in vain that it was the man's pistol. A glance over his right shoulder proved to his great dismay that it was not. He shuddered.

"Something the matter, Reed?" asked Draj, amused.

Malcolm didn't trust himself to speak. He lifted another dish to rinse, and the water sprayed off it, briefly showering both him and Draj. Malcolm dropped the plate, panicked, certain that another encounter with the shocker device was near. It clattered loudly on the floor, but of course it didn't shatter.

"Sorry, sir." He couldn't keep the fear from his voice.

Then another voice made them both turn. Beekar.

"Captain, I have the report you asked for," said Beekar smoothly.

"And?" Draj sounded annoyed.

"Intelligence says at least five of their ships are gathering in sector 26. It will take us at least 10 days to reach them." Beekar held out what Malcolm presumed was a data chip.

"And will we be prepared to take them out?"

Beekar hesitated. "I'm not sure how realistic that is at present, sir."

Draj snatched the chip from Beekar's hand. "That is not what I want to hear." He glared at Beekar, then strode out of the room.

Beekar looked sharply at Malcolm. Malcolm resisted the urge to obediently turn back to the sink and continue. Instead he asked, "And just what are this ship's offensive capabilities?"

To his surprise Beekar turned to the guards and said, "Reed and I are going for a little stroll. Please unchain him."

***

Hands cuffed behind him, Malcolm walked next to Beekar as they passed the numerous instrument panels.

"Only five photon torpedoes?" he asked. They had dropped the pretense that he was a barber. Malcolm hadn't volunteered any specific information about his skills and background, but he turned the conversation with Beekar to offensive and defensive capabilities. The odds for their upcoming encounter did not seem good.

Beekar nodded. "They won't be much use until we get the targeting array back online."

The ship, Malcolm was beginning to realize, was scarcely functional.

"Force field?" he asked hopefully. He had some experience with force fields, but the technology was not widespread.

"At 20 percent," replied Beekar. Malcolm was pleased—he could do something with that. If he were allowed to, that is. "It is my next task, once I get the life support backup completely repaired."

They had reached Engineering, realized Malcolm with a start. Trip and the Andorian were across the room, hunkered over an open panel, pulling out microcircuits. Staring, Malcolm didn't realize he had stopped walking until Beekar pulled on his arm. Reluctantly he turned his attention back to the tall man.

"You've asked a lot of questions. Now it's my turn. What exactly is it that you did on your previous ship?" Beekar's voice was calm, but his eyes gave away his eagerness.

Malcolm parried automatically. He didn't trust the man. "Why should I tell you anything?"

"Perhaps we could both benefit from the knowledge," said Beekar.

Malcolm laughed harshly. "From where I stand, you are holding all the cards. I fail to see anything in it for me."

"Reed, you'd certainly benefit if we survive our next battle. And do you enjoy living in your little cell? Or would you rather occupy a different position on this ship?"

"Such as?" He pretended to be interested, to contemplate an offer.

"It would depend on your skills." Beekar was starting to sound exasperated.

"But why the hell should I trust you?" Malcolm knew he was pushing it, but he wanted to see how much he could learn from the man.

"Did you know your Tucker is the second engineer we've had? Draj killed the first one because she could not complete the repairs the engine fast enough. And I've lost three other crew members to him. Killed 'accidentally'. Beekar grimaced in disgust. "In his quarters."

Malcolm was stunned. He had suspected a certain level of perverseness from the Captain, had been concerned that Trip was in danger, but having his fears confirmed so bluntly increased his fear for Trip's safety another notch.

Beekar continued. "I believe I can offer you a better position than our current captain can." He emphasized the word "current."

Malcolm got it. What the hell—in for a penny, in for a pound. "I served as the armory officer on Enterprise. I was in charge of weapons and tactics."

Beekar stared at him for a long moment. Then chuckled. "I do think we can work together, Reed." His smile was slightly twisted. "I have a few things I need to take care of. Then we will talk again."

***

This time, he was prepared for Trip's embrace as he was roughly pushed into his lover's cell. Malcolm hugged his lover tightly, glorying in the strength of the arms around him, the heat of Trip's body warming him to the core. The wait had been excruciating. He had so much to tell him.

But after only a few minutes, Trip abruptly let him go and began pacing in the dimly lit room. "Malcolm, we gotta get out of here. As soon as possible."

"I know. I felt the ship drop out of warp. What's going on?" He turned his head, tracking Trip, as Trip paced in a circle around him.

"I heard we are orbiting an inhabited planet, but I don't know any more than that. And Draj is hoverin' around even more, askin' when I'll get the engine up to warp 3. I don't know if we can do it. An' the further we go, the harder it's gonna be for Enterprise to find us."

Trip was speaking quickly, and Malcolm could detect the frantic note to his voice. He thought about Beekar's words, about the previous engineer. Malcolm nervously looked out into the hallway, then pulled Trip to the back of the cell

"Listen, I've been talking to Beekar. He's planning a coup. I intend to help him in any way I can," whispered Malcolm.

"Why the hell would you do that?"

"I think we will be much safer under his command. He's a more reasonable man." But Malcolm could sense the agitation in Trip, and wondered if the man was really listening.

"Okay." Trip seemed to be talking to himself now. "Okay." He ran his fingers through his short hair, then scratched at his beard.

Malcolm stopped, worried. "Trip, what's wrong?" He wished he could see Trip's face more clearly.

"What's wrong? Other than being on this damn ship?" His voice was unsteady. Then he clutched Malcolm's arm, squeezed it, and let it go. "Sorry. Sorry. It's all gettin' to me now. I can't sleep at all anymore. I just had to see you again, you know? I needed to."

Malcolm watched his lover with concern. Something did happen, of that he was certain. Draj? He approached the man, took him by the shoulders. "We'll get out of here, I promise."

"Those damn warp coils were just laughin' at me, I swear. They wouldn't behave no matter what. An' I kept grabbin' at wrong control. Ever do that?"

"I—well, it happens sometimes," said Malcolm cautiously, not exactly sure of what Trip was telling him.

Trip leaned against the wall and pulled Malcolm against him. "You know, I missed the sound of your voice. Talk to me. Tell me you love me." He smelled of sweat and fear.

"I love you, Trip."

"No matter what?"

Odd question. Then Malcolm thought of the guards. And Trip. Christ, what had happened? "I'll always love you. No matter what," he answered gently.

He led Trip over to the mattress and they sat together. Trip hugged his knees to his chest.

"Know what I could use right now?" asked Trip. "Iced tea. Cold enough to make your head hurt."

Malcolm nodded.

"And lemon bars. The really tart kind. Yeah. That's what I want. I want to be back on Earth, just settin' on my front porch with you and some lemon bars, watching the grass grow."

"Sounds rather appealing right now." This was new; Malcolm had never heard the man yearning for Earth before. He wondered what "lemon bars" were.

"I want to grow old with you, Malcolm," Trip said, desperation in his voice. "I want us to be old men settin' on that porch every night watchin' fireflies and boring the hell out of our gran'kids with stories of the old days."

Now Malcolm was staring in surprise. Grandchildren? Good lord. He tried to picture Trip and himself, old and gray, on a warm summer evening. "Will we be in rocking chairs or one of those big porch swings?"

"Porch swing, of course. And we'll have a big dumb dog. A bunch of 'em."

"I'd like a cat, actually."

"We can have both."

"I'm going to hold you to that." Malcolm pulled Trip against his chest and nuzzled the man's short hair. Growing old together. He fervently hoped they'd have the chance.

Trip tilted his head back, and Malcolm gently slid his head to the side and kissed the temple of the man he loved so dearly. Trip pulled Malcolm's head down to reach his lips. As they kissed, Malcolm could feel the tense body relax against him. Eventually Trip unwound his body enough for Malcolm to slip a hand under his shirt and stroke the hard stomach beneath, pondering Trip's agitated state as he did so. He needed Trip to be alert and thinking straight over the next few days in order to survive whatever happened next.

Trip slid his face against Malcolm's neck and sighed. Sensing how exhausted his lover was, Malcolm stilled his hand, hoping Trip would sleep.

"Don' stop," murmured Trip.

Malcolm slid his hand down further and discovered the growing hardness between Trip's legs. As he ran his hand over it, Trip groaned. Cradling his lover, he stroked a while longer, feeling the member swell as he worked his fingers around it, his own penis hardening in response. Trip moaned once more, reaching up to kiss Malcolm again and again.

Hungry for more, Malcolm laid Trip out on the mattress and unfastened the man's pants, freeing the engorged cock. He heard his lover whimper as he took it into his mouth, running his tongue down the shaft, the taste sharp and salty. Trip raised his hips in response, and Malcolm took the opportunity to run his hand underneath his lover's ass, fingers gently probing his cleft. There were no signs of physical abuse, and he was relieved to hear Trip sigh again in pleasure. With one hand holding Trip's ass, the other gripping his cock at the base, Malcolm worked the sensitive head until he felt Trip begin to shudder, and then his lover came with a quiet gasp, his seed filling Malcolm's mouth. Malcolm rested his head against Trip's thigh when he was done, burying his nose in the thicket of curls, breathing deeply of his lover's scent.

"Malcolm, you are so good to me," whispered Trip, his voice drowsy and languid.

Malcolm moved up to face his lover. Brushing a soft kiss against Trip's lips, he could sense a quietness now that wasn't there earlier. Trip lazily ran a hand along Malcolm's chest, but Malcolm caught it in his, then kissed it.

"Sleep, lover," he murmured, and watched as Trip closed his eyes with a deep sigh.

CHAPTER 4

Malcolm paced in his cell again, waiting impatiently for Beekar to show up. It was time for some action. He couldn't stand it any longer, couldn't let Trip keep putting himself in danger. What was going on with Trip and the guard? What was with that 'arrangement'?

He leaned forward against the bars, pressing his face to the lattice, trying to see down the hallway. It had been at least a day, maybe two, since he had told Beekar he would help him. Anything to get out of this damn cell—and closer to Trip. He turned and paced fifteen steps across his cell. While he didn't entirely trust Beekar—after all, the man was a traitor against his own captain—he had hopes that Trip would be safer with him in charge.

When he heard the footsteps, he nearly ran to the front of the cell, only to find Draj standing there, looking amused at Reed's chagrin.

"Well, Reed, did you get a good night's sleep?" he asked pleasantly.

Malcolm frowned. What was the man up to?

Draj laughed out loud. "Don't think I don't know about your little nightly visits. And how they were earned. Your Tucker has become quite popular with all the guards. He's quite a busy man."

A chill ran down his spine. Malcolm tried to keep his voice steady. "What do you want?"

Draj folded his arms against his chest and leaned against the bars. "I'm thinking I might give your partner a try. I get lonely at night, too."

Malcolm couldn't speak. He wanted to kill the man. With his bare hands. Where the hell was Beekar?

"But first, I think we need to spend a little time together." Draj slid the small slot open and held up a pair of cuffs. "I believe you know the routine."

"No." Suddenly Malcolm was sick of it all. He was done with their games.

"Then I shall spend some time with your lover instead," said Draj. "He has become so very obedient. There's probably no limit to the things I could make him do." He turned to leave.

"Wait—" Malcolm was at the slot. He clenched his jaw and held out his hands.

Draj returned, a smug smile on his face as he cuffed Malcolm's wrists. He knew just how to play Malcolm. Then he opened the door, gun in hand. "First, we are going to take a look at the weapon systems. I hear you are quite the expert. Odd talent for a barber, don't you think?"

Malcolm stopped in his tracks. Beekar, he thought furiously. That deceitful little shit. He stood outside his cell, fists clenched.

Draj laughed again and threw him against the wall. He slipped his weapon into the holder and seized Malcolm's throat, digging his fingers in painfully. He was stronger than Malcolm expected.

"Just how stupid do you think I am?" Draj sneered, tightening his grip. "I know everything that goes on in my ship."

Stupid enough, thought Malcolm, to cuff my hands in front. He reached up, found Draj's thumb, and quickly bent it back until he heard the satisfying sound of bone snapping.

Draj cried out and pulled his hands back, holding his injured thumb. Desperately seizing the opportunity, Malcolm snatched the man's firearm from its holder and held it to the Draj's head.

"You wouldn't." Draj's grin was contemptuous.

Malcolm fired.

The blast at such close range singed Malcolm's clothes, the heat flashing against his face. His eyes closed automatically. When he opened them, he saw the scorched carcass that had been Draj on the floor before him. The stench of burned flesh filled his nostrils.

H'm. No stun setting, mused Malcolm, examining the weapon in his hand. It was sleek, small, almost delicate, and yet remarkably powerful. The smooth, glossy black surface revealed no clue as to the source of power. He then retrieved the key for his restraints from Draj's corpse, and headed toward Engineering.

It felt good to be moving on his own, no restraints, no one dragging him by the arm. And it felt very good to be armed. He rounded the first left at a steady trot and saw Beekar coming toward him.

"Reed—" he shouted, holding up his hand to stop him.

Liar.

Malcolm stopped, took careful aim, and fired. With a blinding flash of light Beekar fell back. Behind him was a guard. He was raising his a weapon.

Malcolm shot him too.

At last he reached Engineering. Robruth looked up, his gray-scaled face barely registering his surprise as Malcolm fired. Then he calmly took out the other two guards before they could begin to react. The weapon in his hands was growing warm, like some sort of living creature.

Trip and the rest of the engineering team, who had hit the floor in anticipation of gunplay after Malcolm's first shot, were staring at him, shocked expressions on their faces.

"Malcolm, you all right? What's happening? Where's Beekar?" asked Trip, scrambling to his feet. Trip's tether was too short to allow him to reach the keys at Robruth's waist, so he dragged the corpse toward him by the feet, sliding it along the floor like a heavy sack. A moment later, the keys were in his hands and he was unlocking his cuffs.

"Dead," Malcolm stated flatly.

Trip's eyes widened and he looked up from unlocking his bonds. "And Draj?"

"Dead." Malcolm looked down at his weapon. It fit so comfortably in his hands. He wanted to fire it again.

Trip released the Andorian and Xyrillian from their bonds a moment later. "Keep an eye out," he instructed Malcolm.

Malcolm shook himself out of his daze and watched the hall as the others grabbed weapons and other supplies from the dead guards. He stole a quick glimpse at Trip, who was speaking with the Andorian and gesturing. Good. Trip seemed to have recovered from his downward spiral. Malcolm was relieved. "Better hurry," he called out.

"Okay." Trip turned back to the Andorian. "Where the hell is the shuttle?"

The Xyrillian called out from an console she was accessing. "I have a better idea. We can use the transporter."

Trip was taken aback. "They have a functioning transporter?"

"Yes, I fixed it myself. They didn't seem to quite trust it though. It was too advanced for them." She spoke disdainfully.

Malcolm turned toward her. He had used the Enterprise's transporter once, to save the away team at P'Jem, and he hadn't liked it. "Are you certain it's safe?"

She recoiled from Malcolm. "Yes. It's our best chance of getting off this ship. The planet we are orbiting is inhabited, and from what I can see here they have many visitors. We should be transport without anyone taking notice. "

Meanwhile, the Andorian was searching the guards' corpses, taking guns and other items from their bodies. He reached under the shirt of one of them and retrieved a small cloth bag. "Hah," he commented, smiling. "They never did trust one another."

Trip looked at Malcolm. "Let's do it. But quietly. We don't know how many others are aboard."

They followed the Xyrillian out of Engineering. She stopped in front of a large panel, and upon removing it, Malcolm saw it was similar to their Jeffries tubes on the Enterprise.

"It's up one deck," she explained.

Trip led the way, then the two aliens followed. Malcolm brought up the rear, carefully replacing the panel behind them.

They found the hall empty again when they reached the next level. As they exited the tube, a uniformed alien that Malcolm did not recognized came out of a door into the hallway. He took in the armed group with a shocked look and reached for his weapon, but Malcolm was already firing. He watched the man drop then turned to follow the others.

When they reached the transporter room, without seeing anyone else, the first thing Malcolm noticed was the open panels and tools strewn about. He turned to the Xyrillian questioningly.

She was looking over the nearest console. "Good. They haven't touched it."

Trip was already setting the coordinates. "There's a fairly large city on the north continent. I'll put us just outside of it. We can get lost down there, signal for help." He looked at the group. "Unless someone has a better idea?"

The Andorian waved his hands impatiently. "Come on, just get us out of here."

Trip motioned for everyone to get on the platform. Malcolm stayed by the door, watching the empty hall. He wasn't keen on the transporter. Especially since he didn't know the Xyrillian well enough to trust her. But Trip was calling to him.

"Lieutenant, get up here. Now." Trip nodded to him, his voice gentle. Trying to tell him it was okay. He clearly trusted her. Well, he'd been working with her for days, thought Malcolm.

Malcolm joined him on the platform. Watching the Xyrillian pull one last control, he took a deep breath. He saw her leap up onto the dais with them, and then the room faded out.

***

When his vision cleared, Malcolm found they were standing knee deep in thick grass. He turned slowly, weapon ready, but they were alone. All he could see was grass, blue sky, a few lone trees, and a city in distance. It was over. They were off the ship. It was all too sudden, too disorienting. He must be dreaming.

The Andorian laughed and clapped the Xyrillian on the shoulder. Malcolm spun around, pointing his weapon at the sound. His companions drew away from him, the Andorian and Xyrillian eyeing him cautiously.

"Malcolm," said Trip, approaching him, "I think you can put that away now." He reached out to Malcolm, touching his arm, lowering the weapon.

Malcolm slowly slid the pistol into his pocket. Of course. There were no enemies left to ambush him. At least not while he was awake. Trip gently squeezed his shoulder.

"I believe it is time for us to part ways," said the Andorian, looking curiously from Trip to Malcolm. "But first—" He removed the small sack from his pocket, the one he had taken from the guard. He reached in and pulled out the contents: several small gold-colored bars—latinum, Malcolm realized. The alien divided up the bars among them, two each. As he reached out to hand Malcolm his share, Malcolm found he could not touch them. He could smell the guard's stench on them.

The Andorian gave Trip a puzzled look, then handed Malcolm's share to Trip. "You'll need this here, I'm sure."

"Thank you," said Trip.

"It is we who need to thank you," said the Xyrillian. "You saved our lives."

The Andorian nodded his head. "Yes. I am grateful." He looked at Malcolm again. "Good luck." He set off toward the city.

The Xyrillian looked at Trip, then Malcolm. She nodded, and then hurried to catch up with the blue alien.

Then he and Trip were standing alone in the field. Malcolm took in one last look around. He still could not accept they were off the ship, away from the horror. Finally he slowly sat down in the deep grass. There were tiny white flowers mixed in with the stalks, and their scent was faintly sweet.

CHAPTER 5

"But was Beekar working with Draj all along?" asked Trip as they walked down the dusty road. They had rested in the peaceful field for nearly an hour, and now had started towards town.

"That's my point," said Malcolm. "I was so sure at the time, but now, I don't know. Draj might have purposely led me to believe that he was. I'll never know. Because I looked him in the eye and killed him."

"Malcolm—"

Malcolm stopped on the path and grabbed Trip's arm, stopping him too. "I killed them all." He couldn't seem to make Trip understand.

"Malcolm, you did what you had to." Trip's voice was sympathetic.

"I don't need your platitudes," Malcolm shot back. He released Trip's arm and walked on.

Trip called after him. "So, what—you want me to tell you you're a murderer? Is that it?"

Malcolm stopped, and turned to face him. "It's what I am."

"And just how is that different from shootin' at another ship from inside the Enterprise?"

"Because I liked it. Because it made me feel so bloody good to watch them die." Malcolm was shouting now.

"I distinctly remember someone tellin' me enjoyed shooting back at the ships, too."

"That's—that's different." Malcolm was confused now. It was different, wasn't it? It was cleaner. More precise. Less—less personal. Just a computer and a targeting array. An image on a screen.

"No, it's not, Lieutenant. In both situations, you're doing your duty. Protecting yourself, Enterprise, the crew. Protecting me." He caught up with Malcolm and bent forward slightly. "And you know, I was pretty damn happy to see Robruth bite the dust, too." His voice was bitter.

They walked on, toward the town.

***

They observed the two humanoid aliens leaving the small stone building, carrying what could reasonably be luggage. There was a sign over the door, but neither Malcolm nor Trip could read it.

"Could be a hotel," said Trip.

"I suppose," Malcolm commented. "My kingdom for a UT."

He felt drained. Only hours ago he was fighting for his life, a prisoner aboard an alien vessel. Now the task of getting a room seemed insurmountable. But Trip was already strolling through the arched doorway. Malcolm hurried to follow him.

It did seem to be a hotel, or at least a public building. The lobby—it was clearly a lobby—was empty. It was simple, yet elegant. Behind a counter, a tall, slender alien, a cloud of gray hair surrounding his head, greeted them in an unintelligible language. His face was wrinkled, giving the impression of great age. Dark eyes drooped under his prominent, bony brow ridge. Trip approached the tall man and began talking while Malcolm hung back, watching the street, hand in his pocket, touching his new weapon, comforted by its presence. But all he saw were well-dressed aliens of varying species, each intent upon on his or her business. An ordinary day in an ordinary city.

Shaking his head, he turned back to the interior of the lobby. Trip was looking at holographic displays of several rooms. Curious now, Malcolm approached the counter.

"Which do you think?" asked Trip.

Malcolm frowned. "What can we afford?"

"Good question." Trip reached into his pocket and brought out one of the small gold bars. "What can we get with this?" he asked the man.

The gray-haired alien's expression did not change, but he picked up the bar and ran it across a small scanner. Then he nodded. Turning off the display of rooms, he motioned for them to follow him. Trip looked at Malcolm, shrugged and followed him.

"A man of few words," commented Trip.

The man led them up a broad flight of stone stairs, then down a long, thickly carpeted hallway. He paused in front of a door and punched a code. The door slid open and presented the room to them with a graceful sweep of his arm. Malcolm noticed he only had four very long fingers.

The room was as elegant as the lobby, done in cream with accents of green. Lingering in the air was a fresh scent, pleasant and vaguely spicy. In the center of the room was an enormous bed.

"Okay, this will do," said Trip quickly. The man had them both press their palms to the pad next to the door, presumably setting it to open to their handprints. Then he bowed slightly and left them, footsteps silent on the carpet.

They both walked slowly to the center of the room, taking in their luxurious surroundings.

"Just a touch nicer than our cells, don't you think?" asked Trip, fingering the soft, thick bedcovering. He opened the drawer of the bedside table, and placed his pistol and the remaining bars in it.

"A touch, I suppose." To Malcolm, it felt wrong. He expected to be dragged back into his small jail cell any second, to be scolded for even considering sleeping in the large bed.

Trip was stripping his shirt off. "I'm gonna investigate the shower facilities." He left a trail of clothes as he disappeared into the bathroom. A moment later Malcolm heard the sound of running water.

A shower. A very good idea. Get the smell of death off him. But one of them should remain on watch, he supposed. He slowly walked through the room, pausing in front of the heavy, cream-colored drapes framing the one large window. The room appeared to be facing the back of the building, away from the street. The view looked out on the field below. It looked like the field they had materialized on, but Malcolm couldn't be sure. He examined the window carefully. It could open, but the locking device functioned properly. Malcolm tapped on the glass-like composite, feeling its thickness and strength. Satisfied, he released the tieback and let the curtain fall back to cover the window.

He circled the room again, pausing in front of the bathroom. He imagined Trip, his body naked, warm, soapy. It was an inviting image. Yet he turned away and approached the bed, continuing his security sweep. He lifted the bedcovering and looked underneath. And promptly felt foolish as he realized that there was no "under the bed". The unit was solid to the floor.

Walking over to the door, he opened it and peered down the long hallway. Empty. Then considered the doorframe. Could someone tamper with the sensor?

He shook his head, as if he could dislodge his thoughts with the motion. And who was he expecting? Closing the door, he undressed and headed into the bathroom to join his lover.

When he entered the brightly lit, mirrored room he stopped in his tracks, staring in surprise. The man staring back at him was a stranger. Hair matted and greasy-looking. Eyes heavily shadowed, hollow. The dark growth of beard contrasted vividly with his pale, blue-tinged skin. There were faint purple bruises on his upper arms. But most startling of all was the large, star-shaped bruise from the shocker. It had mutated into a colorful mix, with purples, yellows and greens all melding together. Good god. He wondered how, in their state, they had managed to get a room in a first-class hotel. Money certainly talked. He touched the bruise gently, tracing the edges with his finger, remembering the pain, the hopelessness, the loneliness. He quickly turned to the shower, leaving his image behind, and slid the door open.

"Trip?" he called out softly as he stepped in, not wanting to startle the other man.

Trip started anyway. He had his head under the heavy stream of water. Stepping away and wiping his eyes, he took in Malcolm's expression. "Come on," he said, reaching out to him.

Malcolm gladly allowed himself to be pulled into the large shower stall, feeling the warm, wet arms encircle his body, hot water raining down on them. He pressed his body against his lover's, resting his head on his neck. So tired. Then suddenly leaned back, looking at Trip's face. He felt a small smile tugging at his lips.

"You're back." He touched Trip's beardless face, pleased.

Trip smiled too. "The bathroom is fully stocked. Glad to be rid of it, too. Now let's take care of you." He retrieved a tube in the corner of the stall and began to carefully apply the contents to Malcolm's beard with his fingers. It felt odd to have Trip perform this personal duty for him, but he simply held still and closed his eyes, enjoying the stroking sensation.

Within minutes, Malcolm was rinsing the powerful depilatory from his face. He rubbed his face curiously, satisfied by the feel of it. One reminder of his incarceration down the drain, he thought.

The hot water was relaxing, and his exhaustion was catching up with him. He gave himself over to Trip completely, letting the other man shampoo his hair. The strong fingers felt marvelous on his scalp. He closed his eyes as Trip worked his way down, hands working the muscles loose in his neck, gliding over his shoulders, sliding down his arms, giving special attention to each finger. His touch was comforting, soothing his weary soul. Then he felt Trip move onto his stomach, carefully avoiding the damaged area on his ribs. Eyes still closed, Malcolm could feel hands lovingly stroking his ass, then continuing between his legs. He spread his legs a bit to allow Trip more access, and the cleansing continued, the creamy soap lathered along his thighs, moving down over his knees, and finally, his feet.

As Trip stood he ran his hands up along Malcolm's body. "Think I got everything."

Malcolm let himself be gently propelled under the running water for rinsing. "You take very good care of me," he said, as the water streamed down over his head and body. He wasn't sure if Trip could hear him. Wiping the water from his face he finally opened his eyes again and saw Trip watching him with a tender expression on his face. Not for the first time, he wondered how he had managed to earn the love of such a man.

Afterward, Malcolm sat on the bed in a robe, watching Trip as he looked out the window at the night sky. "Think they are still in orbit?" he asked.

"Hard to say," mused Trip. "I wonder who is in command,"

"Maybe one of the bridge crew you mentioned?"

"Maybe." Trip let the curtain fall and sat cross-legged on the bed next to Malcolm.

Malcolm lay back on the bed, staring at the elaborate light fixture on the ceiling. The crew and the remaining slaves probably would have been in good hands if Beekar were in charge. But he wasn't, because he killed the man. Shot him dead as he was calling out Malcolm's name.

"Malcolm."

He hadn't realized Trip was watching him. Their eyes met.

"I was trying to tell you this earlier, but I didn't do a very good job of it. I'm proud of you. You did a damn good job getting us off that ship. It took a lot of courage."

"Courage?" blurted Malcolm, sitting up. "I was just trying to stay alive when I got the weapon from Draj. It was sheer luck that I succeeded. You were the one we rallied around, who got us organized and out of there. You're the hero."

But Trip was shaking his head. "You forget that I was the one doin' the guards like some sorta slut and puking my guts up afterward. Not exactly what I'd consider my finest Starfleet moment." He said the last part softly, as if to himself.

Malcolm shuddered. He had suspected something along those lines, but to hear it, have it confirmed, gave him the chills. Oh god. Poor Trip. Just to see him. "Trip, I'm so sorry, it must have been awful."

Trip was twisting the cloth belt of his robe, winding it around his fingers. "It got me time with you, and that's what mattered. I would have lost my mind otherwise. And we needed to make plans." He started to sound agitated again. "But then it got out of hand—I thought it would only be Robruth, and that I could deal with it." He looked at Malcolm cautiously. "Bet you think I'm disgusting now."

What? Malcolm grasped both hands in his. "Trip, please." He bought the hands to his lips and kissed them both. "That you would make such a sacrifice to be with me, that you suffered for me, for us—I'm awed by it. By you." He swallowed with difficulty due to the lump in his throat.

Trip gave him a wry smile and took his hands back. "You're makin' me sound noble." He shook his head. "I was suffering a hell of a lot more by not seeing you. But I was afraid to tell you more, afraid that you wouldn't want to touch me anymore."

"My god, nothing could ever change the way I feel about you." Malcolm reached over and turned Trip's head so that he could look into the man's eyes. The naked emotion in them took his breath away. He pulled Trip into his arms, and kissed him. Then they lay down together, Trip curled up against his chest.

His lover was silent for a moment. When he spoke again, it was with a urgency that startled Malcolm. "Maybe," Trip said, raising his head, "all that really matters is that we both made it out. Alive. There's no shame in survivin', Malcolm."

As Trip rested his head again and relaxed against his body, Malcolm contemplated his words. Murderer or hero? Was it courage or desperation? The thoughts were still swirling about his mind as he dropped off to sleep.

***

Malcolm woke to the sound of a chime. He was confused. His cell didn't have a doorbell, did it? Or a soft bed. Was he back on Enterprise? Then it all came back to him. They were free. Off the ship. The realization filled him with relief. He stretched, sore muscles protesting. By the time he sat up, bleary-eyed and still only half awake, he saw Trip peering under the lid of a large, covered tray, resting on a cart next to the bed. Immediately Malcolm could smell a mixture of delicious aromas. His stomach growled loudly. How long had he slept?

"Hey, look at this—" Trip exclaimed, mouth full already.

"Real, genuine food?" Malcolm asked, yawning as he crawled over to the food, getting his legs tangled in the long robe.

"Yup." Trip swallowed, then stuffed more into his mouth. "Mr. Chatty just brought it up. Here, try this." As Malcolm tugged at his robe, trying to free his legs, Trip fed him a small pastry. It was sweet, fruity, with a light, flaky crust. Absolutely delicious. He finally got the robe arranged properly.

"Trip—"

"No, wait, this is better." Before Malcolm could finish his sentence, Trip placed another pastry in his mouth. This one was sweeter, with a nutty flavor. A little too sweet.

Trip was watching his face as he swallowed. "Too sweet for you, huh? How 'bout this."

"Wait—" Malcolm intercepted his wrist. Trip suddenly looked worried.

"Shouldn't we be trying to contact Enterprise?"

"Not on an empty stomach," said Trip.

He had a point. "Okay." He eyed Trip's hand. "I'm ready for that pastry now."

Trip fed it to him, then sat on the bed next to Malcolm. As he ate, he continued to feed Malcolm samples of all the delightful items on the tray, ignoring Malcolm's attempts to get close enough to the tray to feed himself. As Trip leaned forward for a particularly distant array of pastries, his robe parted, treating Malcolm to the sight of a long, muscular thigh. Malcolm raised his hand, about to stroke the lovely exposed skin but then hesitated. Unpleasant images of Trip and the guards intruded in his mind. Perhaps, he thought, Trip needed to be left alone for now.

The next pastry was savory, pleasantly salty and spicy. The taste reminded Malcolm somewhat of Trip's skin after a long, hard day in the engine room. He licked the taste from his lips.

"That one was quite nice," he said.

Trip reached for another of the same, causing his robe to open further, now exposing his half-erect cock, nestled in brown curls. Malcolm looked up and saw that Trip was aware of his gaze.

"Sorry." Malcolm felt uncomfortable.

But Trip put his hand on Malcolm's and guided it to his cock. Malcolm felt it swell as he wrapped his fingers around the hot shaft, Trip's hand still covering his.

"Malcolm." Trip's voice was a soft whisper. Malcolm could see the yearning in his eyes. Their lips met in a gentle kiss, just barely touching. Then Malcolm ran his tongue across his mouth, tasting the sweetness lingering there.

"Are you—" Malcolm stopped, searching Trip's face for clues, trying to put into words his concern. "Do you want to do this?"

The words came out clumsily, but Trip understood. "Yes. I need you. Need you to love me. That is, if you are ready to touch me again."

Malcolm pressed his lips on Trip's again. He wanted his lover so badly, needed to feel his nakedness against him but he felt shy, nervous. Almost as if they had never made love before. Worried that he might make the wrong move. As he reached for the bathrobe and slid it off Trip's shoulders, he noticed the man was trembling slightly. Then realized that he was, too.

He took in the sight of Trip kneeling there on bed, robe puddled around his legs, his expression uncertain. Then he carefully took Trip's face in his hands and placed light, feathery kisses across his forehead, the honey-colored hair tickling his nose. Continuing down, he kissed his lover's nose, then his cheeks. Under his lips he could feel a smile forming on Trip's face. A few more light kisses on those smiling lips, and then he was at Trip's jaw. He kissed along the smooth skin, heading towards his ear. Reaching it, he sucked on his lover's earlobe, and was encouraged by the soft sigh it engendered.

He focused next on Trip's neck. His lover leaned back on his arms and tilted his head up, making a small, contented sound. Feeling more confident, Malcolm encouraged Trip to lie flat, on his back. He tossed Trip's robe aside and slipped off his own.

To his surprise Trip abruptly grabbed his arms and pulled him down over his body.

"Tell me," Trip breathed, arching his chest against Malcolm's.

What? Disconcerted by the change in pace, he raised his head to look at Trip's face. His lover was frowning.

"Please, Malcolm, tell me." His voice became more insistent as he pulled Malcolm's head down and rubbed his face against Malcolm's cheek.

"I—I love you, Trip." Trip then wrapped his arms around his body and Malcolm clutched his shoulders.

"Again," his lover demanded, looking deep into Malcolm's eyes, searching for something.

"I love you. I will always love you," said Malcolm, his voice low as he returned his lover's intense gaze. "More than I have ever loved anyone, more than I ever thought I could love."

Satisfied, Trip kissed him, harshly, his tongue plunging into Malcolm's mouth. Malcolm kissed him back feverishly. Trip held onto the kiss and his lips began to feel bruised. He groaned, almost with relief, when Trip released him.

"I need you inside me," said Trip, breathing heavily into his ear. Trip's fingers were gripping his ass, and he clasped his legs around Malcolm's, thrusting up against him. "Inside me. Now." He spoke quickly, between breaths, his accent heavy and thick with passion.

Malcolm hesitated. Was the room was stocked with lube of any kind?

"Now." Trip growled at him, unclasping his legs.

Scrambling off his lover, Malcolm stood still for a moment, uncertain, his brain befuddled with passion. Then he headed for the dresser. Several small sample bottles were lined up on a tray. He went through them quickly, knocking most of them over in the process. Finally he found one filled with a thin, light oil. He was back on the bed in a flash.

Trip snatched the bottle from his hand and poured nearly half the contents over Malcolm's cock. Their hands met briefly as they smoothed the oil along his shaft, Malcolm gasping at the sensation, no longer hesitant, urgently needing to be inside of, to be a part of his lover. Trip lay back, positioning his inviting ass toward Malcolm. Groping about, Malcolm found the bottle Trip had dropped. He wanted to prepare his lover properly, but the bottle was empty.

"Just do it now, Malcolm. Love me, Malcolm, now." Trip's words were running together.

Malcolm lifted Trip's legs and pushed his slick cock against his lover's delicate opening. He tried to go slow but Trip somehow gained enough leverage to thrust up against him. The sensation of the tight, hot ass enveloping his cock caused Malcolm to cry out, and he heard Trip match is cry, gripping the sheets as he did. Afraid that he had hurt his lover, Malcolm bent forward over him. Saw Trip's face, eyes tightly shut, mouth open, panting.

"Trip?" he managed to gasp.

Trip opened his eyes. Smiled slightly. "So good," he murmured between breaths. "God, Malcolm, you feel so good inside of me."

Relieved, Malcolm sat back and supported Trip's legs as he began to slowly thrust into Trip. He fought for self-control, closing his eyes as he moved carefully, sliding his cock in as far as he could, holding it there for as long as he could before his pumped into him again and again. But then he had to open his eyes and watch as his lover, lost in passion beneath him, cried out his name, then arched his back, and reached out a hand toward him. Malcolm grasped Trip's hand, forced himself to slow down, to control himself. He needed the moment to last, needed to make it as good as possible for his lover. Hands still clasped, they reached down to Trip's cock, stroking his shaft together. Trip groaned again and again, and finally Malcolm lost himself completely, thrusting faster and harder, hand still on Trip's penis. He could not hold back anymore and cried out Trip's name as he came, thrusting convulsively. Then Trip came and he felt the hot liquid running through his fingers.

Completely spent, he pulled out, then collapsed atop his lover. Malcolm felt the hard chest heaving underneath him. He tried to roll off, to allow Trip to breathe better, but arms came up and locked him into place.

"Say it again," murmured Trip. He was still breathing heavily but there was a hint of teasing in his voice this time and Malcolm's heart leaped at the sound.

"I love you. I want to grow bloody old and crotchety with you. We'll sit on that porch swing and watch the grass grow." He watched as his lover smiled. Such a lovely smile. Then gave Trip a long, lingering kiss.

***

It turned out they did not need to send a signal to Enterprise after all. Hoshi had picked up on the modulations Trip had worked into the warp signature, and they had been tracking the ship. The shuttlepod had probably been on the surface when they had originally transported down from the ship. As they walked down the long hallway, Malcolm mused that they probably could have detected the Enterprise if the Sinsaral's sensors had been working properly. Still, Malcolm was glad it took nearly a day for their fellow crewmates to detect their biosigns.

They entered the lobby and Jonathan Archer sprang up from his chair and rushed toward them.

"Are you two okay?" he asked, forehead creased with worry. He clapped Malcolm on the back—Malcolm feared for a brief moment that the man was going to hug him—and then grabbed Trip's shoulder in comradely joy.

"Yeah, Cap'n, we—we're gonna be all right now," replied Trip.

Archer frowned at Trip's tone. "We heard about the ship. And the methods they use." He looked at Malcolm's expression and bit his lip. "What happened up there?"

Malcolm looked at Trip. "We survived," he answered quietly.

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