A Day

by The Grrrl

Title: A Day

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

Jan 31, 2003

Pairing: Tucker/Reed

Rating: NC-17

Summary: Ever wonder what goes on when nothing is really going on? A day in the life of the Enterprise's Chief Engineer.

Author's notes: Thanks so much to my lovely and talented betas, Kim and Kylie. You ladies are the best.

1. GOOD MORNING

Light. Even though my eyes are closed I see light. Can't possibly be morning already, can it? I pull the covers over my head. I realize I'm in bed all by myself. No Malcolm. Damn. He was here when I went to sleep.

There's a tug on the covers. I grip them even tighter, holding them over my head. There's a second tug, and I reluctantly let him pull them down.

"C'mon now, rise and shine," he chirps.

I open one eye, frowning fiercely, and close it again. Malcolm. Malcolm, wide awake. In uniform, every hair in place. Looking mighty good, all spit and polish. He's obviously showered. Without me. I grunt in annoyance and flip over so my back is to him. Then I inhale loudly.

"Is that coffee I smell?" I ask, more of a demand than a question.

I feel the weight of Malcolm settling on the bed. "Yes, it is."

"There'd better be some for me."

"Of course. Contrary to popular belief, I don't like to live dangerously."

I turn again to face him, only slightly mollified. "An' you had breakfast without me, didn't you?"

"Now, now." Malcolm seems to be amused by something as leans in and brushes his lips against mine. He smells like coffee and bacon. He makes a little sound, tucks his head into my neck, and inhales deeply, his hair tickling my chin. With a sigh, he pulls away and hands me the cup.

I prop myself up on one arm and take the cup from him, feeling only a little better now that I have coffee in my hands. I don't mean to be so grumpy, but I can't help myself. It's just so much better to wake up with Malcolm under the covers with me. I like to open my eyes and see his face next to mine on the pillow, his face all soft with sleep. And his body, warm and pliant next to mine. Ready for a morning cuddle so we can start the day right.

"I hate it when you do this," I grumble as I sip.

"Do what? Bring you coffee in the morning?" He acts so innocent even though he knows exactly what I'm talking about.

"Get out of bed before me."

Malcolm sighs. "Believe me Trip, it's a lot easier for me to get out of bed while you are still sleeping. Remember last week?"

I suddenly find the coffee cup very interesting. "Yeah, well…" Last Tuesday we barely made it to our shift on time. We somehow got a little too distracted on our way out of bed. "You started it," I accuse.

Malcolm raises his brows. "Me? I seem to recollect waking up to you wrapping yourself around me."

"Well, you started it with that nuzzling business."

You'd think the two of us never had sex before, the way we go at each other. But I can't get enough of him. And I'm getting the distinct impression he feels the same way about me. We've been together just about two months now, and each time we make love, it's just as astonishing as the first time.

Malcolm's looking thoughtful, and he's got that sly little smile on his face, so maybe he's thinking about sex, too. Or phase cannons. Or security alerts. I can never tell with him. He leans over and kisses me again. "I think I'd best be going now, Commander. Before I give into the urge to climb back in."

Ah. So it was sex. I pull him back to me by the nape of his neck and give him a good, hard kiss, spilling some of my coffee in the process, but hey, what's one more stain on the sheets. When I finally let him go, he's looking a bit flushed and rumpled around the edges. "Thanks for the coffee, darlin'," I tell him.

Malcolm stands, straightens his uniform. He gives me a warm look, bends down, and kisses me again lightly. "See you later, Trip." He touches my cheek briefly before leaving leaves.

At least I get a nice view of his ass as he goes out the door. Then I sit on the bed, cross-legged, and drink my coffee, thinking about Malcolm. We've been together two months, two glorious months. It still amazes me that we got together in the first place, we're so different in nature. He can be cool, distant, and sometimes more than just a bit high and mighty. I worry sometimes that maybe I'm coming on a little too strong. Maybe he doesn't need me panting after him constantly. But the truth is that I've fallen for him—fallen hard.

***

First thing I do, before eating breakfast, is check on the other love in my life. The night crew greets me cheerfully and assures me the warp reactor survived the night without me just fine. I check the logs, and it's true: my baby's humming along in tip-top shape. We've had a nice quiet spell, out in an empty patch of space, so we had a chance to tweak everything to do with the warp drive.

I hear a familiar voice call out, "Good morning, Trip."

I turn and there's my captain. With a cup of something in his hand. In my engine room. I bite back the urge to scold him for it. "How are you this mornin', Cap'n?" I say instead.

He must have caught the look on my face, because he assures me, "Don't worry, Commander, it's empty."

"I knew that," I say quickly, feeling a little sheepish. Jon grins, because he knows I'm lying. "C'mere, look at this." I tug on his sleeve and bring him over to the panel in front of the warp reactor.

He watches the readouts, and I can see him frowning a little as he tries to figure out what I'm getting at. He looks at me and shrugs his shoulders. "What? Everything looks fine, Trip."

"Fine? You call that fine?" I ask, putting on my best indignant engineer act.

"Well," he hesitates, sounding concerned. He cocks his head to one side, just like Porthos does, and examines the readouts carefully.

He's trying hard to figure out what he's missing, so I cut him a break. "It's not just fine, it's perfect! Look at those numbers. Look at the efficiency of the energy transfer. She's never been runnin' better than this." I announce this information proudly.

He starts laughing and slaps me on the back. "Well, I'll be damned. You're absolutely right, Trip." He looks proud, and I'm gratified.

"Well, it was a team effort," I clarify for him. Which is true. Couldn't have done it without my team.

We rest against the railing, still admiring the reactor, listening to it hum. I'm as pleased as punch. Then out of the corner of my eye I see Jon take a sip from his cup. Empty? I spin to face him, shocked, mouth open, ready to step right over that line and give my captain hell.

Jon holds a hand up to stop me, eyes twinkling, really laughing now. "Sorry—sorry Trip, I just couldn't resist. It really is empty. Honest."

2. LUNCHTIME

"This seat taken?" I ask as I put my tray of food down on the table. Malcolm barely glances at me as he motions for me to sit. "Ensigns, Lieutenant, how y'all doin'?" I greet the group in general as I settle in. It's a tight squeeze, because Malcolm hasn't moved his chair at all to make room for me. He's too busy with Travis, working on god knows what. I wish he could just relax and take a break once in a while, even if he's on duty. He works too hard.

"Commander," says Hoshi, stirring her soup cautiously, "do you think this could be resequenced chicken soup? It tastes kind of funny."

There's pressure against my leg, distracting me. I wonder if I'm in Malcolm's way. "What? You mean the soup itself or the chicken?" I have the soup on my tray too, but now I'm less than enthusiastic about it, from the look on her face.

Hoshi grimaces, scrunching up her pretty features. "Taste it and tell me."

Taste. I sip some of the broth, thinking that I could tell her what that warm body just centimeters away from me tastes like. The broth tastes okay, so I go for a noodle, and Hoshi's right: it tastes kind of funny. I put my spoon down. "Ensign, this soup just ain't right."

"I thought so. The chicken seems okay, but the celery—"

"I'm not even tryin' the celery. The noodles were enough," I say to her.

"I'm not even sure what these white things are," Hoshi continues.

His thigh is pushing against my leg now, and I'm pushing back. My skin feels scorched by the contact.

Travis looks over at us. "I thought they were parsnips," he says.

"Parsnips?" Malcolm says, still without looking up from the padd, his voice incredulous. "You don't put parsnips in chicken noodle soup."

You can really tell we've hit a quiet spell on the ship when lunch gets dissected like this.

"I need to get something else. Can I bring you guys anything?" Hoshi asks politely as she gets up. We decline, and I eat my sandwich, watching Malcolm. He and Travis are working on something, their dark heads huddled together as they tap at the padd, murmuring intently at each other. Whatever it is, it looks important. Weapon specs?

Malcolm's eating his dessert now. It looks like vanilla ice cream. How nice. He puts a spoonful in his mouth, then slowly removes it, the spoon sliding between his lips, just like—just like—oh yeah, that's something I don't need to be thinking about right now.

"I hope the ham sandwiches are better." Hoshi's back.

Malcolm gestures at Travis with the spoon, adamant about something. Travis shakes his head. Malcolm notices a drop of ice cream on the spoon and licks it off with a swipe of his pink tongue. My heart skips a beat. I'm having a hard time pretending not to stare.

"What kind of fruit is that?"

I focus. "Huh?" Hoshi is pointing at a dish on my tray. "Oh, I—uh—I dunno." I give her a smile. I'm trying hard not to seem impolite, but I'm beginning to get very distracted by the Malcolm Ice Cream Show.

I wonder if he has any idea what he's doing to me. He's got a smidgen of it on his upper lip. I wonder how folks would react if I just leaned over and licked it off. Probably not a good idea, because most likely I wouldn't be able to stop there. I'd end up licking parts that had no danger of having ice cream on them. There he goes, he's licking that ice cream off. He nods at Travis, like they've got something finalized. He leans back and turns to me. Nudges my leg again. His lips curve up into a knowing smile, and I realize he's very aware of what he's doing to me. Bastard. Still, I'm tickled to death that he's flirting with me, right here in the mess. He surprises me when he gets playful like this.

"Care for some ice cream, Commander?" he asks, and from his tone I just know he's offering something else entirely. For a moment there's no one else in the room except the two of us.

"Malcolm, Travis," Hoshi says, breaking the spell. "How's the movie schedule looking?"

Movie schedule? They were working on the movie schedule? I laugh a little, realizing that I really do still have a lot to learn about Malcolm.

Travis answers her. "Yup, got the next three months set."

Hoshi glares at Malcolm. "Not all shoot-'em-ups, are they?"

"Hoshi," he exclaims, "you wound me. We made sure there's something for everyone. Comedy, romance, a little bit of everything."

He checks the time. "If you'll all excuse me—" He gets up to leave and catches my eye again. "Enjoy your lunch, sir. And be sure to have some dessert."

Dessert. I want Malcolm for dessert. The two ensigns also get up to leave. "You sure know how to empty a table," Travis teases.

I wave them off. "Yeah, that's the story of my life."

As they leave I pick up my padd and flip through my inbox, browsing through new messages, reports, updates, and whatnot. I see that I have some journals to catch up on, including a new issue of Heat and Mass Transfer. I smile idly as I check the table of contents, thinking of Malcolm again. He's all heat underneath that cool exterior. Conductive heat. And I'm more than happy to have that heat transferred to me.

3. EARLY AFTERNOON

"What do you think, Commander?"

"I'll head down to Engineering to check it out, Cap'n." I leave the bridge, getting into the lift for what seems like the hundredth time today. I could probably calculate how much of this mission I've spent so far in this little gray box, staring into space. But I guess if I did, it would be a little depressing.

But things brighten up considerably when the lift stops at B deck, and lo and behold, my favorite armory officer gets in.

"Lieutenant Reed, how nice to see ya."

"Commander," he says, and he punches in his level.

The doors close and the lift starts again. So does our game. Malcolm leans against the back wall, watching me. I casually take a step toward the control panel. His eyes narrow, and his back comes off the wall. He's on full alert now. Makes me think of a coiled snake.

"So, Lieutenant," I say in my best, easygoing manner, "how come those damn phase cannons are offline again?"

He falls for it completely. "What? Why wasn't I notified? Oh, hell—"

I make my move, slamming my palm onto the "hold" button on the control panel just as he catches onto my ploy and lunges for my arm. The lift halts, and I grab hold of his wrist as he tries to set it going again. Now we're tangled up, and it's a full-fledged wrestling match, accompanied by Malcolm's growlings and my laughter.

"I can't believe I fell for—Trip, would you stop—damn you—bastard—let go of me!"

"Never." I hook my foot around his ankle and down we go, hitting the floor with a thud. I take the brunt of it, but then flip him onto his back so I'm on top. I grab hold of his head with both hands and kiss him like there's no tomorrow. He's not exactly resisting anymore. My tongue licks the inside of his mouth and he tastes like tea, sweet green tea. My thigh slips down between his legs and he immediately rubs his hard-on against it. Damn, my sweet Malcolm heats up fast. For me, I realize with a rush of happiness. Just for me. His hands grab my ass and I break off the kiss with a moan.

"Bastard," he says against my cheek. I rub my face against his and his mouth finds my ear.

"Oh, yeah, Malcolm," I groan as his warm, wet tongue traces the outline of my ear. This is by far the best lift experience of the day. I wiggle my hips, pushing my erection into him, and his breath hitches in my ear. I shiver right down to my toes.

Then his hands are on my shoulders and he's pushing me away. "What?" I ask, disappointed.

"We are not doing this in the lift," Malcolm states firmly. His face is pink and his eyes are a bit wild, but his mouth is set in that firm line I know all too well.

"Aww, c'mon Malcolm, it would be fun," I plead with him. I stretch my neck and lick his nose, which is all I can reach because of the way he's holding me back.

"You're hopeless." But he's smiling as he says it. I love the way his smile makes the corners of his eyes crinkle.

"When it comes to you, yeah, I am."

He laughs, pushes me off, and gets to his feet in one fluid movement. Even though I never really intended to actually have sex in the lift, I'm still disappointed. I was having fun getting him all ruffled up. Not that I would have minded had he been willing to go along with it.

"Does this mean doin' it on the warp reactor is out, too?" I ask brightly.

"Yes, it does."

I'm kneeling on the floor, and I realize he's still right next to me. I decide he's not ruffled enough yet. I grab his hips, put my mouth around his erection and breathe heavily over it, right through his uniform.

"Oh, shit, Trip—" he croaks, his body shuddering and his fingers pressing into my head. Nice.

I stand, sliding slowly up his body, and come face to face with a rather dazed-looking Malcolm. Mission accomplished. "That's for the ice cream business at lunch," I inform him.

Then I release the hold on the lift.

4. COFFEE BREAK

"They've made a lot of progress back home." Malcolm gestures to me with the padd as I sit next to him.

"Huh?" I ask as I steal a cookie from his tray. Peanut butter. Not my favorite, but it will do.

Malcolm hands me the padd. "Force field. The folks back on Jupiter station have expanded the functional parameters. See?"

I take the padd and page through the report. The progress really is very impressive, I realize as I skim the data. "They couldn't have done this without what you learned here on the ship, you know," I remind him.

Malcolm merely shrugs as he sips his tea, tapping a cookie on his tray. But I know it bugs the hell out of him that he doesn't have the proper resources or time to continue with it here on the ship.

"Listen to me, Malcolm. You overcame some of the issues that they had been working on for more than a year. I know a couple of those engineers—and it was kinda embarrassing for them." I grin a little, thinking of the messages I received after the report came out. They were just dying to know what kind of engineer this Lieutenant Reed was.

"I had incentive," he tells me, his face growing dark.

The memory of being wrapped up in that white, slimy alien creature makes me shudder. Definitely not one of my favorite moments aboard this ship. "Yeah. Believe me, I appreciate it. Thought I'd never wash all that goo off," I comment.

"If only I had known how you felt about me then, I would have happily helped you ."

I know he's trying to change the subject. "Face it, Malcolm, that was one hell of an achievement. You kept a cool head under pressure and found a solution to a problem that had been bugging those folks for a long time. Very impressive," I tell him, as earnestly as I can. Malcolm is cool under pressure, in a way I know I never can or will be. I admire him for it.

Malcolm merely snorts. I don't think he believes me. He plucks the padd from my hands, props himself up on his elbows, and continues reading, cookies and tea forgotten. I know he's still in communication with the scientists and engineers back home, immediately sharing any bit of knowledge he gains on the subject from alien ships so they don't have to wait for the formal report.

He looks thoughtful. "All that really matters, Trip, is that we get a defensive system up and running as soon as possible. Can you imagine having a ship protected by an actual force field? It would change our tactical situation forever. Think of the possibilities."

"You'll make a good captain someday, Malcolm," I say suddenly.

Malcolm frowns a little at my non sequitur. "Where did that come from?" he asks.

"Thinkin' about how you handle yourself in tough situations. You're good."

"Is that Commander Tucker speaking, or my lover?"

"Both. We're one and the same." I rub my leg against his, under the table. "Just remember to hire me as your chief engineer when you do." I'm only half-joking.

I know it's blasphemous to think this in Starfleet, but I don't think I really want my own command. I like being an engineer, and I like new adventures, seeing things no other human has seen, but I don't think I'd be happy in command. I see every day what Jon's going through and the tough decisions he has to make. And lord knows I'm no diplomat when it comes to meeting new species. Malcolm, though—that's another story. I think he'd thrive as captain.

"What, have you as my chief engineer so that I can get molested every time I step into the lift?" He leans back and downs the last of his tea.

He sounds like he's teasing. At least I hope he is. "You say that like it's a bad thing," I respond.

He gives a little chuckle, then gets up. "I must be getting back," he says.

"Malcolm—see ya later."

His hand brushes the back of my neck as he makes his way around me. I wonder again if he was kidding. Did I push it too far on the lift?

5. LATE AFTERNOON, ON THE BRIDGE

We gather around the holographic display. Two planetary systems are floating in the air.

"So, Cap'n, neither of them have class M planets?" I ask.

I must have sounded a bit plaintive because the captain pats my arm. "Not this time, Trip. Sorry." And he honestly does look apologetic. The captain's a good guy that way. Real sensitive.

"Oh, well. No chance to get out and play." I'm mildly disappointed, but it's really no big deal. I just miss the feel of sunshine on my skin sometimes.

Malcolm is next to me, and he's rocking back and forth on the balls of his feet with this kind of hopeful expression on his face. "Sir, this one does appear to be have an asteroid field," he points out.

"Contemplating a little target practice, Lieutenant?" Jonathan smiles at him. I can't help myself: I smile at him too. Travis just rolls his eyes.

"It would be the perfect opportunity to test out the new targeting algorithms," Malcolm says, trying not to seem too eager.

The captain nods. "Well," he says with a sigh, "because of our scheduled rendezvous with the Vulcans, we can only visit one. Unfortunately."

T'Pol leans back from the console, the blue light reflecting off her face. "Captain, long-range sensor data are coming in. It appears that…" She trails off, looking intently at the screen. "There are what appear to be microscopic, primitive life forms in the atmospheres of two of the gas giants."

The gas giants aren't in the same system as the asteroid belt. I can see Malcolm's shoulders sag briefly. Poor fellow. I know how much he enjoys shooting at things. Especially, as he once pointed out to me, when they don't shoot back.

"Sorry, Malcolm," the captain says, with an apologetic wave of his hands. "I think the bio folks get to play this time."

"Quite all right, sir," Malcolm tells him crisply.

"Travis, set a course."

"Yes, sir." Travis heads over to the pilot's station. Hoshi's on the other side of Malcolm, and she pats him on the back. "Sorry, Malcolm. I was rooting for you. Especially since there wasn't anyone out there for me to talk to," she adds glumly.

***

"Balky?" I repeat, leaning against the pilot's console.

"Balky," Travis says again. "You know, there's like this short hesitation before they open."

"Travis," I say, "the cargo bay doors were acting just fine last week." He's been running a routine check on the systems, and while I'm glad he takes it very seriously, I'm not quite sure I see a problem.

"That was last week. This week, they're not working right. Trust me," he says, with an easy smile.

"I always do, Ensign. I always do. I'll check it out."

I head back to the turbolift again. And as I head off to the engine room, I realize that I do trust him, because he's spent his entire life on spaceships and he has this way of detecting little irritating glitches way before they become big, life-threatening glitches.

So I decide that this takes priority over the environmental control on deck F, which Crewman Brown swears is two degrees off, and the aft lift, which Crewman Cutler reports is "riding a little bumpy." I swear, it's times like this I wish we could have some aliens shooting at us. With greatly inferior weapons, of course. Because when we're going through a quiet period, folks tend to get a little too focused on the ship and start noticing all these little things that no one would bat an eye at if there was something exciting going on.

I get to engine room and start running diagnostics, and sure enough, there's a faulty power coupling. The power gets rerouted automatically, but it's not quite as efficient that way, and Travis was able to notice the difference. Useful guy to have around. I consider asking someone on my team to take care of it, but I figure I haven't had a chance to get my hands dirty today, so I decide to fix it myself.

While I'm perched on the upper-level access platform, I see Malcolm enter the room below. I watch him approach Lieutenant Hess, padd in hand as always. I like the way he walks. He's kind of slinky, like a big cat. I like it even better when he's naked and I can see his muscles flexing under his skin as he moves. I realize this isn't helping me change the coupling, so I get back to removing the old one, all the while keeping one eye on Malcolm.

He finishes with Hess and begins looking around the room—looking for me, I realize. That's damn sweet. Finally he looks up and sees me, and his face lights up in his subtle little Malcolm way. He swings over to the ladder and climbs up to my level.

"Hello, Commander," he says, leaning toward me. "What brings you up here?"

"Just wanted to admire the reactor from a distance," I tell him. Then I wave the new power coupling at him by way of explanation. "Hey, sorry you won't get a chance to play with the phase cannons."

"It's quite all right. I certainly plan on playing with yours tonight." He gives me a look that could generate a warp field all by itself.

I just can't resist. "Powered up and ready to go," I inform him in my dirtiest tone of voice.

"See that it is." He sounds distracted, and I look up to see that he's looking at me intently, eyes fixated somewhat below my chin.

"What?" I look down at my chest, wondering if I've spilled food on it or something.

"It drives me mad when you do that."

"Do what?" I find the coupling I'm looking for.

Malcolm waves a finger at me. "That. Unbuttoning your shirt. So that your chest hair is peeking out."

"'Little too scruffy-lookin' for ya?" I glance up at him as I remove the coupling. He can be such a fusspot sometimes.

"No, Trip." He puts his head even closer to mine. "Tremendously sexy."

"Really?" I wasn't expecting that. I can't help but grin. "Got a thing for chest hair, huh?"

"On the right person, yes."

And I figure that's a good thing, because Tucker men come in two flavors: furry and furrier. I'm still grinning at him, and I now I want to kiss him. His face is only inches from mine. "What time you finishin' up today?" I ask, my heart beating faster in anticipation.

He scratches his head. "I'm doing weapons training after dinner. Should have it wrapped up by 2000."

"Okay. I'll see you then?"

"My place?" he asks, and I nod.

He leans back against the rail and looks over at the warp reactor, his face thoughtful. "It does have a flat surface there on top, doesn't it?"

"Don't toy with me, Malcolm," I tell him sternly, despite the rush of butterflies in my gut.

I was serious about that one. I guess we all have our fantasies. And having Malcolm doing me on top of the warp reactor is mine. I want to be lying flat on my stomach so I can feel the vibration of the reactor all through my body, and I want Malcolm inside of me, his weight holding me down. I'm sure he's teasing, but just the thought of it is really turning me on.

"Toying with you? I wouldn't dream of it," he tells me, his voice low and throaty. He winks at me and slips lightly down the ladder. He is a tease, I realize. I love it. I love him.

6. EARLY EVENING. BRIDGE.

"Trip, can I see you in my office?"

"Sure, Cap'n."

We step into the office and he just stands in front of me, not moving, not saying anything. I raise my brows and tilt my head toward him. "What?"

"Hear that?" Jon asks me.

Oh, shit. Not this again. "Cap'n, I don't hear a thing," I tell him in my most placating manner.

"It's hard to hear. You have to listen for it. It's kind of a low vibration—sort of like a hum—" He holds his hand up, stopping any further input from me. At least he's not crawling around on the floor this time. "There—there it is. Listen," he commands.

I patiently hang my head and listen, trying to be nice and polite, all the while thinking about Malcolm waiting for me. I think of his body, how good it felt to pin him down I the lift, the way his body moved instinctively under mine.

Jonathan nods at me in satisfaction, as if I've heard this mysterious noise. "What do you think it is?"

I don't hear a goddamn thing, but part of me just wants to agree with him, promise him I'll look into it tomorrow, and get the hell out of there. And into Malcolm's arms. But this is Jonathan, and I can't lie to him. So I just shrug my shoulders apologetically.

At that moment T'Pol comes in, and she and the captain begin discussing something about the system we are approaching. I take a moment to contact Malcolm.

"Malcolm—"

"You're late, Commander."

His voice sounds low and silky, even through the comm. My heart beats faster. "Sorry, Lieutenant, I'm tied up here in the Cap'n's office." Shit. Bad choice of words. My mind goes even further into the gutter.

"How very interesting."

He's practically purring, and I feel my cock stirring in response. Damn. I really need to focus at the task at hand.

"Listen, I'll be ten, fifteen minutes at the most. I promise," I say hurriedly.

"That's perfectly all right, Commander. I'll just get started without you."

Get started?

"What?" The comm channel closes, and I bang my forehead against the wall in frustration. I turn my head to see T'Pol watching me curiously. I smile at her, my forehead still pressed against the wall. I'm sure she thinks all humans are nuts, anyway.

"Commander," she addresses me with a small nod, "I have not heard this 'noise' either. I suspect the captain may be—"

"Now, Subcommander," Jon interrupts her. "I'm definitely not hearing things. There's this low humming sound, Trip, it's very episodic, but it definitely wasn't there before."

T'Pol turns to him. "Of course, Captain."

He looks exasperated. Frustrated. Much like how I feel. He and T'Pol stare at each other, and suddenly I feel like there's something else going on, something kind of familiar to me. I think about how Malcolm and I used to be, before we got things figured out. We were, well, frustrated.

But all I really want right now is to get the hell out of here. They start to discuss the subject politely, so I grab a nearby scanner and work my way around the room. I'm sure Jonathan has done the very same thing, but I know he's not going to be satisfied until I look around too. When he gets a bee in his bonnet about something, it's best to just go along with him until something else distracts him.

I spend about five minutes stalking around my two superior officers in the tiny office, watching the readouts on the device, my mind filled with thoughts of Malcolm crawling all over me, purring, like he just did on the comm. When I complete a few circuits of the room, I show the captain the results.

"Cap'n, I haven't been able to detect a thing. Maybe tomorrow I can set up something a little more sensitive?"

"Okay, okay, Commander." Jon has his arms folded against his chest. He turns to T'Pol. "There is something there."

"I am certain there is not," she responds. "May I remind you, Captain, that Vulcan hearing is superior to humans?" If I didn't know better, I'd think she was enjoying this.

"Umm, Cap'n—?" He's still staring at T'Pol. I think he's forgotten that I'm here.

"Go on, Trip." He waves me off without taking his eyes from the Vulcan.

Finally. "Goodnight, Cap'n. Subcommander." I hurry out of the room, more than happy to leave them to figure out whatever it is that needs figuring out between them.

7. EARLY EVENING

I reach for the chime at Malcolm's door, but before I can touch it, the door opens and a strong arm reaches out and yanks me by the collar. I just about fall into the room. Malcolm catches me. Good lord, he's naked. I've fallen into Malcolm's arms, and he's naked, and now he's kissing me. Life just doesn't get any better than this.

Before I know it, my back is against the closed door, Malcolm a solid weight plastered up against me, his arms around my neck. His mouth is latched onto mine, and his tongue is in my mouth. It's a full-fledged Malcolm assault. I surrender unconditionally. I run my hands up and down that hard, straight back, pouring myself into the kiss. My hands end up on his perfect, round ass, pushing him even harder against me, and he grinds his cock against my thigh. Heat and mass transfer.

He's kissing me even deeper, growling, and his tongue is exploring every inch of my mouth; he's not letting me breathe. I think every drop of blood has gone from my brain straight down to my dick. I'm starting to feel dazed. My lips are certainly feeling bruised. But no way am I stopping this. I've been waiting all day for this, to feel Malcolm against me like this. I want him so bad it hurts.

I slide my fingers into the cleft between his cheeks, making him groan. With a shock of delight, I discover his opening is already soft and slick.

"Oh, god, Malcolm. Oh, god. You did get started without me," I gasp into his mouth. My Malcolm, reaching behind himself—I wish I could have watched.

"I've been waiting," he whispers into my ear. He nips my earlobe, and I shiver. "I hate waiting."

He's amazing. I slip a finger into his sweet ass and he pushes back against it, moaning into my neck. He's so fucking hot. I can feel his muscles squeezing around my finger, his breath against my neck. I smell his arousal, his sweat. Now he's pressing his palm against my erection. I'm going to explode.

"I need you, Trip. I need you now."

"Anything you want—" I can't believe he's mine.

We both reach for my zipper at the same time, hands getting tangled. "Get this thing off," he whispers.

"I'm tryin', darlin', I'm tryin'."

We can't get the damn thing off fast enough. We get the coverall down around my ankles and I'm trying to kick my shoes off while Malcolm pulls my shirt and undershirt over my head together. I pull my arms free, and then the shoes come off, and Malcolm's yanking everything else off, and I'm trying my damnedest not to fall over, and finally I'm naked.

"Bed," Malcolm commands, his hands flat on my chest, pushing me backward.

"You think? Hey!" I yelp as my legs hit the bed and I fall backward. Malcolm is on me in a second, straddling my hips. My cock slides happily between his cheeks. Malcolm gives my thigh a little slap.

"Legs up."

I promptly spread my legs and bring my knees up so my thighs will support him, with my feet flat on the bed. He reaches behind him to support himself with my knee, raising himself up. He grips my cock, making my hips buck, and positions it against his anus.

"C'mon," he gasps, "give a little push."

I nudge upward, biting my lip, trying not to let go and really embarrass myself, because damn, it feels good just having his hand on me. I push, and then I'm slipping into him. He's letting me in. His fingers clutch convulsively at my knee as he lowers himself, slow and easy, sighing all the way, like my cock is the best thing that's ever happened to him. I'm whimpering because his body so is hot and tight around me. I love the way he feels and it almost hurts, it's so good.

"Hold—hold still now," he says, so soft I almost miss it.

He groans, his head tilted back, eyes shut, and I see his throat working as he whispers to me, "Oh yes, Trip." Like he's had a major revelation, sitting on me, my cock completely inside of him. His weight pinning me to the bed. "Wanted you—so bloody much—been waiting—oh."

He slides his hands down his chest and over his stomach, feeling me in him. It takes my breath away to see him on fire like this. He's so beautiful, so alive. He opens his eyes and looks down at me, his smoky eyes shining with pleasure. It still amazes me that I get to see this.

"Kiss me," he asks, almost politely. Like he's not sitting on my cock.

I surge forward and meet his lips, sucking his tongue into my mouth. I want to swallow him whole, eat him alive, but I have to settle for just his mouth. I hug him close to me, his chest warm and slick against mine, his back pressed against my thighs. I love doing it like this, all wrapped up in each other, able to touch and kiss and feel. He starts to move, a slow, rhythmic grind, and I'm lost. I clutch his hips as we kiss and kiss, wet, sloppy open-mouthed kisses, almost licking each other's faces. It's so damn good, I have to get a grip on myself because it's too good, he's too good.

"Malcolm—please—" I fall back into the mattress.

Malcolm stops moving. He puts his hands on my chest, and leans forward. He's got this fierce, hungry look on his face, sweat trickling down his face. He looks nothing like the prim and proper lieutenant I see on duty. He looks—beautiful.

"Just give me a sec—" I tell him, staring at his face. My entire body is throbbing. I watch a drop of sweat slip down his face, from his temple to his cheek; then it runs along his jaw. I catch it with my fingertip. It's warm. I realize my body isn't throbbing as much anymore, that I've moved back from that precipice.

Malcolm senses it too. "Okay?" he asks.

I dig my heels into the bed and lift my hips, shoving against him. He closes his eyes and begins to rock against me in earnest. I'm plunging again and again into his tight, wet body. He's trembling, his breath coming in hard rasps, his muscles squeezing and rippling around me.

"That's it, darlin'," I whisper. I want to see Malcolm when he comes. I want to be good for him, better than anyone else has ever been. I want him to feel how much I love him.

When his hand moves to touch himself, my hand gets there first. "I gotcha," I tell him as I caress him. The skin on his cock feels like velvet in my hand—hot, smooth velvet.

"Please, oh please, Trip," he moans frantically.

I give him what he wants, stroking him firmly, from the root to the tip of the dark, rosy head. "C'mon, baby." He stiffens and I can see the shock and delight in his eyes as it starts, as he grimaces not in pain but in ecstasy, and it's all right there on his face for me to see. God, I love doing this. I love the way his body shakes, I love the feel of his cock in my hands, his hot come leaking through my fingers. His ass is squeezing tight around my cock, his muscles milking me, making me crazier than I already am. I can't help it. I pound into him, hard. I need this, I need him, his heat, his love.

I reach my climax and it blinds me white flashes of light in my eyes. I'm pouring myself into him, in long, hard surges, over and over. I think I shout something, I don't know what.

And then it's over, and Malcolm's kissing me as I shake from the aftershocks. He lifts himself off me, being careful, but I'm still oversensitive, so I twitch and jerk as I slide out of his body. "Sorry," he breathes, and I quickly assure him I'm just fine. He hits the mattress next to me with a thump. "That was bloody marvelous," he tells me, still panting.

So we lay there for a while, on our backs, bodies touching, as we try to catch our breath. I'm just enjoying the afterglow, kind of lost in that postorgasmic bliss. I turn to check out Malcolm—he's lying with his hand over his eyes. He moves it and turns to look at me with a big happy, sort of dopey smile. Damn, that's my favorite one. With that smile, and the way his sweat-soaked hair is curled over his forehead, he looks so young.

He laughs, just because he's happy, I think, and rubs his leg against mine. He's totally irresistible. I roll over onto him, resting my head on his chest and draping a leg over his. His skin is slick and smells of sex and sweat. I listen to his heart beating against my cheek as his lips touch the top of my head.

We relax for a while like that. And it's at these kinds of moments when I just want to tell him just how much I love him. How important he's become in my life. How I can't imagine existing without him.

"Malcolm, I've been thinkin'…" I start, and get a little panicky. What if he's not ready to hear this yet?

"I'll alert the galaxy."

"You're a real smart-ass, you know that?" I tell him. Which I'm sure he already knows. I rouse myself from him and sit up so I can look him in the eye. And when I do, I see that he's pretty amused with himself. Then he gets a good look at my face and grows serious.

"Sorry. What's wrong, Trip?"

He's frowning and I realize I've scared him. Now I don't know what to say. "Nothing, really, I just want to make sure we're okay." He looks just plain confused, not that I blame him. I'm really screwing this up. Maybe we should just have sex again.

"I certainly think we're 'okay.'" He emphasizes the last word. "What's bothering you, Trip?"

"Nothing. I'm just glad we're okay." I reach down and stroke his chest, fingering the dark curls.

"Much more than okay. I'd even venture to say we're 'splendid.'"

"Splendid?" I laugh a little, because he gets so British on me sometimes. "You know, I think I like that."

Malcolm's still watching me with that puzzled little frown.

"I'm just talkin' about the wrestlin' match I instigated on the lift. Was that takin' things a little too far?" I ask.

Now he laughs. He pulls me down and kisses me "If I admit to how much I enjoyed it," he says between kisses, "it would spoil my image." He nibbles my lower lip. "So I will only say that I was horribly offended."

I settle onto him and dip my tongue into his mouth. You'd think his mouth tastes all tart, just like him, but he tastes sweet. "Good. 'Cause I plan on offending you every chance I get," I say into his mouth. We kiss for a while longer, slow and lazy, just holding each other.

"Do you have more work to do tonight?" he asks when we stop for a breather.

"Nope. I was thinking of sending a message to my folks, though. And my sister."

"What?" Malcolm asks. "You can't send a message now, looking like this."

"Lookin' like what? I plan on puttin' my clothes back on."

Malcolm makes an exasperated sound. "It's not that."

"Then what is it?"

"You look—you have that 'just fucked' look."

"Technically, I fucked you, Malcolm," I remind him. I run my fingers through my hair, short as it is, frowning. "And do I look that bad?"

"No, you don't look bad at all. You look utterly beautiful."

I start to feel a bit flushed. "You know, sometimes you say the sweetest things."

"Come on, let's at least get you showered off." My sweet lieutenant climbs off the bed, takes me by the hand and leads me to the shower. I'm not protesting one bit. Soap, hot water and Malcolm make for a very, very good time.

***

"So, did you ever figure out what that vibration was that had you tied up in the captain's ready room?" Malcolm asks as he lathers my back.

I groan as his fingers instinctively seek out sore muscles and knead them gently. "No, I didn't detect a damn thing. Though I wasn't exactly focused on the task at hand, especially after talkin' to ya." "So sorry for distracting you." He really doesn't sound sorry at all.

"Well, anyway, I don't think there was any sound. To be honest, I just think Jon needs to get laid," I say to him over my shoulder.

There's a startled snort from Malcolm. "Oh?"

"Yeah. In a big way."

He slips his arms around my waist, and now my soapy back is up against his soapy chest. "And do you plan to help him in this matter in any way?" One hand is slowly traveling down my stomach, and the other is heading north.

He's kidding. I think. "Right, Malcolm. Like he's my type. Don't you know by now I go for the paranoid, pain-in-the-ass armory officer type?"

Malcolm smiles against my shoulder. "Flatterer." One hand arrives at my cock, and the other is playing with my nipple. I'm in heaven.

I sigh, letting my breath out long and slow. "What were we talkin' about?"

"How blasted good your body feels against mine." He's begun to rub his chest on my back, and there's something stiff poking me in the butt.

I turn in his arms, pretty easy to do when we're this slippery. He's nice and horny again, eyes half closed, those thick lashes all spiky from the water, a little smile of anticipation on his lips. I take his cock in my hand and push it up against mine. I hold them together, pressed up against our bodies. The heads are nestled right up against each other. Hard to tell which is mine and which is his. I squeeze and feel his body quiver.

Malcolm reaches down and stays my hand. "Trip—" he starts, staring into my face, his eyes intent.

"Yeah?"

"You know that—" He hesitates, soapy fingers caressing my hand. "We're—we're more than this," he stammers.

I'm pretty sure I know what he's trying to tell me. "By 'this,' you mean this?" I squeeze his cock purposefully.

"Mmmph." His eyes flicker shut for a second, and he's gazing at me again, looking so very serious. "It's—" he starts again, then stops, looking frustrated and helpless and so goddamn cute.

"It's about bein' together, and sharing our lives, darlin'," I finish for him.

He looks relieved. "Precisely," he tells me, happy that we're on the same page.

"You're very special to me, Malcolm," I say just before I kiss him. His lips are a bit soapy, but I don't mind.

"Same here."

No declaration of love has ever been sweeter. I nuzzle his face and go back to stroking, peering down every now and then, to see our fingers and cocks tangled together, just like our lives on this ship. We take our time, making it last, leaning on each other for support as our breath quickens and we start to shake, the movement of our hands getting jerkier.

Oh lord, this is good. I'm getting there, but I want to wait for Malcolm. He starts to whisper something to me and his hips are moving against me now. I think he's almost there and that's a damn good thing because I'm so lost in him—

8. LIGHTS OUT

"Ow. Move your bony knee, Malcolm," I complain. He complies, but I feel a cold draft. "And give me back some covers."

With a sweep of his arm, he pulls the covers back over me and lays himself across me as well, sprawling over my body. He's heavy but it feels nice. "There," he mumbles, half-asleep already. "Warm enough for you, love?"

My heart nearly stops. What was that he called me? "Malcolm?" But his breathing is deep and steady. I smile up at the ceiling. "Plenty warm, darlin'."

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