Enterprise slash


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Enterprise kageygirl


Title: Mainstay

Author: kageygirl

E-mail: kageygirl@gmail.com

URL: http://www.kageygirl.com

Fandom: Enterprise

Pairing: Tucker/Reed

Rating: PG-13

Summary: Didn't Trip seem a little subdued during 2.03 "Minefield"? Post-ep. Obviously. :)

Spoilers: 2.03 "Minefield"

Comments: Yeah, that's what I said—2.03 "Minefield"-related T/R. I am steadfast in my resolve.

I've been conferring with my engineers, working on a plan to shore up the areas where we've lost the hull plating, when the captain calls me.

"Trip, don't forget about dinner this evening."

I lean against the bulkhead next to the comm and wipe my forehead with the back of my hand. "Thanks, Cap'n, but I was just planning to grab a quick bite and get back to work. We've still got a lot to do here." I'm not real comfortable with having our asses hanging out in the wind like this.

"I'm sure your people can handle things without you for a little while. And if I know you, you'll work straight through dinner. Don't make me order your attendance, Commander." There's something more than friendly concern in his voice. A certain tension that means he's joking now, but that I shouldn't push him on it. Jon can bite hard when he's stressed.

"All right. Give me half an hour to shower 'n change?" I stare at the smudge I've left on the back of my hand.

"We'll be expecting you."

Dinner is quieter than usual. Jon makes a stab at being cheerful, but I can see the lines around his eyes, the way he moves a little more deliberately than usual. He gets real careful when he's been fighting his temper. This is more than just his usual irritation at being shot at by people we've never met before. Something must have happened out there on the hull, something he hasn't told me yet. I'm going to have to drag it out of him at some point, but I'm worn thin right now, and I wouldn't do it with T'Pol here anyway.

I don't really pay attention to the food. I don't have the faintest idea what we ate. From the moment I sat down, I've had the feeling that I was forgetting something that I needed to do, something besides the repair work and the reinforcements. It's making me antsy, and I have to fight the urge to fidget with my silverware. I don't need another glare from T'Pol right now.

I pick up my glass and watch the water quiver. I set it down again before the others notice my hand shaking, and the need to be elsewhere, to be moving, rises up strongly inside me. I stand up, and they both look at me. "If you'll excuse me, it's been a long day. I'm gonna turn in early."

T'Pol inclines her head to me, in that elegant way she has, and Jon gives me a scolding look that's only about half kidding. "Get some sleep, Trip. You're off-duty." I hear the unspoken corollary loud and clear—I'm not supposed to do any more work today, and he'll bust my ass if he finds me doing it. I nod to the both of them, and try not to look like I'm hurrying as I leave.

I debate going to my quarters, but that jittery feeling means that sleep is a long way off, and I head in another direction. I won't do any work myself, but I can go and see how everybody else is getting on.

The beta shift bridge crew all have the same look, to varying degrees—like they've dodged a bullet, and they're not sure if the shooting is going to start again. I know how they feel. I smile and nod to them calmly on my way to the Engineering monitors. Just a senior officer going about his business, nothing to worry about, and some of them relax a little. I hear the chatter start up quietly as I double-check the systems status, and pretend not to hear it. I'm glad they feel comfortable enough to talk with me there; I never wanted to be one of those officers who could kill a conversation just by stepping into the room. I pass few people in the corridors, but make sure to give them each a smile or a word or a pat of encouragement. We've been out here a year, but it's still hard to get used to hostile action, and I'm damn proud of how the crew handles themselves in times of crisis.

Hess gives me a thumbs-up as I check in with the repair crew on C Deck. "We've managed to bypass or reroute most of the damaged parts of the EPS grid. Should be done by the morning. Then we'll start in on the structural damage so we can repressurize the compartments."

"Good work. I'm sure the people who are doubling up will be glad to get back to their own cabins." She shoots me a tired smile, and I wonder if my own face was as dirty as hers is. Probably. You sure don't go into our line of work for the glamor. I return the waves I get from the crew, then make my way to Engineering.

The reports I receive there are also as good as I could ask for, although we'll need to put in at a repair facility to really get things squared away. The kind of damage we've taken tends to stress a ship in unexpected ways, and I want to run full diagnostics to make sure that she's as fit as can be.

I end up outside Sickbay without quite meaning to, but it's the last stop on my circuit anyway, so I go on inside.

It's less crowded than it was earlier, and it looks like many of the minor cases were released. I remember the sick fear when I learned that nearly a quarter of our people were injured, and the staggering relief when I confirmed that we hadn't lost anyone.

Phlox steps out of the back room, his jovial nature damped down in deference to the sleeping patients. "Commander. What can I do for you this evening?"

"Just makin' the rounds, Doc." He bobs his head in understanding. It's become kind of a tradition for me to visit Sickbay whenever we've taken casualties.

"I'm pleased to report that everyone will make a full recovery. Although my osmotic eel might be clamoring for a vacation after the workout he's had." I smile, trying to imagine the ugly little critter on a beach with a Mai Tai and a sun hat. I shake my head, realizing that my exhaustion is finally catching up with me.

"I was wondering if you might do me a favor, Commander." He looks at me speculatively, and I nod in agreement.

"Sure, Doc."

"Would you mind escorting Lieutenant Reed to his quarters?"

I raise my eyebrows, surprised that he's letting Malcolm go. "Not at all. You're not keepin' him overnight?"

"Ordinarily I would, given the lieutenant's ordeal, but we're a little crowded at the moment. He needs rest more than anything else, and he can do that just as easily in his quarters."

A grin creeps onto my face. "Besides which, Malcolm's an ornery patient who's probably been bugging you to let him leave."

"I see that we understand each other, Commander." He gives me a sly look that says he's not breaking confidentiality if I guess the truth by myself.

Phlox leads me to a biobed where Malcolm is sitting up, clearly ready to be released and just as clearly unwilling to disobey the doctor's orders before his release is official. I have to smile at him. "You look better than you did the last time I saw you."

"Well, I had a rather nasty splinter, but the doctor was kind enough to remove it." He lets me help him climb off the biobed, holding my arm briefly for balance.

"Just be sure to return tomorrow for more eel therapy, Lieutenant."

"Yes, Doctor." Malcolm can't quite conceal the distaste on his face, and I chuckle as we make our way out of Sickbay.

"How are you? And don't tell me you're fine, 'cause I saw the size of that 'splinter.'"

Malcolm gives me that half-smile. "Well, it does still hurt, a bit. But with Phlox's painkillers, it doesn't really seem to be an immediate concern."

I offer him my arm. "Here, lean on me, then."

"I'll be fine."

"Malcolm, you're limping. Unless you want to take half an hour to get to your quarters, let me help you."

Malcolm gives me an inscrutable look, then slides his arm around my waist. I settle my arm around his shoulders, gently, and steer us down the corridor.

I give his shoulder a playful squeeze. "Y'know, Lieutenant, I'm considerin' never lettin' you outside this ship again. You get hurt way too often."

"Better me than someone else." The tone is self-deprecating, but there's a dark undercurrent to it. I glance down at him, but he has his head bowed as he concentrates on walking, and I can't see his face.

"I prefer no one gettin' hurt. You really should learn to duck."

Malcolm looks up at me then, and waves his free hand at his leg. "Or jump, as the case may be."

I grin down at him. "Maybe y'should just stop pissing off people. And machines."

"But Commander, whatever would I do for fun?" His eyes are twinkling mischievously. A chill runs through me as I realize how close I came to never seeing that look again. I try to cover it with a cough, but I'm not sure how well it works.

When we reach Malcolm's quarters, I help him to the edge of the bed, then drop down beside him. The room spins crazily, and I close my eyes until the moment passes. When I open them, Malcolm is watching me, and the quiet concern in his eyes makes me jittery.

I jump off the bed and pace across the small room. "Is there anything I can get ya? Tea, something from the mess hall?"

I can still feel his eyes on my back as I face the opposite wall. No, Mal, please don't do that, not now, I can't handle it. His voice is soft behind me. "No, thank you, I'm fine." I chance a look at him, and sure enough, he's still watching me. I'm afraid to ask what he sees. "Are you all right?"

The gentle question almost undoes me. "Hey, I'm not the one who got tacked to the hull like a bug in a museum case." I start pacing, but there's nowhere to go in here, and he stops me with a hand on my leg.

"Trip, sit down." His voice is quiet, so quiet, no hint of command in it, but I sit down anyway. He has to know that I can't deny him anything right now. I look down at my lap, and absently fold my hands together to keep them from shaking.

Malcolm puts a hand on my arm, pulling until I turn, facing him on the bed. I see sympathy on his face, and I'm not sure why, but it's making me nervous. Malcolm is way more observant than most people give him credit for, even though it's part of his job description. He's just very discreet.

He reaches over and draws my hands apart, taking one of mine in each of his. It's a surprisingly intimate gesture, but Malcolm isn't the slightest bit self-conscious. He squeezes my hands, and cocks his head a little. "It's all over now. We're safe."

I'm puzzled. I feel like I just walked in on a conversation that's been going on for a while already. "I know that."

"Then why are you so wound up?"

I try to pull my hands away, but he won't let me. I stare down at the blanket on his bunk, because I feel like he's reading a lot more from my eyes than I'm getting from his. "I—it's been a long day. I have a lot of work waiting for me tomorrow."

He finally lets me go, and I breathe a little sigh of relief. Then his hand is on my face, lifting my chin so I'm looking at him again, and his eyes are compelling me not to look away. I feel like his hand just completed a circuit between us, the current dancing along my muscles, making me twitch. He smiles a little, almost sadly, and his thumb strokes along my jawline. "There's no one here. You can let go. I won't tell anyone."

I start to chuckle, but it catches harshly in my throat. Malcolm draws me into a hug, and God, I need this, need to feel him warm and alive and whole. I hold him tight, burying my head in his shoulder, breathing hard. "I'm so glad you're all right."

"So am I." There's a little irony in his voice, but I get the feeling he's mocking himself. His arms feel strong across my back, strong enough to hold me together. Malcolm's here and he's not going to let me spin off into the night. I pull back finally, and feel a blush creeping into my cheeks at the compassion shining from his eyes.

"Sorry about that." I shake my head at my own reaction. "I should be the one takin' care of you, after all. You had the near-death experience."

Something flickers across his eyes, and I want to kick myself for being an insensitive idiot. But it's gone as quickly as it appeared, and Malcolm runs a hand down my arm, taking my hand in his. "I suspect you've been taking care of everyone else along the way. You're allowed to be human, too."

"That's funny, coming from you. Considerin' your high standards and all."

Malcolm gives me the glare that he's supposed to. "Well, the British have come to expect a certain laxness from the rest of the world. It's our cross to bear."

"O'course. It's a noble thing that you do, really." I'm grinning, 'cause Malcolm is having a little trouble keeping his expression of righteous suffering intact. Possibly because he's still holding my hand. He clasps it briefly, then pulls his hand free and pushes me off the bed.

"Make yourself useful, you bloody colonial. Pour us a drink."

"Well, aren't we demanding?" I grab a couple of glasses and the bottle of Scotch that Malcolm keeps in his closet.

"Rank hath its privileges." Malcolm makes that phrase sound as stuffy as possible and I snicker. I sneak a glance back at him as I'm pouring, and see that he's closed his eyes, sitting against the wall behind his bunk. I suspect he's giving me a chance to get my composure back, and I'm grateful for it.

"Here." He takes the glass without looking, only opening his eyes when I settle in beside him and intentionally jostle his shoulder. "What're we drinking to?"

"Shuttlepod hatches." I clink my glass against his, and savor the burn as the Scotch goes down. Malcolm is warm against my shoulder, the bulkhead is solid behind me, and I decide to enjoy the sensation of leaning on someone else for a while.