kageygirl

Enterprise slash

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Enterprise kageygirl

Strange Attractors

Title: Strange Attractors

Author: kageygirl

E-mail: kageygirl@gmail.com

URL: http://www.kageygirl.com

Fandom: Enterprise

Pairing: Tucker/Reed

Rating: PG

Category: Slash

Summary: Trip falls into a seemingly random pattern of behavior.

Comments: This has been sitting on my hard drive for 3 months. Figured it was time to fish or cut bait. As long as there's no giving of or teaching to fish…

Beta reader(s): Kylie, for the simple yet brilliant advice that, "Y'know, you could just end it right there and post it." Leah, for doing all the rest of the work. :)

My hand shakes a little as I tap in the engineering override code to open Malcolm's door. This isn't the first time I've done it, and you'd think it would get easier. But my mama raised me right, and I know that what I'm doing is wrong: breaking the rules and violating his privacy.

I check the hallway again. It wouldn't look good for the chief engineer to get caught sneaking into the armory officer's quarters. It's the middle of the night shift, though, and the crew who aren't on duty are mostly bedded down in their own quarters. Like I should be.

I step just far enough inside that the door will close behind me. Malcolm's got an interior cabin, with no portholes to let in the starlight, and the darkness is complete. I pause, listening to his even breathing, making sure that the sound of the door and the light of the corridor haven't disturbed him. What started out as caution has become habit, or maybe a good-luck charm. After a minute or two, I turn the lights on at their lowest setting and wait for my eyes to adjust.

Malcolm is half-curled-up on his side, facing away from the wall, sheets bunched up around his waist. He's not nearly so neat and orderly when he's asleep, and it brings a smile to my face. There was a time I would have sworn he slept in his uniform, boots and all. Now I know better.

The first time I did this, my heart was pounding so hard that I was sure it would wake him up. I never moved closer than my spot by the door, just stood here and watched him sleep for a while. I swore that I would never do this again. But once again, I found that I couldn't stay away from him.

It started with little things. I'd look for him across a room, and get a thrill when our eyes met. I'd find myself next to him during briefings without even planning it. I've considered painting myself a big "X" on the deck plating of the bridge, right there at his left shoulder, to mark my spot. "Trip stands here." He used to shoot me these annoyed little glances, like I was kicking his chair in a movie theater, but now he doesn't even blink. I think he's filed it away as just another eccentricity of mine.

I make my way carefully across the room, grateful that Malcolm is too tidy to have stuff lying around for me to trip over. Slowly, quietly, I kneel down beside his bed.

His face is so peaceful when he sleeps. No lieutenant's mask, no knowing smirk, no expression of polite interest. No walls at all. The thought creeps up on me, once again, that I haven't earned the right to see him like this. It's twisting my guts into a knot. But it's no match for the compulsion that keeps bringing me here.

I still want to get closer to him. I'm tempted to stroke his hair, but even I'm not that crazy. Well, despite present evidence to the contrary. Instead, I hold my hand in front of his face, feeling his breath on my fingers. I trace the air above his features, forehead, cheekbone, the line of his jaw. Down his neck and across the collarbone, out over his shoulder, close enough to feel his body heat but never touching. My hand starts shaking a little, and I pull away enough that I don't accidentally touch him. I follow his arm down and around, and end up with my hand resting oh-so-lightly next to his on the mattress. I look up at his face again—

—and damn near have a heart attack, because his eyes are open, and he's watching me.

"Hello." Malcolm's voice is quiet, but matter-of-fact, as if we were passing in a corridor. The light is so dim that I can't read his eyes at all.

"Hi." I know I should leave before he drop-kicks me into his locker and saves me for live-fire target practice, but I can't seem to move.

"Is something the matter?" He's so damn polite. It's charming.

"Not as far as I know." My fingers twitch a little on the mattress, and his eyes flick down to them, then back up to my face.

"What are you doing here?"

It's a completely reasonable question, but I don't have anything close to a reasonable answer. "I—I don't know." Honest to god, I don't. Thinking has not been a part of this equation at all. I don't even have an excuse for being here, flimsy or otherwise. No recurring nightmares, no recent near-death experiences to leave me shaky and unsure. Just something inside, pulling me close to him.

Malcolm still hasn't moved, measuring me with his eyes. Makes me nervous as all hell, and I swallow hard. The corner of his mouth lifts in a smile. "I don't bite, you know."

"I'm not real sure about that. I've heard rumors."

The smile grows, and I'm just transfixed by the way he looks—tousled hair, crooked smile, glint in his eyes just barely visible. "If it keeps the junior officers in line, who am I to disabuse them of the notion that I'm a terrible ogre?"

I have to chuckle, and the tension in my chest ratchets down a notch. "I get it. It's a calculated campaign of misinformation."

"Quite. Besides, Americans seem so quick to believe that the British are entirely without humor."

"Oh, they teach us that in school. We know you're all still sore about the Revolutionary War." I'm falling into our old pattern, but the teasing seems surreal, in the middle of the night, in his darkened cabin.

He shifts a little on the pillow, eyes intent on my face. His voice drops, becoming gentle. "Why are you here, Trip?" There's no accusation at all, just curiosity, and I hardly know how to handle it. I'm glad he's not pissed, but at least I could understand that. I badly want to turn up the lights, to see his expression better, but I'm afraid to break the spell.

"Y'don't seem terribly surprised to see me." It's a clumsy deflection, but he lets it go.

"I had suspected. You leave a certain…presence in the room." His lips twist, like he's holding back a smile.

I muster up some indignation for him. "Are you sayin' I smell bad?"

He snickers. "Not at all. But I've learned to tell when you've been nearby."

For some reason, I'm touched by that. I lower my gaze to our hands, still lying next to each other on the mattress. His fingers smooth down the sheet, and I find that tiny motion fascinating. Reminds me of a cat kneading its claws.

"Trip?"

I look up at his face again, and I'm disturbed to see that a wrinkle of concern has appeared between his eyebrows. I did that; I put that tension back into his face. It's enough to make me swallow down my embarrassment and tell him the truth. "I couldn't sleep."

Compassion colors that soft voice. "You have been looking tired lately."

Damn, I thought I'd been covering it. I suppose I should be grateful for his powers of observation, being that it's his job and all.

"I…needed to see you." I have to force the words out.

"You see me every day."

"I wanted to see more of you."

Malcolm raises his eyebrows. "Aren't you afraid that seeing more of each other would lead to violence?"

His tone is whimsical, but the words dig up the guilt I've been pushing down. "I—I'm sorry." I finally get enough strength back to push myself off from the bed and stand up. "I'm real sorry, Malcolm. I shouldn't be here, and I'll understand if you report me to the cap'n."

"Don't go." I pause as I'm turning away, and glance back at him. He sits up, hands in his lap, not at all threatening. "Does it help you sleep?"

No need to ask what 'it' is. I feel my cheeks flush, and I have to look away from him. "Yeah. It does."

"Then stay. Just make sure to turn out the lights when you leave." He pulls up the sheets, rolls over, and settles in with a sigh.

"Are you serious?" I stare down at his unguarded back. I wonder how many people have ever seen him like this.

From this angle, I just barely see his jaw moving as he talks. "Perfectly. I need my rest, and you need yours. If this accomplishes both, so much the better."

"Malcolm, I can't just stand here and watch you sleep."

"Well, sit."

"I can't just sit here and watch you sleep." Maybe I actually nodded off at his bedside, and this is a bizarre dream. This can't actually be happening.

"What do you want to do?"

I'm suddenly drained. "Right now, I just want to get back to my own bunk."

"Very well."

As I open the door, I turn off the lights and take one last look at him. The light from the corridor falls over him, and I can see that he's looking back at me, but his eyes are unreadable.

I'm staring down at my breakfast, trying to muster up the energy to eat something, when Malcolm appears, standing behind the chair next to mine. "Is this seat taken?"

"Uh, no. Be my guest." He reads my clumsy gesture correctly and sits down. To say that I'm surprised would be an understatement. I figured he'd be avoiding me after my behavior last night. Write me off as a few plates short of a hull. I've been sitting alone at this table in the corner of the mess hall, my back to the room, just so that he could ignore me if he wanted. But here he is, pleasant smile on his face, as if nothing out of the ordinary happened last night.

"You look like hell." He's tucking into his eggs neatly and efficiently, but I still see the glimmer in his eyes as he glances at me over the plate.

"You're awful pretty yourself, Lieutenant." I lay on the sarcasm, and wish I could mean it, but he looks like he slept like a baby, damn it. Either he's used to his superior officers going off their rockers, or he's just decided that nothing I do is a surprise.

He cocks his head and looks at me expectantly, and I realize that I've been staring at him. And I have no idea what he just said. "Sorry. Think I need another cup of coffee."

"It's all right." Malcolm dismisses my distraction with a sympathetic smile.

I look down at my plate again, but none of it looks any more appetizing than it did when I sat down. "Excuse me, Commander." The sound of his chair sliding back makes me raise my head to see that he's already finished. I'm not sure I want to know how long I've been sitting here being lousy company. Fortunately, Malcolm doesn't seem to be offended. "Here are those specs you asked for." He hands me a padd and pats me companionably on the shoulder as he leaves. I look down at the screen in confusion—I don't remember asking him for anything. Have I been zoning out more than I thought? I have to read it twice before the meaning of the short message sinks in.

He's given me his lock code.