"Crack The Mirror"

Author - Gigi Sinclair | Genres - Alternate Universe | Main Story | Rating - R
Trip * Malcolm Fanfic Home

Title: Crack the Mirror

Author: Gigi Sinclair

Author's e-mail: gigitrekslash@canada.com

Author's Web site: http://angelfire.com/trek/gigislash

Fandom: Enterprise

Pairing: Tucker/Reed

Rating: R

Category: Slash

Warning: AU

Summary: Tucker/Reed in a mirror universe.

Spoilers: Unexpected

Disclaimer: This is a nonprofit fanfic. No copyright infringement is intended or should be inferred.

Comments: Inspired by Susan's quirky foible question: "If this were the Mirror, Mirror Universe and ensigns became lieutenants, lieutenants became commanders, so forth, by assassinating their direct superiors, who would be Captain? Would Archer have died long ago? Can a friendship, any relationship thrive without trust, in such a parallel universe? Could we even recognize those Mirror people, if we dropped in overnight?" Also answers my personal bonus question, "What if the Suliban were the first alien species to contact Earth?" In the past, many of you have been kind enough to say you appreciate the comedic element of my writing. THIS IS NOT LIKE THAT. It's a little bit dark (as I told Leah, more twilighty.) Not exactly a deathfic, but not for the super-squeamish.

Beta reader(s): Extra special thanks to Leah, the fastest beta reader in Texas. Any remaining paragraph imperfections are entirely my own fault.

Archived to EntSTSlash on 04/01/2003.
Archived at Trip*Malcolm with the author's express permission.

Lieutenant Reed could hear the man coming before he even entered the armoury, but he didn't let on. Instead he sat, his back to the door and a disassembled phase pistol in his hand, until Ensign Hawkes was just a few metres behind him. Then, in one fluid motion, he snapped the pistol back together, turned in his chair, and shot the ensign at close range. The smell of burnt fabric and flesh filled the armoury as he fell back and stared unblinkingly at the ceiling. Reed removed the phase pistol from the man's hand and replaced it in the case. Then he called for a medical team to come and dispose of the body, and went for lunch. It served Hawkes right, he thought, over his resequenced vegetable soup. It was too soon to make a move. Reed had been patient to earn his promotion. He'd bided his time. He had worked, in fact, for six months under Lieutenant Woodgate on Jupiter Station before making the attempt. And he had succeeded. There was no chance of success now, not when they were only three weeks out of spacedock. No, he thought, it was just as well that Ensign Hawkes had died. He didn't need impatient people on his team.

Reed looked up as the doors to the mess hall slid open. Commander Tucker, looking delectable as always in his black uniform jacket and trousers, came in and, after automatically scanning the room for any of his engineering subordinates, went to the resequencer.

He sat alone--no one over the rank of crewman ever socialized with anyone else, under any circumstance--but within Reed's field of vision. Reed couldn't tear his eyes away, even when Tucker glanced in his direction. For a split-second, their eyes met, and Reed could have sworn he saw the briefest of smiles cross Tucker's lips. But of course, that was impossible, Reed knew that, and went back to focusing on his own soup. No one smiled in Starfleet. Smiling was emotion, emotion was weakness, and weakness was death.

In the armoury later that afternoon, not for the first time, Reed found his thoughts drifting back to Commander Tucker. He had caught Reed's attention from their very first meeting, and not in the usual way people caught Reed's attention. Normally, his first instinct, like that of all officers, was to examine his subordinates and judge how and when each of them was likely make their move, so he could anticipate how to counter those moves. His second thought, again like all officers, was to judge how and when his direct superior might be likely to let his guard down, and how he could best take advantage of that.

As neither his subordinate nor his direct superior, Commander Tucker normally wouldn't have registered with Reed at all. But when Reed looked into the man's blue eyes and heard his unusual, distinctive accent, Reed felt something strange. At Starfleet Academy, they'd been taught the only appropriate feelings--the only ones that fulfilled Starfleet's mandate and would ensure the continuation of humanity--were ambition and self-preservation. The feelings Tucker stirred in Reed were neither of these. He didn't want Tucker's job. It wouldn't have been possible anyway, since they were not in the same Work Unit. Instead, Reed thought with some interest, a little confusion, and a great deal of nervousness, he wanted Tucker's body.

Sex was of course permitted by Starfleet Command. A sexually frustrated soldier was not an efficient soldier. It was for that reason that there were four brothels, catering to every possible taste, on Jupiter Station alone. Reed had used them, of course. It was not optional. But he'd never enjoyed the experience, and he'd been glad to get away from the station. He remembered the acute disappointment he'd felt when Command had informed them that there would be regular shore leave throughout the mission, and they would be expected to engage in intercourse on every one of the trips.

From the first day, Reed had taken to watching Tucker whenever he could. Which wasn't often. As they weren't in the same Work Unit, the two of them had no reason to deal with each other. Occasionally, Tucker's subordinate, Lieutenant Hess, would come to request information about the weapons calibrations and Reed, who had never concerned himself with other officers' subordinates, found himself watching her closely, with the same kind of attention he paid his own subordinates. Wondering how she would attempt it. Wondering if Tucker would be able to protect himself, as he clearly had before, since he was still alive. Wondering how and when Tucker was going to go about fulfilling his duty towards his superior, Captain Archer. Wondering why he, Reed, couldn't decide whether he wanted Tucker to succeed in that mission or not.

Naturally, Reed kept his thoughts to himself. The closest he came to even hinting at any of them was when Captain Archer called him to his ready room.

Captain Archer was Reed's direct superior. Which meant that, technically, Reed should have been plotting against him, but the Code dictated that he would only be expected to try if Tucker attempted, and failed, to kill him. If Tucker succeeded, Reed would then be expected to do away with Tucker to succeed to his position. An idea which, for some reason, made Reed feel distinctly uncomfortable, so he didn't think much about it. Instead, standing at attention in the ready room, he tried not to look at the snarling Rottweiler in the corner, and focused instead on the captain.

Eighteen years of constant stress had taken their toll on Archer. Scars, lines and the dark circles of someone who always slept with one eye open--all the more difficult because he had lost his left eye years earlier--made him look far older than his forty-five years. But Reed knew that the worst was over for the Captain.

If he survived this mission, he would be given an admiralty position, the one Starfleet rank that could be obtained without murder. Direct murder, anyway. There were a fixed number of admirals in Starfleet, so Archer's promotion would mean the elimination of another. Which meant that, in addition to Commander Tucker, Archer had to worry about assassins hired by the admirals who didn't feel like losing their jobs-and their lives-to make room for a newcomer. No wonder, Reed thought, glancing at the Rottweiler, the Captain took extreme measures to protect himself. At the moment, Porthos was munching on a large raw steak, blood dripping down his jaws.

"You need to be apprised of a situation which has arisen." Reed was vaguely surprised, but he didn't show it. Mainly, Work Units kept to themselves. He would be called to the bridge if a ship needed destroying, but it was rare he would know anything about its occupants or the information they had contributed, willingly or not, to the ever-expanding Starfleet Database. Which was just as well. Reed had a lot on his mind already without thinking about each individual civilization that he helped to annihilate.

"Yes, sir." Reed blinked.

"Commander Tucker will be boarding the next ship we come across. Under the guise of helping them repair their engine, he will be extracting as much information as possible for the Database. Upon his return, you will be required to dispatch with the ship and its occupants."

"Yes, sir." Reed waited for the explanation as to why Archer was telling him this. Usually, he would be ordered to the bridge just before he was ordered to fire the torpedoes.

"While the Xyrillians seem like a weak species, it is possible that Commander Tucker may be in some danger while he is on board their ship. I will require that you arm him sufficiently for this mission." Reed blinked again. He was too well-trained to let any emotion show on his face, but he was surprised. Not that Archer should want Tucker to die on the Xyrillian ship. It was not Code to involve third parties in the elimination of a subordinate, nor was it Code for the superior officer to make the first move. But, in all practicality, Reed wouldn't have expected Archer to go out of his way to protect Tucker.



"Yes, sir."

Reed had heard rumours about Archer and Tucker. They were much too farfetched to be true, but this made him wonder. Rumours that they were...friends. Personal friends. Which was of course absurd. Relationships of any kind were actively discouraged by Starfleet Command, and relationships between Starfleet personnel were forbidden. An outside friendship would only corrupt one officer, the reasoning went, but a friendship within Starfleet would corrupt two.

And corrupt officers met the same fate as unprepared, or unlucky, subordinates. Archer and Tucker weren't friends. It was preposterous to even think it. Just as it was preposterous, Reed thought as he returned the armoury, to be glad he could help Tucker survive, at least a little while longer.

"I hear you've already done away with one of your subordinates." Tucker said, out of nowhere, as Reed lay the phase pistols and the miniature scimitars, (an idea stolen just before they had destroyed a Klingon ship) out on the table. There was no need to explain any of it to Tucker. The use of personal weapons was the one area in which every officer was well-versed, regardless of their Work Unit.

"Yes," Reed confirmed.

"That was early." Reed inclined his head. "It probably woulda taken me by surprise."

"I'm never surprised, Commander."

"Never?" Tucker raised an eyebrow.

No emotion, Reed reminded himself. No weakness. It was the one thing they had learned from the Vulcans, before extinguishing more than half the race in one attack. The remaining Vulcans, as far as Reed knew, lived a primitive, post-apocalyptic existence, confined to the few square acres of their planet that were still inhabitable. "You are well-prepared for anything you may come across on the Xyrillian ship."

"I'm sure." Tucker glanced down at the array of weapons. "But I can't carry them out in the open. I'm going to have to conceal them."

"Naturally, sir." Reed's throat suddenly felt dry.

Tucker held out his arms, not moving. "Then you'd better conceal them for me."

Reed swallowed, then took a half-step forward. He swallowed again, and put up a hand to touch one of Tucker's jacket buttons.

"Hurry up, Lieutenant," Tucker barked. "The Xyrillians need their engine fixed today."

This time, Reed knew he wasn't mistaken. There was a definite smirk on Tucker's face as he said it.

As efficiently as possible, given the fact that his hands were shaking, Reed unfastened Tucker's uniform jacket and shirt and, removing the tie, looked at the tight black T-shirt underneath. Having been in decon with the man, there was little Reed didn't know about his body. Yet, somehow, he found Tucker even more alluring in this tight T-shirt than he did when they were all but naked in the decontamination chamber. Perhaps, he thought, trying desperately to think of something other than the man in front of him, that was because decon was safe. The one safe place on the ship.

For one thing, it wasn't permitted for subordinates and direct superiors to enter together, and for another, it was the only place on the ship where it was impossible to conceal a weapon. A deadly weapon, anyway, Reed amended, risking a glance down at the crotch of Tucker's knife-creased black pants.

The risk turned out to be too great. Tucker grabbed Reed's wrist, the one that had been hovering a few inches from his chest.

"No point in concealing anything there, Lieutenant." Another smirk. "There's no room."

"No, sir." Reed felt dizzy. And immediately despised himself for it. Taking a step back, he extricated his wrist from Tucker's grasp. He took a brief moment to compose himself then, all business, he fastened the phase pistol around Tucker's ribcage. Leaving Tucker to dress himself, he knelt at the Commander's feet and strapped the scimitar around one strongly muscled calf. He was still there, kneeling in front of Tucker, when his heightened senses told him there was someone approaching. He stood up moments before the armoury doors slid open and Lieutenant Hess came in.

"Commander Tucker. I have the equipment you will require to maintain your cover."

"Thank you, Lieutenant." There was a distinct coldness in Tucker's voice. Reed knew it was in his, as well, when he spoke to his subordinates. While Code dictated that, until the move was made, direct superiors and subordinates should maintain a civil working relationship, in practice it was hard for any human, even ones as well-trained as the Starfleet officers, to be civil to the people they knew were going to attempt to kill them.

"I wish you the greatest success. May you bring honour to Starfleet."

"Thank you, Lieutenant Hess," Tucker repeated. "And thank you, Lieutenant Reed." Hess turned and left, and Reed felt, rather than saw or heard, Tucker sigh. Then the Commander pulled his pant leg over the knife, picked up his toolbox, and left the armoury without a backward glance.

Reed made a mistake. Not an Error, fortunately. Errors were inexcusable, and, in Starfleet, one's first Error tended also to be one's last. But he did misjudge the recoil on the explosion of the Xyrillian ship. It shook the 'Enterprise', and he was knocked off-balance, hitting his head on the corner of his console as he went down.

Captain Archer did not seem particularly angry, although he was clearly annoyed when he had to send Reed down to sickbay. Where Reed was sitting, furious with himself for making such a stupid mistake, when he saw Commander Tucker come in.

By-passing Reed, Dr. Cutler went immediately to Tucker, drawing the privacy curtain around his bio-bed. Reed watched, once again seized by a strange, unfamiliar feeling. It was, of course, natural to care about Commander Tucker's well-being. If he died, Reed would be expected to take over his position as Captain Archer's would-be assassin. But Reed didn't fool himself for a minute. He knew that had nothing to do with why he was worried about the Commander.

It was, however, what Cutler assumed he meant when he asked her: "Is he going to be all right?"

"He will survive," was Cutler's efficient reply, as she sutured his forehead. Cutler was very efficient. She had dispatched with her direct superior, Dr. Blake, just five days out of spacedock.

She was finished within seconds, and a few minutes later, Reed was out of sickbay. He finished his shift, putting in an extra three hours to make up for the thirty minutes he'd wasted in sickbay, then went to his quarters. After a shower, he settled down with a book.

There were several off-duty activities that were required of Starfleet personnel. Physical training was one, and Reed, along with all the other officers, spent several hours a day in the gym. Study was another. There were a number of leaders-Stalin, Pinochet, Pol Pot, Hitler-with whom Starfleet officers were expected to familiarize themselves. Historical figures who, current thinking went, had had the right idea, but had gone about it in the wrong way. It was unquestionably wrong to oppress other human beings. But, as the founders of Starfleet had learned, by applying those same principles to alien species, you could ensure the survival of humanity. The survival of which had once, Reed well remembered, been in serious jeopardy.

He finished a chapter in his annotated Starfleet edition of 'Mein Kampf' and was about to turn in for the night when there was a knock at his door.

Commander Tucker was standing in the corridor, looking dishevelled. His off-duty uniform shirt was untucked on one side, his hair was disarranged, and there was a strange, wild look in his eyes. It was a drastic change from what Reed was used to seeing from Starfleet personnel. And it only got more bizarre when Tucker spoke.

"Can I come in, Lieutenant? I have to talk about something."

No one talked in Starfleet, not in the way that Reed suspected Tucker meant. The need to discuss anything personal was weakness, and weakness was not permitted. There were of course some people who couldn't handle the requirements of Starfleet, but they were nearly always weeded out within the first few days of basic training. Tucker was tough; if he hadn't been, Reed knew he would have died long ago. Curious, Reed didn't refuse, which Tucker took as acceptance. He entered Reed's quarters and Reed, well aware of what would happen to both of them if anyone were to find them together during off-duty hours, let the door shut behind him.

He stood, waiting, while Tucker paced around the sparsely furnished quarters. Finally, Tucker stopped and turned to the Lieutenant.

"There was an alien on that ship who thought I was attractive."

Reed blinked.

Tucker ran a hand through his hair, leaving it even more unkempt, and continued: "Before I killed it, it showed me something." Tucker sat down--collapsed, really--onto the edge of Reed's bunk, placing his head in his hands.

"Commander..." Reed didn't know what else to say. This was so far removed from the regulations, let alone the Code, that it left him completely bereft of ideas.

Not that Tucker was having an easier time. "I can't explain it, Lieutenant. I saw things..." He looked up. "It was like here, but it wasn't. The Suliban..."

"Suliban?" Reed, who was always alert, moved into near panic at the mention of the word. As any human would.

Tucker shook his head. "But it wasn't like that. It was..." He cast his eyes upward, as if looking for words. "Different," was all he managed to come up with. He glanced back down, his eyes meeting Reed's. "And you and I..."

Reed, breath still shallow and heart still pounding, saw yet another incomprehensible change in Tucker's eyes.

Reed couldn't remember much from Before. He had been sixteen when he'd gone into the internment camp, but his experiences there and since then had all but erased the memories from the first part of his life.

He did, however, remember kissing a girl. He'd been about fourteen, in Malaysia, and she'd been some teenage expatriate he'd had a crush on. The kiss had been disappointing, all the more so because that was the only one he'd ever had. The prostitutes on Jupiter Station weren't permitted to kiss, and he wouldn't have wanted them to anyway.

The kiss that Tucker gave him was nothing like the kiss he'd received from Sophie Marshall-Hayes. Leaping off the bed, Tucker pushed him up against the wall, slamming their mouths together. Reed, who just a day earlier had sworn he was never surprised, found himself swallowing his words. Along with Commander Tucker's tongue.

This entire concept was so foreign to him that, at first, Reed was certain he was hallucinating. His first thought was how he was going to hide this lapse, this weakness, from the rest of the crew. His second thought, as Tucker pulled away panting, was how much he wanted to do it again.

During his entire life, Reed had always done exactly what was expected of him. By his parents, by his commanding officers in the naval cadets, by the Suliban guards in the internment camp, by his Starfleet superiors. As Tucker stepped back, Reed knew what he was supposed to do. He could see that Tucker expected it of him.

Tucker had committed a gross breach of regulations. He was now compromised, a danger to the rest of the crew, and, as the tactical officer, it fell to Reed to dispose of him appropriately. Reed was supposed to do away with him immediately. But instead, looking at Tucker looking back at him with a mixture of resignation and regret, Reed decided to surprise him. Scarcely believing he was doing this, yet unable to conceive of doing anything else, he grabbed Tucker by his off-duty tie and kissed him again.

Reed had always climaxed during his encounters with the station prostitutes. It was expected, and the prostitutes were required to submit reports to his superiors afterwards. If he hadn't achieved orgasm, questions would have been asked. But while his body had been sated, he had never felt satisfied internally. The prostitutes, while technically very adept and happy to adapt to individual preferences, had always been missing something.

Reed wasn't sure what he wanted from sex, but since any need was weakness, he had preferred to repress it altogether. It was only that evening, as he lay covered by Commander Tucker's ejaculate and Commander Tucker himself, that he remembered the empty feeling he'd had following his previous encounters. And that he realized he didn't have that feeling now.

It hadn't been gentle. It had, in fact, been rougher than anything he'd had with the prostitutes, and towards the end of his stay on Jupiter Station, desperate to find what he was looking for, Reed had asked for some fairly rough treatment. But Tucker's voice was soft, almost hesitant, when he asked:

"Can I ask you something, Lieutenant?" It was the first time either of them had spoken since Tucker's initial assault. .

"Yes, Commander." Personal questions were of course forbidden, but not even Reed could bring himself to care about that now.

"What's your name?" It was such an unusual question that Reed had to consider it for a moment before he understood what he meant.

"Malcolm," he finally replied, although no one had called him that since Before.

"Malcolm," Tucker repeated, reaching out to draw a hand down Reed's sweating chest. "I like that. I'm Charles, but people used to call me Trip."

Reed hesitated a moment, then took the final step. "Charles."

And there it was. Use of a first name.

The indication of a personal relationship and a complete desecration of Starfleet's most important covenants. There was no going back now. Sex, Reed supposed, while not excusable could at least be emotionless. But the use of a first name indicated a personal attachment. The boundary had been crossed. Reed sighed. And was immediately distracted by a strange sensation on his chest. He looked down to see Tucker sucking on his nipple. Surprised yet again, he yelped: "Commander Tucker..."

Tucker shook his head and looked up at Reed. "Next time, could we do this as Malcolm and Trip?"

Next time. Reed's heart, which had nearly returned to its normal rhythm, speeded up again. Tucker wanted to repeat what they'd done, commit the same crime again.

Which was of course unacceptable. Impermissible. Absolutely out of the question.

Tucker nudged him and, when Reed looked back down, he saw something he had never seen on any Starfleet officer's face. He didn't even realize he was wearing the same expression until Tucker continued:

"Is that a smile, Malcolm?"

Reed was so shocked, the smile disappeared, only to return when Tucker, still smiling himself, put his mouth against Reed's ear and whispered:

"Is that a yes, Malcolm?"

If you weren't a predator, you were prey. It was a lesson that Earth had learned the hard way. They had been so excited at the prospect of meeting an alien race, the first who had ever been in contact, that they hadn't considered for a moment the motives the Suliban might have. Reed could remember how their main ambassador, Silik, had charmed the UN. Charmed them so efficiently that three-quarters of the world's population was dead or in internment camps before the UN had even decided when to hold the official Suliban Friendship Month.

Reed had spent four years in a centralized camp on the outskirts of London. Or what had been London, until the Suliban razed it. His sister Madeline had died there, as had both his parents. He wasn't sure how he had survived, but when the liberation, made up of a coalition of ex-soldiers and ex-guerrillas from South America and Africa finally arrived, he knew he had lived for a reason. As soon as the creation of Starfleet, a new type of space program with a very new agenda, was announced, Reed signed up. Despite everything, he had never regretted it. It was his duty to make sure what had happened to his generation would never happen to any other, no matter what the personal cost may be.

Reed had believed in Starfleet when he signed up, and he still believed in it. The regulations and Code had become a part of his life, so much so he couldn't imagine living without them. Yet here he was, flouting them on a regular basis. Despite Tucker's words, Reed had fully expected that to be a one-time occurrence. Until he arrived back in his quarters after a shift to find Tucker waiting for him.

Which raised another problem. Despite Starfleet's best efforts, it had proven too expensive and too time-consuming to monitor every crewmember's quarters all the time. Instead, Starfleet had instituted random checks. Each cabin had a camera in it: at any time, day or night, that camera could be activated and the activities in those quarters could be observed both by Captain Archer and by Starfleet command on Earth. There was, of course, no warning when this observation was going to occur.

Tucker found a way around it. One night, when Reed joined him, he found Tucker kneeling next to a panel in the wall.

"Just fixin' things," Tucker said, by way of explanation. "Routed the camera through to some archived footage. Anyone checks on us, all they're gonna see is you, fast asleep." Of course. He was an engineer.

"What if they check on you?"

"I'm sleepin', too."

Reed liked that. So much so, the sex that night was better than ever, although he couldn't have said why.

Much as Reed liked to be touched by Tucker, he liked to touch even more, to feel the other man under his hands, to see his body. When Tucker arrived one night and, without undressing himself, pushed Reed down onto the bed and began to take off Reed's clothes, the Lieutenant objected.

"Charles..." He couldn't call the man 'Trip'. Stupid as it seemed after everything else that they'd done, it was a line Reed just couldn't cross. He preferred 'Charles' anyway.

"No, Malcolm." Tucker removed Reed's hands from the buttons on his off-duty uniform shirt. "It's your turn tonight." And it was. Tucker kissed his way down Reed's chest, finally putting his mouth where it would be of most use. Reed didn't last long. He never did with Tucker. He collapsed, exhausted, back onto the bed, stars in his eyes and his heart ready to explode.

He was so caught up in his own ecstasy he didn't notice Tucker's discomfort until the Commander jumped up and ran into the bathroom.

Reed didn't know what to do. The correct procedure to follow when one's clandestine lover ended up vomiting into one's toilet after a blowjob was not covered in the Regulations. Reed lay, paralyzed, until Tucker came back, wiping his mouth on a towel.

"Sorry..." It was weak, but it was the best Reed could come up with. And to his great surprise, it was met by a tight, almost desperate, hug.

"Wasn't you, Malcolm. Promise. I'm..." He pulled away, but kept his hands on Reed. "I'm sick."

Hess was the first thought to spring to Reed's mind. "Poison?" There were definite disadvantages to having a female subordinate. There were exceptions, of course, but by and large, men made direct attacks with phase pistols or knives, and women used more subtle methods. Poison being one of the major ones.

Tucker shook his head. "Nothing like that." He hesitated and then, quickly, as if he was about to change his mind, he pulled up his uniform shirt and showed Reed a lump on his side.

Reed stifled a sigh of relief. It was grotesque, but it wasn't fatal. If it was a tumour, Dr. Cutler would remove it. Tucker wouldn't even have to leave the ship, since physical illness wasn't considered weakness. Only mental illness was that. "Cancer?"

"I don't think so. It...moves."

Reed blinked. "Moves?"


"A parasite, then?" Reed couldn't think of what else it might be. But he regretted voicing the suggestion when Tucker burst into tears.

It had been a long time since Reed had seen anyone cry. He stood stiffly, watching as Tucker sobbed. Finally, uncomfortable, he put out an arm and touched Tucker on the shoulder. Tucker responded by grabbing him and holding on like Reed's body was the only thing anchoring him to life.

"Charles..." Reed gasped, his ribs contracting under the pressure. Reed knew what his response would have been if it had been anyone else holding him like this, but he was loath to knock Tucker to the ground. "I can't breathe..." Tucker loosened his hold a little, but kept his face buried in Reed's neck. It took a great deal of effort for Reed to decipher what he said next.

"It's affecting my mind. I nearly lost control twice in Engineering today." He pulled back far enough to look at Reed with panic-stricken eyes. "What if they find out, Malcolm? I don't want to die."

Reed put his arms around Tucker. There were no words of comfort he could offer. If you didn't have control, you had nothing, and if Tucker's control was lost, he would be eliminated, for the good of the ship. Reed himself would likely be asked to do it. It was the way it had to be, and Reed knew why the regulations dictated it. But he didn't want to do it to Tucker. He rubbed the Commander's back as comfortingly as possible while Tucker cried, trying desperately to think of something to say or do. The best he could come up with was:

"Why don't you stay with me tonight?"

Tucker looked up at him, releasing one hand to wipe his eyes. "I can't do that."

But the more Reed considered it, the better the idea seemed. Reed knew what it was like to face things alone. He'd done it his whole life. It wasn't something he'd wish on a Suliban, let alone Tucker. "Yes, you can. If anyone checks, they'll see you sleeping in your quarters anyway."

"What if we get called to the bridge?"

"Then we'll go up to the bridge. Separately." Reed smiled and ran a hand through Tucker's hair. "As long as you're out of here before the night shift comes off-duty, no one will even know." He leaned forward and kissed Tucker on the nose. "I don't want to be by myself right now." An admission of weakness, yet again, but worth it if it comforted Tucker. "Do you?"

Reed hadn't been sure how Tucker would react to the suggestion. He knew, however, that he hadn't expected Tucker to grab him even harder and whisper:

"I love you, Malcolm."

Reed blinked as memories, rapid-fire and unbidden, coursed through his mind. His mother, serving cake with marzipan at a childhood birthday party. His father, in a rare moment of civility, letting a young Reed examine his collection of ships in bottles and telling him stories about each one. His sister, humiliating his action figures by forcing them to attend a tea party held by Miss Mouse and a Barbie in a bikini. All three of them: his parents and his sister, lying dead in the Suliban internment camp.

"Malcolm?" Reed came back to the present to see Tucker looking at him with concern. "Are you OK?"

He wasn't. He hadn't been OK for fifteen years. But this was as close as he'd come in a long time. "I love you, too." It was true. And, most astonishingly, he didn't even surprise himself with the declaration. Malcolm, who had spent so long repressing his emotions that he'd come to believe that was the right thing to do, was completely and totally in love with Charles Tucker. And he didn't care.

It was a foetus. A Xyrillian foetus, the one thing not even Cutler had expected to find when she operated on Commander Tucker. Within a very short space of time, the news was all over the ship. Reed heard about it even in the armoury. He wanted nothing more than to rush to Tucker's side, but of course he had to wait. Two days, since Cutler refused to release the Commander until she'd ascertained if there was any permanent damage. She hadn't found any, but as he spoke to Tucker, Reed knew it was there.

"She dissected it," Tucker told Reed, in a calm, almost neutral, voice. "It's in some jars in sickbay if you want to look at it."

"The Captain has ordered me to be ready to destroy the planet when we arrive," Reed replied. Forced pregnancy was worse than forced colonization. Any species that would plant a representative inside a human body was a mortal enemy of Earth, almost as great an enemy as the Suliban themselves. The Xyrillians had to be wiped out. Reed knew that Tucker, as a Starfleet officer and a human being, understood this, but his lover still shook his head.

"It's not right."

"After what they did to you--"

"Do you ever think," Tucker took Reed's hands suddenly. "That maybe this is a mistake?"

Reed stiffened unconsciously. "The Suliban..."

"They can't all be like the Suliban. Maybe there are good aliens out there, Malcolm. But we'll never know because we treat all of 'em like shit just because one species did that to us."

"They killed sixty percent of the world's population."

Tucker ran a hand through his hair. "And since then, we've done our damndest to make the other forty percent wish they'd gone too. That place the Xyrillian showed me--"

"When it was colonizing your body," Reed interrupted.

"It wasn't like this. We were happy, Malcolm. When's the last time you knew anyone who was happy?"

"We can't afford to be happy. We have a job to do..." Even to his own ears, Reed sounded less than convincing.

"I want to find it."


Tucker looked at him, determination in his eyes. "I think it really exists, Malcolm. She wouldn't have showed it to me if it didn't. I couldn't have imagined that stuff. That place exists, and I'm gonna find it."

He lay back on Reed's bed. Reed lay beside him, resting his head on Charles's chest and hoping that he didn't choose to share that determination with anyone else.

It was a false hope. Not twenty-four hours later, Reed was called into Captain Archer's ready room.

Porthos was lying in his usual place in the corner, snarling. The Captain was staring out the window, and kept staring for a good two minutes after Malcolm arrived. Reed stood at attention, waiting, and eventually Archer turned around.

"I heard a rumour about you, Lieutenant Reed," was his opening line. And it came very close to giving Reed a seizure.

The years of training and repression served him well. Even though his heart was hammering and his stomach heaving, Reed was able to keep a calm demeanour as he asked:


"That you weren't drafted." Archer continued, "You're one of those rarities, a man who actually signed up for Starfleet."

Reed's panic hadn't shown on his face; his relief didn't, either. "That's true, sir." Once his camp had been liberated, there had been nothing else for him to do. Starfleet had given him something to focus on, besides his own pain.

"I signed up, as well." Archer hesitated, his one eye staring at some point just over Reed's left shoulder. "Mine was one of the first camps liberated. Oakland."

Malcolm knew of it. That one, along with several in the southern United States, had been liberated by the Mexican army.

"It was too late for my family, though." Archer went on, "They got them all. My father. My wife. My daughter." The eye flicked down to look at Reed. "Hoshi was six years old. How do you kill a six-year-old child, Lieutenant?"

Reed took this as a rhetorical question rather than a tactical one. He remained silent.

"You and I, Lieutenant, we chose this life. I've never regretted it. I'm sure you haven't either."

"No, sir," Reed lied.

"Commander Tucker didn't choose it. He was drafted out of university."

Reed knew that. Charles's engineering degree had been interrupted by the Suliban attack. He'd barely resumed it when Starfleet had got hold of him.

"He's done a good job." Archer nodded approvingly, "He's survived for twelve years, anyway." Archer looked at Reed with an expression Reed couldn't interpret. "I think he's had enough." That was impeccably clear.

Reed concentrated on breathing, just breathing, as his world was completely destroyed. He knew what Archer was going to say next. And he knew it would kill both him and Commander Tucker. Because he couldn't dispose of the man he loved, and he was well aware of the penalty for failing to do his duty.

There was a beep as Archer turned on the recording device, which Reed hadn't been aware was disabled. Hadn't even been aware that it could be disabled.

"I want you to listen very carefully to these orders, Lieutenant."

"Yes, sir," Reed's heart broke.

"Very carefully," Archer repeated, before continuing. "You will eliminate Commander Tucker. But I don't want it done on board ship. I will send you on a charting mission in the shuttlepod."

"Yes, sir."

"Commander Tucker strongly believes there is another universe out there somewhere. A more...peaceful place. He clearly cannot stay here with those dangerous beliefs."

"No, sir."

"It is also my belief that Commander Tucker has developed an intense personal relationship with a member of this crew. That person should accompany the Commander. For the good of the crew."

Reed didn't reply to that. Something in Archer's tone of voice, and in his eye, had confused him.

Archer hesitated a moment, then continued: "Once you have done your duty, I will expect you to return here. I need not remind you of the punishment for desertion. I know it's not something either you or the Commander would ever consider." Another hesitation, and he repeated: "You would never consider deserting, Lieutenant."

"No, sir."

Something flitted across Archer's scarred lips. Reed, well-versed with the custom now, recognized it as a smile. "I'm glad we understand each other, Lieutenant. Dismissed."

Reed turned on his heel. He was almost at the door when Archer added:

"There have been some mechanical problems with the shuttlepod lately, Lieutenant. I believe most are fixed, but be careful. We wouldn't want you to disappear."

Reed understood his orders perfectly. What he didn't understand was why he had been given them.

Captain Archer had a reputation. Even if you separated what was probably fact from what was almost certainly fiction, he was not a pushover. He was after all, Reed remembered, the man who had invited the Vulcan ambassador Soval and his bodyguard to dine in the Captain's mess, claiming he wished to discuss a peace treaty. Neither Vulcan had emerged, and the only comment Archer had ever made about the dinner was: "Porthos has a very sophisticated palate."

So why would Archer give them this out? Reed couldn't understand it. There were no retirement parties at Starfleet, nobody quit. You were in it until you died, no matter how long that was. Archer knew that as well as anyone. Knowing that they were being recorded, and knowing that all shuttle logs would be destroyed in the upcoming 'explosion', he asked Tucker:

"How well do you know the Captain?"

Tucker glanced over from the helm. "We were in Oakland together." Tucker swallowed, and, just as Reed was about to tell him he could stop if it was too painful, he continued. "The guards weren't too fond of me. I had a big mouth and a really crappy right hook. The Captain stood up for me a lot."

Reed couldn't picture it, and Tucker obviously knew that. He went on:

"He was different then. When his family died, we kind of stuck together. Jon's like my brother."

So, Reed thought, the rumours had been true. Starfleet's hardest captain, engaged in a personal relationship. With another officer, no less. A few weeks ago, Reed would have been tempted to report him to the Command.

"He knows I couldn't have killed him," Tucker continued, "and he knows what would have happened to me if I didn't. And what would have happened to you if you didn't kill me." Tucker sounded upbeat, confident, as he had since the shuttlepod had left 'Enterprise'.

Reed, on the other hand, felt like he'd stepped off a cliff only to find, rather belatedly, that there was no bridge beneath him. Reed was fond of bridges. Enclosed steel bridges with solid handrails.

"What are we doing, Charles?" Reed asked, allowing himself to sound uncertain for the first time in fifteen years.

His lover leaned over and put a hand over his. "The right thing."

Reed only wished he were so convinced.

The explosion of Shuttlepod One was witnessed by the entire bridge crew. Of them, only Captain Archer tore his eye away from the flashy pyrotechnics long enough to catch a glimpse of the shuttle itself disappearing under the cover of fire.

Archer's humanity had died at the hands of the Suliban, along with his family and his dreams of peaceful space exploration. He allowed it a brief resurrection now, as he remembered one night in the bunkhouse at Oakland, when he'd looked over at a sleeping engineering student and promised himself that, while he knew he was doomed, he would make sure that one day Trip Tucker escaped. From the camp and from the hell that he knew even then was going to follow.

Archer waited a good minute after Lieutenant Reed's fireworks went off before saying:

"Petersen, call Starfleet Command and let them know we lost the shuttle. And better tell Commander Hess her life just got a hell of a lot harder." He turned on his heel and went into his ready room, allowing himself a brief smile as he did so. He hadn't been able to save Hoshi, or Kyoko, or Henry, or even himself. But he had done everything he could to save Trip. He just hoped Reed could finish the job.



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