"Taking Notice"

Author - Setcheti | Genre - Hurt/Comfort | Main Story | Rating - PG
Trip * Malcolm Fanfic Home
 

Title: Taking Notice

Author: Setcheti

Author's e-mail: setcheti1@yahoo.com

Author's Web site: http://www.geocities.com/setcheti1/

Fandom: Enterprise

Pairing: Tucker/Reed

Rating: PG

Category: Slash

Summary: Episode tag for "Canamar."

Spoilers: Canamar

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

Comments: This bunny hopped someplace I didn't expect him to--it was supposed to be fluff and an excuse for the boys to get mushy with each other. But the bunny had other ideas.

Archived to EntSTSlash on 04/30/2003.
Archived at Trip*Malcolm with the author's express permission.


PART 1

It had been a long, stressful few days and Malcolm Reed, chief armory officer of the Enterprise, was very glad that they were over. He was more than ready for the endless emergency shift he'd been on to be done with so he could go back to his quarters and get some real rest. He punched in the code to open his door more by autopilot than memory..and stopped dead just over the threshold when he saw the ship's chief engineer sprawled face down across his neatly made bed, hair wet from a recent shower, dressed only in a pair of gray sweat pants and apparently sound asleep. The armory officer smiled and moved to the side of the bed, sitting on the edge gingerly so as not to wake the sleeping man. He brushed damp blond hair away from Tucker's bruised face tenderly, the gentle touch belying the fury that boiled within him at the sight of the damage done to his lover. What was it going to take before the captain would listen to him and take security along on away missions? Archer claimed to be afraid to offend the races they contacted by showing distrust, but Reed knew--knew!--that the only ones who were going to be offended were the ones who shouldn't be trusted in the first place. Was someone going to have to be killed on one of these 'peaceful' missions before the captain would see reason?

A lump rose in his throat. And was it going to have to be Tucker? He'd just found the love of his life, was he going to be forced to see it sacrificed to Archer's stubbornness?

Reed reined his thoughts in with an effort; they served no purpose, as the Vulcans would say. Trip was here, he was fine, they'd dodged the bullet again and that was all that mattered, right? His hand drifted down to the bare skin of one warm shoulder, feeling the faint heat of the bruise under his palm. "Fell on this side, did you?" he asked softly, grimacing. "Bet there's another one on your hip under these pants you say match my eyes, isn't there?" His hand moved lower, finding traces of more damage creeping out from underneath Tucker's right arm, following the lines of the engineer's ribs up to his spine and from there back up to his shoulders. The sleeping man stirred slightly and emitted a little groan but didn't wake, and Reed shook his head. "Bloody fool," he accused with affection. "I should just leave you like this, let you wake in the morning stiff and sore." Reaching back with his other hand, the armory officer tabbed the intercom. "Reed to Phlox."

The panel hissed. "Phlox here," the doctor answered, pleasant as usual. "Is there something you need, Lieutenant?"

Reed chuckled. "Not me personally, no. I was wondering if you might make a house call, though?"

A pause. "Commander Tucker?"

"Sound asleep. I didn't like to wake him, I'm sure he needs the rest after the past few days he's had."

"Yes, I'm sure he does," Phlox agreed. "Very well, Lieutenant, I'll be there directly. I'm assuming you've had a look at him?"

Reed answered the indirect request for more details as well as he could. "Bruises, a fair number of them," he said, pushing down the anger again. "He's lying on his stomach so I haven't seen what his front looks like, but when he shifted a bit just now he seemed pained by the movement." He squinted down at the arm lying closest to him. "And he has what look like minor burns on his wrists."

Phlox made a thoughtful noise. "Sounds like mostly topical damage, then. Thank you, Lieutenant, I know what I should need now. I believe after I'm done with your 'house call' I should probably pay one on the captain as well, he most likely has similar injuries. Phlox out."

Reed switched the intercom off and turned back to his sleeping lover, his hand once more finding its way into the thick blond hair. And he stayed that way until the door chimed. "Come."

It was Phlox, as he'd known it would be--Sickbay was fairly close to Reed's quarters. "Lieutenant," the doctor greeted him quietly. The Denobulan moved around to take up a position on the opposite side of the bed and set the case he'd been carrying on the desk before running sharp eyes as well as a hand-scanner over his patient. "He's been in this position since you came in?" When Reed nodded the doctor snorted softly. "Guarding--he's protecting the right side of his chest, hence the awkward positioning of his right arm. Let me just put some ointment on the bruises we can see and then we're going to have to turn him over."

The Denobulan fished in his case and pulled out a tube which when uncapped proved to be filled with a thick blue cream. "This is amazing stuff," he informed Reed as he rubbed the cream into the bruises. "I picked it up on Risa, something they developed to serve the needs of certain elements of their pleasure-seeking clientele. By tomorrow night most of these bruises will have vanished completely although some soreness will remain for a day or two" Next he moved on to Tucker's wrists, clucking over the burns and pulling out another tube, this one filled with green gel. "The restraints used by the Enolians are doubtless designed for beings with thicker skin than a human has; the pain-causing function is not supposed to damage the dermal tissue of the prisoner." A little gasp from the armory officer had him glancing up from his work. "Lieutenant?"

Reed swallowed. "Pain causing..you mean, like an electric shock?"

"Similar, yes," the doctor told him matter-of-factly. "When the circuit is closed, the prisoner's body becomes the conductor for the flow of released energy--strong enough to be painful but not so strong as to cause permanent damage in short doses. But again, the settings used would have been calibrated for a more physically resistant species." Phlox sighed. "I did not observe any overt signs of neurological damage in either Commander Tucker or the captain, but I will of course double check to make sure."

"Of course," Reed echoed numbly. The fury was back, writhing like a live thing in his chest, barely containable. Not only had his lover been assaulted, captured and imprisoned..he'd also been tortured. "How many shocks was he given, do you think?"

The question came out harsh, and Phlox looked up thoughtfully at Reed before returning his attention to his work. "I would guess it only happened once or twice, Lieutenant. These burns are very minor."

Reed just nodded, reluctantly withdrawing his hand from his lover's hair when the doctor nudged it out of the way and began to treat the other burned wrist. He couldn't seem to decide what to do with the freed hand, as though holding on to Tucker had been its only purpose, and he finally clasped it with the other one just to keep it still. When Phlox was finished Reed reached out again, this time brushing his restless fingers over Trip's lax ones, but he started slightly when the doctor's hand inserted itself into the blond hair and began to feel carefully through it. "Doctor, what."

"There it is, as I was expecting," the Denobulan said with a sigh. "He's got a bump on his head, here just above his right temple. I'd assume it's from a fall rather than a direct blow, most likely from the same fall connected with some of these other injuries along his right side. We'll know when we turn him over. Now if you'd assist me, Lieutenant, very carefully now."

The armory officer's hands were shaking as he oh so carefully helped the doctor roll Tucker over onto his back; the engineer's eyelids fluttered, and the sigh that parted his lips allowed a pained groan of protest to escape as well. "Mal? Jus' let me sleep, 'kay? I'll be a'right t'morrah, promise."

The source of the creeping, guarded bruise was now visible, and there was no mistaking the circular bruise-burn created by a high-frequency energy weapon. More bruising had also crept across the engineer's sternum, and lower down several ribs were highlighted the same way. Reed's fingers hovered over the most livid area without touching, recognizing it as evidence of a kick from a booted foot, and his lips thinned into a hard line. "You need to tell us what happened on the shuttle, Trip."

A sliver of blue appeared, squinting up at him. "Can't it wait?"

The armory officer steeled himself against his lover's plaintive tone. "No, it can't."

"Yes, it can for the moment" Phlox contradicted, startling Reed again. "Commander, why didn't you inform me of the extent of your injuries when I asked earlier? You can hardly go on duty tomorrow like this and I know for a fact that your scheduled shift starts at 0700."

Tucker snorted softly. "Been a prisoner for a couple 'a days now, Doc, I jus' needed to be home for a bit." He tried to push himself up onto his elbows but Phlox held him down and he gave way with a sigh, too tired and sore to fight back. "I'm all right, they're just bruises." He turned his head to look up at his lover, blinking up at him remorsefully. "Didn't mean ta worry ya, Mal, I just needed."

"I understand, luv," Reed interrupted softly, his fingers tracing Tucker's cheekbone, stopping just short of the bruised abrasion at his temple. "I'm just not happy about the state you're in."

The engineer gripped his lover's arm with his left hand. "You were worse off than this after the Suliban got done with you, it just goes with the job."

It was the wrong thing to say. Tucker's eyes widened when the armory officer snorted bitterly, "It doesn't go with your job, Commander."

"He has a point," Phlox agreed mildly, his noncommittal tone neatly capping the rising tension in the room as he continued conversationally, "but there will be other times to discuss that issue. Right now I believe you should report the details of your capture and subsequent imprisonment to the lieutenant here while I treat these injuries, Mr. Tucker, and then I'm going to give you something for the pain so that you can sleep. Please begin."

Tucker blinked at him in surprise and then did as he was told. He didn't actually have much to tell; he and Archer had heard about the smuggling problem while they were meeting with the diplomats and so hadn't been overly concerned when the patrol ship had appeared and requested to board and search. When they were immediately accused of being smugglers Archer had tried to reason with them and had been clubbed down with the butt end of a pistol, laying open a gash on the side of his head from hairline to cheekbone. That had been when Tucker had entered the fray in earnest, trying to protect his captain, but after some vicious and fairly dirty scuffling he'd been overpowered and dragged off the shuttle. He vaguely remembered the guards doing something to Archer's wound that stopped the bleeding, but he hadn't really come back to full alertness until they were both hauled in with the other prisoners and the restraints were put on. And then they'd waited, helpless, until Kuroda and his Nausican partner had taken over the ship and Archer had managed to convince them that they needed his help. "It was that damn blabbermouth sittin' next to me that blew the whole plan," he finished up with, scowling and then wincing when the expression pulled at the bruised and torn corner of his mouth. "Yelled out and got me shot and then he was still talkin' when I came to, seemed to think I should be grateful to him for the whole thing. If I'd had to sit there another day next to him I think I'd've blown up the damn ship just to shut his mouth."

Phlox nodded. "I do recall that individual, he asked me if I could do something about replacing some missing toes. He was extremely annoying even in the short time I had to deal with him, you have my sympathies for having to be imprisoned alongside him. And now," he pulled out a hypo and adjusted it, "I believe it's time for you to get some rest." He paused, though, before the hypo touched the side of Tucker's neck, and to the engineer's surprise patted his unbruised cheek. "I know I do not always appear to understand human behavior," the doctor informed him quietly. "But the need to feel secure after a traumatic experience is universal. Next time don't be afraid to tell me; I'll understand and I promise I'll do everything in my power to accommodate you, all right?" The Denobulan's voice was low, sincere. "I'm your doctor, Mr. Tucker, and your well-being means more to me than my convenience. You can trust me."

Tucker nodded, blue eyes wide..and then the hypo hissed and he was out before he could say a word. Phlox did a little more prodding at the deeper bruises and applied his salve to the damage on the engineer's face before pulling the blanket up and tucking it around the sleeping man carefully. "He'll sleep until morning," he told Reed, standing up and stuffing the hypo back into his bag. The doctor was smiling his usual smile, but it seemed a little forced. "Try not to leave him alone for very long at a time, though, just in case--I want him to stay in bed for at least twelve hours. I'm going to go check on the captain now, but I'll stop back by a little later." He paused at the door, though, and looked back at the armory officer with an odd, almost calculating expression. "Lieutenant, had you been aboard the shuttle..do you believe the outcome would have been the same?"

Reed's gray eyes darkened and his jaw set. "No," he said in a flat voice. "Had I or anyone else from Security been present I can honestly say the entire incident would not have occurred."

Phlox nodded once, sharply. "Thank you, Lieutenant."

And then he was gone. Reed stared at the closed door a moment, wondering at the odd exchange, and then kicked off his boots a little more violently than was his habit and carefully settled himself on the side of the bed, one hand going back to his lover's hair while the other snagged a padd off the nightstand. "Bloody well wouldn't have happened," he snarled under his breath. "But I'm quite sure it will happen again."

PART 2

It was not quite an hour later that the door signaled the doctor's return. Malcolm was surprised when Phlox pulled the captain into the room with him, but he wasn't half as shocked as Archer was. "What..what's Trip doing in Reed's bed?!"

"This is where he feels most secure," the doctor replied firmly before Reed could gather himself enough to answer. The armory officer and the engineer had gone to great pains to conceal the romantic side of their relationship from the rest of the crew--even Phlox only knew because it had been necessary for him to. The doctor wasn't worried about that at the moment, though, and he ignored the dawning comprehension on Archer's face. He gestured peremptorily at Reed. "Mr. Reed, if you would pull back the blanket please?"

Malcolm suddenly understood what was going on. He drew the blankets down to Tucker's waist, feeling like he was violating his lover's privacy even though he saw the need. Then he looked back at Phlox, unable to so much as meet his captain's eyes with Tucker's patchwork of bruises exposed right there beside him; he did hear Archer gasp, though, and a very petty surge of satisfaction welled up inside him. "I am assuming proof was required before the commander could be excused from his next shift?" he asked coolly.

Archer actually flinched at the question, and Phlox shook his head. "I wanted the captain to see the consequences of his idealism," he answered flatly. He turned his very reproving gaze on the captain. "Well?"

"I didn't know." Archer looked absolutely sickened. "That happened on board the shuttle?"

"And aboard the prison transport. Replace the blankets, Mr. Reed, I don't want my patient getting chilled--you know how sensitive Mr. Tucker is to variations in temperature."

Reed almost flinched in sympathy with his captain that time; apparently the doctor didn't pull any punches when he was angry. He pulled up the blankets again and tucked them back in around his lover tenderly. He could feel Archer's eyes on him, but he couldn't really bring himself to care what the man thought at this point. "So is he relieved from duty tomorrow?"

Archer found his voice. "Of course he is," he stammered quickly. "I mean, he couldn't work like..like that, and I wouldn't ask him to. If I'd known."

"But you didn't, so that oversight can be excused." Malcolm's mouth dropped open; Phlox had gone from reproof to reprimand and his expression said he didn't expect to be challenged. "What cannot be excused, however, is your refusal to take the necessary precautions that would have prevented this incident from occurring at all."

The captain's mouth thinned into a hard line--at the doctor's tone and his implication. "Am I to assume you've been discussing this with Lieutenant Reed?" he snapped.

"It sounds as though you already have--assumed it, that is," Phlox countered, not backing down. "But your assumption would be incorrect. I formed my own conclusions after hearing the commander's account of how he received his injuries, and then I asked our ship's chief security officer a single question: could the presence of a member of ship's security on the mission have prevented those events from occurring."

Archer shot a hard look at Reed, who stiffened. "I answered in the affirmative, sir," he said. The repercussions for this sort of honesty could be harsh--he hadn't missed the way the captain had emphasized his rank--but he wasn't going to lie. "A security officer would have been able to control the boarding party while you contacted the council offices on the planet for official verification of your identities. There never would have been any prison transport and the commander would not have been beaten, tortured and shot. And I understand that you received some rather harsh treatment yourself."

"Not like Trip, no. I was on the bridge most of the time, flying the ship. And what happened on the shuttlepod..I don't remember much." Archer bit his lip. "They fixed me up aboard the prison transport, I just assumed they helped him too."

"The guards apparently rendered medical assistance to you because you were bleeding rather profusely," Phlox informed him. "Commander Tucker vaguely recalled watching them repair the gash on your face before the two of you were dragged into the main portion of the transport to join the other prisoners."

The captain looked thoughtful and a bit dismayed for a moment, and then he shook it off. "I'll make sure to add that to my report, that's something we'll need to remember about the Enolians." His scowl returned. "But as for the way I handle away missions, that is none of your concern, Doctor--and the lieutenant was overstepping his authority by discussing it with you." "No, actually he was not--you might want to read the rule book before you attempt to quote it," Phlox countered drily. "The safety and well-being of the crew are my responsibility within certain established parameters, parameters which just so happen to encompass this very situation. And under those same regulations the lieutenant here makes regular reports to me regarding issues that could be of concern, such as individual progress in the mandatory combat training sessions and the number and type of injuries incurred on away missions. I in turn integrate his information into my own report, just as I do the safety data submitted to me by each department head on the ship. So you see, I am well within my authority to request information from the ship's chief of security any time I deem it necessary and he is required by regulations to cooperate with me fully."

Archer still looked suspicious. "I don't make reports to you, and you've never asked me for one."

"You're not a department head, sir," Reed answered him. "Sub-Commander T'Pol is responsible for the bridge crew reports."

"For all the good it does me to read them," Phlox snorted. "The Sub-Commander can be very insightful when she chooses to..but she doesn't often choose to. Luckily Commander Tucker has taken it upon himself to supplement her reports with his own." He cocked an eyebrow at the startled captain. "Yes, taken it upon himself--don't look so surprised. He had legitimate reason to be..concerned when she was put in his place as second in command of this ship, because some of the duties and responsibilities of the ship's First Officer are not well carried out by someone who has no clear understanding of human behavior and no real sympathy for human needs."

"She's learning." Archer began.

"She wasn't learning fast enough," Phlox cut him off. "But as the situation was addressed from the beginning it has never become an issue worthy of concern." His frown came back. "Unlike the issue of away team security protocols."

In spite of himself, Archer went on the defensive. "Starfleet Command told me before we started all this how they wanted things to be handled."

"Begging your pardon, sir, but Starfleet Command is not out here," Reed interrupted him, earning himself another scowl but not really caring all that much about it--in for a penny, in for a pound, as his mother would have said. "They're concerned with the political ramifications of what we do and I don't deny that is an important consideration..but your first responsibility is supposed to be to your crew. As is mine, and the doctor's and--position notwithstanding--the commander's. As captain you are the heart of this ship, sir, and the rest of us are here to be your eyes and ears and hands; we have to work together seamlessly to keep the ship and crew functioning properly."

Archer just stared at him, stunned. The words had been so passionate, there was so much conviction behind them..had Tucker awakened this in the armory officer? Or had it always been there, hiding behind the firm, professional fašade Reed presented? He suspected it had always been there, and that Tucker had just seen it when nobody else had bothered to look. "That's..a very apt sentiment, Lieutenant Reed," he said slowly. He wasn't angry any more--irritated, slightly, but no longer angry. "With an attitude like that, you'll make a fine captain yourself someday."

He'd expected the compliment to generate embarrassment and Reed's usual polite gratitude, and so he was surprised when the armory officer's response was to look away, biting his lip. Phlox interrupted, however, before he could question the unusual reaction. "I believe we've gotten this as settled as it's going to be for the time being," he said. "But I think perhaps it would be wise to call a meeting tomorrow to further discuss the issue of security versus diplomacy and how best to improve the working relationships among the senior staff. Commander Tucker will be free to join you directly after lunch, so you might want to arrange it then." He turned back to Reed. "Remember what I said, Lieutenant, he needs to stay in bed resting for a full twelve hours--and I do mean resting, not just physically being in the bed. You will quote me on that, I hope, when the commander tries to persuade you to skirt the boundaries of my order."

Reed smirked slightly, a faint wash of color crossing his face. "I will quote you, Doctor. But I believe I can handle him."

"I have every faith in you," the doctor commended. "Now get some rest yourself, Lieutenant, you have a big day ahead of you tomorrow."

"Yes sir," was the reply. "Good night Doctor, Captain."

"Good night, Lieutenant," Archer answered before Phlox hustled him out of the room. Once out in the corridor, however, he rounded on the doctor. "I think you and I need to have a briefing of our own, and before tomorrow, Doctor," he insisted quietly but firmly. "Just how long have you known about them?"

"Since the beginning, of course--I am their physician," Phlox replied calmly. "They deemed it wise to let me know of the change in their relationship due to the physical aspect involved. But if you are attempting to ascertain how long the two of them have been coupled, that is a question doctor-patient confidentiality will not allow me to answer. You'll have to ask them yourself."

"If they'll answer." They were walking back toward Sickbay now, Archer more following the doctor than going along with him. "I have to admit to being surprised that Trip hasn't told me himself already. He used to tell me everything."

"You used to not be his captain, either," the doctor observed. He waited to say more until they were safely behind the soundproof glass doors of Sickbay. "Surely you realized, Captain Archer, that the changes in your professional relationship would necessitate changes in the personal one as well?"

"I should have, I guess." Archer brushed that aside. "I guess I just hadn't really thought much about it. And Trip's gone out of his way to keep things normal between us." He trailed off, eyes widening slightly as a new thought struck him. "Like a good first officer does."

Phlox nodded. "Yes, quite--the first officer is the keeper of the captain's humanity under the dehumanizing pressures of command, and the release valve for his personal stress as well. Something else Starfleet Command failed to take into consideration when they conceded to the Vulcan High Command's demand to have a high-ranking representative within the command staff of Enterprise. Although I'm sure at least some of the deciding officials took into account that Commander Tucker would no doubt pick up on those intangible duties that Sub-Commander T'Pol was not equal to fulfilling."

"She's learning," Archer repeated again, even though the doctor's comment had not been accusatory. "She's come farther than I would ever have expected from Vulcan on a ship full of humans."

"Yes, quite," Phlox agreed. "Now as it's getting late and we both have quite the day ahead of us tomorrow. I believe there was something else you wanted to ask me, Captain? Perhaps about Lieutenant Reed's reaction to your well-meaning compliment on his grasp of what it means to command?"

Archer's thoughtful, introspective gaze sharpened. "You don't miss much, do you?" The Denobulan just smiled and shook his head, and the captain sighed. "Well, I guess that's a good thing since it seems like I'm missing one out of every two. So tell me what you know about it..or can you?"

"That particular topic does not fall under the bounds of my professional ethics," the doctor told him, only to dash his hopes immediately by adding, "Just my personal ones. But I believe I can skirt that particular quagmire enough to set you on the right track. What do you know about the lieutenant's family, Captain?"

"I know they don't know him very well, and they haven't been in contact with him for a long time," Archer answered slowly, watching Phlox as he did so. "He's their oldest son and they didn't acknowledge his birthday. I don't think he's ever received any communication from them since we've been out here--not even when news reports back home had everyone else's families flooding Communications with messages." The doctor's expression seemed to be encouraging him to go on, so he thought harder. "They didn't want him in Starfleet, he was supposed to follow family tradition and join the Navy." More encouragement. "His father is a captain in the Royal Navy." the slightest widening of the doctor's smile, and the lightbulb came on, ".and Malcolm is still a lieutenant even though it's obvious the man groomed him for command. Family connections?"

"I understand the lieutenant's father is quite well-connected..and very disapproving of his son," Phlox answered noncommittally. "And isn't it rather odd that in spite of all the commendations he's received since coming to serve on Enterprise no mention has ever been made of raising his rank?"

"Yes it is, very odd." Archer grimaced. "Of course, I might have noticed that sooner if I'd been half the captain I'm supposed to be."

"Now, now," Phlox soothed him. "I don't believe until tonight you were fully cognizant of your failures in that area--not that I'm excusing them, but what matters most now is that you try to remedy the problems you have now been made aware of. And you have a fine staff to assist you with that, if I do say so myself."

"I'd have to say you're right," Archer agreed. He yawned. "And you're also right about that long tomorrow, so I'd better be getting to bed. Thank you for the..enlightening evening, Doctor. I'll call you for the meeting after lunch."

"I will be prepared, I assure you." Phlox moved across the room, checking on one of his animals that was making a high-pitched squeaking sound. "Good night, Captain Archer."

"Good night, Doctor."

Phlox heard the doors close behind his captain and only then did he turn away from the cage--the animal hadn't needed his attention, he'd just used it as a convenient way to withdraw his focus from Archer so that the man would go back to his room. To think, hopefully. The Denobulan moved over to another occupied tank, this one holding several round balls of fur; he picked one up and stroked it, absorbing the soothing purr--their calming effect on the central nervous system was why he kept the relatively dangerous creatures on board. "A productive evening," he told it. "The captain doesn't need to know that I've had the report he'll receive tomorrow ready for some months now, no he doesn't. And so long as the problems are addressed he shouldn't ever need to, either." The soft buzz in his palm intensified, and his smile softened. "Perhaps I'll bring you to the meeting tomorrow as well; I believe you'd be very good for Sub-Commander T'Pol if I could somehow convince her to hold you." He stood for a few minutes more, petting the creature, and then replaced it in its tightly sealed glass home and wandered off toward his own quarters, chuckling. He was going to enjoy tomorrow's meeting immensely.

********************************************************************************************


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