"Human Touch - Part One: Under My Skin"

Author - Surya | Main Story | Rating - PG
Trip * Malcolm Fanfic Home

Author: Surya

Rating: PG

Disclaimer: They’re not mine.

Summary: Between ‘Home’ and ‘Borderland’, Trip and Malcolm lay some ghosts to rest.

Betas: SueC, Shivvlan and Bianca – Thanks for the many helpful comments and suggestions. All mistakes are mine.

Author’s note: I chose the location of Trip's parents' new home before hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast. I did consider changing it when I heard the news, but decided to leave it as a tribute to those who are rebuilding their lives in New Orleans and Biloxi. I'm sure those cities will still exist in the 2150s.

Date: May 12th 2154

It’s all my sister’s fault. I was absolutely fine until I took Trip to see Maddy in London, but now all the feelings I’ve been suppressing for so long have surfaced again, and I have no idea how I’m going to deal with them this time.

I sink down to sit on my bunk and scrub a hand across my face as I think about it.

He came back from Vulcan sooner than I’d expected, and I knew something must have happened between him and T’Pol when he turned up at my door bearing a bottle of my favourite Armagnac. Ever since we were stranded together in that shuttlepod a few months into our first mission, liquor has been a signal that one of us needs to talk. Our friendship isn’t based entirely on sitting around drinking together, but sometimes it’s easier to get the important things out if we’re at least partially inebriated. It’s an odd sort of friendship, but it works. We grew apart for a while after his sister was killed in the Xindi attack and he was almost consumed by his anger and hatred. I barely recognised him then: he wasn’t the Trip Tucker who had become my first real friend aboard Enterprise. That experience will always be with him of course, but the old easy-going Trip is beginning to shine through again. During the horrendous mission to the Delphic Expanse he may have turned to T’Pol for bodily comfort, but as the captain seemed to withdraw from his friend more and more, Trip began to come to me once again to talk, usually bringing whatever variety of alien booze he could lay his hands on. We talked through his feelings about the clone who sacrificed himself in order to save Trip’s life. We talked about the ship of innocent aliens we stranded three years from home in a dangerous area of space when we stole their warp coil. We talked about how difficult it was for him to work with Degra. We talked about T’Pol and the life they had supposedly shared on the other Enterprise. Eventually, we even talked about Lizzie. When I needed it he helped me chase away the demons whispering at the back of my mind that it was my fault we had lost so many good people on that mission, and after the weapon was finally destroyed, he sought me out to drink a toast to Captain Archer, just to make sure I wasn’t blaming myself for leaving him behind. Which I was, of course.

He went to Vulcan full of high hopes for his relationship with T’Pol and I honestly wished he would find happiness with her, but when he returned alone, I could see that he was devastated, and gradually as we sat and drank he told me the whole sordid tale.

“I love her, Malcolm,” he said at the end of it, “but now it’s too late. I stood by and let that son of a bitch Koss blackmail her into marrying him.” Looking as if he might be on the verge of tears, he took a long pull of his drink. Privately I thought that nothing Trip could have said or done would have made any difference to T’Pol’s actions, but I knew that saying so wouldn’t help.

“What a mess,” I said, going for the understatement of the year.

He glanced up at me, his mouth quirking into a small, ironic grin. “I gotta agree with ya on that.”

“So what will you do now?”

He shrugged and blew out a huge sigh. “Not much I can do, is there? Just try to do my job and not think about her any more.” He paused. “And get drunk with you occasionally, if you don’t mind?”

I smiled at the almost pleading tone in his voice. “You know my price,” I said lightly, lifting the bottle and refilling our glasses. After more than three years he’s learned that I like a good single malt or brandy. At least he doesn’t bring that gut-rot bourbon any more. “You wouldn’t consider … an affair?” I said carefully. “If the marriage is essentially a sham?”

He shook his head vigorously. “I believe a marriage is sacred, Malcolm, no matter how it happened. Even if T’Pol was willin’, I don’t think I could ever get over the feeling we were doing something … sinful. It’s not like I have any prior claim on her. She was never mine.”

I nodded. I imagined T’Pol would feel the same way in any case. Whatever I might feel about her personally, and privately I thought her treatment of Trip in the Expanse had been fairly shoddy, from what I know of Vulcan culture, they mate for life and infidelity is virtually unheard of.

I was mindful of my plans for the morning and I stole a glance at the clock, but Trip caught me.

“God, how’d it get so late?” he said, standing and scrubbing a hand through his hair. “I should go.”

“No, it’s OK, really,” I said. “It’s just, I’m going to see Maddy in the morning – my weekend off – and I haven’t packed yet.”

“Your sister? Great!” he said. “I was surprised when I got back and found you still on board.”

“I’ve been down to San Francisco a couple of times,” I said, rubbing my jaw as I remembered the bar-fight I’d stupidly become involved in. “But I wanted to make sure the phase cannon upgrades were under way before I took any real time off.” He rolled his eyes; as if he wouldn’t have been doing exactly the same thing if the maintenance crews had been tinkering with his engines. Then an idea occurred to me. “Why don’t you come along? Maddy would love to meet you.”

He looked doubtful. “Nah, I couldn’t, could I? I don’t wanna intrude on your time with your sister.”

“Nonsense! At least it’ll prove to her that I’ve made some friends aboard Enterprise. And you weren’t due back for another few days anyway. You haven’t reported in yet, have you?”

“Nope. Just dumped my stuff in my cabin and came ‘round here. Are you sure your sister won’t mind?”

I looked him over. Tall, blond and gorgeous. No, Maddy wouldn’t mind one bit.



I flinched as I heard her shrieking my name half-way across Gatwick spaceport’s main concourse. My sister’s exuberance more than compensates for my more reticent nature, and it’s even a little infectious. I returned her enthusiastic hug and took note of Trip’s bemused expression as I put Maddy down. I doubt he’s ever thought of me as the hugging type.

“Maddy, I’d like you to meet Commander Charles Tucker the third.”

“Hello, Commander,” she said, taking his hand with a frankly appraising glance up and down his body. “Madeleine Reed. My friends call me Maddy.”

“And mine call me Trip,” he said, and his smile was like a sunrise bursting over his face. My sister can do that to people.

“I hope you boys don’t mind bunking up together,” she said as she led us out to the car. “I only have one spare bedroom in the new flat.”

“That’s one more than you had in the last one,” I remarked, and I heard Trip chuckle beside me.

“It’s not like we haven’t done it before,” he said.

I was impressed. Maddy had landed a very nice flat in a prime location in Bayswater, overlooking Hyde Park. I always find it surprising how much green space there is in the heart of the city, and a large chunk of it was right on Maddy’s doorstep. I guessed her graphic design business must have been doing well.

We spent the afternoon just talking over endless cups of tea. It helped that both Maddy and Trip have outgoing personalities, and with me as their mutual target they were soon the best of friends as Maddy supplied amusing stories about our childhood and Trip did the same about our adventures on Enterprise. I allowed myself to fade into the background a little and just kept them from getting too outrageous as I enjoyed the company of the two people I care most about in the universe. It gave me a nice warm glow just to be with them, and as I watched their animated discussion I realised that the things I love about Maddy are the same qualities that I admire in Trip. They share the same open friendliness, the same innocence and enthusiasm for life.

Later that evening Maddy linked her arm through mine as we ambled along Bayswater Road enjoying the unseasonable warmth and looking for somewhere to have dinner. Trip had strolled on ahead when Maddy had stopped to press her nose against the window of one of the little antique shops we were passing, and I sniggered as I realised she was enjoying the way he filled out his jeans as we trailed after him. I had to admit the view wasn’t bad.

“Your commander is rather scrumptious,” she said confidentially.

“That he is, but he’s not my commander, not in the way you mean.”

“Oh, come on, don’t tell me you haven’t thought about it,” she teased.

“Maddy.” My voice carried a gentle warning. “He’s my superior in the chain of command, and I don’t approve of that sort of fraternisation.”

“Now that’s Dad talking.”

“And besides, he’s not interested in men.”

“Oooh! One for me, then?” she said, gleefully squeezing my arm.

“You’re incorrigible,” I told her, laughing as I shook my head. I knew she was joking, but it wouldn’t have been the first time we’d both been captivated by the same man.

“His accent’s lovely. Where’s he from?”


“Oh. Oh!” Her eyes widened as the implications of that one word hit home. “Did he lose anyone?”

“His sister.”

She hugged my arm a bit tighter after that, and I was glad of it.

“And you brought him here because?”

She can see right through me sometimes. “Because someone’s just let him down, badly, and he’s hurting.”

“And you think we can kiss it better?” She’d gone back to joking, but suddenly I wasn’t in the mood.

“Maddy, don’t …” Don’t what, exactly? Don’t tease me about this? Don’t make it any harder than it already is? Don’t make me face the way I really feel about him? She read my tone and turned me around to face her.

“Oh god, Malcolm, you do love him, don’t you?” she said in quiet dismay.

“No!” I protested, then I crumbled as she stared me down. “Well yes, at one time I did, but I put it aside. Now he’s the closest friend I’ve ever had, and that’s far more important to me than anything else he could be.”

“Either way, Malcolm, he’s under your skin.”

“Hey, you two.” Trip’s salutation interrupted our intense conversation. “There’s an Italian place up here that looks pretty good. D’you wanna give it a try?”


I should have known Trip would be a snuggler.

I doubt he realised that when Maddy had talked about ‘bunking up’ together, she meant the two of us sharing a double bed, but we’ve slept in worse conditions, and he didn’t seem too fazed by the idea. I was having more difficulty however. My conversation with Maddy earlier had left me somewhat unsettled. I hadn’t thought about Trip in that way for a very long time. I’d been attracted to him when we first met, at least when he wasn’t irritating me beyond belief, but I’d made up my mind to avoid complications in my personal life when I joined Enterprise. I’d had enough of those in San Francisco, and having a romantic or even just a sexual relationship while working closely with someone in a closed community of eighty-three souls is fraught with difficulties, as Trip is finding out. So I sublimated my unrequited love and desire for the man into feelings of friendship, and I was surprisingly successful. I never allowed myself to fantasise about him: to imagine his strong, capable hands on my body or his warm mouth kissing mine or his rich southern drawl moaning my name as we made love. Granted, he led me into some ‘adventures’ that perhaps I wouldn’t have engaged in otherwise, but I managed not to be jealous of the women he flirted with. Or even the ones he slept with. But now that Maddy had stirred up all those old feelings I didn’t know whether the thought of sharing a bed with him was tempting or terrifying.

So when I woke the next morning to find Trip’s arms around me and his head pillowed on my chest I couldn’t help smiling at the irony. I only took a few moments to enjoy the sleepy look on his face and the warmth of his body pressed up against mine before I shook him gently.

“Um … Trip?” I said as he grunted in protest and tried to burrow into me.

“Huh?” He raised his head at last, then his eyes widened as he realised where he was and with whom. “Oh geez, Malcolm, I’m sorry!” he said, springing away from me across the bed as if he’d been electrocuted. “I guess I’m not used to sleeping with someone.”

“It’s OK, Trip,” I laughed, “I promise I won’t hold it against you.”

He smiled at the terrible pun and relaxed a bit.

“I had a good time yesterday,” he said, lying back and stretching out on his side of the bed. “Thanks for bringing me.”

“I thought you might enjoy the company.”

“You mean you thought you could distract me.” He gave me a knowing look.

“That too,” I admitted.

“I like Maddy,” he said after a while. “She’s a lot different from you though.”

I chuckled. “This is true. When you grow up with parents as stuffy as ours you can really only choose between conformity or rebellion.”

“Hm … lemme guess which one you chose …” he mused, teasing.

Being the battle-hardened tactician that I am, I had no choice but to hit him with my pillow. He grabbed his and retaliated with more force than skill, and before we knew it we were chasing each other over the bed in the middle of a full-blown pillow-fight. I was enjoying myself so much that I was in serious danger of pinning him to the bed and snogging him senseless when Maddy came to investigate the raised voices and strange thumping noises coming from her spare room.

“Starfleet’s finest, my arse!” she said as she caught Trip whacking me with his pillow, and as she left the room again we both collapsed on the bed giggling as we realised how ridiculous we must have looked.

As I looked at him, flushed and breathless, blue eyes sparkling with mirth, I realised I was in serious trouble. I’m an expert at hiding my feelings, and at hiding from them, and for the last three years I’ve been denying to myself that I felt anything other than friendship for this man. Yet my sister only took a few hours to see through my carefully constructed self-delusion and shatter it. As much as I love her, I wish she hadn’t made me face this. I can’t imagine how I’ll make it through our next mission loving him, yet knowing he loves someone else.

“I still miss Lizzie,” he said, breaking into my thoughts. Obviously he’d been lost in his own for a few minutes.

I turned on my side to face him and reached over to lay my hand on his shoulder, hating myself for lusting after him when he’s in so much pain. I don’t know what I’d do if I lost Maddy. “Is that why you haven’t gone to see your parents?” I asked, as gently as I could.

He took a deep, shuddering breath, and I knew I’d hit the mark. “I don’t know if I can face my Mom and Dad yet.”

I nodded understanding. He’d only really begun to mourn Lizzie after we’d found the Xindi weapon, and I could see that the wound was still raw. The thought of having to deal with the potential changes in the rest of his family seemed to frighten him. “Have you heard from them since we got back?”

“Yeah, I spoke to my Mom on the comm. just before I left for Vulcan.” He turned on his side to face me and caught the hand that still rested on his shoulder, pulling it to his chest. “She looked so sad, Malcolm. I dunno if I can deal with that.”

I could feel his heart beating and the warmth of his skin through his soft grey t-shirt, and his eyes, usually so open and revealing, were unreadable as he shifted through a multitude of emotions. I remembered how close he had been to his family before the Xindi attack; how he had always been writing letters to his parents or his brother. Or Lizzie.

“Trip,” I said, trying to choose my words carefully, “the Xindi took your sister from you. Don’t let them take the rest of your family. We only have a few days left in spacedock, and then we’ll be away again for who knows how long. Go and see them.”

He didn’t speak for a long time, and for a while I thought I’d blown it, but he was still holding my hand against his chest like a lifeline, as if drawing comfort from the simple touch of another human being. At last he seemed to come to a resolution.

“I know it’s asking a lot, but would ya come with me?”

I let out the breath I didn’t know I’d been holding. “Of course I will.”


“Mom, yer gonna squash me!” Trip’s protest was muffled inside his mother’s fierce embrace, but I noticed he was hugging her back almost as tightly.

“I’m just glad you’ve come home, son.” There were tears on her face, but they weren’t what Trip had feared. They were tears of joy.

After our second day in London we’d caught a commercial flight to New Orleans and then made our way to Trip’s parents’ new home in Biloxi, Mississippi. I could see Trip’s apprehension growing with every mile of our journey, and I belatedly realised he hadn’t even told them we were coming. He was unusually quiet and kept picking at his fingers and shuffling his feet, lost in his own thoughts most of the time.

“I’m scared,” he admitted to me at one point. “There’s a gaping hole in our family where Lizzie should be. I don’t know if I can fill it.”

“That’s not what they’re looking for, Trip,” I tried to reassure him. “They just want their son back.” He gave me a feeble smile.

All his fears were swept away once we reached his parents’ home and he was wrapped in the tightest hug in history.

His father turned to me and offered his hand. “It’s good to see you again, Malcolm.”

“Likewise, Mr Tucker.”

I was surprised they even remembered me. I’d met Charlie and Libby Tucker briefly when I’d accompanied Trip to the Xindi trench over a year ago, but they had still been in shock after witnessing the destruction of their former home town and losing their only daughter. Even so, they’d made me feel welcome in their home for a couple of hours, and I liked them. Although their primary focus was on Trip as we talked as much as we could about the events of the last year, they never made me feel excluded, and at times I flushed with embarrassment at the way Trip spoke about me.

After dinner I did my usual disappearing act and wandered out onto the back porch as Trip and his parents settled into the living room. I wanted to give them some time alone together, and between their Florida dialect and the family shorthand I was having trouble understanding them anyway. I was looking up at the stars, wondering where our next mission would take us and thinking I was glad Trip would be with me whatever our relationship might be, when I heard a footstep behind me. I turned around expecting to see Trip, but instead I came face to face with his father.

“At ease, Lieutenant,” he said, chuckling, as he saw that my posture had automatically straightened. He walked over to stand beside me and leaned on the railing. “I wanted to thank you for bringing Trip home safe to us,” he said seriously.

“Just doing my job, sir,” I said, thinking of the many who hadn’t made it this far.

He shook his head. “I don’t just mean from the mission. I mean here, tonight.” He sighed. “Libby was devastated when he told us he was spending his shore leave on Vulcan. I mean, we knew he’d made it home, that he was okay, but as a parent you want to see it for yourself. Especially after Elizabeth …” he tailed off, unable to finish the thought. “Anyways, I don’t know how it happened, but I get the feeling you had a lot to do with getting him here. We’re grateful.”

“You’re welcome, sir.”

He smiled sideways at me, and suddenly I was looking at Lorian. Now I know why Trip trusted the half-Vulcan captain so implicitly. “Malcolm, no-one’s called me ‘sir’ in a long time. My friends call me Charlie, and I’d be pleased to count you among them.”

“I’d be honoured, Charlie,” I said, placing a little emphasis on the name as I stuck out my hand. He shook it, and it almost felt like he was welcoming me into the family.

“Y’know, I was a police officer for thirty years,” he ruminated as he leaned back on the rail. “A detective for eighteen. But I did my best to protect my kids from what I saw out there. I didn’t want my family exposed to some of the things I learned in my line of work.” He sighed, shaking his head. “Maybe I should have. Maybe then what happened to Lizzie wouldn’t have hit us so hard.”

I remembered how young and unworldly Trip had seemed when Enterprise was first launched. “I think you know that’s not true,” I said.

“Yeah, you’re right, Malcolm. We tell ourselves we’ve improved the lot of the Human race, that we’ve beaten poverty and war and disease. But whether you’re up there among the stars or down here on Earth, there will always be people around who will do terrible things to one another. Just to make a dollar or a dime. For power or influence. Out of love or out of fear.” He turned and stared straight into my eyes, and I felt like he was looking into my very soul. “We understand that, you and I. Trip doesn’t, even now. Jon Archer sure as hell doesn’t.”

“I won’t comment on the abilities of my commanding officer, Charlie, even to a friend,” I said in warning.

“And it does you credit, son. I however am under no such constraint. Jonathan Archer might be a fine starship captain, and I know Trip counts him as a friend, but at heart he’s an idealist. Starfleet’s golden boy and Henry Archer’s son. He doesn’t understand the evil that men – or women, or aliens for that matter – inflict on one another, but he’s naïve and arrogant enough to think he can fix it, and that’s gonna get him or someone close to him killed one day.” He paused, treating me to that penetrating stare again. “You, on the other hand, are a realist. You see things as they are, not how you would wish them to be. You’re a protector, like me. I think you’re the one who keeps those people safe, and I’m real glad you’re up there watchin’ my son’s back.”

I agreed with his assessment, but I did feel the need to defend my captain somewhat. “Captain Archer’s saved my life more than once,” I told him. “Personally. And he put himself at risk to do it. He protects his people.”

“I’ve no doubt he’ll do his utmost to get ‘em out of a sticky situation, but I’ll bet you wouldn’t have let ‘em get into it in the first place.”

I had to smirk at that, remembering the times I’d clashed with the captain, and with Trip, about the definition of ‘acceptable risk’. “No-one said exploring space would be easy or safe,” I parroted one of Trip’s favourite sayings.

“I don’t envy you, son. Just remember you won’t be able to protect ‘em from everything, and don’t beat yourself up too much if someone gets hurt. I know you’ll have done your best to prevent it.”

“Ah, so this is where you two have been hiding,” Libby Tucker said as she and Trip stepped out to join us on the porch. “We thought you’d gotten lost.”

As the conversation bubbled up around me again I stood back, still a little shell-shocked from my conversation with Charlie Tucker, in particular the affectionate way he’d called me ‘son’. My own father can’t even manage to do that. I looked over at Trip. He was happy again, as if a great weight had been lifted from him. I don’t normally allow myself to imagine things that can never be, but for a few moments I wondered how it would feel to really be a part of this family.

But of course by morning the real world had intruded on my little fantasy, and we were recalled to Enterprise, all shore leave cancelled. The remnants of one of Earth’s past conflicts have risen up and attacked the Klingons, and we are once again in the firing line. T’Pol has returned from Vulcan married and with the commissioned rank of commander, and Trip is doing a fair impression of being stoic.

As for me, I’m pretending I’m a Vulcan, that my feelings are irrelevant. That I don’t experience love or pain. That he isn’t under my skin.

End of Part 1



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