Title: Cold
Author: Kylie Lee
Length: ~6900 words
Fandom: Star Trek: Enterprise
Pairing: Tucker/Reed, with a fantasy T'Pol getting into the action
Type: Slash M/M
Rating: NC-17
Summary: Tucker and Reed recover in sick bay after the harrowing events of "Shuttlepod One." And my--they feel much, much better.
Feedback: Yes, please--I beg you! This is only my second fic. Meaningful keywords in subject line.
Archive: Yes, at EntSTSlash, Tim Ruben, Archers_Enterprise, Allslash, Situation Room, Luminosity, Complete Kingdom of Slash, and WWoMB; anyone else, yes, but ask first.
Disclaimer: Paramount owns all the Enterprise characters. No money changed hands. This is not an attempt to infringe on copyright. Etc.
Spoilers: "Shuttlepod One"
Comments: This is a sequel to my very first fanfic, "Acceptable Risk." This one takes place around "Shuttlepod One." Thanks to all who wrote--it encouraged me to strike again. Section 4 is the one to skip if you are offended by M/M sex. Or, conversely, if you like that kind of thing, section 4 is the one to skip right to. A portion of this was posted to the Entslash list under the title "Reed's Fantasy."

Commander Trip Tucker eyed bottle of Kentucky bourbon. It was more than half empty. In fact, it was almost gone. He'd just won a bet: how many more hours of air did they have? He'd bet less than twelve, and he was right. Ten hours. Ten hours to oblivion.

Tucker and his colleague, armory officer Lieutenant Malcolm Reed, had blankets thrown around their shoulders and baseball caps pulled low over their foreheads, but still, they were shaking with cold. Inside the shuttle pod, it was five degrees below zero Celsius--that was what in Fahrenheit? Twenty-three degrees Fahrenheit. Plenty cold. He could see his breath when he breathed; the control panel of the shuttle was coated with frost. Reed had had to wipe it off to read the amount of air left.

Enterprise was on the way. They thought she had been destroyed--had seen wreckage definitely from the Enterprise in an asteroid field, along with the remains of a starship--but incredibly, hours later, trapped in a shuttle with limited air, sublight speed, and no way home, they had heard the Enterprise's communication officer's voice, giving them new rendezvous coordinates. What the hell had happened? Tucker hoped he would hear an explanation. They were ecstatic when they heard Hoshi Sato's voice, but they couldn't respond--the comm was down. But the rendezvous time she specified was after their air would run out. The cold equations did not lie. Tucker had jettisoned the pod's impulse engine and rigged it to blow--Reed's idea. Now they were adrift. Enterprise should have seen the explosion. Enterprise should increase speed. Enterprise should get here already.

Ten hours.

Reed suggested he make a toast. Tucker's response before he knocked back a slug right from the bottle: "Ten hours for two men." He had no problem with the math. As chief engineer on the Enterprise, he had to be good at math. And at, for lack of a better word, triage: assessing a situation, making a decision, acting on it, and not thinking too hard about it. He had never had to send anyone to his death before, but he knew--they all knew--that they may have to either demand it, or do it.

All they had been doing was calibrating the shuttle's stupid targeting scanners. Then something--they didn't know what--had happened that knocked out their sensors. Nine days of air turned into three days of air after an asteroid hit, taking out oxygen reserves and punching a couple of holes in the cabin. Reed had sealed the holes temporarily with mashed potatoes; Tucker had resealed them with proper sealant soon after to make sure it would hold.

He guessed that this was the romance of space travel: anything could happen. People said that like it was a good thing: Let's take a simple task and turn it into something unspeakably hideous. That was space travel for you.

Oh yes. The cold equations. He said thoughtfully, "If there were only one of us, he'd have twenty hours, wouldn't he?"

Reed chortled and took a pull of bourbon. "Great idea," he said, clearly not tracking with Tucker's thoughts. "Why don't you climb up into the airlock and seal yourself in?"

Tucker said seriously, "That's just what I was thinking."

"Any last words you want me to pass along?"

"Yeah." Tucker pounded his legs. They felt frozen through. He pulled himself up anyway, and he didn't tip over. "Tell Captain Archer that it was one hell of an honor serving with him." He reached above for the airlock's hatch and undogged it.

"What are you doing?" Reed looked up at his superior officer and squinted slightly to focus. Reed wasn't usually so slow on the uptake. Well, they had drunk quite a lot.

Tucker lifted up the airlock's entrance. "We don't know whether or not they saw our little display of pyrotechnics, but either way, this will double your chances."

Reed got it. "You're crazy. Get down from there!"

Tucker pulled rank. "Sit down, Lieutenant," he said ominously. Reed usually backed down when he pulled rank.

Reed, true to form, attempted logic. "If anyone should go up there, it should be me. You're the chief engineer."

"I'm also in charge of deciding who's going into this airlock. Do I make myself clear?" He turned his attention back to the airlock, so it was a surprise when he looked back down and noticed that Reed had a phase pistol trained on him.

Reed said only, "Commander." His hand was trembling with cold.

Tucker sighed in exasperation. "What are you going to do--kill me?"

Reed hastily checked the settings. "It's set to stun. I don't want to use it. But I will."

"Put it down!"

"Go to hell!"

Tucker was warming up, now that he was getting mad. "Stop trying to be a hero. It doesn't suit you." He meant the words to hurt.

"What would you know about being a hero?" Reed shot back. "It takes nothing but a coward to crawl up into a hole to die."

"Then go ahead and shoot me. But you better hope we don't make it, because if we survive, the first thing I'm going to do is bust your ass back to crewman second class for insubordination."

"Be my guest," Reed said evenly. "I could use a little less responsibility. Now--" He reached up, grabbed the waistband of Tucker's trousers, and hauled him down. "Now get down here."

Tucker aggressively shoved his face near Reed's. "Who the hell do you think you are?" he asked furiously.

"Your armory officer, and perhaps your friend."

"Friends don't shoot each other!"

They were shouting, and, as happened so often when he interacted with Reed, Tucker felt like belting him.

Reed responded, "You know, I'm not a doctor, but I'm pretty sure that you use up a lot more oxygen when you--shout like that!" He yelled the last three words, his eyes furious.

Tucker considered his options. It took about a half second. He sat down. "So what are you saying?" he asked wearily. "That you'd rather have Enterprise find the two of us dead in here?"

"That's exactly what I'm saying. If there's one chance in a thousand that they saw our impulse drive explode, that they increased their speed, I'll take that chance. I've invested far too much time trying to figure you out, Mr. Tucker. I'm not about to accept that it was all for nothing." Reed didn't meet his eyes. They both shivered.

There was silence for about an hour after that.

The bourbon was long gone. It was too cold to sleep. It was too cold to do anything. Tucker could barely feel his body. They were beyond shivering and had entered some realm of deep, pervasive coldness that transcended what he had previously thought of as cold. He had taken to hiding his face inside his blanket and breathing hard, trapping the warmth of his own breath inside. He was not really used to the cold, but he had already decided that he didn't like it. He would retire someplace warm. Maybe Florida. He could take up water skiing, deep-sea fishing, and sunbathing.

The hours were counting down, but they were counting at a snail's pace. Was time dilating? Maybe they had entered some weird space-time anomaly, stretching out their last few hours for centuries. He wouldn't be surprised at all if that were the case. In fact, it would be just his luck.

Reed broke the silence. "Sorry about Ruby," he said. His voice was slightly slurred because he couldn't move his mouth very well.

Ruby was a waitress at the 602 Club in San Francisco, where Starfleet officer types had hung out. Reed and Tucker had discovered that they had both dated her--well, slept with her. "I'm pretty sure that you and I weren't the only ones," Tucker admitted. "Although I hate to say that about my true love."

Reed sighed. "What about Natalie?" he asked.

Tucker was surprised. "What do you know about Natalie?" They had been pretty serious.

"Nothing. I mean, I heard she broke it off with you. But you said earlier you were sure you'd see a Charles Tucker IV."

"I hadn't proposed to Natalie, if that's what you're asking." Tucker shifted his weight slightly. It made no difference. He couldn't feel his rear end or his legs. "We had a lot of fun. I liked her a lot. That's all. Those girls you were composing letters to--"

"Half the girls in San Francisco?" Reed said mockingly, repeating words Tucker had shot at him lifetime earlier.

"Yes, them. You said you never could get close to them. Why is that?"

"I don't know."

Tucker looked at him.

Reed sighed. "All right, I do know. I just don't want to say."

"My lips will be sealed forever in death," Tucker promised morbidly. "But don't think I haven't noticed. You date girls you never get really close to. Christ, Malcolm, you signed your letters them 'cordially.' Cordially! Your family wasn't aware of your posting to Enterprise. And you have a big crush on a girl who is constitutionally incapable of getting close to you--someone totally unobtainable." He alluded to T'Pol, the Vulcan subcommander on board Enterprise. True, she was a beautiful woman; but as a Vulcan, she was emotionally walled off. She was a totally safe object of desire because she would never, ever reciprocate. "And then there's--us."

Ah yes. The thing they hadn't talked about yet. Tucker had dropped by Reed's quarters once to drop off some scotch and make an apology. A few shots later, they were rolling around nude in Reed's bed. It had been--intense. Part of it was the forbidden aspect: two men who saw themselves as straight. And Tucker was technically Reed's boss, so there was a power dynamic at play as well, although in this instance, Reed had been the aggressor--which just made it all the more interesting. But part of it was something between them. Tucker had perceived it as anger and friction: he got incredibly pissed off at Reed in a way he got angry with no one else. Reed had perceived it as sexual tension and had acted on it in that vein. And Tucker had discovered that Reed was right. That was the thing between them: sex.

They had talked about it only once, and had come to the understanding that, well, they were straight, so they shouldn't have sex any more. They hadn't since then, reverting, fairly easily, back to colleagues. And it occurred to Tucker that even though they had shared that intense experience, he still didn't know Reed very well. He knew him far better as a coworker than as a friend. Or a lover. Reed was intensely personal. He had no idea what had caused Reed to make the first move. It seemed uncharacteristic. Maybe it had been the scotch.

Reed pulled his blanket in tighter. "What do you want me to say?"

"I don't want you to say anything."

"Well, the answer is, of course, that it's me. It's me. I--keep my distance. I suppose I'm as emotionally distant as T'Pol is." He smiled to himself, the barest curling up of the sides of his mouth. "I have this--this silly fantasy about T'Pol. That I can make her laugh. That I could make her--unbend and love me. That I could make her feel emotion, and that she would enjoy it. A hidden aspect of herself that was only for me." He shook his head in self-disgust. "She would consider it a degrading insult. I know that."

"Malcolm, it's only a fantasy."

"The fact is," Reed went on doggedly, "right now, I'm far closer to you than to anyone else. I actually like you." He stressed the word "like."

"What's wrong with that?"

"For example, I don't tend to like the women I date."

Tucker was amused. "How is that even possible?"

Reed shrugged. "I don't really like them, I don't open up to them, and so as a result, they are unavailable. I focus on the pursuit. But once I have her--I don't give, so I don't receive. I wonder--" his voice grew thoughtful. "I wonder if any of them dreamed about getting a response from me, as I dream about getting a response from T'Pol. H'm. Anyway, Deborah, Rochelle--even you, I suppose, although we interact mostly as coworkers--there's a distance. An--an unavailability."

"It works better if you give part of yourself. Why are you scared to do that?"

Reed looked at him as if he were insane. "Because then they can hurt you."

"Did someone do this to you? Or were you always like this?"

There was a long pause. "My parents." Reed's voice was soft. "I watched my parents."

"Ah." Tucker pulled the blanket close around his face and huffed. "You should see a counselor."

"I'll settle for you at the moment. You know--us being dead and all."

"Oh, yeah. Right." Tucker was silent for a moment. "How am I unavailable?"

"You're a man," Reed pointed out. "I'm a man. Two men. Bad."

"Oh. I thought you meant as a coworker. Well, welcome to the twenty-second century, Malcolm. Homosexual men and women can get married, have children, all of that. And anyway, that didn't stop us before." Tucker tried to picture him and Reed as the proud parents of Charles Tucker IV and just couldn't do it. Not to mention, his mom would probably kill him. He sighed. No, she wouldn't. She'd be upset for two minutes and then get over it. Then she'd start work on charming Reed.

"I'm not ready to be--homosexual," Reed said. "I'm not ready to be seen on board Enterprise as bent when I prefer to focus on women. Are you?"

"I'm probably going to die, so I have to be honest," Tucker began.

"Do, please," Reed interjected. "Brutally honest."

Tucker picked his words. "This is the thing," he said finally. "I meet someone I like. We hang out a while, find out we have a lot in common. This person's smart and funny and kind of difficult, but we get along fine. I don't think anything about it until one day we end up in bed. Then it becomes clear: This person is really, really interesting to me. I want more. I have dreams about the sex. God, the dreams. Am I going to let the fact that this person's a man stop me? I've never fallen for a--a person before. I've fallen for this girl, or that woman, because she's pretty, or available, or funny, or interested in me. But I didn't think I had the--the capacity to think about a man in that same way. I guess I do." He blew on his hands. He couldn't feel them. "I'm not professing my undying love, Malcolm. Ever since that night, I think about you. But I understand that you can't reciprocate."

Reed clasped his hands together and rested his elbows on his legs, then tucked his face into the blanket. "No," he said, his voice muffled. "No, I reciprocate. I just don't want to reciprocate. It's--it's too far away from what I've constructed for myself. From what I have constructed myself to be." He huffed, then pulled his head out and stared forward. He couldn't look at Tucker.

You couldn't get more honest than that. He wondered what it had cost Reed to say that. He reached over and pounded Reed on the shoulder. "You're so goddamn conflicted," he said. "Relax. It doesn't make any difference. If we get out of this, we can decide what to do. You can--you can decide whether to open up. Or not. We can go along the way we have been. Or not. Let's just see what happens. We're friends first, right?"

Reed adjusted the bill of his cap with fingers that wouldn't bend. "Well, it was nice working with you, Commander," he said softly. "And--well--all of it."

"Call me Trip. Likewise."

Companionable silence fell. Tucker wasn't aware of it when his half-dazed dozing turned into unconsciousness.

Tucker woke up suddenly, moving instantly from deep sleep to absolute alertness. His heartbeat thundered in his ears, and he could hear himself panting. After a moment, his body calmed down. He was disoriented. The lights were dim and set in the wrong pattern on the ceiling; the bed was too narrow. It took him a moment to realize he was still in sick bay. Alive. Alive in sick bay. He had to smile. He heard a slight rustling and located its source: Reed was on the next bed down, sleeping.

A full bladder had awoken him. He lay silently for a few minutes, hoping he would fall back to sleep, but he couldn't. After pausing to gather strength, he eased himself off the biobed, but he miscalculated the distance to the floor; the biobeds were set a little higher off the ground than usual beds to put the occupant within easy reach of the doctor. He landed heavily, and he felt the shock through his knees. The illumination was sufficient for him to see that he was wearing some kind of mint-green loose-fitting pajamas and thick slipper socks in a shocking shade of fuchsia, apparently the correct sartorial choice for the ill and infirm. He couldn't remember how they got on. Probably Doctor Phlox dressed him after giving him all those nice drugs to make him sleep.

He dimly remembered showering in the sick bay's small bathroom, Doctor Phlox lurking nearby to make sure he wouldn't pass out. It had taken Doctor Phlox three hours to get their body temperatures back to normal; they'd had hypothermia, which was no surprise. They were to be observed overnight, but Doctor Phlox had drugged them up with something wonderful; the biobeds would do all the monitoring. Phlox had shown Tucker and Reed how to call him if they needed help, and the biobeds were somehow linked to a device Phlox took back to his quarters; if something horrible happened, it would awaken Phlox and he would rush to their rescue.

That bathroom--where was it? Ah, there. Way over there. He steadied himself against the biobed for a moment until he found his balance, then padded over. He didn't turn on the lights when he reached the small space, preferring the dim illumination of the night lights. He relieved himself, then spent far too long struggling to retie his pajama bottoms. In the mirror, his eyes were haunted, with dark circles under them. He washed his face and felt a little better. He wasn't as dizzy. He couldn't find a razor or depilatory cream, but he didn't look very hard. His mouth tasted terrible; in the back of his throat, he could taste a kind of chalky bitterness. Probably the drugs. He found some mint-flavored toothpaste in a drawer by the sink, and he scrubbed his mouth and teeth with a little toothpaste on his finger. He couldn't make his hands work to reseal the tube, so he left it out on the counter. The mint masked the bad taste in his mouth. Adjusting the water temperature to warm, he held his mouth under the tap and drank as much water as he could hold. He felt dehydrated. His unshaven features looked back at him from the mirror, weary, his hair wild, his straggly beard dripping water, and he decided more sleep was a really, really good idea. He dried off and rested his head against the cold mirror for a long moment before he headed out.

He stopped by Reed's bed on the way to his own and leaned on it. "Are you awake? You look terrible," he said without sympathy to the armory officer, his voice low, in case he was really asleep. Reed looked particularly lousy with a few days' worth of beard growth, Tucker decided. He tried to imagine Reed with a moustache, and the image was so ridiculous, he had to smile.

Reed didn't open his eyes. "So do you. Sir." He shifted slightly and winced. "What time is it?"

"I have no earthly idea. Night." Tucker couldn't see a clock. Sick bay was deserted, but the rustlings of the creatures Doctor Phlox kept confined in sick bay proper, just a room away, could be heard over the quiet hum of the engines and the gentle beeping of the equipment. "Some drugs, huh?"

"Very, very nice," Reed smiled. He opened his eyes and flexed his fingers. "Except my mouth tastes odd. At least we kept all our fingers and toes--no frostbite." He propped himself up on his elbows, then collapsed back with a groan at the huge effort it had just cost. "Lavatory?" he said hopefully. "Is that where you just were?"

"Yeah, here, let me help you." Tucker helped Reed off the biobed. As the door whispered shut behind Reed, Tucker leaned against the wall, waiting. He noticed that the screen for his biobed had blanked out, and as he watched, Reed's shut down too. He figured that the biobeds powered down after about five minutes without anybody on them to monitor. Phlox didn't show up, so his little monitor must not have cared that the beds shut down. The monitor was probably just there to make sure they didn't have a heart attack or something. After what seemed like a very long time but was probably only about fifteen minutes, Reed emerged. He looked a little better. He too was wearing mint-green pajamas and slipper socks, although his socks were purple.

"I think I fell asleep for a moment in there. I feel dizzy," Reed confessed, leaning against the doorjamb, then jerking forward just in time as the door automatically slid shut. "Is that the medication, or is that the medication wearing off?"

"Could be either one." Tucker put an arm around Reed to steady him, and Reed slid a hand behind Tucker's waist. They weaved toward the biobeds. Reed felt warm, compact, and delightfully alive under his arm. Reed was minty fresh, too. "You probably just have a hangover."

Reed, surprised, barked a laugh. "You're right." After all, they had drunk an entire bottle of Kentucky bourbon, toasting their sure deaths. "I shall begin to associate you with whisky and scotch."

"Is that good?"

"I haven't quite decided. I'll be sure to let you know."

They paused at Reed's bed. "In you go," said Tucker, keeping a hand on Reed's back as Reed tipped himself over onto the bed, lay back, and relaxed with a relieved exhalation. "It didn't go on," Tucker remarked after a moment. "The biobed."

Reed twisted around and looked back at the silent monitor on the wall behind him. "You must have to reactivate it. Is there a button to press?"

Tucker checked out the panel. "Maybe this one." He poked. Nothing happened. "Not that one." He returned to Reed's bedside. "It's too hard for me to figure out right now," he admitted. "Move over."

Reed shifted to his side and watched, eyes unreadable, as Tucker clambered in and slid next to him. "I'm really happy I'm not dead." Tucker, gasping with exertion, put an arm around Reed. The biobed was just the right size for two people--for two small people, that is. Two small people who really, really liked each other. Tucker was not a small person. He and Reed barely fit, their bodies pressing close. "I guess I'm happy you're not dead either," Tucker went on. "Because it was a close thing, and I'm not just talking about my desire to kill you when you composed all those stupid letters to your ex-girlfriends." He prudently kept his mouth shut about his own heroic, selfless, and, in retrospect, pointless suicide attempt.

Reed nodded agreement. "It was a close thing indeed."

They pondered for a long moment, considering their brush with the grim reaper. After a moment of hesitation, Tucker's hand slid up to Reed's collarbone and neck and stroked gently and soothingly. The sensation of skin under his fingers was something his body craved: after his claustrophobic experience on board something cold and mechanical that shuddered and hummed and was going to kill him, he needed the relief of warm, physical contact. He wanted to press his body hard against something alive--something like Reed--and just hold it there, soaking up living warmth. He didn't think he would ever be warm again. He remembered pounding his legs and feeling nothing but the dull pressure on his bones, the meat of his body frozen through, and shuddered.

Reed hadn't relaxed. Tucker broke the silence. "Is it okay if I'm here next to you, if I do this?"

Reed nodded. "It's okay," he said. "Warm. I like warm." He shut his eyes and deliberately unbent, tacitly accepting Tucker's petting. Tucker felt the tendons in Reed's neck soften.

Tucker inhaled Reed's clean scent, overlaid with mint. "I learned a lot about you on that shuttlepod. Inability to open up to women. Girls, girls, girls. Planning of weddings. Regret. Admiration of T'Pol's bum. A little bit too much focus on the females. What's the story?"

"Oh, you think I'm protesting too much, is that it?" Reed queried archly. His hand wandered up and down Tucker's side. "I admire women exceedingly."

"From afar, lately," Tucker pointed out.

"True," Reed admitted.

"Well, then, tell me," Tucker coaxed. "Tell me all about this--admiration. When you close your eyes, who do you see?"

Reed hesitated. Tucker could read his thoughts: "You can decide whether to open up," he had told Reed. Reed hadn't expected to be called on it. Reed had, frankly, expected to die. Tucker waited.

"T'Pol," Reed said at last. T'Pol, the unobtainable Vulcan fantasy.

"Tell me about T'Pol. Tell me what you dream about T'Pol." His fingers were still working on Reed's neck. He lowered his voice to a persuasive whisper. "You told me you fantasized about her. Tell me."

Reed stared at Tucker. His expression was unreadable. Tucker lifted his eyebrows, his expression clearly saying, "I'm waiting." Reed gave him the ghost of a smile.

"We're in the decontamination chamber, just the two of us," Reed began. "We're in our underclothing. She's wearing a--a kind of skimpy top and a pair of briefs, and so am I." His hand flattened as he pushed it against Tucker, trailing it down to rest on Tucker's ass. "I can see her nipples through the fabric. T'Pol has the decontamination gel. She scoops some into her hand and turns me around. She reaches up under my shirt and rubs the gel on my back and neck, where I can't reach. Her hands begin with a kind of aloof, professional touch, but it becomes--caressing. She begins by rubbing the gel over my entire back, but she ends by rubbing slowly up and down my spine."

Tucker moved his hand to Reed's temple, lightly stroking. "Go on," he encouraged. He recognized the scenario. In fact, he himself had once spread gel on T'Pol in decon, but he hadn't been alive to the possibilities at the time.

"She tugs my shirt back down and hands me the gel. She turns her back to me. I rub some into the small of her back. My hands move more and more slowly. I trail my hands around her waist, then up, until I can cup her breasts in my hands. She stiffens slightly, but she doesn't stop me. I pull in closer and kiss her neck where it joins the shoulder."

Tucker propped himself up on one arm and leaned over Reed. He kissed Reed where his neck joined his shoulder, then ran his tongue against Reed's skin up to his jawline. Reed's scraggly beard rasped against his tongue.

Reed exhaled, then continued. "I play with her breasts and nipples, and I kiss her neck. I realize I am hard, and I rub my cockstand between the cheeks of her bum, but gently. There are only two thin layers of fabric between us, so I can feel the heat of her skin. Her skin is incredibly soft and smooth. I can feel the friction of the cloth against my cock."

He gasped slightly as Tucker nibbled his ear, then said nothing as Tucker's mouth found his. Their tongues swirled together, Reed's hand pushing hard against Tucker's ass. Tucker released Reed's mouth and Reed continued, his voice slightly breathless.

"T'Pol--T'Pol turns and faces me. I slide my hands around to her back and down, pushing down her briefs, and she steps out of them. She puts her arms around me, pressing her breasts against my chest, and I kiss her on the mouth. I push her against the wall and roll her shirt up, and I play with her breasts while I kiss her. She responds to me; her mouth opens under mine, and she tastes like--like tea. Like mint tea."

Reed shifted slightly as Tucker fumbled with the pajama bottoms. Tucker, his fingers clumsy, undid the drawstring of Reed's bottoms and freed Reed's hard length. Heat seemed to emanate from Reed's groin.

As Tucker freed his own erection, Reed went on. "She slides her hands under my shirt and strokes my chest, bunching the shirt up and then pulling it up over my head. She trails her fingers down my shoulders and arms. Then she rubs her nipples against my chest. It feels--wonderful. Because of the slick gel. We're covered in that gel. She's breathing hard."

"What does she say?"

"She doesn't say anything." Reed's eyes were locked with Tucker's.

"Then, what does she do?" Tucker pulled Reed closer, twining their legs together, and put out a hand, stroking Reed's cock, brushing its length with his palm and moving his fingers up and down.

"She becomes the aggressor. She pushes me against the wall now, and she rips off my shorts. She's still wearing her undershirt, but up around the top part of her chest, above her breasts. She takes my cock in her hand and strokes it."

"Show me," Tucker whispered, releasing Reed and placing Reed's hand on Reed's own cock. Without hesitation, Reed stroked it expertly. A bead of liquid formed at the tip. Tucker wiped it away with a fingertip, smearing it across the head, half hidden from his sight by Reed's foreskin. "Don't keep me in suspense, now, Malcolm." He brushed the finger against Reed's lips, and Reed licked away the sticky liquid, his tongue warm. His voice was low and rough. "What happens next?"

Reed reached out with his free hand and wrapped it around Tucker's throbbing erection. He rubbed up and down, then released it, the position too awkward to maintain in their precarious position on the single-person biobed. "I pull her in close and slide a hand between her bum cheeks, then down further, to her--to her entrance, and I slide my fingertips in and out of her, as far as I can reach. She leans forward into me and wraps one leg around me so I can slide my fingers in deeper. We kiss and play with each other. She rubs herself against my leg and thigh."

He stopped for a moment to exchange a hungry kiss with Tucker. He released his own cock long enough to place Tucker's hand on Tucker's cock. Tucker obediently stroked himself.

Reed's breath was ragged. "When I think she's ready, I push her down on that bench in there and slide into her. She's warm--warm and tight." His masturbating hand speeded up, and Tucker matched his pace. He was breathing heavily too. "I'm leaning on one arm, so I can play with her breasts while I'm inside her. She's underneath me. We're still slick from the gel, so we push hard against each other to keep contact, then slide off. I kiss her; I move my head down to kiss her breasts; I push in and out slowly, fucking her, and she--she loses all semblance of control. The emotions she suppresses come to the fore."

"Tell me what she looks like," Tucker suggested, his hand working on his own cock. This was the heart of Reed's fantasy: in his dreams, Reed could make a Vulcan woman respond. He could thaw the icy exterior and release the passionate woman within.

Reed gasped. "She--her eyes are wide, and she's breathing hard, almost panting. Her hair is mussed. She's still wearing her undershirt, rucked up. She says--she says my name." Reed, restless with excitement, rubbed his phallus against Tucker's. The warm touch was like a shock. "She's underneath me and moving her hips up and down, driving me deeper. She sets the pace. Her hands are grabbing my bum and she's close. She's wild. I'm--I'm huge inside her. I can't hold on much longer, but I--I want her to come." He groaned and sought Tucker's mouth, his hand working rhythmically on his hard cock. His eyes were heavy-lidded as he pulled back to continue. "I rest my weight on my forearms and push as deep inside her as I can. She presses her hands hard against my arse and holds me still while she works herself up and down. Then she comes. She--she throws her head back and pants and moans. I can feel her rippling around me, and it sends me over the edge. I push deeper inside her and come and come."

Tucker and Reed's mouths joined. Reed gasped. Their cocks brushed one another, and Reed, hand working furiously, drove himself to his orgasm. Tucker watched as Reed's intensity turned inward and blossomed. Reed's eyes were unfocused; he breathed hard and irregularly as his cock spurted. Tucker rubbed his hardness against Reed's warm stomach, remembering the sensation from that time in Reed's quarters so long ago. Tucker's hands, experienced, found the ultrasensitive place at the tip of his own phallus. He stroked it with his thumb as he rubbed himself against Reed. He groaned, "Oh, god, Malcolm, yes," as the pleasure hit, his come mixing with Reed's.

His heart pounded for a long time after that. They lay together, dizzy and spent, their mingled seed growing cold on their skin, until Tucker roused and returned with Reed to the lavatory to clean up.

He never did figure out how to turn the biobeds back on.

"Commander Tucker? Lieutenant Reed?"


"Commander Tucker, wake up."

Tucker opened his eyes and focused on Doctor Phlox. He shut his eyes immediately. "Too bright."

He and Reed were on Reed's biobed. They were spooned together, the smaller man under Tucker's arm. Tucker's hand was tucked inside Reed's pajama top, comfortably cupped against Reed's flat, bare stomach, a casual posture that just screamed intimacy; to top it off, their legs were twined together. Oops. He should have moved over to his own biobed, but they must have fallen asleep when they returned from the lavatory. Luckily, they both seemed to be decent, pajama bottoms demurely tied. Still, there was no way Phlox could fail to infer the worst. He had a feeling that he and Reed made quite the picture, cuddling close, clearly comfortable together, abandoned and trusting in sleep. The covers were pulled up to about waist level. Reed was breathing regularly and deeply, his body heavy and inert against Tucker's. Definitely asleep. Tucker didn't change his posture, for fear of awakening Reed, although his body tensed.

"The lights? I can take care of that." A moment later, the lights dimmed slightly. "Is that better? Good. May I help you back to your biobed?"

Tucker shook his head, disoriented. "I'm cold. It was very cold." He didn't want to move. He wanted to be warm. He was pretty sure he was only warm when he was with Reed. His dreams had been of hiking through endless arctic wildernesses, trying to find a place to get warm, like in that Jack London story where nothing happened but the main character died at the end. Man versus nature, and nature wins. He liked it better the other way around: man versus nature, and man wins. But Reed was warm, his back, his ass, his legs pressing against Tucker's chest, groin, and shins. Toasty, in fact. The cold must be inside him, then. He started to shiver.

"I understand that. I wasn't thinking. I should have provided more blankets. I thought I raised the temperature enough." Phlox looked worried.

Although their voices were low, Reed stirred. He reached up a hand and laced his fingers with Tucker's, turned his head, saw Doctor Phlox, and froze. "Commander Tucker," he managed a long moment later. He released Tucker's hand and pulled his pajama top down to cover his stomach. "Doctor Phlox. Where are we? Is everything all right?" His tone displayed no edge of panic or anything but sleepy confusion, but in the column of his neck, Tucker could see his heart rate pick up.

"Everything's fine, Lieutenant. You, um, might want to return to your biobed, Commander. The captain will be here soon to debrief you."

"Oh. Okay." Tucker untangled himself from Reed and hauled himself up on one arm. Doctor Phlox steadied Tucker as Tucker half rolled, half fell off Reed's biobed. Phlox led Tucker over to the other biobed and helped him in. He pushed a button--aha!--a button on the biobed itself, not on the monitor panel, and turned to review the data now displayed on the screen.

"I--we had to use the lavatory," Tucker explained, then realized that his comment made no sense. He should shut up. "The biobeds didn't go back on. Did we mess up your data?" He was still shivering. He pulled the sheets and blankets up. It didn't help much. He gasped slightly, and despite his best efforts to stop it, his teeth began chattering.

"Are you all right?" Reed asked, his tone concerned. "Doctor? What's wrong with him?"

"H'm," Phlox said thoughtfully, turning back from the monitor. "Your body temperature is normal. This reaction must be psychological."

"N--no kidding," Tucker managed.

"Well, I can give you some ditrexate. That should ease the physical symptoms." Phlox prepared a hypospray. The injection hissed loudly.

Tucker was breathing in gasps. "Stop looking at me!" He glared first at Reed, then at Phlox. "I'm fine. I'm fine."

"I don't think you're fine," Reed said quietly. "You look awful."

The ditrexate acted quickly. Within five minutes, the shivering had stopped. Tucker realized that he had shivered so much in the past twenty-four hours that his abdominal muscles hurt. He hadn't noticed until now, when he was more relaxed. "Does that di-whatever stuff make you sleepy?" he wondered, blinking. Everything seemed to be slowing down.

Phlox smiled cheerfully. "Yes. I imagine you'll be napping for the next few hours. I'm pleased to say you've stabilized. Shall I see about getting you some breakfast?"

"Yes, please. That would be lovely," said Reed.

Phlox activated Reed's biobed. He stopped at the doorway on his way out and gave them a long, appraising look before he exited. A moment later, the sick bay door whooshed.

Reed and Tucker's eyes met for an eternal moment. Tucker broke the silence. "Shit," he said, and he said it fervently, because he meant it.

"I know," Reed said, falsely chipper. "Let's focus on how it could be worse. Who else could have walked in on us while we cuddled?"

"T'Pol," said Tucker instantly, and was awarded with a smile.

"Captain Archer."

"Oooh. Good one. Hoshi Sato."

"No, she'd join in."

"You think?"

"Definitely." Reed started to laugh. "Yes--you, me, and Hoshi. And a biobed."

"We would never all fit. I like Hoshi."

Reed snorted. "That's the point."

Tucker started laughing and couldn't stop for a few moments. Definitely hysterical.

"You had me worried," Reed said, suddenly serious. "Do you feel better?"

"I'm about ready to fall asleep. But oh, lord, the dreams I had about cold." Tucker shook his head. "After that adventure, I'm sure we'll both be psychologically screwed up for years. Cold. Claustrophobic. Unable to eat mashed potatoes." He started to giggle again and managed to push it down. He felt light-headed. "But let's focus on the positive: the drugs."

Reed slid out of his biobed and hooked a hip on Tucker's bed. One garish slipper sock brushed the floor as he made himself comfortable. He reached down and took one of Tucker's hands. Turning it over, he caressed the palm, then gently touched Tucker's fingers, one by one. The light stroking was hypnotic. Tucker shut his eyes and began to drift.

"Trip?" Reed's voice was soft.


"When you close your eyes, who do you see?"

Tucker smiled. "You, me, Hoshi, and a biobed."

Reed leaned over and kissed him. His mouth was wonderfully warm. With his free hand, he stroked Tucker's hair back from his forehead, then kissed him again. "Is that so," he responded, his voice teasing, encouraging.

Tucker opened his eyes and focused on Reed. Warm, living Reed. He saw the same thing whether his eyes were open or shut. "No," he admitted. "No. It's you. Just you."