Pairing/Characters: Trip Tucker/Malcolm Reed
Word Count: 3388
Warnings: language, sexual situations, darkness
Notes: Mirrorverse!AU, so may contain spoilers for the season 4 episodes "In the Mirror, Darkly," parts I & II. The unnamed writer Reed quotes is Oscar Wilde (Ballad of Reading Gaol). The title of this fic, and last line, are allusions to the poem "Two Loves" by Lord Alfred Douglas-- "Have thy will, I am the Love that dare not speak its name." I found it appropriate.
Dare Not Speak
Tucker’s face is pulled down in half a frown, one eye sealed closed. It’s because of a scar, a scar from the engines, those things he loves.
But then, someone once said—Reed can’t remember who, but he read them in school—and anyway they said that “each man kills the thing he loves.” And it’s true, at least in their case.
He remembers tracing the wound with his fingers while Tucker lay unconscious on the floor. The blood had slid over his fingers and painted them scarlet.
It would be a few minutes before Security found them. This was interesting because he had pressed his lips to Tucker’s and no one had ever known.
Tucker has threatened to kill him.
Tucker has done this before, but this time he has reason to. Reed knows he is capable of this, and that no one on this starship will gave a damn if Malcolm Reed goes to sleep and never wakes up.
Somehow, though, he doesn’t think Tucker will kill him.
All men kill the thing they love, maybe, but what they have isn’t love.
What it is, exactly, he isn’t sure.
The ship breathes.
Well, perhaps ‘breathes’ isn’t really the right term. It’s more like a heartbeat, a gentle thrum that only some can hear.
You can’t hear it from the bridge. You just can’t. Tucker’s tried to no avail.
But you can sure as hell hear it down in engineering, a gentle humming, humming, deep in your veins. After a while it becomes part of you, doesn’t go away. Like your heart’s realigned its beat to match the ship’s.
His has. He doesn’t mind it, though; in fact he likes to feel the ship around him. Even on away missions, he can feel her, alive, all around him, and aches because she’s not. Trip Tucker is not a loving man, so he reckons that’s as close to the feeling as he’s going to get.
He expects to hear the beat for the rest of his life.
But things are changing, quietly, almost imperceptibly, on the ship.
A brawl breaks out between two members of Engineering, bad enough to land both of them a visit to Sickbay. The circumstances are suspicious; security tightens. Major Reed starts showing up at random moments.
Maybe Archer can work with someone peering over his shoulder, but Tucker sure as hell can’t, doesn’t like it.
The Major stands so close behind him that Tucker can nearly hear his heartbeat.
Soft and slow, it doesn’t even begin to cover the life-thrum of the ship. But it’s still there.
And that bothers Tucker.
The Chief Engineer lies in bed, staring at the ceiling. The dull electric light flickers on and off, like he’s lying in a cheap apartment instead of the most advanced ship of the Empire.
He balls his fists, tightly, hard enough that he can feel his own pulse against his fingers.
There’s something pounding in his ears. The memory of a heartbeat, and a smile.
He’s in Engineering the next day, crouching back on his heels. One of the containers has blown again, the third this week, and sometimes he thinks it’d be more efficient if they ran the damn ship on coal.
The Major of course chooses this moment to show up, self-righteous smirk smeared all over his face. He leans in too close to Tucker, watching him work. Tucker grits his teeth. Like he has any idea how the ship works.
The simple ba-dump of his heart plays loud in Tucker’s eyes, incessant and never-ending. He grits his teeth, but that doesn’t stop his hand from slipping and disconnecting the wrong wire. He closes his eyes, because this sort of mistake is something he just does not make, or at least he didn’t. But then that was before he had an obnoxious major hanging onto his every movement.
Anger wells up inside him, sudden and sharp, and he turns spitting to Reed. “Stop it! Just stop it, okay? You’re fucking everything up!”
“Fucking everything up, am I?” The slight lilt of Reed’s accent takes the words and twists them, makes them into a joke, like he’s a fool. But Trip Tucker is no fool, and he lunges at the Major and slams him against the wall.
“You,” Tucker says, and it’s in a whisper, but he knows the Major can hear. Down here, deep in the passages ways of the ship, it’s eerily quiet; perhaps it’s why he can hear her hum so well.
“You have no business being down here. You think because your precious little captain told you to come and keep an eye on me, or whatever, you can stomp around like you own the place? Maybe Archer’s in charge up there, but this isn’t the bridge, and Engineering is my play-place, and down here, I make the rules.”
He has Reed’s collar tight in one hand, keeping the man shoved up against the wall. For a moment the most sound is their breath.
“You idiot!” says Reed, and it’s unexpected that Tucker nearly lets out a crazed laugh. “You fool, obviously I know who’s in fucking charge. You think I don’t know who’s the one man who could tear down this ship easier than anyone else?
“I’m here to make sure that you’re not a spy for the Romulan Star Empire, or something, yeah. But I’m also here to protect you, okay, Mr. Tucker?” Reed’s panting, his words a hiss between his clenched teeth.
Tucker releases him and steps back, breathing harshly as well. He can hear his pulse ringing in his ears.
“I don’t,” he says, “I don’t need protection.” The stupid light is far too bright in his eyes. He wants to turn it off, be dark and quiet and alone.
Reed shrugs. “Maybe. But you also don’t have a phase-rifle,” He says, hefting the weapon. A smile slithers up his face like a snake.
Tucker wakes up to the message, a folded bit of paper, which is odd in itself. He unfolds it quietly before the pulls on his boots; it says in scrawled letters “Meet me in the gym.”
He knows there’s exactly one person who would leave him such a note. He pulls on his boots, undecided, but he gets up and his feet carry him to the gymnasium.
Through the mess of people lifting weights and pulling bands, he can see there’re small rooms off to the side for fight work; got to keep the people in shape, after all. He goes to the nearest and it’s empty except for Reed, who stands at the center and beckons. Tucker walks over feeling strange and new.
“Fight me,” says Reed. “Hit me like you wanted to in the hall.”
Tucker realizes slowly that yep, he does want to hit him, to wipe the smile off the cocky bastard’s face. He grins slowly, can feel his face warp with the scar.
“Alright,” he says. This is a game I can play.
Tucker moves first, grabbing Reed’s shoulders and slamming him to the ground, all of his weight against the other man.
The Major slams a fist against Tucker’s face and pain bursts force with the impact—Reed’s stronger than he looks. Reed rolls off him and stands, reaching down and twisting Tucker’s legs in a quick spin.
The impact of Tucker’s body against the ground is hard enough to knock the breath out of him. He takes the moment to close his eyes; he hasn’t had to move this fast in a long time.
The rest is over too soon, he leaps up onto his feet and lunges at Reed; for his head this time, to slam him against the wall. Reed sees it coming though, and Tucker connects with the wall, instead.
While the lights are still flashing before his eyes, Tucker takes the opportunity to kick off the wall. The two men both slam into the ground.
Tucker is on top of Reed; in fact they’re disgustingly close. He lifts off him and throws his shoulders down against the mat.
Reed doesn’t release his hold, though, just rolls, so now Tucker’s the one underneath. He grits his teeth; turns his head away. Reed smells of sweat, and power. But Reed grips his face with hot sweaty and forces Tucker forward. Their faces are close, ridiculously close, tips of their noses touching.
Tucker looks up into the major’s wide, crazy, eyes. Hidden behind the madness is something darker and deeper. He himself can feel something thick and pulsing growing inside him.
The silence between them grows until the hum starts again. It reminds him where he is, what he’s doing, who he is.
The memory gives him strength, at least strength enough to throw off his opponent and stand. He doesn’t realize ‘till he’s up how exhausted he is, breath ragged and overheated.
Reed lies still where he was thrown, arms splayed out wide. He catches Rucker’s eye and grins up at him.
“Good fight,” he says.
Tucker walks out, hands on the side of the ship for support.
Tucker slams his plastic tray down hard on the false-wood table. Major Reed is behind him, and while yeah, he could tell him to piss off, he doesn’t think he will. Since their fight, he’s begun to feel a grudging respect for the other man.
Reed isn’t normal—but that’s a good thing. Tucker’s had enough of normal people to last him a lifetime, would quite like some interesting folk to change it up.
Reed bids farewell to the crewman he was talking to and sits down, tray clacking.
“I’m doing more work on the agony chamber.” His voice is way too upbeat for such a topic.
“You think it’ll catch on?”
“Yeah, the higher-up’s like it, I think,” he says, stabbing his ravioli.
“Archer might not,” Tucker says. He rubs his temples; he’s getting a headache. Probably because he hasn’t carried a conversation in so long—which is pathetic, but hey.
Reed scoffs. “Ha. Archer likes to act like he’s all holier-than-thou, but he’s just as shitted up as the rest of us.” He twirls his fork in his fingers.
“It does its job. That’ll win him over.”
Tucker listens to all of this in silence. “Yeah,” he says finally, partly because he agrees and partly because he doesn’t feel like arguing, because that might upset this tenuous thing they have.
This thing they have. It’s thin and wavering and barely there, but it’s something, and Tucker doesn’t want to lose it.
They have their first argument by the end of the week, over something completely silly that Tucker won’t even remember, later.
Now, though, Tucker’s yelling, anger rising from somewhere deep inside himself. He slams the major down against the wall with all of his strength; Reed punches him in the face, hard.
Tucker thinks, We’re not friends, and then Reed’s mouth presses against his own. The kiss is like fire and it burns, burns, but in a good way that he not sure he wants to stop. Tucker doesn’t pull away, until he does, feeling shell-shocked. Reed grimaces or perhaps he’s smiling.
Tucker staggers the other way, face throbbing where Reed socked him. He presses his palms to the ship’s smooth sides, tries to calm himself with her sounds, but he knows it’s worthless. He keeps hearing Reed’s heartbeat in his head--ba-dup, ba-dup, and it won’t stop. He almost doesn’t want it to.
He doesn’t know what they’ve got, doesn’t understand what the fuck it is between them. But it’s sickly sweet and fragile, and he doesn’t want it to break.
“Really,” the doctor says disapprovingly, “must you keep getting in fights?” He dabs Tucker’s eye with a bit of cloth.
Tucker grunts at him. He can feel his eye is swollen, probably a sort of purpley color right now, which’ll make a nice addition to his face.
Reed’s not here—Tucker wouldn’t be either, if some random crewman hadn’t caught him wandering around like a psycho or drunkard or both. It’s his second fight in two months, and with the same person to boot, so someone’ll be down to give him a stern talking to in a minute.
Phlox “tches,” and Tucker scowls, because he knows that the doctor doesn’t actually give a shit, he’s just angry because treating Tucker’s taking away from his time spent torturing aliens or whatever the hell it is he does in his free time. It’s not like he even has to put effort in; brawlers aren’t allowed actual healings.
Phlox shoves him out the door and Tucker wanders around a bit, like a lost wayfarer, ‘till his feet pull him to his room. He tries to just sit on the bed for a while, but the blinking light makes feel ill, so he goes into the bathroom and taks a steaming hot shower ‘till someone shuts his water off.
It isn’t until he’s pulling on his uniform that he remembers the feel of someone else’s lips against his own. Reed, he thinks, turning over his boots in his hands. I don’t know what we are.
He’s heading to dinner when Hoshi smiles up at him. “Nice eye,” she says.
He raises his lip at her, like an animal, which makes her laugh. He’s pretty sure she likes him, presumably because he doesn’t fuck with her. And he’s Ops and she’s Command, so it’s not like she’s looking for his job.
When he passes Reed’s table the man holds up a red-tinted glass. “Got some wine,” he says. “Nice eye, by the way. It becomes you.”
“Fuck you,” says Tucker, but he doesn’t feel very angry, so he sits down across from the major. “Gimme,” he adds, reaching for the wine.
Reed grins and pours him a glass, and they hold them together with a soft clink. They speak casually, Reed regaling him with the latest stories of insubordination within the Empire. They don’t speak of the fight; but then, what would they say?
I’d apologize for being completely psychotic, Tucker thinks, but so are you.
It’s been a few days, and Tucker’s on the way to his quarters when Reed stops him.
“Hey,” he says. “Archer wants you.”
“Fuck him, says Tucker.
Reed laughs, a jarring sound. “Yeah, I thought you’d say that.” He gives Tucker a long look—(too long, Tucker thinks) then turns to leave.
Tucker watches his back for a few seconds. Then suddenly, without quite knowing why, he runs forward and yanks the major’s shoulder back so they’re facing each other.
Reed’s mouth starts to form the word “what,” but before he can finish, Tucker slams him into the wall, and kisses him.
The kiss is hard, and desperate, and a bit like the first one, and yeah, Tucker’s definitely liking the fire. Kind of wants more of it. He breaks off to breathe and Reed laughs—God, that’s a bad laugh.
“Hey,” says Tucker, feeling slightly drunk on the act of, I dunno, actually fucking starting something. He can honestly not remember the last time someone pulled this sort of reaction out of him, and no way in hell is he going to let it go. “Wanna come inside?”
“I don’t think I have much of a choice,” Reed whispers, close to Tucker’s ear, “after that.”
His arms still firmly on Reed’s shoulder, Tucker leads them both to his door. He presses his hand to it and it swishes open; he takes Reed by the collar and kisses him, open mouthed, drags him into the room.
Reed reacts to the intimacy, running his fingers over Tucker’s scar and the pulled-down eye, touches his hair, his neck.
“I’ve been waiting way too fucking long for this,” he says. His breath is hot and harsh.
“You don’t even like me,” Tucker says, but it’s a faux protest.
“Yeah,” agrees Reed. “Yeah, and we fought, we yelled, and I—“ he fingers the slowly fading bruise blotting Tucker’s eye. “—gave you a black eye. Does it really even matter?”
Tucker looks at him, looks at the major and his crazed eyes, and realizes that it doesn’t.
He shifts Reed so his back is to the bed, pulls down the zipper of his jumpsuit and slips his hands underneath, feeling the outline of Reed’s body through his undershirt.
Reed grins and mirrors the action, unzipping Tucker’s uniform and pulling it down over his hips. Tucker helps him by kicking off his bots, stepping out of his pants and pulling off his undershirt, throwing it to the floor.
He has a moment of clarity in which he realizes that he’s standing there in his regulation boxers, cock ridiculously hard, in front of Major fucking Reed, but then it passes, and he wrangles Reed the rest of the way out of his uniform. The man lifts off his undershirt and then pulls Tucker down on top of him, one hand tugging at the waistband of Tucker’s boxers, the other pulling down his own.
Tucker groans softly and lowers his body onto Reed’s, hands tangling in his hair, their tongues tangling as they kiss. Reed’s hands reach up, nimble, weapon-trained fingers touching his cock. Tucker hisses through clenched teeth for a few seconds before remembering that he no longer gives a fuck and letting out a load moan, his fingers digging into Reed’s hips. The major lets out a low little sound of his own and moves his hands back to Tucker’s ass, spreading him slowly.
Tucker sprawls onto Reed’s body, head to Reed’s chest so that his heart beats so loud, Tucker can hear nothing else. He drags himself away from the thick ba-dup-ba-dup of the beat to growl in Reed’s ear, thrusting his hips as hard as he can onto Reed’s, to fucking take him. Reed rolls them over, straddling Tucker so his cock presses against Tucker’s ass, hard and ready. He runs a finger down Tucker’s back, whispers I will, his smile crooked against Tucker’s ear.
We thought the sex would be like the fighting, Tucker thinks later. And in some ways, it was; Reed whispering a stream of explicative as he came, a steady shit bugger fuck. But in other ways it wasn’t, their bodies sweaty and pressed together with absolutely nothing in-between, hands in each other’s hair; lights dim because it’s too private, intimate of a moment to taint with brightness.
All in all it’s a mixture of same and different, and while it’s been quite a long while since Tucker has had sex, but he can’t remember the last time it was this good, and rough, and painful, all at the same time.
He lies still on the bed; his arm against Reed’s chest, the other man sleeping sprawled out on the bed. Tucker smiles into the dark room, and lets the ship’s life-thrum and Reed’s heartbeat lull him to sleep.
After all this time, Tucker still doesn’t know what it is that they have. It might be love, but then again it might be hate. Most likely it’s neither, or both.
But, in truth, Tucker doesn’t really care. He’d laugh at anyone trying to give them names, because he honestly has no clue.
What he does know is that they have sex sometimes, and kiss a lot, in dark hallway with one of them pushed up against the wall. But they also fight a lot; have beaten the shit out of each other more than once.
It’s fun at the best of times, painful at the worst. It’s a secretive thing, but only in the fact that they don’t go parading about. Tucker really does not give a fuck, and finds that his life in much more enjoyable for it.
He spends his days doing his job, bent over an engine, soaking in radiation (enough that his grandkids’ll come out glowing.) Reed comes behind him sometimes, a hand on Tucker’s chin, the butt of his gun pressing into Tucker’s hip. And though Tucker does not dare to speak, to try and overcome the madness that is the din of his brain, he dares to turn and to touch, to feel, and to be.
And that is good. They are good.