Note: Based on a challenge from rock4eva2001: Angst, Tucker/Reed first time getting together. Takes place while the ship was in the Expanse.
Warnings: Malcolm swears in this one, but it's all in fun.
Disclaimer: Yeah, yeah, yeah, etc. All in fun, no profit.
"Can you hand me the light?" Trip asked, poking his hand out from under the panel where he was working, his face and most of his upper body under the station as he lay on his back, peering up into the depths of the device. He felt Malcolm place the light into his palm and drew his arm back under, turning the beam on to better illuminate the tiny space.
He whistled softly, surprised at the extent of the damage, and slid himself out from below the armoury station, sitting and resting his back against its side. "How did you say this happened?" he asked, glancing at Malcolm before he turned his eyes to his toolbox and pulled out several items.
"One of the anomalies passed through this section," Malcolm replied from where he was standing next to the device. He placed a hand on the top of the console. "This station didn't seem to be affected at first. It wasn't until this morning that I realised that it had been damaged."
"Damaged is an understatement," Trip said. "It looks like something sparked up in here recently, torched the whole thing. I can fix it, but it might take some time." He smiled up at Malcolm. "It'd go faster if you helped."
Malcolm nodded and pulled several tools from the box as Trip slid himself back underneath the panel. Trip felt Malcolm beside him as the other man wiggled into the narrow space, and they both worked for a few minutes, the companionable silence interrupted only by the occasional, muffled, "Sorry," as one's arm would brush the other's as they worked.
Trip was enjoying the rhythm of the task. Although the console was badly damaged, there was nothing there that couldn't be fixed, especially with Malcolm working beside him, and he let his mind wander a bit as he began working on the simple process of repairing one of the connections. He remembered one of the first vehicles he'd ever worked on, the pleasure of bringing a seemingly wrecked piece of shit back to life, getting that sucker to start for the first time. He loved that. Sitting in the grass beside it, beer in hand as he surveyed his work. He loved that, too; beer and love. Beer, he hadn't had a real beer in…
"Shit!" Malcolm said from beside him, jumping slightly as the wiring above him sparked.
Trip turned his head to the side so that he could see Malcolm's profile. "You okay?"
Malcolm winced, opening and closing his hand. "Yes," he said, shaking his hand. "Surprised me more than it hurt." He shook his head, then reached for the wires again.
Trip turned back to the circuitry above him. After a few moments, he smiled. "I don't think that I've heard you swear before, lieutenant," he said, deliberately emphasising the rank. He glanced towards Malcolm to see his reaction, and was rewarded as a blush crept over the other man's features.
"I'm sorry, commander, I don't normally…"
"No worries." Trip reached for a tool. "I've heard worse…"
"Shit!" Malcolm said again as another spark flashed, and smoke began pouring from the circuitry overhead.
Trip slid quickly out from under the console as the fire suppression system triggered, dousing the immediate area in foam, narrowly missing him as he moved. He watched as the panel and Malcolm were both covered in a thick white froth. When the spray ended seconds later, yet Malcolm still didn't move, Trip tapped his foot gently with his own. "You okay?"
After a long, silent moment, Malcolm finally replied, "I have had better days." He then began sliding out from beneath the panel, revealing himself to be covered, head to toe, in white foam. He sat up and wiped the substance from his face, flicking it off his hands onto the deck.
Trip tried not to smile, but he could feel the corner of his mouth twitching upwards. Poor Malcolm just looked so…fluffy. Malcolm looked at him flatly, and Trip said, holding in a laugh that was threatening to break free, "Maybe you should change."
Malcolm nodded and began moving towards the door. As he shuffled, or, Trip thought, squished, Trip heard him cough, then inhale with a slight wheeze. Trip felt his gut clench, and he stepped towards his friend quickly, grasping his arm and stopping him before he reached the door. As Malcolm turned to face him, obviously puzzled, Trip asked, "Did you inhale any of that stuff?"
Malcolm shook his head. "I don't think so," he said, then he coughed again.
Trip pulled Malcolm through the door. "You need to get to sickbay."
Trip didn't let Malcolm finish. "That foam is an inhalation hazard. It can really mess you up." When he saw that Malcolm was about to reply, he added, "Don't talk. Just, come on." He led Malcolm down the corridor towards the lift, shuffling impatiently as they waited, one hand gripping Malcolm's arm. He pulled the other man into the lift as the doors opened, tapping his foot as it began moving.
He kept glancing over to Malcolm, who seemed to be fine other than the occasional cough, but he was nervous. That stuff could be nasty if it got into your lungs. He clenched his free hand. This had to be the slowest lift ever, he thought. Come on, come on.
The doors opened and Trip pulled Malcolm towards sickbay. As the sickbay doors opened, Trip tugged Malcolm inside. "Doc?" he said, looking around the room to see Phlox feeding one of his animals.
"Yes, commander?" Phlox replied, his face expressing his surprise at Malcolm's state.
"I think Malcolm may have inhaled some of this fire suppression foam."
Phlox nodded, his face turning serious as he motioned for the lieutenant to take a seat on a nearby biobed.
As Malcolm sat on the bed, he shook his head and tried to speak, but Trip interrupted. "It was all over his face. He's been coughing, and I thought I heard him wheezing."
Phlox ran his scanner over his patient, and Trip stood next to the bed, his eyes moving anxiously from Malcolm, to Phlox, and back. "How's it look?"
"One moment please, commander," Phlox replied, continuing with his scans. He looked at Trip and smiled, then turned to Malcolm. "I'm glad to say that you didn't inhale any of the foam. However, you do have a slight cold."
Trip felt his entire body relax, and he let out a loud breath. Malcolm looked at him and smiled at his reaction, then turned to the doctor. "So, I can go?" he asked, scratching one arm absently.
Phlox nodded. "Yes, although you'll want to take a shower rather soon. That foam can irritate the skin if it's not washed away quickly."
Malcolm rubbed his arm, then began to rub his face. "I'd noticed," he said with a frown.
As Malcolm continued to scratch, Trip said, "Maybe he should shower here." At Malcolm's surprised look, he continued, "You're already itchy."
"It will get worse the longer you leave it," Phlox said.
Malcolm let out a soft breath. "Fine." He glanced at Trip, and Trip responded with a shrug and a half-smile.
As Malcolm moved to the shower at the back of sickbay, Phlox in tow, Trip hopped up onto one of the biobeds. He felt bad for the man. He swung his legs off the edge of the bed. Kind of a bad day, he thought. Shocked twice, then doused in sticky white foam. He snickered slightly, picturing Malcolm covered in the spray, and the look on his face when he'd slid out from under the console. It was kind of funny, he thought. Well, if it wasn't you it happened to.
Trip smiled when Malcolm emerged from the back of the room clad in a set of scrubs, running his fingers through his wet hair to straighten it. "You look better," he said with a smile.
"I'm still a bit itchy, though," Malcolm replied with a slight frown.
"Yeah," Trip said, jumping off the bed. "I feel kind of bad about that. If I hadn't dragged you down here, maybe you could have showered sooner."
Malcolm shook his head and smiled. "No, this was for the best."
"Still, I feel bad," Trip replied, tilting his head to the side. Then he glanced at his chronometer, and smiled. "Listen, I have an idea."
"What kind of idea?" Malcolm said hesitantly.
Trip laughed. "A good idea. Something to maybe make all this up to you. We're off shift. Can you stop by my room? I have something that you might like."
"Should I be nervous?" Malcolm replied with a smile. As Trip laughed, they began moving towards the door, and Malcolm asked, "So, do you often ask strangely dressed men back to your room to see something they might like?"
Trip laughed. "No, not usually." He glanced to Malcolm. "But it's a special occasion."
The two men strode through the corridor, Malcolm's state of dress drawing only the occasional glance from passing crewmen. Trip figured that it was because Malcolm and sickbay had become nigh inseparable since they'd launched. He glanced at his friend. That wasn't a good thing, he thought, listening to Malcolm's bare feet as they padded along the corridor.
Pausing outside Trip's door, Malcolm said, "I really should get changed first."
Trip shook his head. "Nah, you look fine, it's just me anyway." When Malcolm nodded, he opened his door and ushered Malcolm inside. "Sorry about the mess," he said, taking in the pile of padds on his desk chair. "Bed's clean, though. You can sit there." He turned to his bureau and took out a pair of socks, then squatted down and reached below his desk, opening his refrigeration unit and pulling out his prize. He turned to Malcolm and then joined him on the bed, keeping his treasure hidden behind his back as he used his other hand to give Malcolm the socks.
Malcolm looked down at the socks in his hands, then back up to Trip. "These socks have birds on them," he said.
"Yeah, Tweety Bird." When Malcolm didn't respond, Trip continued. "You know, from the old cartoons."
Malcolm simply shook his head and began putting on the socks. "Are these the something you thought that I might like?"
Trip laughed. "No, no. This is." He drew the surprise out from behind his back, and smiled. "Beer." At Malcolm's look of surprise, he added, "I've been saving it. It's my last six-pack from home. And after the day you just had, I figured, you deserve it."
Malcolm smiled broadly. "Very nice. Thank you."
Trip nodded, opening two of the containers. "It's the least I could do, since I made you all itchy." He handed one of the drinks to Malcolm, and took a long sip from his own. "I think that I love beer."
Malcolm drank. "This is good."
"One of my old girlfriends introduced me to this brand. It's only available in Florida." Trip leaned back against the headboard as he and Malcolm exchanged stories of the beers and old girlfriends.
Trip smiled, opening another bottle and handing it to his friend. Malcolm was actually a lot of fun when he was off-duty. He's surprisingly funny, he thought, and easy to talk to once you get to know him personally, off the job. And good looking – exactly the type of colouring he'd liked in the women he'd dated. Too bad he wasn't a girl. He'd be perfect. Heck, as it was, he was half-willing to date him.
When Malcolm finished off that bottle, Trip handed him the last of the beers from the fridge, settling next to him on the bed, their backs to the wall behind them. "It's amazing how often beer and love seem go to together, isn't it?" At Malcolm's answering smile, Trip held up his drink. "To beer, and love!"
Malcolm raised his own drink.
Trip leaned in close to Malcolm and added, "May we be blessed by both on this mission!" He smiled at the odd look in Malcolm's eyes, then drank. "It's still early, and we're almost out of beer. What do you want to do next?"
Malcolm looked down at his clothes. "Well, I really should change."
Trip nudged Malcolm with his shoulder. "Nah, you look fine." He glanced down at the socks. "Kind of cute, actually." He looked up at Malcolm, capturing the other man's eyes with his own. His own eyes softened, and he smiled. "Listen, you wanna go to the movie with me?"
Malcolm looked uncomfortable. Trip thought the man looked a bit nervous, so he leaned closer. "Come on, I make a fun date."
Malcolm gazed deeply into Trip's eyes, and Trip's smile fell away. Then Malcolm nodded, and Trip gasped slightly.
Oh, Trip thought, surprised. This is a date. I've just asked Malcolm on a date. And he said yes. I think.
"Um, okay, good," Trip said. "Let me just, um, hold on," he said, standing. Then he took a breath, trying to relax. This is Malcolm, he thought. It's just Malcolm. And he smiled.
Trip held out his hand, and Malcolm took it as he stood, squeezing it gently before he let go. He glanced down at his feet. "I should cover up these socks, though."
Trip laughed, triggering his door. "Yeah, we can stop by your place before the film."
As they began walking, Trip kept glancing at Malcolm, watching his profile; his face, his eyes so animated as they talked. This is Malcolm, he thought, slightly nervous. I'm on a date with Malcolm. I think.
As they rounded a corner, Malcolm reached out and grasped Trip's hand, and Trip gasped. He could feel the warmth of the other man's hand course through his body; he felt electric. God, he could barely breathe, he thought. This is too much. I'm overcome.
Malcolm tugged Trip to a stop. "Are you all right?" he asked.
Trip simply nodded, unable to speak. He gazed down into Malcolm's eyes. Blue, he thought. Grey. Like the sea. Stormy.
"Trip?" Malcolm asked, his brow wrinkled in concern.
Trip took a breath. "Can I kiss you?" he heard himself asking.
Malcolm smiled softly, and nodded. "Yes."
Trip bent down slightly and brushed his lips against Malcolm's. There it was again, he thought; the heat, the electricity. He broke the kiss and breathed in, taking in Malcolm's scent: beer, and soap, and warmth, and something that was inherently Malcolm. He smiled at the other man and squeezed his hand, and they began walking again.
"This was unexpected," Trip said, his voice slightly rough.
Trip pulled Malcolm's hand, stopping him. "You know, I asked you out as a joke."
Malcolm smiled. "I know."
"But then why…"
Malcolm stepped closer. "I thought it was worth the risk."