Author's notes: Please be forewarned this story contains corporal punishment in the form of spanking between the main characters who are in a loving relationship. If this type of interaction squicks or offends you, then please don't read any further -- you have been warned.

This story was written some five years ago now...it is a tag to the episode Cogenitor, because I was frustrated about the unresolved issues between Archer and Tucker, and then my imagination ran away with the possibilities, with me in tow. This storyline is outside accepted canon and fanon, definitely AU/Other.

Feedback: Roses are red, violets are blue, feedback is welcome, flames reflect on you.

Disclaimer: Enteprise and her crew do not belong to me - my only profit is my joy in these characters and the Star Trek ideal they embody.

--

Part 1

Having been dismissed by the Captain, Trip headed back to his quarters in a blur of overwhelming guilt and despair. The Captain's recriminations hadn't even been necessary, once the implications of what had occurred had hit him full in the face. It's my fault, I'm responsible. The thought ricocheted around in his head even as the Captain had continued to warm to his subject. Trip was floored. He hadn't expected this to happen, he had thought that the Vissians would eventually see things for what they were, that they would see they were committing a grave injustice against one of their own peoples, their own flesh and blood as it were, and culture and gender be damned. He hadn't ever thought that something like this would happen, could happen….no, he hadn't thought…that was the crux of the matter, and he could see that stark reality now.

The Captain had done many foolish things in his time too, granted, but Trip accepted his Captains right to make mistakes, even as the Captain understood his crew would screw up from time to time. The dressing down he had received had been harsh, but it was not unwarranted, Trip felt. It was certainly not the first time he had been taken to task by his CO, nor even the first time he had been reprimanded by Jonathan Archer. It was much more painful this time than any previous times, simply because he could so clearly see the pain his lack of thought had caused his Captain. Despite Trip's assurances to the Captain that he was not responsible, he now saw how empty a sentiment that was. As Captain of the Enterprise, Archer bore responsibility for all those under his command, their strengths, weaknesses, successes and mistakes were his too, for good or for bad. Everyone on the ship, and everything they did were Archer's ultimate responsibility.

Why, oh why, couldn't he learn to think first and act second, and why had he not seen what the potential impact of his actions would be for the crew, and for the Captain?

Later, Trip couldn't remember actually entering his quarters, nor could he remember stripping down to his regulation blues and crawling between the sheets. He lay there a long time before uneasy sleep claimed him, and even in sleep he continued to be haunted by the smiling eyes of someone who had just learned the joy that reading could bring, but who now no longer saw at all.

Captain Archer stood looking out into the starry void for a long time after the door swooshed shut behind the Commander as he left. He had been hard on the Commander, and while it had been justified, he felt slightly hypocritical in that he had made any number of first contact errors himself since taking command of Enterprise. Still, with Commander Tucker there was a history of this type of impulsiveness, and then there was the matter of him deliberately pursuing the Cogenitor even after it had been made clear to him by Sub-commander T'Pol that he should cease and desist. She had perhaps not directly ordered him to leave well enough alone, but Trip was definitely aware of the score, and he chose to disregard what he knew to be the wish of the Sub-commander, and thereby in his absence, the wish of the Captain. No, Trip had deserved what he had gotten, and God willing he'd finally learn this lesson. It was long in coming, and would undoubtedly be a painful one for him to finally take in.

The Captain suspected that Trip would be carrying this one around with him for some time to come. He made a mental note to himself to talk to Phlox in the morning, and arrange for some follow up counseling sessions for Trip to help him work through the guilt that would likely threaten to consume him if left unchecked. Trip wouldn't like it, no doubt about that, but Archer knew Trip well enough to know that he would be beating himself up about this. For the Commander this was a distinctly unhealthy way of dealing with things, because the punishment he would be putting himself through in days to come would far outstrip anything that Archer as Captain could have ordered, it always did.

Oh yes, Archer reflected, he knew Trip well enough to be able to predict how he would react to this tragedy, better in fact than anyone else on board Enterprise or even back on Earth, as he had the distinct pleasure, and frequent pain and frustration of not only being Trip's superior and CO, but also his Love and lover of some 9 years.

Archer sighed, and considered going to see Trip, but seeing how late it was, he decided it would be best to give the Commander some time to himself to work through his initial shock. It was a difficult position to be in, Archer mused, as the CO of his wayward Commander he was still mad as hell, but as the lover of Charles "Trip" Tucker III, he wanted to go and provide what comfort and consolation he could, despite his own frustration and pain. No, it would have to wait, he decided. This was one situation where Trip needed to feel the pain for a bit if he was finally going to take this lesson to heart. Archer stepped out of his ready room and nodding to the crew on the Bridge, slowly made his way to the lift, and back to his quarters.

By the time Trip awoke the next morning, Archer was already on the bridge, having been unable to sleep. Trip felt simply exhausted, and it took him a moment to remember why. It all came back in a rush of images from the past few days. The Cogenitor, the strained First Contact, the suicide, and of course Archer's anger and disappointment. Trip felt too heart sore to even want to consider getting up. It was only his Starfleet training that forced him out of his bed, and into the bathroom. A quick shower later, he was on his way down to Engineering. Food was out of the question this morning; there was no way it would stay down.

In the end, the report he was to have delivered to Archer on the Bridge got sent up with an Ensign, and Trip put in a very long day down in the Engine room. It was well past supper, almost 21:00 hours before he finally headed back to his quarters via the mess, grabbing a sandwich out of the cooler and some iced tea. He had tried hard to lose himself in his work, and on a few occasions almost succeeded, but not quite. He took a long shower, turning the water up as hot as it could go and tried to ease his muscles some, and once he was clean, choked down some of the sandwich and drained the iced tea before collapsing on his bed once again. He tried to sleep, but no such luck. At 02:00 he finally gave up and went into his closet looking for the bottle of bourbon he had smuggled away for an emergency. He drank with serious intent, and it didn't take him long to drown his pain - by 03:10 he was out cold.

Archer had spent a quiet day on the Bridge, he was less than surprised when the Ensign had turned up with the Engineering report from Commander Tucker. He had anticipated that Trip might well avoid him for the next while. After his duty shift, he spent some time catching up on "paperwork". The damn stuff seemed to pile up and multiply every time he turned around, and he could never quite get ahead of it. Finally exhausted he dined in the Captains mess with T'Pol, and retired to his quarters. He again contemplated seeking out the Commander, but decided to give it one more day.

When Trip awoke the next morning, he was disoriented and hurting. He was also confused. It seemed the Doctor was in his quarters? No, that couldn't be right. The voice persisted though, "Phlox to Commander Tucker…?". Trip lurched out of bed, and promptly fell on his face. He crawled to the desk, hit the comm and croaked;

"Tucker here"

"Ah, Commander, I was beginning to worry. Is everything ok?" the Doctor's voice came back.

"Yeah, everythin' is fine Doc. I jus', well, nevermin'. What can I do for ya?"

"Actually Commander, I have something I'd like to discuss with you regarding your recent interactions with the Vissians, and I was wondering if you could stop by Sickbay sometime today?"

"Uhhh yeah, no problem Doc. I uh, think that I'm on duty in….Oh gawd! I'm on duty in 10 minutes! But uh, I should be done by 17:00 or so, I can stop by then if ya like?"

"That's fine Commander, I'll see you then, Phlox out"

Trip dragged himself into the shower and made shrift of washing and shaving, barely making it down to Engineering within the allotted 10 minutes. He was bleary-eyed, and grumpy, with a hell of a hangover and a queasy stomach to boot. All in all, it was not a pleasant day for the crew of Engineering. In fact there was a collective sigh of relief when Trip left 5 minutes early to make his appointment in Sickbay.

Phlox regarded the Commander as he entered Sickbay, and noted the Commander's bloodshot eyes, hunched shoulders and weary carriage. It seemed the Captain's hunch had been right on the money. But then Phlox had expected no less given the two men's intimate involvement with one another. The Commander's reaction to the proposed counseling sessions was also exactly what the Captain had predicted and it was only the fact that it was a direct order from the Captain himself that had stopped the Commander from completely losing his temper. He had reined himself in with admirable effort, agreed to be available at the times Phlox requested, and left Sickbay radiating anger and frustration. It seemed Phlox had his work cut out for him; the Commander would not be one to give ground willingly.

His Chief Engineer's behaviour was not lost on the Captain. Indeed the ship was far too small for any of the idiosyncrasies of each of her crew to go unnoticed. However, while the Commander might not have known it, Archer had been keeping his eye on his wayward lover, and was waiting for the right moment to make his move. He still didn't know how he was going to handle the Commander. There had been instances previously where he had taken Trip down a peg or two, and reprimanded him thoroughly for his behaviour, but nothing of this magnitude had ever come between them before either professionally or personally, and certainly not since Trip had been placed under his direct command. The impact it would have on their working relationship was apparent in Trip's avoidance of the Captain, but the impact on their personal relationship, now that was another matter. Truth be told, Archer was still very angry at Trip. In terms of the professional side of their relationship, Trip had paid his dues, he had been formally reprimanded and was barred from away missions and shore leave for the next two months. But on the personal side, the price had yet to be set and exacted, and Archer felt that at the least an apology was due him, and Trip needed to openly acknowledge his error in judgment. In his own personal opinion though, Archer thought Trip was in need of something quite a bit more drastic than simply being made to apologize and acknowledge his error, but that opinion was based on a rather drunken discussion they'd had a very long time ago back on Earth, and he honestly wasn't sure how that would play out quite yet, if at all.

When Trip didn't show up in the Captains mess for dinner again that night, Archer decided the time had come to pay his Chief Engineer a visit. He finished his dinner in silence, and T'Pol sensing the Captain had other things on his mind that evening excused herself as soon as she had finished her meal. Archer sat back and contemplated how best to approach the Commander. After considering things from multiple angles, the Captain gave up. There was no telling what mood the Commander might be in, and therefore any further speculation was useless. He would just have to play it by ear.

He buzzed at the Commander's door, but there was no response. He tried twice more, calling Trip's name quietly, before he gave up and overrode the door with his command code, and let himself in. The Commander was sprawled out on his stomach on the bed in his regulation blues, there was an empty bottle of what appeared to have been bourbon and a glass on the floor beside the bed, and the cabin looked like a bomb had exploded in it. The Commander had never been the neatest person he knew, but this went into the realm of a natural disaster. There were clothes, towels, and miscellaneous personal debris everywhere, and unless he was mistaken, it appeared the entire contents of the closet had been hauled out into the center of the room. Archer shook his head as he surveyed the damage. Apparently the situation was much worse than he had anticipated. He was especially unimpressed with the empty liquor bottle, and sincerely hoped the Commander was not currently drunk.

Archer walked over to the bed and sat down gently beside Trip. He put his hand on Trip's back and started to gently rub in circles as he called him by name;

"Trip….Trip….hey, wake up…."

"Mmmmmphhh, whaddyawant?" was the muffled reply.

"Trip, it's me, come on wake up….we have some things we need to talk about…." He shook Trip gently.

An angry "Go away!" came from direction of the pillow.

Damn, thought Archer, he had wanted to start this on a "friend/lover" level, but Trip wasn't cutting him any slack.

"Ok, Commander, let's make that an order – wake up – now." Archer said pulling rank with no compunction, having decided it was time to get Trip's attention.

Trip came to with a start, the obvious overtone of command in Archer's voice compelling him to respond. He rolled over and looked into Archer's eyes, and then quickly shut his eyes again.

Archer stood up and pulled a chair over towards the bed so he could sit and face Trip, giving Trip time to sit up and come fully awake. Once seated Archer, looked back at Trip, but Trip would not raise his gaze to meet Archer's eyes. He sat on the edge of the bed and stared at his toes on the floor, and began to fidget. Archer waited him out. Sitting calmly and looking directly at the top of the tousled blonde head in front of him, he simply waited saying nothing. Minutes passed, Trip's fidgeting got increasingly agitated, until he finally dragged his gaze up by degrees until his eyes met and locked with Jon's. Archer wasted no time now that he had Trip's full attention.

"You're looking a little rough Trip, tell me, have you by chance been drinking this evening?"

Trip flushed and glanced guiltily at the empty liquor bottle, but shook his head.

"No sir, not tonight."

"I see, that was last night's amusement then I assume?"

"Yessir"

"Ok….look, Trip, I didn't come here tonight as your Captain, I didn't come here to heap further recriminations of a professional nature on you. I figure I raked you over the coals enough the other night, as was required of me in my capacity as your Commanding Officer, and you've paid your dues there. I'm here as your friend, your lover, and someone who doesn't want to see you hurting, but at the same time wants to make sure you've learned what you need to in order that this situation won't repeat itself again….does that make any sense?"

"Yeah, it does…an' I'm really sorry Jon…I mean really, really sorry….I don't know what else t'say…it won't happen again….honest…." Trip trailed off morosely.

"I know you're sorry Trip, how could you not be, I can see the remorse in you, I know this has got to be eating at you, Hell, I know you! This is not something you would brush off as insignificant, and yet, I can't help but wonder if I've really and truly gotten through to you this time. We've been here before you know…"

"I-I know…"

"So the question is, how do we make sure that this time is different, that you take away the lesson in this and don't forget it again the next time you get an idea in your head that reason and interference from others won't talk you out of?"

"I don't know Jon….I really don't know….I don't mean for things like this to happen ya know….it all starts out with the best intentions and then it somehow blows up in my face….ya said it yourself…we've been here before….well, yeah, we have…but I don't know why it keeps happening, if I did I'd just stop doing it wouldn't I?"

Archer sighed, putting his face into his hands and massaging his temples, noticing the dull throb that seemed to be building in his forehead, it seemed Trip really didn't understand why he kept doing what he did. It was time to up the ante a bit. As remorseful as Trip was, the lesson had not yet apparently hit home, and Archer really didn't want to be in this situation again in a few months time. No, this had to end here and now. Until Trip was undeniably aware of the repercussions of this type of behaviour it would continue to happen, so it was up to him to make Trip aware of those repercussions.

"I'll say it again Trip, you always were impulsive…and this can be an endearing quality in you, as can all that curiosity of yours, and it's all part of what makes you an ideal person, and officer to have on this mission. But unchecked, that curiosity paired with your impulsive nature can be very destructive, as we've now witnessed on more than one occasion."

Archer paused slightly before continuing.

"Let's look at this another way, you've often complained, as have I, that the Vulcans treat humankind like children who cannot make good decisions for themselves and so have to be controlled and watched carefully to be kept from making mistakes. Do you see that behaviour like this simply reinforces their opinions of us? Tell me, Trip, how did your parents ever manage to handle you as a child? You must have been quite the handful?"

It was a loaded question, and one he knew the answer to, at least in part, but Archer held his breath and waited to see what response he'd get.

Part 2

Trip smiled ruefully, shaking his head and remembering.

"Yeah, I was a handful alright…always getting into some scrape or another…my poor folks….they sometimes said I spent almost as much time upended over my Dad's knee as I did actually getting into the scrapes that landed me there…"

Ok, here we go, Archer thought, now what? He thought for a moment and then asked quietly.

"And did that work Trip, when you paid the price over your Dad's knee, did you ever repeat the offense that landed you there?"

Trip went completely still, apparently seeing where this was going at last, and lowered his eyes back down and resumed his contemplation of his toes and the floor before he replied very softly.

"No, I didn't Jon, once was usually enough for me, I didn't make a habit of repeat offenses."

Archer knew what the next question had to be.

"Why do you think that was Trip?"

There was no response.

"Trip?"

Silence.

"Answer me Trip" Archer pressed

Trip shuffled his feet on the floor a bit more, and then answered so faintly Archer almost couldn't make out the words.

"'cause it was embarassin' an' it hurt like hell…an' I didn't like to disappoint them…they always wanted me to make 'em proud and I felt awful whenever I let 'em down…but I knew when it was over, they'd forgive me, and still love me".

That was the response he had been waiting for.

Archer reached out his hand and gently gripped Trip's chin, tilting his face back up so he was looking Jon in the eyes again.

"Is that what it's going to take Trip, do you need me to make it clear to you that for you to repeat this behaviour is not acceptable under any circumstances. Do you need me to lay down the law on this issue? Because if that's what it's going to take, then rest assured I'll do it. I have to tell you honestly, I most certainly do not want to be having this conversation again in two months time, the price is simply too high. It is hard on you, hard on the crew, hard on me, on us, and on you, not to mention that in this case it also cost a life, so I really don't think we can afford ourselves the luxury of this going on any longer, do you agree?"

Trip tried to pull away from Jon's grip, but Jon held him fast.

"I said do you agree?"

"Yes…." Trip sighed.

"Yes, what?" Jon prompted, wanting Trip to mentally change gears to accommodate the shift in dynamic that was about to occur.

"Yes, Sir." Trip readily supplied.

"Ok then…." Jon stated, as he mentally prepared himself for what he was going to do next. To say this was unethical was an understatement of the most grandiose proportions, and Jon knew it. One simply did not use corporal punishment on one's subordinate, certainly Starfleet protocol did not allow for this in any way, shape or form, it would be assault, pure and simple. But the rules here were not as hard and fast as perhaps they appeared, they were in the middle of space and this was his best friend and lover, not just his subordinate. He would have to console himself with the fact that Trip seemed to need this from him, and Archer knew he would oblige his friend and lover with any request, whatever it's nature, whenever he could.

And it was a request, of that Archer was sure. Based on his initial suspicions from that drunken discussion back on Earth, and the way the conversation he'd just had with Trip had gone, Trip Tucker had all but asked his longtime friend to discipline him, however odd and unconventional that might be. He seemed to need it, and God knew, Archer thought, if it stopped this particular cycle from occurring again, it would be well worth it. But now, how best to proceed?

Drawing on his own experiences as a child, Archer formulated an approach and began to act on it.

"Ok Trip, I think we understand each other on this, and I think we both know what needs to happen here. I only have three more questions for you, and I need you to answer them honestly before we go any further. They are: Do you understand what I'm about to do, why I'm doing it, and most importantly, do you give me your consent for it to happen?"

There was a long silence as the reality of what they were talking about sunk in for both men.

Finally Trip answered in a shaky voice;

"I understand yer goin' ta punish me, and that yer doin' it 'cause you care about me, an' you want me to learn this lesson so we don't end up in this situation again….." Trip's voice cracked and he had to clear his throat to continue "…and yes, I give you my consent…" he finished softly.

Ok….that was it. Archer stepped things up a notch as he shifted his demeanor to be somewhat closer to "Captain Archer" while still retaining some of the more intimate bond with his friend and lover. It was important that there be no question that he was the one in control here.

"Ok Trip, you've given me your consent which is important to me, and I think you understand what is going to happen here in just a minute, and why it is going to happen, but just in case there's any doubt let me run through it with you quickly. In a minute I'm going to ask you to come over here and brace yourself over the chair I'm currently sitting on. Then, I'm going to lower your shorts, and then I'm going to punish you, very much the way I imagine your Dad used to. In short, I'm going to spank you. I want you to know, that I'm not going to go easy on you, since that would defeat the purpose. There's no doubt in my mind that you've earned this, if there were we wouldn't be having this conversation, so you're going to get exactly what you've earned, no more, and no less. I know you know this, but I'm going to say it anyways, it's going to hurt Trip, and it'll probably be pretty bad, but I want you to know I'd never seriously harm you. Do you understand that? Do you trust me on that?"

"Yes sir" was the mumbled reply.

"Ok then, moving on, the reason I'm punishing you is because it has become clear to me that in order for you to finally learn this lesson, extraordinary measures are needed, and this appears to be what it will take to get through to you based on your own admissions."

Archer paused for a moment before continuing.

"You appear to trust me to do this for you, and I have no problem obliging you on that, I love you and would do anything to help you avoid this kind of hurtful situation again. In fact, I actually think it's a rather fitting punishment for the crime."

At this comment Trip's head snapped up and their eyes met.

Archer gave a small smile, "Your childish impulsiveness and lack of desire to follow instructions, no matter how good your intentions were is what got you into this situation, so it seems only fitting that you pay the price a child would pay, don't you think?"

Archer smiled broader, and Trip saw the smile extend to his eyes. Trip had barely been breathing for the last couple of minutes, this was all moving so fast and he was trying hard not to panic. His own poorly understood desire for this punishment and the absolution and forgiveness it offered was warring with the concerns he had about putting his friend and lover in this odd position. There was also a healthy level of fear for his poor hide thrown in. Archer was a strong man, and was thorough in everything he did – this would not be a picnic. Seeing Archer smile, made Trip briefly wonder whether perhaps he could simply deliver a heartfelt apology and then they could both move on and leave the issue behind them without this having to go any further.

Archer seemed to sense the change in the thoughts of his friend, and he cocked his head and looked deep into Trip's eyes before continuing. "I do love you Trip, and I do forgive you, but unless you can give me a really good reason why we should drop this and forget we've had this conversation, then I think we're through talking, and it's time for you to take your punishment."

"Yes sir"

"Ok Trip, up you get then. Come over here and brace yourself over the back of this chair." Archer said as he got up off the chair and turned it around.

Trip slowly got to his feet, his brain still having problems processing the turn of events. He was about to get his ass spanked by his Captain, best friend, and lover for God's sake! This was just…unbelievable…and yet, deep down, he knew it to be what he needed. He needed Jon to punish him for this, so he could start to leave it behind and move on, so he could concentrate on making Jon proud of him again. He was so tired of the ongoing recriminations and guilt that had been haunting him for days now.

He made it to the chair, but was clearly unsteady on his feet. Archer reached out and put his hands on his lover's shoulders and looked him in directly the eye. "It's going to be ok. It'll hurt, and you'll probably cry, but it'll be ok." He whispered. "I'll be here with you, and I love you. I won't give you any less than you deserve, but I won't give you more than you can handle either. I need you to put your trust in me, it'll all be over soon and then we can move on, ok?"

Trip looked into his lover's eyes, and saw the love Jon had for him. He knew Jon would never seriously hurt him, and would only give him what he needed.

"Ok" Trip whispered back.

Jon embraced Trip quickly, pulling him in close and kissing him lightly on the forehead, and then in one smooth motion, turned him in his arms so he was facing the back of the chair. He gave Trip a second to adjust to the change in direction, and then applied firm pressure to Trip's shoulder pushing him over the back of the chair until he was bent over at the waist. "Ok Trip, I want you to put your hands on the seat of the chair to brace yourself and move your feet a bit further apart so you can keep your balance" Archer said, and Trip immediately complied.

Archer moved to stand beside Trip, to the left of the chair. Then without any further notice, he hooked his fingers into the waistband of his friend's briefs and lowered them to the knees. There was a small gasp followed by a stifled whimper from Trip at this action, and in response Archer put his right hand on Trip's back, and rubbed gently in a circle. "It's ok Trip, I'm here." He said quietly, continuing to rub.

Once Trip had regained a level of calmness, Archer decided it was time to begin. He moved his left hand to apply firm pressure to the small of Trip's back, and then moved the his right hand to rest on the swell of his friend's ass. Trip shivered lightly, but stayed calm.

"Tell me why you're here Trip," he ordered.

"Because and I put the ship and her crew at risk by not thinkin' through my actions and bein' reckless in a First Contact situation, and because my actions caused someone to take their own life…" was the response.

"And?" Archer prompted.

"An', because you expect your Senior Officers to set a good example for the rest of the crew, and instead I did the exact opposite, and directly disobeyed your command, by not listening to T'Pol."

"Damn straight!" Archer said with some heat "You've got to learn to follow orders Trip! I expect more from my Senior Officers and especially from you. You have enormous potential Trip, but you need to learn to follow orders and think your actions through before jumping into things."

"I let you down Cap'n, an' I know it…..I deserve this, and then some…..I'm sorry…." Trip mumbled.

"I know you are, but sorry isn't enough, and sorry won't undo the damage. I think you know that now, but just in case I'm going to make damn sure that you learn that this time around, starting right now." Archer replied, and so saying brought his right hand back in an arc and then forward again with great speed against Trip's right cheek. He followed that with another to the left cheek, and quickly established a steady pace as he proceeded to thoroughly punish Trip.

With the exception of an initial gasp as the first blow landed, Trip maintained a stoic composure, not allowing any sound to escape him. He managed well for a long time, but finally the stress of the situation, both physically and emotionally began to take its toll on him, and silent tears began to leak down his face.

Archer was not holding back, he knew instinctively it would be a mistake to go easy on Trip, but he hadn't anticipated that this would be so difficult for himself. Loving someone and actively causing them pain were at odds in his mind, and yet, this was what needed to be done. He only hoped the Commander learned from this, so he didn't have to do it too often. He realized that with this line having been crossed between them, it would be unlikely if it never needed to happen again, but he didn't really want too many repeat performances. It was emotionally draining to say the least, and that was just for him! What must Trip be going through he wondered? He snuck a glance at the Commander's face. There were silent tears falling down his face, and Archer's heart lurched. He knew it was almost over.

At long last a series of small sobs escaped Trip's self-imposed silence, and Archer immediately stopped the spanking. He rubbed Trip's back for a moment, and then, lowering Trip's briefs to the floor, slowly helped him to stand up and step out of them completely. He led Trip over to the bed and helped him to lie down on his left side facing away from him. He then curled up behind Trip spoon style, being careful not to touch his friend's well-spanked ass. Archer wrapped his arms around Trip and began to speak softly to him, whispering in his ear.

"It's ok, it's over now…go ahead and cry it out Trip…I'm right here, I love you and forgive you….it's all over now."

Trip did just that. All the pain, and guilt, and remorse began to bubble up and he let himself cry for a long while in his best friend's arms. He sobbed for the loss of the Cogenitor, for the guilt of having caused that loss, and for the pain he had caused the person he loved most in the world.

Archer let Trip cry, holding him tightly and continuing to whisper comforting words until at last the Commander had quieted himself.

After awhile, Trip started to struggle a bit.

"What is it Trip?"

"I wan' to turn aroun' to face you."

Archer smiled and got up off the bed briefly. There simply wasn't room to maneuver with 2 people on the small bed.

Trip started to roll over, but then hissed in pain as his sore cheeks met the bed, and promptly rolled onto his front fully exposing his red ass to Archer's view.

Archer moved over to the side of the bed and sat down beside Trip, as he surveyed the damage he'd done. Finally he gave a sympathetic smile.

"Unless I miss my guess, I think you'll be feeling that lesson for quite awhile."

Trip grimaced, but then gave an embarrassed smile, as his face flushed.

"I think yer right, Cap'n. It's been a long time since I've felt this, and I'm in no hurry to feel it again I might add."

Archer smiled again.

"You can lose the "Cap'n" Trip, we're here together, and we're alone. You can call me Jon. That hasn't changed."

Trip looked away. "I'm not sure how t' deal with this…I mean, will this change things, or are we going to pretend it didn't happen? We kinda went in a new direction and I didn't really have time to think things through before we did it, ya know?"

"I know Trip, I know. But I don't think it was a bad thing. I don't think it'll change things too much. I still love you. You are still my one and only true love, my best friend and my soul mate. I still want to spend the rest of my life waking up with you beside me. None of that has changed. I don't see those things ever changing. You are part of me. Now, what has changed, is that I finally acted on something I think you've needed from me for a really long time, but that I was unsure how to give you."

Trip looked up surprised, "What?"

"You're an ebullient soul Trip. You're a strong leader because you lead with passion and conviction. The problem is you don't always engage your common sense, and you get carried away. You were a handful as a child as a result, and I guess old habits die hard, because sometimes you are still a handful."

Archer stopped, debating whether to tell Trip the whole truth. It would be best he decided, and then began, choosing his words carefully.

"Do you remember that night after we got back from our survival training in Australia? We'd gotten back to the hotel late in the afternoon, and after we had finally gotten cleaned up and had some decent food, we decided to have a few drinks?"

"Yeah, I remember…first time I got to eat my fill after what seemed like weeks of nothin' but snake meat, so yeah I remember….but what about it?"

"Well, we got rather drunk if I remember correctly, and our topic of conversation turned to our childhoods. It was very clear to me that you loved the fact that your parents had been your biggest supporters all your life. You said you wanted nothing in life but to make them proud. You told me about how you had been brought up and that even though they were hard on you sometimes, you always knew they loved you. Then you told me some stories about the kind of scrapes you got into, and how your parents disciplined you."

Trips eyes had opened wide during the last of Archer's remarks, and now he blinked. "I told ya all that?" he asked.

"And quite a bit more too actually. I gather you always liked that the consequences for your actions were timely and then when it was over, it was over, and there were no further recriminations for it. You knew your parents still loved you that you were forgiven, having paid the price for what you'd done."

"Oh gawd…" Trip mumbled and buried his face in the pillow.

"Trip, look at me….Trip? Come on…" Archer pulled the pillow away.

"Look, you don't need to be embarrassed. It's ok. I'll let you in on a little secret, Trip, my hand has positively itched to give you what you've asked for on any number of occasions over the last couple of years, but I've never acted on it until now. You've pulled a few stunts in your time, but it was never that serious. But this time it most certainly was, you definitely had it coming to you, no doubt about it. So I gave you what you deserved, and what you so obviously needed. What's so wrong about that?"

"Nothin', I guess" Trip hedged.

"Then, why are you so worried?"

"Oh Jon, it's just that I just don't want to lose what we have because of this "development". I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm glad ya decided to deal with me in this way. I can handle this kind of punishment much better than ongoing recriminations, the cold shoulder or the silent treatment from someone when I've screwed up, and especially from you. And we both know that in this case, I did screw up huge. I'm not sorry that ya handled it this way, I'm just scared to lose what we had because of this."

"Well I'm not worried about that Trip. It's not like I'm going to start whaling on you every chance I get, with no provocation, or discussion about the matter. We'll continue on just the way we have so far I imagine, but now we have this as an option for when we run into situations like this one. As far as I'm concerned when the need arises, I will definitely consider it an option, and if I'm considering it, you'll know about it, and we'll talk about it, like we did tonight. Without your consent I would never consider implementing it as a solution, for that matter, without your consent I would never lay a hand on you. I will only do that if you need me to, and you consent for me to do so. Without that, it's off the table no matter what the case might be, ok?"

"Ok. I think I can deal with that."

"Are you ok, with what happened here tonight then?"

"Yeah, I'm sore as hell, but I'm ok. I don't feel so damned depressed anymore, and I feel like things are ok between us again. I don't think I'll be sittin' comfy for awhile, but I also don't think I'll be disobeyin' orders again any time soon" Trip said smiling sheepishly "How about you, are you ok with it?"

"I agree with you. Things are ok between us again, and that being the case I think it was well worth it. Now, let me just see if I can find something that might ease your pain a bit, and then maybe we can move on to some happier activities, if you're up to it that is?" Archer smiled, desire now glinting in his eyes, and he raised an eyebrow suggestively.

Trip rolled onto his side and grinned right back at him.

"Oh, I'm up for it alright"

It took Archer a mere glance at his friend's body to confirm that Trip was indeed "up" for it, and laughing out loud he headed to the bathroom to get something to ease Trip's discomfort.

Now for the good part he thought to himself. They seemed to have weathered this storm, and everything was going to be just fine.

- End -