Sitting in front of the fire, his eyes resolutely tracking the movement of the flames, Malcolm tries to ignore that it's happening again.  Commander Tucker is watching him, surreptitiously yes, but still watching him.  Malcolm calls him 'Trip' to his face now.  Not always, but enough to remind himself that they are friends, or at least more than just shipmates. Still, it's hard to think of the commander in such informal, friendly terms.  He's not entirely certain why this is, nor does he wish to take the time to speculate.

Malcolm can't remember when he first noticed the intensity with which Tucker watches him, but he does know it increased after their time stranded in the shuttlepod.  Since then, he's noticed Tucker carefully watching him on the bridge, in the mess hall, during briefings, on away missions.  The man's been subtle, but Malcolm's made a life - a career, even - of being overly paranoid and highly aware of his surroundings.

At first he'd wondered what it was all about.  Then, he'd realised that Tucker watched him hardest of all when he was in public with Travis.  His relationship with Travis is hardly a secret, but neither is it public knowledge.  Tucker certainly knows, as do the Captain and Hoshi.  A few other crew members have learned of their relationship, but for such a small ship, the news doesn't seem to be travelling fast.

Then again, people certainly have more interesting issues to discuss, including the Suliban, T'Pol and their various encounters with aliens and alien technology.

He'd wondered at first if Tucker felt uncomfortable with same-sex relationships.  However, he hadn't been sensing hostility. Tucker is focussed, but it isn't malicious.    Eventually he'd realised that Tucker is...interested...in him.  The realisation had been baffling.

He's never considered himself an especially attractive man.  His flaws are numerous, and he doesn't fool himself into thinking he has much to offer a partner.  While it's true enough that he's had relationships with many women, they've never lasted long. Women learn quickly enough that he isn't what they want.  His track record with men is even worse - a few fumbling fucks, some anonymous releases of tension and lust.

His relationship with Travis is something new, something that is much different from previous experiences.  It's not that he's found undying love and balanced happiness with the ensign.  They're not inseparable and starry-eyed.  However, Travis has managed to slip past his barriers in some unexpected way.  He's relaxed around the younger man, something which has never happened before.

It would be easy to link this change to the necessities of life on a starship.  It's a small environment, and Malcolm is smart enough to know he can't move through the female population as he has during the past.  The crew needs to be cohesive - tensions with the armoury officer could lead to mistakes and security disasters.  On the surface, this makes a relatively stable relationship seem like the best option.

However, he knows it's more than that.  He's changing, a fact demonstrated by how quickly he unbent before Tucker on the shuttlepod.  Admitting that the Enterprise is like home surprised him - voicing the feeling only reinforced it.  He's always been a misfit of some sort or another, but somehow, things have begun to fall into place on the Enterprise.

Travis is just another example of that.

Still, he's baffled by Commander Tucker's interest in him. Although he'd assumed that Tucker was interested in women only, this is not the true source of his surprise.  Rather - Tucker is gregarious and open; generous with his time and his friendship in a way that Malcolm is not and never will be.  Tucker makes easy and close connections with the crew.  A man like that shouldn't be attracted to someone who is standoffish, paranoid and duty-driven, for all that he is changing slowly.

Certainly, he and Tucker work well together, despite their differences of opinion and miscommunication.  He admires Tucker's protectiveness and penchant for action when it comes to the ship, the crew, and especially the captain.  But, working well together doesn't seem like the basis for attraction.

Travis, on the other hand, makes him laugh in unexpected ways. He cajoles him into new things and surprises him with his quiet assessments of the ship, the crew and the various situations they find themselves in.  Travis also tends to fade to the background, for all his experience and place at the helm.  Malcolm is waiting for the day that Travis unexpectedly shines, surprising the rest of the bridge crew who too often take him for granted.  However, he suspects that when that day comes, the others will be otherwise occupied, and may miss it.

It boggles the mind to have two attractive individuals interested in him at the same time.  In the past, he might have taken advantage of the situation, spending time with both.

It's tempting to do so now.  Tucker watches him with an intensity that on occasion makes him want to reach out and lick.  Tucker gets so angry with him sometimes, he can only imagine what that degree of passion would be like if it were rerouted.  He's certain that Tucker is easily able to convey his affection and desire in bed.  He is probably also a talker.

Does Tucker ever takes the time to look at Travis as closely as he does Malcolm?  He tries to imagine the two of them together, Travis perhaps telling stories about engineering disasters on cargo ship runs.  He can picture the engaged and interested look on Tucker's face, and how it might slowly shift from professional interest in technological problems to physical desire.   His head helpfully supplies licentious images of the three of them, and for a moment he almost believes he can hear harsh breathing and gasped encouragements.  Flashes of skin - Travis' muscular arms, a delightful surprise when he first saw them; the imagined curve of Tucker's ribs; sweat-slick backs and a pale hand on a hard, dark cock - taunt him briefly, but with some effort he pushes them away.

As interesting as these speculations are, he knows that Travis sees him as more than a convenient fling on the ship.  He's fairly certain that he's beginning to return the feelings.  Certainly the Malcolm Reed of old wouldn't be thinking in this way.   In any case, he is reluctant to become involved with Tucker as well as Travis, and not just because of the potential work disruptions it might cause.

He realises he's been staring into the flames of the fire for too long.  He's automatically participated in the conversation around him, although he can't remember what they discussed.   It's probably best to get some sleep, so he rises and makes his good nights to the captain, T'Pol, and Tucker.  Something perverse causes him to briefly clasp Tucker's shoulder.  He's not surprised when Tucker excuses himself and also heads towards the tent.

They make ready for bed quietly.  Tucker asks him again about going hunting with the aliens, and again, Malcolm extends an invitation.  It's refused.  Slipping in separate bedrolls, and extinguishing the portable light, they say their good nights. Malcolm turns on his side, back to Tucker, willing his body into the easy breaths that lead to sleep.  It's a skill he's cultivated over the years. One never knows when the next opportunity for rest will be.

He falls asleep with the weight of Tucker's eyes on his back. It's different, if not unpleasant, from the weight of Travis' arm draped across his chest.


                        return to Unrequited

Series/Sequel: Sequel to Unrequited
Pairing:  R/M, a little bit of R/T
Rating: R
Spoilers: Up to Rogue Planet
Disclaimers: not my characters, not gonna steal them
Feedback: constructive crit, reviews, comments - all welcome and appreciated
Summary:  Malcolm's noticed that Trip's always watching.

Notes:  Both Kipli and Kim beta read and offered encouragement, which is much appreciated.   They also listened to me whine about how much I hate coming up with titles.  Thanks so much, both of you :)


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