(Mirror Universe, Tucker/Reed.) Tucker finds himself having to deal with a particularly difficult new crewmate.
by dilly r
The new Empress perched at the Captain's old desk looking at a viewscreen.
"Tell me, Commander -- Or, may I call you Trip?"
Tucker furrowed his brow, finding himself taken off guard for approximately the ten thousandth time in the past few days. "My parents called me that." The Empress raised her eyebrows. "I mean. Sure. Who'm I to tell the Empress what to call me?"
She smiled. "You were very attractive, weren't you? Before the accident." She turned her viewscreen around, showing Tucker an not-quite-perfect mirror image of himself.
"How do I answer that?"
"You don't have to." She stood smoothly, gracefully. There was something serpentine in her movements. "Forrest and Archer never really appreciated what you do, did they? It's not everyone who would give up so much for such an unforgiving profession."
She was close to him -- a little too close for comfort, but he held his ground. She brushed her fingers against the ruined right half of his face.
"There isn't anyone else I want to keep my new engine running. I've been keeping track of you. You've shown dedication, skill, and impressive ability to improvise. Exactly what I need."
"I don't quite trust you, but I don't really care about trust. Look at poor Commander Archer. He only trusted two people on this ship -- Mayweather and myself. All I care about is loyalty. So, tell me." She leaned toward him, tilting her head. "What can I do to ensure your loyalty."
Tucker smirked. "I can think of something."
Five Years Earlier
It'd been a long year, and most of the Terran crew was happy to have some shore leave on Earth. Tucker stayed on the ship with the non-Terrans. He didn't trust them with his engine. He wanted to overlook the upgrades himself.
At least, that's the story he told Captain Forrest. It was mostly true.
"Five more repetitions if you please, Commander."
Tucker grit his teeth, forcing himself not to lash out at the doctor. He used to think the Denobulan's bedside manner amusing, but after five months of rehabilitation, he was more than sick of it.
His arm shook as he stretched the resistance cord again. And again. Three. Four.
"Very good! Seventy. A new personal best." Dr. Phlox chuckled cheerfully as he made a note in his records.
Tucker slid the metal band off of his bicep and set the contraption on the bed next to him. "You make any progress on that grafting technique for my face?"
"I'm afraid not, Commander. Just keep applying the gel I gave you. That should help improve the healing process."
"Is your gel going to help me see out of my right eye any better?" Tucker pushed himself off of the biobed with his left arm, his good arm. "Is it going to make people stop cringing when they look at me?"
"What's the Terran phrase? Patience is a virtue?"
"Never said I was virtuous," Tucker sneered. "I'm getting back to the engine room. I'll do my endurance tests later."
"If you insist," Dr Phlox said, with notable disapproval.
Tucker really didn't care if Phlox disapproved. He was tired of spending half his time in that tiny zoo of a sickbay. It always smelled like ten species of shit.
The only other Terrans on the ship were repair workers, the engineers upgrading the systems, and the new MACOs. Tucker couldn't go anywhere in the ship without nearly being run over by some sixteen year old just out of training. They didn't have the first clue how to handle the close-quarters of a real starship, and they seemed to be under the bizarre impression that they were in charge of the ship's officers.
On the up side, they'd have those preconceptions beaten out of them quickly. On the down side, they'd get themselves killed just about as quickly as they got a hang on things, and they'd be replaced by another hoard of know-nothing soldiers.
Tucker groaned as he turned a corner to find three of them talking in one of the halls. They hadn't seen him. Maybe he could take another route to the engine room.
"Have you seen the chief engineer yet?" A young, shrill female voice. Tucker took a quick sidestep into an alcove.
"No, but I've heard he lurks in the shadows of engineering like the Hunchback of Notre Dame." An older male. Slurring British accent. "At night, he probably swings from the warp coils or what-have-you."
The girl laughed. "If that's what he's been doing, no wonder his face melted off."
Tucker's fingernails dug into his palm. It seemed like a pretty good idea to take out his phase pistol and run through the decks taking care of this little MACO problem before it went any further.
No. They'd just send more.
They'd begun walking again, and their footfalls were getting closer. He drew a deep breath and stepped back out into the hallway. He muttered an "excuse me" as he turned his shoulders to walk between two of them.
When he rounded the next corner, he heard the girl say: "Do you think he heard us?"
The next day, Captain Forrest came aboard to check on the progress.
"Can't say the Vulcans aren't good at engineering," Forrest said, peering over the shoulder of one of the workers near the warp core.
"Research 'n upgrades. Wouldn't want them in charge on the battlefield." Tucker kicked some tools and extra cabling out of the way. They hadn't expected a visit until next week, and engineering was a mess. "You might want to take a step back from that open panel, sir."
Forrest glanced at Tucker, as if he needed a reminder of what could happen in this part of the ship, and did as was suggested. "Have you met the new tactical officer?"
"Major Reed, right? Haven't had time."
"You'll make the time," Forrest said. "The two of you are going to be working closely with him, and I don't want another personnel problem with you at the center."
"I take it that's an order."
Forrest patted him on the shoulder. The left shoulder. "I know you don't like the MACOs. I don't either. But it won't hurt to make the gesture. Give the guy a chance."
An hour later, Tucker found himself standing outside of the Major's quarters with a bottle of Kentucky Bourbon and a fake smile. The door slid open, revealing a man that Tucker hadn't quite expected. He didn't fit the big'n'ugly model of a MACO commander at all.
Tucker cleared his throat. "I'm Commander Tucker, chief engineer. I thought I'd come around and welcome you onboard, since the normal welcoming party isn't exactly here yet. And, uh." He held out the bottle. "Welcome aboard."
As Reed took the bottle, he frowned like he'd swallowed something sour. "Thank you, Commander."
The voice. Tucker knew that voice.
"Would you, ah, like to come in, sir? I was just sitting to dinner."
"That's all right. Wouldn't want to interrupt," Tucker said, keeping his voice as friendly as possible. "In a few days, we'll be getting some parts in, and I'll need to work with you to re-align the new cannons with the command center."
"Of course," Reed said, backing away from the door even as he nodded.
Tucker put his hand over the door to keep it from sliding shut. "Oh, and, if you need anything before that, just swing by engineering. You'll find me lurking around in there somewhere."
Reed had the expression of a caught man still trying to feign innocence. Tucker suppressed a satisfied grin and released the door.
"All right, let's run the simulation again."
Reed slammed his fist against the console. "We've run thirty-eight simulations."
Tucker snorted. "Major, I know the recruitment flyers say it's all action and adventure on the 'high stars,' but this isn't like it was in the Navy."
"You're family's Navy, right?"
Reed rolled his eyes. "Am I supposed to be impressed that you remembered my personnel file?"
"No," Tucker said. "You're supposed to be impressed that I haven't read a damn thing about you. But that dagger you're wearing isn't standard issue. I had one something like that myself before Forrest called me up here."
Reed gave Tucker an unimpressed sneer and restarted the simulation.
Two high pitched beeps, then a low hum as the simulation failed again.
"These new cannons are touchy. You'd think they gave us prototypes."
"The pulsed phase cannons are effective, I assure you," Reed snarled through his teeth. "Perhaps the problem stems from all of the so-called battlefield modifications you've made to the ship, /sir/."
Tucker crossed his arms, leaning his hip against the side of the console. "Tell me, Major. How much field experience do you have. Out here, I mean. Not in atmo."
"I trained on the Montgomery. I've been in battle, if that's your question."
"Eight month training mission as an acting officer, huh?" Tucker shook his head. "When you're so far out there that you haven't been to Earth in a year -- haven't even been to a space station in five months -- you'll learn to appreciate your chief engineer's so-called battlefield modifications."
"With all due respect, if these cannons won't work with your ship, sir, we won't last a /week/, much less a year."
Tucker narrowed his eyes at Reed, forcing a tight smile. "Move over for a minute, Major."
Reed's eyes were fierce. For a moment, Tucker was sure Reed would hit him, but, slowly, Reed stepped aside. Tucker drew a deep breath and tapped out a new set of parameters for the simulation. He smiled to himself, then faced Reed. "Try it again."
Reed seethed, but he didn't hit anything this time. Tucker took a step back, and Reed grudgingly began the simulation once again.
After a moment, the computer chirped cheerfully, flashing the red letters /Simulation Complete/.
"My grandma always said: fortieth time's the charm."
"We'll see how it does on a real target," Reed grumbled.
Tucker shrugged. "For today, it's good enough. I'll get my men to make those modifications."
Reed jerked a nod and headed for the exit.
"Oh, before you go," Tucker said. Reed turned back only enough for Tucker to see him in profile. "That insignia on your dagger. Is it fifty-two or fifty-three years since they discontinued it?"
Tucker watched Reed's Adam's apple bob up and down with a thick swallow.
"You didn't even make officer in the Navy, did you? That blade's your daddy's," Tucker said. "Didn't know Starfleet was recruiting Navy castoffs these days."
Reed didn't say anything when he left, but as soon as he was out of sight, Tucker heard Reed's fist slam into the corridor wall.
Tucker dreamt of bells and of falling. And when he woke up, the bells still chimed. It took him a moment to realize that the sound was his door chime.
He'd fallen asleep at his desk, and his entire body felt as if it had been crumpled up and tossed aside like scrap paper. The door chime buzzed again, the noise piercing his skull. He muttered a curse and pushed himself to his feet and answered the door.
"This isn't any good." Reed held up the bottle of bourbon Tucker had given him. "So, I thought I'd give it to someone who'd enjoy it."
Tucker frowned, eying the bottle. It was half empty. "Looks like it took a hell of a long time for you to realize you didn't like it."
"I had to make sure. I didn't want to be... ungrateful." He pushed Tucker aside to enter the quarters. "Is this all? I thought a Commander would command a better room." He snorted at his own joke.
"Look... You don't like me, I don't like you. Let's just leave it a--"
Reed's forearm slammed into Tucker's chest, knocking him into the wall. Tucker's back it the control panel, and the door slid shut. "You don't know anything about me," Reed slurred. His breath was hot against Tucker's face.
"You're right," Tucker said, trying to keep his voice even. "Now, just back off, and we can talk about this."
Reed shook his head. "You don't know my father. My family. My life. I am not a castoff."
"We both did a little posturing. We could just let--"
"You don't understand." He pushed closer to Tucker, until his hip bones ground into Tucker's thighs. "You overhear one insult about your face. One. And you act as if I'm nothing but scum. You think it compares to what you said to me?"
Reed dug his elbow into Tucker's ribs. Tucker twisted as hard as he could, but Reed was stronger than he looked. He tried to push Reed's legs apart with his knees, to weaken Reed's stance, but... His thigh brushed something. Something hard.
The bottle of Kentucky bourbon hit the floor.
"What're you trying to do?" Tucker asked, sure that the fear was showing in his voice.
Reed jerked away from him. Tucker didn't know what he'd been expecting, but it hadn't been a look of terrified panic on Reed's face.
Tucker drew a deep breath, trying to calm his own nerves. "Like I said. You're just drunk" He spoke slowly, as if to a child. "I'd be happy to let bygones be bygones tomorrow. We can start over from the start. That Captain'll be mad as hell at me if we're feuding when he gets back."
Reed eyed him, his expression hardening again. He reached forward and took Tucker's chin, and forced it to the side so only the left side of his face was visible. "It wouldn't make any difference. It'd go the same way."
"I don't know about that. I sure wouldn't mention that dagger again," Tucker muttered, barely able to move his mouth.
Reed let go of his chin. "Both sides of your face should have been damaged. Then, there wouldn't be a problem."
"I'll remember that next time something blows up."
"Is that why you stayed onboard?" Reed asked. "So no one would see you like this? Old friends and old lovers and family, trying not to stare at what's happened to the face they remember?"
Tucker frowned, trying to make his expression as stony as Reed's. "I don't see how it's any of your business."
"Bet it's been a long time." Reed moved closer again. The panic that had been in his eyes before was now completely gone, replaced by something that made Tucker's heart race.
"An' again, I don't see--"
Reed's hand was between Tucker's legs. He squeezed, almost too hard, but not quite. Not quite, because Tucker could feel his body responding.
"I think we could both benefit from an... arrangement. I promise, if you give me what we both want, we won't be 'feuding' when the Captain returns."
Reed was already unfastening Tucker's uniform with disturbing speed. Tucker was sure he should argue. Sure he should end this now before it got out any more out of hand.
But Reed had been right. It'd been a long time.
So, Tucker didn't argue. He didn't say anything at all. Maybe later he could convince himself he hadn't been willing when Reed pushed him to the floor. When Reed pushed the right side of his face against the carpet, so that he didn't have to see it while he fucked him.
When Reed was finished, he whispered into Tucker's ear: "I won't be this desperate again." And he left.
The bottle of Kentucky bourbon lay where it had fallen on the floor, half-empty. Tucker felt a camaraderie with it as he picked it up and took a long drink.
Sickbay was strange without Dr. Phlox, even if it was a different sickbay, and Tucker found himself missing the crazy bastard. It was mostly empty now. Casualties were fewer and further between on the Defiant than they'd ever been on the Enterprise. They hadn't even needed a replacement doctor yet. One of Phlox's nurses did the job well enough.
Just one patient lay in sickbay today. One who'd taken some serious injuries a while back, but who was too stubborn to die from them. Tucker excused the nurse and sat next to the biobed.
"Commander," Reed said through clenched teeth.
"Nurse tells me you'll be on your feet in a couple of weeks."
Reed scoffed. "The good that will do me. Empress Sato knows that I was loyal to Archer."
"That's true. But she likes me."
"What?" Reed spat. "Am I supposed to beg you to talk to her on my behalf."
"Nope. I already did."
Reed looked at Tucker from the corner of his eye, not turning his head.
"No hard feelings about the torture, Ensign. What's a little torture between friends?"
"Oh, sorry. See, I could save your life, but I couldn't save your rank or your MACOs." Tucker shrugged. "All I could manage was a little job in engineering for you. Working under me."
Tucker stood, and Reed glared up at him, his remaining eye as fierce as ever. Tucker touched Reed's cheek. The left cheek. The cheek that had been ruined in the explosion. "We're the same now," Tucker said. "I have to look out for you."
"We're not the same," Reed growled.
"Right. I'm a commander and you're an ensign." Tucker leaned down, so that his face was close to Reed's. Close enough that he could only see the blurriest image of the scarred half of Reed's face through his bad eye. "I could talk the Empress into making it lieutenant if you just answer me one question."
Reed swallowed. "What?"
Tucker's lips hovered just over Reed's. He could smell Reed's breath, feel the heat of it.
He smiled and whispered: "Are you desperate yet?"