Set around episode 39. Archer and Kimberly's distinct ways of motivating their pet alchemist.
The sound of Kimberly's voice, combined with the almost delighted tone with which he spoke, made Tucker look up in startlement, dropping the screwdriver he'd been using (or attempting to use, with his clumsy paws). It clattered on the worktable, next to the State Alchemist watch he'd been disassembling, as he looked up nervously. "What?"
"I said you're a monster," Kimberly said cheerfully, looking at him from the other side of the worktable. "You know that, right?"
The basement in which Tucker did his work was almost stiflingly hot, the desert heat creeping in anywhere it could and the air stubbornly refusing to circulate. Tucker had discarded the huge trench coat he normally wore, but there was no getting rid of his thick, coarse fur, and the heat was making him slow and sluggish. He blinked at Kimberly, trying to determine the best way to respond.
But Kimberly apparently took Tucker's silence for disinterest, for he suddenly grasped one of Tucker's long, bat-like ears and twisted hard. "Are you even listening to me, you freak?" he asked, as Tucker cried out in surprise and pain. "I asked you a question."
"L-let go of me!" Tucker tried to be fierce, but mostly he sounded afraid. He knew very well what those hands of Kimberly's could do. For his part, Kimberly ignored him, twisting again sharply, a cruel smile on his face. Tucker pushed away from the worktable and stumbled back, scared and cringing. Kimberly just smirked and vaulted over the table, scattering tools and watch parts onto the dirt floor, and moved towards him.
"A freak," he said again. "That's what you are." He reached down and scooped up a handful of dirt, and reached into his pocket for something Tucker couldn't see. "Filthy, twisted, disgusting freak of nature." He was smiling as he said it, grinning viciously up at Tucker. Up! It was shameful. Tucker was much larger than Kimberly, stronger; yet he backed up, wide-eyed and frightened, until he had pressed himself to the wall of the cellar. The chimeras in their cages growled apprehensively at Kimberly, but Tucker himself made not a sound.
Kimberly stopped a few feet away, looking at him nastily. "Well? Say something."
Tucker opened his mouth, but he couldn't think of anything to say - he had no idea what Kimberly wanted to hear, what would make the Crimson Alchemist just go away and leave him alone.
"Come on..." Kimberly said, pressing his hands together. "Make some /noise/!" And he flung the fistful of dirt into Tucker's face.
Except it wasn't dirt anymore --- the dark little clumps clung to Tucker's fur and then exploded, and Tucker did make noise; cried out in surprise and dismay, and then pain, as his fur caught fire in half a dozen places. Kimberly laughed as Tucker tried to beat out the fires with his large, furry hands, and stepped out of the way of the panicked, lumbering chimera. As Tucker stumbled forward, Kimberly raised a foot and kicked him in just the right spot to knock him off balance, onto his furry stomach.
Tucker yelped as he hit the ground - the fall had smothered the rest of the fires, but now dirt was being rubbed into the burned places, and more importantly, Kimberly was standing over him, his boot planted on Tucker's human chest. The man leered down at him, grinding the sole of his boot painfully into the bare skin. And Tucker could have grabbed Kimberly's leg in a vise-like grip, twisted, knocked Kimberly on his ass, quite possibly broken his leg to boot. But he did none of those things - too afraid and too weak to fight back.
Kimberly replaced his foot with his knee as he lowered himself down, pressing the bone into Tucker's solar plexus. "Filthy little monster," he repeated, almost a purr this time, and reached down to take hold of Tucker's ear again.
"L-let go..." Tucker said, more like a whimper this time, hurting all over from the burns and Kimberly's knee and the awkward angle of his neck -
Kimberly just smiled - Tucker heard a crackling as of electricity, felt an unnatural heat flowing into his skin from Kimberly's hand - then pain - he was screaming -
"Major Kimberly!" a cold voice snapped.
Kimberly tore his eyes away from the creature under him, with a great effort: it was so fascinating like that, /mesmerizing/; twisting its head from side to side, screaming, clutching at its bloody ear. He looked up at Archer, standing in the doorway. "What is it, Colonel?" he asked innocently, almost inaudible over the sound of Tucker's screams and the din the chimeras were making, now that they'd scented blood.
"You shouldn't be down here," Archer told him, narrowing his eyes. "Mr. Tucker is doing important work; you should not be... distracting him. Not to mention it would be better if the majority of people in this facility did not know of his presence, or yours, and that cover is rather difficult to maintain if you insist on making such a racket. Now, please return to your quarters." It was phrased as a request, but the tone of the man's voice brooked no argument.
Kimberly smirked and got to his feet. "Just keeping the animals in line, Sir," he said smoothly, moving towards the stairs. He cast one glance back at Tucker; the freak was sitting up now, whimpering, its shoulders hunched and both paws covering the tattered remains of its ear. As he headed up the stairs, smiling and humming to himself, he heard Archer speak.
"Get up, Mr. Tucker, and calm your animals. Then I'll take a look at that ear."
It hurt like nothing else had ever hurt before, and he wanted nothing more than to just curl up in a dark corner and hide until the world seemed safer. But as always, he did as he was told. He tried to ignore the pain and wiped the blood off his hands, then went around to each cage to calm the creatures inside. Some of the stupider ones only required soft, gentling tones and a soothing pat on the head; others needed verbal reassurance that the fighting was over. A few, of course, laughed at him, but some of the others expressed concern for his ear, which he found surprisingly touching. One even growled and promised to bite Kimberly's arm off next chance he got.
"I'll bet he tastes horrible," the one next to him warned.
Tucker smiled affectionately and rubbed the first one between the ears. "Just don't get yourself into trouble," he said.
Once the chimeras had been soothed, and gone back to eating or sleeping or just watching, Tucker shuffled over to Archer. The Colonel had set up a first aid kit on Tucker's worktable, although from where he had procured it was anybody's guess. "Sit," he commanded, nodding at the bench, and Tucker did, still a little apprehensive. But he tried to hold still as Archer began examining him.
"Hmmm...' Archer was saying, as if to himself. "Several damaged areas, skin flayed off, burned straight through in two places..."
Tucker hissed with pain as something cool touched the hot, raw flesh on the back of his ear; then the hiss became a strangled whimper as the coolness suddenly started to burn and sting. But he forced himself not to move.
"It's disinfectant," Archer told him evenly, dabbing at the burned areas with what felt like a wet piece of cloth. "Can't have you getting an infection and losing productivity... that wouldn't do any of us any good. Hmmm... " he dabbed carefully at the raw places. "If you had a human ear we could just put a bandage right over it, but that won't work here... hold on." The sting of the disinfectant went away, to Tucker's intense relief. Then, a moment later, he felt a narrow length of wood being laid beside the ridge of cartilage along the top of his ear. "I'll splint it to keep it straight," Archer was explaining, "and wrap it up. At least until the wounds aren't open anymore." Tucker felt him started to wrap gauze around his ear, and it hurt -- he gritted his teeth, gripped his knees very tightly and tried not to move or make noise.
There was the snip of scissors as the gauze was cut, and then Archer was saying, "Done. What else did he do?"
Tucker swallowed. "Um... b-burns. O-on my chest and stomach, mostly..."
Archer came into view then, head bowed to inspect the damage. "Mmm... doesn't look too bad," he said matter-of-factly, "But I'll put some salve on them, just in case."
"Y-you don't have to..." Tucker tried to protest.
"Nonsense," Archer said, attention focused on a burn on Tucker's chest. Tucker suddenly realized he could smell Archer, clean and fresh and slightly... blue was the only word he had for it. "Somebody has to, and you'd just make a mess with those fingers of yours..."
Tucker had to admit he had a point. Just opening a watch was an arduous process, when his fingers were twice their original thickness and half their normal length. He hated to think what a mess he'd make with a bottle of burn salve.
Besides, Archer's fingers were cool against his burns, and Tucker was surprised (and more than a little embarrassed) to realize that he was enjoying the man's touch. It was shameful, but he couldn't help it; when was the last time someone -- anyone -- had touched him like that, gentle and soothing?
He bowed his head a little, smiling slightly with embarrassment. "...Thanks," he said, in his soft, breezy voice.
"I'm almost done," Archer said as though he hadn't heard. "Oh, hold on, there's one more..."
To Tucker's surprise, Archer reached up to touch the chimera's cheek. Tucker hadn't even realized he'd been burned there, since it hadn't actually caught fire, and he'd had so many other things to worry about. And now Archer was touching him there, fingers cool and surprisingly gentle, and he couldn't suppress a shiver. The pain of the burn didn't detract from the feeling - rather, it heightened it, made the cool touch feel even better. He felt himself relax, sighing and closing his eyes.
Archer suddenly stopped. Tucker tensed up again. "I'm sorry..." he said at once, eyes widening as he looked at Archer. "...I-it's just that... I..."
"...You just haven't been touched in a while," Archer finished, his face revealing nothing.
"...Yes," Tucker whispered, his gaze dropping. "I'm sorry..."
Archer was still for several moments, neither moving nor saying anything. Then Tucker felt Archer touching his right paw, and he was so surprised he offered no resistance as Archer lifted and inspected it. He watched the man with wide eyes, holding his breath, not at all sure what Archer's intentions were.
As for Archer, he seemed truly fascinated with Tucker's hand. He ran his own pale fingers over the short, furred digits, around the leathery pads on fingertips and palms, along each blunt black claw. Tucker shivered again, the skin there more sensitive than he'd realized. "S-sir..." he began.
"Hush," Archer said without looking up, and Tucker shut up.
Archer's hand moved up Tucker's arm from his palm. Tucker bit the inside of his lip - it felt so /strange/, when Archer moved against the fur instead of with it, it tickled in such an alien way... and then Archer's fingers reached the human arm that arched around the animal shoulder. Tucker gave a soft little gasp as Archer trailed his fingers along the pale arm, all the way down to where the hand disappeared into coarse fur. Archer noticed Tucker's reaction and promptly did it again, stroking back up this time, with just the ends of his nails, and Tucker had to swallow a moan.
He leaned forward, exposing more of his human side, and to his great relief Archer continued to explore instead of pulling away from him. Tucker closed his eyes, just letting himself feel the slender fingers skimming over his chest, the top of his stomach, his ribs, collarbones, throat...
"How long has it been?" Archer asked quietly when Tucker moaned again. "Since someone touched you like this?"
"Hhh..." Tucker tried to remember, but that required thinking, and thinking wasn't something he was terribly good at right then... "S-six years...?" He could hardly believe it himself, that he'd gone so long without having felt anything like this. He was completely exposed, throat bared and chest and stomach unprotected, almost like a dog submitting to his master. It was an analogy he was potently aware of, as Archer stroked his skin slowly, and Tucker whimpered, craving more.
"Too long," Archer told him, and then all of a sudden Archer had moved around from Tucker's side to his front, and then Archer was kissing him - hard and awkward and upside down, but still good, still more than he'd had in such a long time... He moaned as Archer's tongue slid into his mouth, and he sucked at it, hungry and desperate, fingers twitching in his lap with the urge to grab Archer and pull him close... and he might well have done so, had his body still been anything approaching human. But instead he just balled his fingers into fists, kissing Archer back as best as he was able, and he left out a soft whimper of loss when Archer pulled back at last.
Tucker waited, frozen still, in case there was more to come... but when his eyes opened, Archer had straightened up, and was licking his lips with a thoughtful expression on his face. It took him a few moments for him to even notice Tucker was looking at him, his expression helpless and lost. Archer's thin lips twisted in a small, coy smile, and his fingers trailed along Tucker's jaw line. "Never let it be said I don't do anything nice for you," was all he said, before turning to go.
"No..." Tucker tried to say, "Please..." he didn't want Archer to go, didn't want to lose the bizarre moment that had allowed this to happen, didn't want to go back to being a monster, no contact, no touch... he hadn't really missed being human till Archer reminded him what it could be like... "Please don't go..."
"Get back to work, Tucker," Archer commanded coolly, walking up the stairs without looking back. "I want the experiments ready by the end of the week."
He was gone in a few moments, leaving Tucker sitting on his bench, feeling more isolated than ever, while the chimeras watched in wonder from their cages.