Liquid Sunshine @thylekshran
My Lips Are Sealed

Standing near the bridge turbolift waiting for the senior staff meeting to start, Trip watches Shran lean on the arm of Archer’s command chair as he chats casually with the captain about something he can't quite hear. Jealousy bubbles up from his throat and nearly chokes him. He can't very well deny how strong his interest has grown anymore, though he’s been trying his best to. Two weeks of feeling his heart pound at the sight of a blue hand or antennae turning toward him and Trip’s sure it’ll burst from the pressure the next time they're alone in a room.

“Are you unwell, Commander Tucker?” Phlox chirps at his side. Trip didn't see him come in and nearly jumps out of his skin.

“Not at all, Doc. Doing just fine.” That would have been more convincing if his voice wasn't high and anxious, but he covers his tracks with a sly thumb jabbed toward Archer and Shran. “Just looking for some new gossip to spread around the mess.”

Phlox looks quizzically in their direction. “Commander Shran and the Captain?”

“Look at ‘em,” Trip says, pressing the bitterness into his chest and holding it down. “Now, I don't know about Denobula, but where I come from that’s called flirting.”

“Commander Shran regularly drops into sickbay to discuss with me the challenges of living on a human vessel and has never once mentioned a romantic interlude with Captain Archer,” Phlox says, and though his tone is neutral and informative Trip knows there's an implication in the statement. The blush creeping up his cheeks robs him of deniability.

“Don't go telling no one,” Trip mumbles. “Malcom’ll never let me live it down.”

“Never fear, Commander Tucker - doctor-patient confidentiality is very important to me. What is it you humans say? Ah yes, my lips are sealed.”

Anxiety aside, Trip knows Phlox isn't a liar, and nods curtly. “Thanks.”

Phlox gives Trip his usual cryptic smile, and says nothing more.

--

By the Throne of Uzaveh, is Shran tired. It's not unusual; Andorians’ fast metabolisms mean they burn out fast and Shran’s persistent anxiety burns him out even faster, but he hasn't slept so poorly since P’Jem, and he doesn't know why. He enjoys his new position and feels free, for the first time in his life, to socialize without the pressures of Andorian cultural norms. Nobody here is judging him for being unbonded so old or sticking to strict military protocols in conversation.

Yet more nights than not he’s awake until 0300 hours, idly reading up on Earth history or geography, unable to stop the grinding in his head as thought after thought interrupts his efforts to rest. And when he does eventually drift off, he has nightmares of death and destruction aboard Enterprise that make him wish he’d stayed awake.

He’s fed up. Something is wrong with him physically, he’s sure of it, and tonight is the night he’s going to find out what.

Phlox is feeding one of his creatures when Shran comes in. He can never quite remember what any of them are called besides the bat, which is much too similar to a winged mammal of Andoria that terrified him as a child. Not that he would admit it. After a quick glance to its cage to ensure it’s locked away he makes his presence known.

“Doctor.”

“Commander!” Phlox looks up from his task and, when he sees Shran is uninjured, is genuinely delighted to see him. “So nice of you to stop by! I get so little company in the early hours.”

Shran nods, feeling slightly bad that he isn't here for just a friendly visit. He likes the Denobulan. He’s insightful and kind and always willing to lend an ear to his troubles.

“I was hoping you might know how to cure insomnia,” Shran says.

“That depends on what’s causing it! What are your other symptoms? Abnormal fatigue? Fever?”

He thinks on it. “My heart races intermittently and my attention span has been shorter than usual, but I believe those are caused by my sleeplessness rather than the other way around.”

“I’ll be the judge of that,” Phlox says, and gestures that he should lie on an examination table. Shran does as he’s told. He argued with his own CMO on the Kumari one too many times and learned his lesson about defying medical professionals.

Scanners are loathesome, in Shran’s opinion. The beeping is always too loud and his antennae pick up and fixate on whatever they put in the air to read his biosigns, which triggers his anxiety as well as the Andorian fight reflex. He spends most of his time in medbays in a dissociative state to avoid the discomfort.

This time, however, Phlox seems eager to engage him in conversation while scanning him, and Shran has to grit his teeth and bear it.

“How have you been since our last talk? I saw you spending time with Commander Tucker at our last movie night, I was glad to see you’ve found a friend among the human crew.”

At the mention of Trip’s name all the exhaustion in his limbs drains away like Phlox had shot him with adrenalin. To his embarrassment, the scanner goes wild.

He could die on the spot.

“Trip- Commander Tucker,” he corrects himself, “has been more willing than others to show patience with my slow adaptation.” He doesn't like the way Phlox looks at him, like he knows his secrets. “I suspect Archer discussed with him the importance of integrating me into the senior staff and assumed he would be easier to convince than Commander T’Pol.”

“Have you considered that, perhaps, Commander Tucker enjoys spending time with you? He does have a life outside of his work. Though I admit you wouldn't know it given his choice in conversational topics,” Phlox laughs.

“Of- of course he does,” Shran stutters. “But we are colleagues first. This is a professional environment.” Even as he says it he realizes that’s not how he feels at all. Fuck. He straightens up and holds his head high in defensive pride.

Phlox, damn him, just smiles. “May I ask what thoughts come to you when you try to sleep? They can be quite enlightening.”

“Nothing in particular,” Shran says, and again instantly knows he’s lying without meaning to.

He thinks of work, of all that he owes Archer, of fear. But he also thinks of Trip. He remembers the way Trip’s cool hand felt under his while they drank whiskey, how safe and welcome he felt with Trip’s arm around him, the charming way that he laughs, the sound washing over him like liquid sunshine.

Cursing his stupidity under his breath, he lets himself acknowledge the feelings that come with those memories for the first time.

“I do believe you’ve solved your own troubles, Commander.”

Shran hums affirmation. “Thank you, Doctor.”

“Thank me by taking better care of your emotional health. And getting some sleep!”

Sleep can wait a little while longer.

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