He’s like a whole different person. Trip wrapped his arms loosely around Shran, running his fingers along the cold lines of his exoskeleton that broke up the warm plane of his chest. Trip wasn't sure what finally convinced him to stay the night, but he could guess the reasons he didn't want to; he looked vulnerable, and vulnerable was not something he could afford to be in a command position. Jon was the same way.
But if you really looked, Shran’s body betrayed the life he’d lived. He wasn't truly soft, couldn’t be, even in rest. Trip’s thumb caught on a notch in his exoskeleton and followed a line of scar tissue that stretched the length of his ribcage.
There were a frankly upsetting number of marks just like this one scattered across the Andorian’s limbs and torso. Shran never talked about them, but their conspicuous absence from his hands and face indicated a deliberate attempt to keep their existence private, so Trip hadn’t asked.
He snuggled protectively closer, trying to banish the unpleasant thoughts that came with speculation, and kissed the back of Shran’s neck.
Shran shifted and grumbled. “What time is it?”
“Then it’s too early for you to be feeling me up, Commander Tucker.”
“Sorry,” said Trip, grinning sheepishly into his hair.
“I don't think you are.”
“Nah, I’m not,” Trip agreed. “There's never a bad time to appreciate a handsome guy in your bed.”
Shran paused, lacing their fingers together absentmindedly. “You’re curious about the scars.”
It wasn’t a question. Trip blushed, caught red handed. “I don’t mean to pry.”
“It’s alright.” Despite the reassurance, Shran hesitated again.
Vulcans have it easy with that touch telepathy thing, Sure would come in handy at a time like this.
“Some of them are from my time with the Guard, obviously,” he said at last. “But most of them are from foolish schoolboy fights.”
“ Children did this?” Trip’s free hand found a particularly nasty ridge on Shran’s hip and traced it comfortingly.
“Any Andorian worth their salt learns to fight young.”
Trip held him tighter, trying to will his support and affection into Shran’s mind, telepathy or not. “All I mean is, they seem pretty extreme for what you’d get scrapping in a schoolyard.”
“When you think you're in love, you can place your trust in the wrong people,” Shran said. “As it happened, my first love wasn't interested in a kagaa thoph like me, and told the whole class about the shen who thought she was a thaan. ” He laughed ruefully and brought their intertwined hands to his heart.
“That’s awful,” Trip mumbled. It was lame, and he knew it. Shran shrugged.
“My people’s traditions can be archaic. Some say we only think we’re a different gender because Uzaveh never gifted us with spirits to guide us to the Whole. His forgotten souls, the incomplete.”
Trip’s rage built until he was nearly dizzy with it, a tirade against all of Andoria bursting out of him. “What do they know about your soul? What gives them the right-”
“Trip,” Shran cut in. He rolled over and laid his head on Trip’s chest, looking imploringly at him. “I put that anger behind me a long time ago.” Trip continued to boil, struggling for words. “I’m at peace with myself, and with Uzaveh. I just wanted you to know because I care for you.”
How can he be calm about it?! It’s bigotry, plain and simple! He opened his mouth to protest, but then it hit him. Shran knew exactly what it was. He was the one who suffered through it.
Trip was making this about himself.
He took a deep breath and levelled his gaze with Shran’s apologetically. “I’m sorry.”
With a gentle sigh, Shran pulled himself up and kissed Trip gently. “There’s nothing you can do for who I was then. He’s only a memory. What’s important to me is that you be here for me now.”
“Alright.” Trip leaned in for another kiss and felt Shran smile against his lips.
“If you wake me up again, I’m going to have you court martialed.”
Trip laughed, swatting his shoulder. “Gotta outrank me first.”
Shran grinned slyly. “Archer owes me one.”
“Aw, that’s not fair!”
He settled back on Trip’s chest and closed his eyes, still smirking. He’s so handsome I’m sure it’ll be the death of me, Trip thought, hands instinctively reaching to stroke his face and hair. One day I’ll up and have a heart attack just from looking at him.
“Tell you what,” said Shran. “I won't set the Captain on you if you make dinner tonight.”
“You got yourself a deal.”
Shran pressed one more kiss to his stomach before they dozed off together.