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Captain Archer was used to facing unexpected situations. Every day on a starship was a kaleidoscope of surprises, both good and bad, and he liked to think he was well practiced at taking them in stride. Hostile new species? Routine. Bizarre, deadly space phenomenon? He could deal with it. Outbreak of Rigelian fever? No sweat. (Well, a lot of sweat actually, but whatever.)

But he had to admit, nothing had prepared him for where he was now: sitting in the Kumari's medical bay with Commander Shran draped over him, helping his grumpy Andorian boyfriend lay an egg.

He'd been assured that nothing like this would happen, so it didn't seem entirely fair—but given that he wasn't the one who had to squeeze the damn thing out, he knew better than to say anything about it. Shran might actually kill him if he complained right now. He was well within range. But the fact remained that he'd been assured nothing like this was supposed to happen.

There were layers to how much nothing like this was supposed to happen. Not only was it supposed to take four people for Andorians to do anything reproductive, Archer had his shots every month, like a responsible Starfleet officer, and Shran was on a similar regimen, like a responsible Imperial Guardsman. Theoretically, there was absolutely no risk of awkward interspecies... incident.

So one fine evening they had gotten somewhat tipsy, confessed their mutual interest, lost most of their clothes, discovered that despite their differences they were pretty compatible, and went at it like rabbits. Archer had been preoccupied with not giggling every time he said the word “cloaca”, and Shran had been preoccupied with getting Archer to put his mouth to good use if he insisted on having a refractory period, and neither of them had been worried about pregnancy, or a goddamn egg.

They hadn't made any solid plans to cross paths again, either, so it had been baffling a few weeks later when the Kumari caught up to Enterprise in orbit around a nondescript planet where they were going to have shore leave. Shran had hailed and asked the captain, in strained tones, if he'd like to spend some time together. He'd said yes, of course. Shran's discomfort had been so obvious that T'Pol asked Archer flat out if he knew what was wrong as soon as the transmission was cut. But he genuinely had no idea. His best guess was a combat injury. Oh, how wrong he was.

It was one unpleasant shock after another to be directed to the medical bay, see Shran in the Andorian equivalent of a hospital gown, and be told that he was gravid.

What?”

“It's not fertilized, of course,” the chirurgeon continued, which was the one good piece of news in this mess. “But in a manner of speaking, it is yours, which is why I'd like to ask for your help. It's easier to lay with assistance from the people he's most attached to.”

“Of course I'll help,” Archer said automatically. Shran looked like he was doing poorly, his antennae were drooping and he was breathing a little too hard. It tugged at his sympathy. “I just don't understand...” He trailed off, there were so many things he didn't understand it was hard to know where to start.

“He's formed an emotional attachment strong enough that it disrupted his hormone levels and caused ovulation,” the chirurgeon said.

“I don't really know what that means,” Archer had to admit.

Shran reached out for his hand. Archer had to step closer to take it, and Shran pulled him in.

“It means,” Shran said, very quietly and very seriously, “that I love you.”

Archer felt something hot and glorious bloom in his chest. Although he could pretty well guess how Shran felt from their previous night together, neither of them had actually said it yet. He'd have bet good money that he would be the first to put it in words. Their relationship was continually surprising.

Shran, however, was not feeling the joy of discovery. He was wincing and bending over, curling into himself. Archer had his arms around him without even thinking about it.

“What do I do?”

And that was how he had ended up in a chair with Shran on his lap, straddling his thighs, huffing and puffing as he laid an egg.

Archer wasn't sure how long it was supposed to take, but it had been long enough that his legs had gone numb, and he was starting to worry. He could tell Shran was getting tired. He'd started out sitting very straight, only letting Archer hold him by the elbows, practically holding him at arm's length and unable to look him in the eye. Slowly but inevitably, he had surrendered to the exertion, leaning further and further forward by degrees, until now he was just laying on Archer, face buried in his neck. He barely offered any protest when Archer started rubbing his back and shoulders soothingly. At least, he hoped it was soothing. It was hard to tell what effect it was having, given how much grunting and panting and straining was involved.

“You're almost there,” the chirurgeon said. “One more push.”

“I don't want to push,” Shran grumbled into Archer's front. “I hate this.”

“You're doing great,” Archer said encouragingly, and patted his leg. Apparently it was the wrong thing to say, because Shran glared at him. But he was shifting, gathering himself for another effort.

Archer knew he was in love, because he thought Shran looked absolutely beautiful like this. Back arched, teeth bared, snarling with effort as he held on to Archer for dear life. For a second he looked so fierce that Archer thought Shran might lean forward and bite him for his part in bringing this on. But the moment passed, and he sagged into Archer's welcoming arms.

“Excellent,” the chirurgeon announced, reaching between their legs and retrieving the egg that was finally laid. It looked just like an absurdly oversize robin's egg: oblong and a beautiful shade of blue. Archer reached for it without thinking, and the chirurgeon let him run his hand over the shell. It was very smooth.

“It's so pretty,” he murmured.

Shran snorted. “It's terrible. I can't believe some people do that every month.”

“It gets easier with practice. But you won't have to, I'm upping the dosage tomorrow so it doesn't happen again. Oh, this is a big one.” The chirurgeon was scanning the egg and noting down measurements with an air of professional detachment. Archer decided he liked her.

“It certainly felt like it.” Shran slid off Archer's lap and wobbled toward his clothes, clearly eager to have the whole ordeal over with. Archer staggered to his feet too, waiting out the pins and needles in his legs. He wasn't sure Shran was supposed to be getting dressed yet, but he decided it was better for the chirurgeon to make the objection if there was going to be one.

“What do you do with it now?” he asked. Shran may have had little interest in the egg, which was understandable given how much trouble it had just caused him, but he found it fascinating.

“Eat it, of course,” Shran said, in a tone that indicated this was a very ordinary thing to do.

“You eat it?” Somehow, none of the events he'd just gone through had prepared him for this answer. He deeply regretted asking.

“WE eat it,” Shran corrected him, obviously offended by his reaction. “You want it to go to waste?”

“I—I don't know, I've never eaten anybody's eggs before!” Archer wished this day would just stop. Admiring the pretty color was one thing. Putting it in his mouth was something else.

“I should hope not!”

“It's considered romantic to eat your beloved's eggs,” the chirurgeon said. She sounded quite amused by his consternation. “My spouses and I always eat ours. I can have the kitchen prepare it later, they know what to do.”

“Okay,” Archer said helplessly. He could only hope it wasn't poisonous to humans.

“Well, Commander, I'm releasing you to quarters. Get some rest, you won't be on duty until tomorrow at least.”

“Thank you, Doctor,” Shran said stiffly, and began limping out, also stiffly.

“Captain Archer, could I prevail on you to go with him? He'll need your attention for a few hours.”

“My... attention?” Archer found himself suspicious at the way she had said it.

“Yes,” the chirurgeon said, and smiled at him instead of explaining.

“Come on,” Shran growled, and held out his hand for Archer to take. It really was an effective way of getting him to go places, he reflected as he escorted Shran to his quarters.

Various crew members nodded deferentially at them as they went. If anything about the scene seemed odd to them, they didn't show it. Archer wondered if he was holding up half so well. He was still off balance from being told he was expected to eat the egg. He wasn't sure he could handle that.

Then again, most of his relationship with Shran had been weird, and he had handled it pretty well so far. Shran himself had tasted a lot better than expected.

Shran's quarters were at the ideal temperature for Andorians, which is to say they were cold. Archer was surprised he couldn't see his breath in the air. He was determined not to complain, though, since Shran had started leaning on him in the course of the short walk and could probably use all the comfort he could get.

He helped Shran gingerly lay down in bed, and sat on the edge next to him, wondering what he was expected to do.

“Shran, what did your doctor mean when she said you needed attention?”

Shran made a noncommittal noise and blinked tiredly at him. “Just... stay with me?” was all he said.

“Of course,” Archer said, and stroked his hair. This seemed to satisfy Shran, who closed his eyes. He didn't seem to think it had an ulterior meaning. Maybe it didn't mean anything more than that he'd been through a tough day and needed to know Archer cared.

Speaking of which...

“Hey, Shran?” he said softly.

“Mngh.”

Archer leaned in close. “I love you.”

A smile tugged at Shran's lips, and he shifted a little in Archer's direction. “Thank you for saying so.”

“I can't believe you beat me to saying it, I thought for sure I would be making some sappy declaration, you know, because I'm a sentimental human and all.” Archer grinned. He trailed his fingers softly over Shran's face. It was really nice to see him in the moments when he wasn't all anger and challenge. He had a softer side that he didn't let out very often. Archer was aware of how lucky he was to see him so unguarded, and he cherished it.

He suppressed a shiver, realizing how cold he was getting. “Do you have any extra blankets in here?” he asked. Shran's quarters were mostly decorated with knives. It didn't really have a warm, welcoming, I-have-lots-of-fluffy-blankets vibe.

Shran twitched the covers down instead.

“Come on, then,” he said.

“Are you sure? I don't want to keep you from resting...”

Shran twitched his antennae in what Archer recognized as annoyance. “Come on, I know you like to cuddle. And I don't have any more blankets, so just get in here.”

Archer did like to cuddle, it was true. Shran had informed him that this was dreadfully sentimental. But since he was the one offering, there was no sense turning it down, so Archer toed off his shoes and joined his lover in the bed. This was much better than sitting in the cold, despite how awkward it was for them to arrange themselves in a space better suited to one.

Shran couldn't seem to settle. He kept moving around, seemingly unable to find a comfortable position while insinuated against Archer.

“Should I move?”

“That's not the problem,” Shran snapped. He seemed strangely bright-eyed. “Just hold still.”

Archer obeyed, and eventually Shran trapped one of Archer's legs between his own, snaking his arms around and holding him possessively. He was breathing hard as he settled his head on Archer's shoulder.

“Better?”

“You could say that.”

It wasn't an entirely satisfactory answer, but he decided to let it go. Instead he slid his arm chastely around Shran's waist. Andorians tended to run several degrees below human body temperature, but he wasn't too cold, just pleasantly cool. Archer found it very relaxing.

Shran, on the other hand, was not relaxing. He kept tensing up and squeezing Archer's leg. It wasn't painful, but it was starting to get worrying. This was the opposite of helping him rest. Archer already knew it would do little good to ask, but he didn't know what else to try.

“Are you okay?”

“Yes,” Shran said breathlessly, and squeezed him again.

“Are you sure?”

“I remembered why some people do this every month.” He was definitely grinding against Archer's thigh now, and panting against his shoulder. It was rather distracting.

“Does it... is it supposed to make you like this?”

“Right after a successful laying is the best time to ensure fertility,” and ooh, the way he squirmed against Archer when he said fertility was really tempting. Archer tried to keep his head.

“You seemed pretty unhappy about your fertility earlier.”

“And after all that, I think I deserve a consolation prize.” His hands had started roaming. That was dangerous; he definitely remembered the places he had found last time. “Might as well enjoy it before I get shot full of hormones in the morning.”

“...doesn't it hurt?”

“It aches,” Shran moaned, but he didn't sound like he was in pain. He was moving against Archer's hips now. They were both panting a little. Shran took Archer's face in his hands and looked him in the eyes. “Won't you help me?”

With a plea like that, he found it hard to refuse. Shran knew what he wanted, and Archer would be lying if he said he didn't want to repeat their previous experience.

“I'd better check you for bruising,” he said, sliding his fingers down Shran's waist to slip under his pants.

That's what you're worried about?” Shran groused, but he was helping Archer undo the fastenings.

“Yeah. Don't worry, I'll be very thorough.” Archer wriggled his way down, giving Shran a wink as he pulled his pants down. He'd already decided it would be best to use his mouth; despite the way Shran was acting just now, Archer still suspected he would end up sore and even grumpier than usual, and using his tongue instead of his dick should prevent any further injury. Shran had found it very enjoyable before, and he was sure he could provide as much attention as necessary. He gently kissed Shran's hip as he finished kicking off his pants, then settled between his legs to see what he was dealing with.

“It looks... swollen,” he observed. Shran's cloaca was a darker color than he remembered, a deep blue all the way around the rim. If he'd had human blood, it would be an angry red. But it didn't actually look bruised; the color was very uniform. Maybe engorged was a better word for it. He wished he knew more about how it was supposed to work.

Shran didn't seem worried. “It's fine,” he insisted, canting his hips up impatiently.

“Uh huh.” Archer leaned down and licked over the outside experimentally. Shran made a noise deep in his throat, and grabbed the back of Archer's head with one hand, keeping him in place. Encouraged, he slipped his tongue inside.

Shran tasted the same as before, pleasantly musky and just a little bit sweet. He didn't taste any blood, or feel anything wrong. If anything, he was... softer. And wetter.

“Yesssss,” Shran hissed, clamping his thighs around Archer's head. He said a few words that the translator didn't catch. Whether they were obscenities or terms of endearment, Archer didn't know, but he was pretty sure he was being urged on, so he set to his task in earnest, plunging his tongue in as far as he could go and sucking gently on the rim. It seemed to be even more sensitive than before. Shran bucked his hips eagerly, roaring approval.

Although he'd always tried to be a solicitous partner, Archer hadn't had much practice at oral, and wasn't very confident in his skills. At least in humans there was a clitoris to aim for, which was pretty foolproof, but Shran had no real analog to this. He seemed to be pretty much the same sensitivity all over. So his solution was to slowly go around and around, lavishing attention on as much as he could fit into his mouth at a time. Shran had yet to offer criticism of this technique, and he didn't seem likely to start now. He was shoving his hips into Archer's face like he couldn't decide which part of himself he most wanted in Archer's mouth right now. He was also extraordinarily well lubricated. Archer found himself swallowing some of it just to keep it from dripping down his chin, which made Shran moan and clamp down on his tongue. All in all, a very flattering assessment. That Archer could somehow still breathe through all this was a minor miracle.

The noises Shran was making were downright pornographic, and they were going straight to Archer's dick. Suddenly he was wearing way too many clothes. Fortunately, with the way Shran was holding him firmly in place, he figured he had his hands free to take care of the problem. And since he was half buried under the blankets, the cold shouldn't be much of an issue.

It seemed to have gotten unreasonably difficult to get his uniform off since the last time he'd done it. For starters, he couldn't see much, but that wasn't the main problem. There also wasn't much room to maneuver, especially if he wanted to stay under the blankets. And his focus was elsewhere: Shran's taste filling his mouth, Shran fluttering and clenching around his tongue, Shran's thighs trembling and his moans pitching upward as he got closer and closer to the edge...

He finally freed himself from the confines of his uniform as Shran loudly announced his orgasm. It was a real relief; he wasn't sure he'd ever been harder. He couldn't resist thrusting into his own hand a few times as Shran finally relaxed his grip on Archer's head.

“You're not going to waste that, are you?”

These words were a surprise to Archer. He hadn't thought Shran would be coherent again yet, let alone interested in something other than his mouth. But he was craning his neck to look down at Archer's hard-on where it was peeking out from his fist with great interest, and that definitely sounded like an offer. Maybe even a demand.

“You want it?” he took his mouth off Shran's cloaca long enough to say. Shran seemed to have lost the rest of his clothes sometime when Archer hadn't been paying attention. His chest was heaving. He looked gorgeous.

“I need it,” Shran said, tugging on Archer's head to urge him upwards. Archer obeyed, trailing kisses all the way up to Shran's neck.

He had to sit back and admire the view when he got there. The sight of Shran, flat on his back and eager to be taken, was the kind of thing he'd barely dared fantasize about, and now that it was real he wanted to commit it to memory. He had the feeling it was going to carry him through a lot of solitary evenings.

Shran wasn't thinking that far ahead. He was already getting impatient at the delay.

“Come on, do you want this or not?”

“Of course I want this,” Archer assured him, leaning back down into Shran's waiting arms. “You're beautiful, you know that?”

“I do, yes,” Shran shot back, and Archer laughed as he lined himself up.

He'd meant to go slowly, but Shran had different plans. He grabbed Archer's ass, tilted his hips up, and Archer was in to the hilt almost immediately. He made an embarrassing noise at the sensation of Shran, wet and wonderful, closing around him. They fit together like they were made for each other.

“God, you feel amazing,” he groaned into Shran's neck. His hips seemed to be moving of their own accord, as if he could get even deeper if he just found the right angle. Shran hooked one ankle around him, encouraging the search.

“Harder,” he panted, and Archer obeyed. It would have been difficult not to. With Shran so slick and hungry and wild, meeting his every thrust with enthusiasm, he already knew he wasn't going to last long. “More!”

“H-how much more?” They were already going about as hard as Archer dared, walking a fine line between satisfying Shran's desire and not leaving him too sore later.

“Give it to me!” was the only instruction he got.

To hell with it. If Shran complained, he could remind him whose idea it had been. In the meantime, they both wanted it, so he might as well go for it. Archer took a firm hold on Shran, braced his knees against the mattress, and did his level best to fuck Shran senseless.

It was so damn good. He'd never gone this hard before, driving into Shran over and over with almost mindless abandon. Shran seemed to be enjoying himself too, judging by how close he was holding Archer and all the noise he was making. He was incredibly loud, crying out with every stroke. Archer wondered if this was just how Shran showed his appreciation, or if it was an Andorian thing. What if he was expected to make more noise? But surely Shran would have said something about it, he'd hardly been shy so far. Archer would just hope the bulkheads had good soundproofing, and focus on getting the right angle—not that there seemed to be a wrong one. Every time he pulled out, the twinge of desperation to get back in was stronger, and they were now going so hard that Shran might end up with bruises after all.

Archer, meanwhile, was definitely going to end up bleeding. Shran bit him at the join of his neck and shoulder, and he wasn't gentle. He snarled, clawing hot lines of pain down Archer's back, none of which mattered because he was also flexing and clenching around Archer, squeezing so hard he thought he might explode, or shatter into a million pieces, and he couldn't think of a better way to go.

But it was only a little death, because Shran relaxed somewhat. He still held on though, and only unlatched his teeth long enough to say “Don't stop,” which was good because he would have hard a hard time doing anything else by now, chasing his own high with all the energy he had left. The sheets had been thrown off at some point, and he'd barely noticed. He was sweating even in the cold, listening to Shran moan into his shoulder as he put his back into it and drove toward the end.

Finally the surge of ecstasy broke over him, and he shuddered to a halt and released deep inside Shran. He was so wet already, Archer had a wild fleeting thought that he was going to fill Shran to overflowing. But at last his orgasm softened its grip on him and he slid down, completely out of breath, to drape himself bonelessly over Shran.

“Is that it?” Shran asked, almost plaintively. Archer was amazed he had enough energy to talk, let alone ask for more. He was breathing harder than Archer, and his heart was pounding where they lay chest to chest.

“Yeah,” Archer wheezed. “Didn't you—already—?”

“I was halfway to the next one,” Shran said. “Just one more? Please?”

His commitment to whole sentences despite his exhaustion was almost as impressive as his determination to keep going. Archer had to admire his drive, even though he couldn't hope to match it. At least not with his dick.

So he pulled out and resettled himself beside Shran, slipping one finger into his cloaca. Shran wasted no time grabbing his hand and making it three. He sighed in satisfaction as Archer obediently wiggled them deeper.

“You're insatiable,” Archer remarked.

“You love it,” Shran said, and he did. He was enjoying every second of being tangled together and half-draped over Shran, buried to the knuckles inside him and drawing little noises of want from him with every twitch of his fingertips. Even the ache from his shoulder and back were blunted by the haze of post-orgasm bliss, subsumed in the general pleasant exhaustion. He curled his fingers and was rewarded by a twitch of the hips and a wonderfully needy whimper. Oh yes, he loved this.

He leaned in to kiss Shran. Archer had learned the hard way that Andorians tended to show desire by biting instead of kissing, which made him nervous to try anything in the throes of passion. But now, with the main event over, it was a little less risky, and Shran favored him with a gentle kiss that showed no signs of teeth. He closed his eyes and brought one hand up to cup Archer's face, and his soft, fluttering moans were more thrilling to Archer than all the noise he had made before. It was another flash of that vulnerability Shran hardly ever let show, and it felt like a victory.

Shran shifted to a more convenient angle, and curled his antennae forward to card through Archer's hair. His hand stayed on Archer's face, nudging him this way and that as he traced a meandering path downwards. Archer obeyed every direction. The cusps of Shran's antennae were delicate and soft, and their movement over his face was like a silken massage. It felt amazing.

He did his best to repay the favor, twisting his fingers a little and rubbing his thumb along the rim. He enjoyed the way it made Shran gasp and his antennae twitch. There was now a promising note of urgency in his moans, and he squirmed deliciously. His teeth grazed Archer's throat, silently warning of his excitement. At last Shran tensed up, bore down on Archer's fingers, and made a long low noise of satisfaction. His antennae flittered over Archer's cheek, then drew back as all the tension drained out of him.

“Done?” Archer asked, and after hearing a slightly muffled “yes” freed his fingers from Shran's cloaca. He looked around for something to wipe them on, realized there was nothing suitable, and put them in his mouth instead.

“Keep doing that and I won't be done,” Shran said, eyeing him with great interest, though he was far too tired to follow through. Archer grinned recklessly around his fingers. He could taste some of his own semen on them, which wasn't overly pleasant, but most of the fluid was Shran's, and that was more than tolerable. Shran seemed entranced by the entire process, and that was downright delightful.

“Do you mind getting the blankets?” he said when his mouth was free again. He'd finally gotten cold enough to miss his clothes, but he wasn't sure where they had gone. Fortunately Shran was in an accommodating mood, and untangled the blankets, pulling them up over Archer before he could start shivering. Then he curled himself around Archer, tucked his head onto his shoulder in an echo of how they had first gotten in bed, and was asleep almost instantly. There was, happily, nothing for Archer to do but smile softly into Shran's hair and follow suit.

“Hey Captain, how was your shore leave?”

Tucker had gone his whole shore leave, plus the evening after, without hearing any updates from Archer, and he'd been starting to worry that he'd run into serious trouble on the Andorian ship. But seeing him stride into the mess hall, looking hale and hearty and quite untroubled, did a great deal to ease Tucker's mind.

“Morning, Trip,” Archer said, making a beeline for the drink dispenser.

“There's still some breakfast left, if ya want anything other than coffee.”

“Oh, I already ate breakfast,” Archer assured him.

“Really? Tell me, what do Andorians eat for breakfast?”

“I had an omelette.”

Tucker imagined what Andorian chickens must look like. Probably extra fluffy, to deal with the cold.

“They any good?”

Archer grinned. “It was pretty odd... but it tasted delicious.”