o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o
January 1st, 2200... sometime shortly after midnight. The park was full of young revellers
seeing in the new year - and the new century - with style; the sky up above them was filled with fireworks of every type,
description and colour imaginable, so bright that to those in the park and indeed for some distance around, it might as well
have been midday.
A small group of people split off from the main throng, and as they walked along one of the
pathways in the park, one of them paused for a moment to tie up her shoelaces. When she had finished, her friends had moved
on ahead of her. Somewhat disillusioned, but refusing to be down, she instead went to a grassy knoll and sat there for a while,
simply lying back and enjoying the view.
It was then that she noticed the two people sitting on a bench a short distance in front
of her, at the bottom of the "hill". Two old men, one white-haired and one grey-haired, the latter with his arm around the
other's back. When they started talking, she immediately felt embarrassed for eavesdropping, and made to get up and move away
when she heard what they were actually talking about, and who they were.
"White-hair" shifted position slightly, and looked at his partner. "Mal, how long've we been
"Forty-eight years this week, Trip."
"Ah, yes," Trip mused. "Forty-eight years. Beginnin' o' fifty-two. But we've known each other
a lot longer than that. Remember?"
Mal chuckled. "Of course I remember. I was there as well, as you may recall."
"Yeah - you an' me, every step o' the way. When that T'Pol was makin' an ass of me when we
first left dry dock, there you were, smirkin' away behind her."
"That I was."
"An' when I was in the "interestin' condition" wi' Ahlen's kid, you were there as well, smirkin'
away behind the cap'n, every step o' the way."
Mal simply nodded. "You know I would have helped out with the baby, dear. All you would have
had to do was ask."
"An' you were there with me, tryin' to go over my head when we were tryin' to get those cannons
operational. Insistin' you knew what you were doin' so much that the cap'n nearly had t'intervene and kick us both in the
brig ass first. Oh, you were there for me, every step o' the way. Not forgettin' the time ya nearly shot me in 'Pod One."
"It was for your own good, Trip. Neither of us wanted you to die, did we?"
"I guess not," Trip admitted. "But it was still you an' me, side by side through everythin'.
Like when Kov came aboard, told us about Vulcan matin' habits. An' you - you were there beside me, smirkin' your head off."
Mal chuckled again. "The look on your face was absolutely priceless. I couldn't help myself."
"No, ya never could. Leastways we were in the same boat on Risa. Both o' us got that one
wrong - you an' me, every step o' the way."
"Every step of the way," Mal echoed, watching the fireworks in the sky.
"An' the space station." Trip sighed. "No questions about us makin' fools o' ourselves or
breakin' protocol, ya came with me, 'gardless o' the consequences, even when T'Pol found us both on our hands an' knees in
front o' her. Bet she loved that one."
"And that's what I get for trying to keep your rear end out of trouble," Mal sniffed, although
he didn't sound too annoyed with the memory.
"An' then you were there when I made an ass o' myself pretendin' to be Jonny. Smirkin' away,
like y'always did. But right there with me. Couldn't get any peace from you after that one, could I?"
"Again, the look on your face was absolutely priceless, dear."
"An' the catwalk. You complained the loudest o' the lot o' them. Weren't there for me then,
"You were the one who forgot to install something so basic as a toilet," Mal admonished.
"Somebody has to stand up for public decency and hygiene."
Trip squirmed in his seat. "An' what about Phlox's wife, comin' onta me like that? You sure
as hell weren't there for me then either, were ya?"
"I had to give the two of you enough space to get to know each other," Mal said, amusement
clearly in his voice. "I was acting in your best interests."
"She threatened ya, didn't she?"
"Every step o' the goddamned way," Trip said. "Every step, my ass."
"Oh, you loved it," Mal shot back. "All those women, coming onto to you, declaring their
amorous intentions, only to be told that you were with someone - you did tell them, I presume."
"Most o' the time." Suddenly, Trip was a lot more subdued.
"Who didn't you tell?"
"The princess, 'kay? She had it in her head I was her own personal gigolo or somethin'. Kept
my distance from her...mostly."
Again, Trip squirmed. "I wasn't the only one ta stray," he said eventually. "That Vissian
seemed ta like ya."
"Only because she thought that she and I would end up having hot, steamy sex after the tour
of my armoury," Mal replied.
"An' did ya?"
"Yes, 'oh'. She also wanted the two of us to enter into an exclusive and committed relationship,"
Mal said pointedly. "So I set her straight."
Yet again, Trip squirmed. "Sorry I gave y'a hard time over her."
"Likewise for you and the princess, dear."
Trip laughed. "You an' me, every step o' the way."
"I wouldn't have it any other way."
"I've been a right bastard to ya, haven't I?"
"I wasn't exactly perfect either," Mal reminded him. "We both had a lot to deal with back
then, you especially."
"Yeah," Trip replied. "An' you were there beside me, every step o' the way."
"I wouldn't have it any other way," Mal repeated, resting his head on Trip's shoulder. "Happy
New Year, Trip."
"Happy New Year, darlin'."
They both fell silent, and behind them their unintentional eavesdropper got up, brushed the
grass off her back and legs, and quietly slipped away, leaving Admirals Tucker and Reed to admire the now early morning festivities,
the way home clearly silhouetted by the ongoing fireworks in the sky up above.