o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o
Make me a boat
Away I'll float
stillness of a pure blue sky
There's nothing here to hold me now
And I've got no more tears to cry
-- Last Boat to America, David Gray
o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o
Another away mission, another spectacular and utter cock up. That was the only thought cycling
through Malcolm Reed's exhaustion-riddled mind as he lay back on his bed, safe in the privacy of his quarters.
It had all seemed so simple, so easy at first - the captain had sent Hoshi, Trip and himself
down to a somewhat remote trading facility to try and get bits and pieces that the engineer had said that they were running
out of. One thing led to another, and before he knew it Malcolm was caught up in the middle of a crazed firefight between
two alien species that he didn't even know the names of, let alone what on earth they were fighting about, and by the time
that he had regained control and awareness of his movements there were two people lying dead on the ground not six feet away
from him, their corpses beaten and bruised.
Both had been killed, but by whom nobody knew. Maybe no-one would ever know.
And now here he was. Trying to get the flashes of memory out of his head. Trying to forget
how close one man (who wouldn't have looked out of place on a rugby team) had come to ripping Malcolm's neck from the rest
of his body, and probably would have done so if Trip hadn't come up on him from behind.
It had been a complete and utter shambles. Sure, they'd managed to get the stuff Trip's department
needed, but at the same time they'd been involved in what was, for all intents and purposes, a public brawl. The antagonists
had vanished as quickly and mysteriously as they had appeared, and the trade administrators had reassured the shaken Starfleet
officers that they were not at fault for the incident, and had offered their sincerest apologies for having to be caught up
in something like that, but it hadn't prevented Captain Archer from letting loose at them in his own way once they'd rejoined
Archer had berated them for not getting out of there sooner, and had refused to listen to
both Trip and Hoshi's protests that the armoury officer's life had been in danger during the brawl. He had then relieved the
three of them of duty for a full day, citing their minor injuries as the official excuse, the one that would go on record.
So here he was. Somewhere near midnight, and three hours left until the full twenty-four
were up. Staring up at the ceiling, trying not to imagine what would have happened to his bloodied and battered remains (and
how they would have reached that condition) had Trip not seen what was happening.
Trying not to think about the fact that -
A low-pitched noise cut through the memories. Odd. There was someone at the door. Silently,
feeling oddly detached from what was going on around him, Malcolm went and answered it.
"Trip. I... I didn't expect to see you here."
There was no single discernible expression on the engineer's face as he leaned heavily on
one side of the doorframe. "Can I come in?"
Nodding silently, Malcolm stepped aside to let him in, following the other man with his eyes
as he went and sat down on the edge of the bed.
Eventually Trip spoke up. "I'm sorry," he said simply, looking down at the decking, gripping
onto the edged of the bed with both hands.
"It wasn't your fault," Malcolm replied, pulling the chair over from his desk and sitting
on it. "Wasn't our fault."
"Cap'n doesn't see it that way," Trip said desolately. He still wasn't meeting Malcolm's
eyes. "Y'can tell just by lookin' at him. Doesn't see anythin' of it that way."
There wasn't really anything that could be said to that, and some time passed before the
melancholy quiet was broken at all. "It wouldn't have been so bad if Jon had believed us," Trip commented, still in the middle
of a staring contest with the deck.
"One bloody blunder too many, I suppose," Malcolm said, trying (and failing) to keep the
note of bitter resentment out of his voice.
"Yeah." Finally Trip looked up, and there was just the barest ghost of a smile on his face.
"Well, the cap'n didn't stop us goin' to the mess. Comin' with me? We could get somethin' ta drink, or see what's left from
dinner..." He trailed off, and Malcolm could see the shadows hanging underneath his eyes, most likely from shock or exhaustion,
perhaps a little of both.
"That sounds good," he answered, and got up off the chair, replacing it to its original location.
When he turned around again, Trip hadn't moved.
Malcolm moved over to beside the bed and put a hand on Trip's shoulder. "Trip? Are you alright?"
Maybe not the best question he could have asked, given the circumstances, but still...
He looked up. "Yeah," he replied quietly. "Yeah, I'm okay."
"Come on, then," Malcolm told him, offering him his hand.
Trip took it, using Malcolm to pull him up into a standing position. "Yeah," he repeated,
as they left the armoury officer's quarters and headed for the nearest turbolift. "An' you never know..."
"What?" Malcolm asked him.
Trip shrugged. "Maybe it'll all be better in the mornin'."
"I hope so," Malcolm commented as they entered the turbolift.
Trip stared at the lift doors. "Me too," he allowed, again letting the fleeting smile cross
his face. "Me too..."
They got to the mess, parts of which had been covered in drapes and other plain materials
by the half-dozen crewmembers who had been working in there that day. All they ended up with was a single mug of something
hot and steaming each, and they took seats at a table in the far corner. Neither Trip nor Malcolm said anything for several
minutes, until part of the largest drape in the far corner started to slip down out of place, and Trip threw a look over at
the chronometer. Two minutes past midnight.
The drape slid down to the floor completely, revealing the top half of a decorated pine tree.
Malcolm looked around at the half-a-tree. Smiled properly for the first time since the fight
"You too, my friend. You too."