Last Boat to America

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Title: Last Boat to America
Category: Angst
Rating: G
Summary: At the end of a truly crappy day, maybe all you need is a friend.
Author's Note: This is the third rewrite as of December 2004.

o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o

Make me a boat
Away I'll float
Into the 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 Enterprise.

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.

"Hey, Mal..."


The drape slid down to the floor completely, revealing the top half of a decorated pine tree.

"Merry Christmas."

Malcolm looked around at the half-a-tree. Smiled properly for the first time since the fight planetside.

"You too, my friend. You too."

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