o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o
How on earth did I end up on the beach on my father's birthday?! Malcolm thought, letting his eyes wander across the beach, taking in the masses of screaming children, dogs and scolding
parents on beach towels. Including a certain someone who was telling off a boy who had just knocked off his hat with a football.
Through the din, he could make out a woman's voice. "For Pete's sake, Stuart, leave the boy
alone - it was only an accident!"
"But it was a new hat!" Stuart Reed turned around to face his wife, and behind him the boy
took the opportunity, picked up his ball and ran off. Malcolm sighed and turned away from his parents, and instead looked
a few metres away, where his sister Madeleine and her leggy blonde friend Sandy were giggling about something or other. On
his other side, Trip was rolling out two beach towels, one with a huge macaw parrot on it, the other a simple sky blue. He
was still chattering mindlessly, and Malcolm started to actually listen to what his partner was saying. "...an' I never knew
that England had such great beaches," he said.
Malcolm turned to face him. "That's one of the things about it being an island, Trip," he
replied. "There are beaches everywhere."
Trip was undeterred. "I knew there were beaches," he replied, "but I thought it always rained
over here. S'quite nice when the sun's shinin'."
"That's a matter of opinion," Malcolm said dryly. From the corner of his eye, he noticed
that Stuart had retrieved his hat and was now firmly sat on his deckchair again and reading Naval Battles of Britain in
the Nineteenth Century. Malcolm knew full well that his father had read the book at least twenty times before, but he
also knew that bringing the book along gave the man the perfect excuse to stay out of everything. Even on his birthday, Stuart
Reed clearly preferred to be antisocial around everybody, or at least when there were other people around him.
A voice interrupted Malcolm's thoughts. "C'mon Malcolm, let's go - the sea looks nice an'
warm from here!"
Malcolm looked up, looked out at the sparkling waves which didn't look particularly appealing
to him at all, and shook his head. "No, I'm fine right here," he said. "Why don't you go in?"
"I'm not gonna go in on my own," Trip complained, still grinning. "Don't be such a spoilsport.
I brought my lilo with me, you won't hafta get in the water, then."
Malcolm pictured himself on a bright orange inflatable raft, being pushed out into the Channel
by an enthusiastic Trip, and again shook his head. "I think not, somehow. See if Madeleine wants to go in with you."
Trip looked at him for a moment, then pretended to sulk. "Well," he began, "if you're gonna
be like that, then what was the point in you comin' here in the first place?"
Malcolm sighed. "I didn't want to come here at all," he replied. "It was Mother's bright
idea to drag us all down to the beach for my father's sixty-fifth birthday. I had nothing to do with it."
"Alright, alright." Trip held his hands up in mock-defeat. "I'll go see what the ladies have
to say about swimmin'."
o o o o o
At the far end of the little group, Madeleine and Sandy were still engaged in giggly conversation.
"Damn, he's good looking," Sandy squealed. "Where does your brother find these men?"
Madeleine eyed her for a moment. "Usually in his bed first thing in the morning," she replied.
"Don't even think about it."
"Yeah, yeah, I know," Sandy said wistfully. "But still... just look at him!"
Madeleine looked over, and saw Trip trying to drag a protesting Malcolm off the towel and
in the direction of the water. "I wouldn't do that," she said. "My brother can get really pissed off when he's jealous. He
works with weapons for a living, Sandy," she added pointedly.
Sandy was clearly not listening, all of her attention focused on the scene over by the two
beach towels, and Madeleine watched her friend for a moment. She still couldn't believe that after all these years Sandy still
chased anything that had a dick, and especially Malcolm's boyfriends. Not that he'd had many in the first place, but Sandy
had still made a move on each and every one of them. And now it looked as though Trip was her latest target, sexual orientation
"I know," Sandy said, still watching the two men talking. "I'll make you a bet. If I can
get Trip to kiss me, then you have to agree to get Malcolm to let the two of us go off somewhere tonight."
"And if you can't," Madeleine said, "then I'll set you up with the ice cream man." She pointed
over to the van where he was handing out ice creams to maybe half a dozen small children. Even from this distance, Madeleine
could still make out the beer belly hanging over his shorts and the pasty-faced expression underneath greasy hair.
Sandy followed her gaze, and shuddered. They'd come down here a few weeks before, and he
had been there in the van. When Sandy had gone up to get ice creams for herself and her friends, he had openly ogled her chest
and said something lewd about melting ice cream before suggesting that they meet up somewhere later on for dinner. Needless
to say, she had said no before taking the ice creams and going back to her friends, and as she had turned around, she had
shot him a look that clearly said that it would be a cold night in Hell before she agreed to something like that.
Returning her gaze to Trip, who was now heading in their direction, Sandy smiled. "I'll take
that," she said, just as Trip reached them.
"What're you girls talkin' about?" he asked cheerfully, shielding his eyes from the sun.
Madeleine looked at him. "Trust me, you don't want to know," she told him.
Meanwhile, Sandy flashed Trip a wide smile, showing off two rows of perfect white teeth.
"Hi Trip," she gurgled. Behind her Madeleine mimed sticking two fingers down her throat and back on the beach towels, Malcolm
"Hi Sandy," Trip replied a little warily. "Either of you two up for swimmin'?" He looked
pointedly at Madeleine as he spoke, but Sandy already looked excited at the prospect.
"What a lovely idea!" she squealed. She grabbed Trip's upper arm and pitched her voice higher,
like a child's. "Wanna go in the water!" As she began to drag Trip in the direction of the sea, Trip turned back and shot
Madeleine an almost panicked look, and mouthed the words, "Help me!" Madeleine smiled brightly, waved at Trip as he and Sandy
reached the waves, and made her way back over to where her mother and brother were now sitting.
o o o o o
Trip scowled at Madeleine's back, and finally turned back around to face Sandy (who was still
hanging off his arm). She dragged him further out into the sea, until the waves were lapping around their thighs. Eventually
she let go, and began to splash him with the salty seawater, obviously expecting him to join in. She dived under a breaking
wave with a quick, "Try and catch me!" but Trip just stood there, and a second later he was knocked over by the wave. When
he resurfaced again, she was standing there in the water with what looked like a hurt expression on her face.
She crossed her arms over her chest. "Why didn't you try and catch me?" she pouted, stepping
closer, giving him a very clear view of her chest and trying to reach out for his arm again both at the same time.
Taking another step backwards, Trip was buffeted by another wave and went under again.
o o o o o
Back up on the beach, Stuart Reed had come to the solid conclusion that this was possibly
the worst birthday he had ever had, although the time when a nine-year-old Malcolm had presented him with a carved wooden
model of the prototype for the NX starship series came very close. Especially when Mary had made him pretend that he actually
liked it, and had him put it on his desk for over a month.
And now Malcolm had brought along another of those damned Starfleet officers - and an American
with a god-awful imbecilic accent to boot. And Madeleine's friend was no better - twenty five years and she was still chasing
anything male with a pulse.
Come to think of it, Mary was no better. She was over on the beach towels with the boy and
his sister and making no effort whatsoever to include her husband in the conversation.
Chancing a peek over the top of his book, Stuart caught sight of the American and the bimbo
in the water, messing around with each other like bloody hormonal teenagers.
Why on earth the boy chose to bring HIM along, I'll never understand. And if someone like
that's got an important position in Starfleet - well, then...
o o o o o
Trying to dodge another wave (and Sandy at the same time), Trip took another step backwards,
just managing not to slip on the seaweed underneath his feet. "So," he began, "d'ya come swimmin' often?" His attempt at distraction
failed miserably, because Sandy simply took another step forward and continued blithely.
"I really like your swimming trunks!" she giggled, looking determinedly at the spot inbetween
the top of his legs. "Such nice... colours."
Trip groaned out loud and took another step out into the sea, so that he was now submerged
up to his chest. "What... what d'ya do for a livin'?" he asked eventually.
Sandy grinned and swayed her hips suggestively. "I'm an underwear model," she told him. "Do
you think I've got the body for it?"
Trip swallowed nervously. "Uh... maybe," he managed eventually, looking desperately back
up at the beach he could see Malcolm watching him with an amused look on his face.
Meanwhile, there was still Sandy to contend with. "Well, I think you've definitely
got the body for it," she purred, and took another step closer.
Trip took another step backward, deciding that this was possibly the worst pick up line he'd
ever heard (and he'd heard a lot of them), and up on the beach he saw Malcolm's grin widen.
An idea (of sorts) popped into his head, and for the moment, Trip decided to play along with
it. Turning back to face Sandy, he took a step towards her and smiled coyly. "Ya really think so?" he asked innocently.
Sandy grinned and stepped in closer, and out of the corner of his eye Trip could just about
see his partner stand up, all amusement gone from his face. "Yes," she whispered, batting her eyes at him, "I do." She was
now so close that they were almost touching.
Trip leaned in closer, trying not to grin, and out of the corner of his eye he watched Malcolm
begin to storm down the beach towards the sea.
Hmm, he thought, this should be fun...
o o o o o
Malcolm watched Sandy drag Trip down towards the Channel, feeling a dark sense of satisfaction
at his partner's terrified look. He looked up again as Madeleine got closer to where he was sitting, his mother next to him,
laid out on her towel in a swimsuit and floppy beach hat. "Did you see that?" Madeleine asked him as she plopped down on Trip's
"See what?" Malcolm asked dryly. "The look of abject terror on his face, or the shameless
expression on hers?"
"Well, doesn't it worry you that Sandra Holmes is after your latest boyfriend?"
"He's not my latest boyfriend," Malcolm replied indignantly.
Madeleine grinned. "So what is he then? Someone you picked up in the pub?"
Malcolm picked up his own book, and was about to throw it at her when their mother interrupted.
"Why don't you just tell us about him, dear?" she enquired calmly.
Malcolm shot a look back to where his father was stubbornly rereading the same page that
he had been when the football had made friends with his hat, checking that he was too far away to hear the conversation. In
the past, Stuart Reed had made a point of not wanting to know about his son's social life or romantic liaisons, but it wouldn't
hurt to check that he was too far away to hear about this particular liaison. And anyway, it wouldn't have been a good idea
to let his father know on his sixty-fifth birthday that his son preferred same-sex relationships.
He looked back to where his mother and sister were waiting patiently, and cleared his throat.
"Well," he began, a little uncertain, "what do you want to know?"
Madeleine grinned widely. "How did you two get together?"
Malcolm thought about it for a moment. "Well, there was this alien ambassadorial reception
and that rabbit-like animal..." He paused for a moment. "Maybe it's best I didn't tell you, after all."
Mary burst out laughing, and looking around quickly, Malcolm caught sight of Trip and Sandy
in the water; he was slowly backing away from her through the waves, and she was following him like a predator. Grinning,
he turned back to the women in time to hear Mary then say, "Well, how long have the two of you been together, dear?"
"Three years last month," Malcolm replied shyly, a grin creeping across his face as he remembered
the anniversary celebration...
"Three years?" the women chorused together. "Why didn't you tell us about him?" Mary added.
Watching Trip trying to stay away from Sandy from the corner of his eye, Malcolm's grin widened
and he turned to face his mother. "Why didn't you tell me about moving back to England again?" he challenged, diplomatically
choosing to ignore the first question.
Mary started to say something in response, but he never heard what she said - down in the
waves he could see Trip take another step - but instead of backing away from the woman he was moving in towards her with a
look on his face that Malcolm recognised. It was one that meant that Trip was goading his partner, but didn't necessarily
want to give the game away by grinning or whatever.
Either way, that woman was now far too close to Trip for Malcolm's liking, and he stood up
quickly and started to stride towards the sea, ignoring his mother's question of "Where are you going, dear?"
Whatever the hell Trip was playing at this time, he clearly had no idea about Sandra Holmes,
or how far she would go to get the man she wanted - more often than not, this man was Malcolm's boyfriend of the moment.
As he got closer to the shoreline, Malcolm saw Trip smile at Sandy and lean in towards her,
and he watched her hand snake around his back and go down underwater where his arse was.
Okay. Enough was enough. "Trip!" Malcolm shouted, as the waves began to lap around his ankles.
"Get yourself here, now!"
Around him, some of the little kids stopped what they were doing and watched as the short
man started yelling at the other man and his girlfriend from the shallow part of the beach. As one, the gaggle of children
gasped appreciatively as the short man, upon entering the sea to about knee height, slipped on something (probably seaweed)
and fell forwards into the breaking waves, going under.
They watched as he emerged after a few seconds, coughing and spluttering - almost immediately
he was joined by the other, taller man who helped him to his feet, leaving his girlfriend standing in the water with a disappointed
look on her face, which quickly turned to horror, although nobody could quite work out why.
"Mal, are you alright?" Malcolm heard Trip ask him, although he couldn't quite hear properly
because of water (or something) in his ears. Trip was holding onto Malcolm's arms, and Malcolm shook his head, trying to get
rid of the water.
Eventually he decided he could try to speak. "What the hell was all that about?" he demanded
through the taste of salt water in his mouth. "You nearly got me bloody drowned!"
Trip laughed. "Drowned? Ya can't drown in knee-deep water, you idiot."
"I'm not an idiot," Malcolm retorted, coughing. "As far as I'm concerned, you can drown in
any depth of water."
Trip rolled his eyes and began to pull Malcolm back onto the beach again, but before they
got anywhere Malcolm stopped him with a wave of his hand back to where Sandy was definitely sulking. "What," he began, "was
that all about?"
"She told me I could be an underwear model," Trip laughed, batting his eyes at Malcolm. "What
Malcolm stared at him. "Underwear model?" he asked. "Where did she get that one from?"
"Said that's what she does for a livin'," Trip replied.
Malcolm snorted. "You are joking me, aren't you? Sandra Holmes is the PA for the managing
director of a button factory." He paused. "You didn't actually believe her, did you?"
"Uh... maybe," Trip admitted bashfully, looking down at the stones on the beach. "She's definitely
got the body for it."
Malcolm raised an eyebrow. "Trust me, she's got nothing compared to you, love," he told Trip
with a smile.
"Think we should get back to the others?"
"I think so."
o o o o o
Mary Reed looked up as her son and his partner slowly made their way up from the shoreline,
noting with a smile that Trip had an arm around her son. Off to her side she could still see Stuart on the same page he had
been reading earlier, and wondered to herself if he was being deliberately dense. Anyone with half a brain could tell that
those two were in love, but for years her husband had been determined to ignore what was right in front of him - namely that
Malcolm was never going to settle down and marry a nice woman. With any luck, though, maybe her son would choose to settle
down and marry this man.
He certainly seemed nice enough.
She waved in their direction as they got closer. "We're about to head back home," she called
out to them. "Maddy's planning to light up the barbecue for everyone." Again off to her side she noticed her husband scowl
behind his book. She sighed. It may have been Stuart's birthday they were celebrating, but if he'd rather spend it in his
room like a spoilt child, then she was still going to enjoy herself anyway.
Malcolm nodded in acknowledgement. "I think we're going to stay here for a little while longer,"
he replied, motioning to himself and Trip. All around them the beach was beginning to empty as everyone else packed up their
own things and got ready to leave.
Mary smiled at her son, while Stuart merely looked up at this comment from the boy, and he
looked over at him and the American. Boy... beach... stay... why? He didn't say anything out loud, but simply took
the things that Mary gave him with what he thought was reasonable grace. Stuart watched as the bimbo made her own way back
up to the group setting and silently packed up her own things, and watched as Madeleine walked up to her, whispered something
in her ear, then vanished in the direction of the ice cream van, which was beginning to close down for the evening.
Leaving the boy and the American on the beach, Stuart and the two women picked up the rest
of their things and started to head back home as well. He thought about the barbecue as he followed his wife and daughter,
and wondered how long he'd have to stay before he could disappear - hopefully before the boy and the American returned as
They were nearly home (having lost the bimbo somewhere along the way) when Mary started feeling
around in her pockets. "Damn," she said, "I think I've forgotten my sunglasses. I'll go back for them."
Seeing an opportunity to escape the women, Stuart spoke up. "No, it's alright Mary," he replied,
"I'll fetch them for you." He made as if to turn back around but was stopped.
"No, dear," Mary replied quickly. Too quickly, perhaps. "I'll get them. It won't be a problem,
and you can help Maddy set up the barbecue in the back garden."
"You can do that," Stuart argued. "I'll get the sunglasses."
She gave in. "Fine. You get them, dear." And as he turned back around to return to the beach,
Stuart missed the slight smile on his wife's face as she opened up the front door to the house.
o o o o o
"Going to the beach with my parents never used to be this eventful," Malcolm said to Trip.
All around them, most of the people had already packed up and left, but there were still a few families a little further down
from him and Trip. They were sitting close to the shoreline, and small waves were breaking around their feet and ankles.
Trip looked surprised. "You should try comin' to the beach with my folks," he said. "Never
a dull moment."
"I'm hardly surprised," Malcolm replied. "Why? What do you get up to, then?"
"Well," Trip began, thinking. "I remember when I was eight, an' me, Andy an' Mike started
buryin' our daddy in sand while he was sleepin', startin' from the neck and workin' our way downwards. Wasn't until we were
nearly finished that we... well, we kinda lost Lizzie as some point in the proceedin's."
Malcolm grinned, momentarily picturing himself and his sister burying Stuart Reed in sand.
Hmm. "I'm still not surprised, though," he said. "So what happened then?"
Trip smiled for a second, remembering. "Well, ya gotta remember she was only about three
at the time," he told Malcolm. "An' there's only so many places a kid that age can run to in a short space o' time."
"So..." Trip blushed. "We found her sleepin' in the ice cream man's truck." He grinned. "Parents
never even realised she was missin'. Mom was too busy diggin' up Dad to notice that we were lookin' for Lizzie."
Malcolm smiled, and put his arm around Trip. "Sounds like fun," he murmured.
"You'll hafta come along some time," Trip said seriously. "I mean, now that the five year
mission's over, you've gotta meet my parents. They'll love you," he added, noticing Malcolm's nervous expression. "Really,
"You think so?" Malcolm asked, shifting a little closer into Trip.
"I love you," Trip said. "They'll have no choice in the matter."
A sudden wave of guilt surged through Malcolm. "Well," he said, "I'm sorry about my parents,
"Nonsense," Trip interrupted him. "Your mom seems really nice, an' I've got time to work
on your dad," he added with a grin, trying to reassure his partner.
Malcolm wasn't listening to him at the moment; he had heard noises behind him, and like the
paranoid security officer he was, he had already turned halfway around to see what it was. Stuart Reed was standing where
the group's beach towels had previously been, holding Mary's sunglasses in his hand, and he was staring with widened eyes
at the two men sitting very close together in the surf.
Almost out of insolence, Malcolm tightened the arm that he had around Trip's back, and moved
in a little tighter; Trip, staring out at the sea, hadn't noticed any of what was going on, although he did rest his head
on Malcolm's neck.
As Malcolm watched, Stuart stood there for a few more seconds before turning around and leaving,
going back the way he had just come. Malcolm strained his neck further to see where his father was going, which earned a yelp
from Trip who nearly slipped off Malcolm's shoulder altogether.
Trip looked over at Malcolm. "What was that?" he asked.
Wordlessly, Malcolm pointed at the top of the stones, where Stuart Reed was slowly making
his way up the slopes.
"Oh," Trip said faintly. "Did he see us?"
Malcolm nodded. He smiled. "Well, maybe this is something we should try to explain to him
over chicken wings," he said dryly, and Trip grinned.