o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o
if you gave me just a coin for every time we say goodbye
Sooner or later he was going to be found out. At some point in the near or maybe not so near future, something was going
to happen and every single little pathetic detail of the past few months would be revealed in sickeningly Technicolor detail.
Grunting with what was mostly frustration, Malcolm turned away from the torpedo simulations he had been running and looked
out at the rest of the armoury. Over at the far end he could see Ensign Rose and somebody else working on one of the new torpedoes.
Getting on with their work. Concentrating hard, no doubt.
He couldn't concentrate. Couldn't focus on anything for more than a second or two before conflicting thoughts and emotions
started to wreck their own kind of havoc in the space between his ears.
He'd done it again. He'd gone and bloody done it again. In the mess hall, literally just minutes before - he had gone in
for an emergency dose of caffeine in the form of very strong black coffee. Standing at the dispenser, watching the rich brown
liquid pour into the mug.
Talking to Trip, who had shown up for a quick bite before heading back down below decks. When Malcolm had caught sight
of Trip, he had been holding a tray in his hand and looking at the armoury officer with tired, bleary eyes, and something
else in there as well besides the exhaustion, something for the moment unnameable.
"Hey, Malcolm." He even sounded tired.
"Trip." Suddenly he felt jittery, maybe even a little panicked, although he didn't know why. "Late dinner?" with a quick
jerk of the head to the food on the tray.
A listless shrug of the shoulders. "Need the energy to keep goin' 'til mornin'." And looking down at the tray properly,
Malcolm could see what he meant. The plate was piled high with a mixture of different pastas plus some other things as well.
Malcolm shook his head, taking the coffee out from under the dispenser. "Simulations need checking and triple-checking.
They'll keep me up most of the night, I expect. Nothing overly exciting." Quickly he suppressed the sudden urge to apologise.
"In fact, I should be getting back. There's no telling what could happen if I leave Matthew to his own devices for too long."
Trip nodded in understanding. "Okay," he said. "G'night Malcolm."
The reply came out before he could stop himself. "Goodbye, Commander." And all but rushing out of the mess with his coffee
in tow, Malcolm never saw the exhaustion in Trip's face finally give way to a defeated, almost crushed look.
Back in the armoury, it was now all Malcolm could do not to just yell out loud at something. He was such a bloody fool!
Every time he encountered Trip, be it in Engineering, the armoury, on the bridge or in the mess hall - anywhere! - he always
seemed to end up dismissing the commander with a curt goodbye instead of something more relaxed, more informal - more friendly.
He'd been friends with Trip for over a year now. So why after all that time couldn't he drop the damned militaristic attitude
with the man any more? He had at one point, that much he knew. He had reached the point of trusting both himself and Trip
enough to be able to drop the almost stern officer demeanour that he had inherited from his father, and just.... be Malcolm.
A man who enjoyed the company of both a few close friends and that of colleagues that he perhaps didn't know so well but with
whom he could still hold a conversation.
So... if all that was true, then why was he now acting like the cold-fronted officer with someone who was perhaps one of
the closest friends he had ever had?
And why, in the process, did he always feel as though he was kicking a small puppy with a big boot?
o o o o o
if you tell me that i can't, i will, i will, i'll try all night
It took most of the night, and longer than he had anticipated, but finally Malcolm finished up on the simulations, although
he never did finish the coffee.
And it took nearly a week of internal conversations, heated debates and even full-blown arguments with the little voices
in his head before Malcolm had worked up enough courage to talk to Trip face to face.
The engineer came by Malcolm's quarters, as arranged, after pulling a cover shift down in Engineering and before turning
in for the night. Malcolm let him in with a wan smile, but then watched as Trip warily crossed the small room and sat on the
very edge of the bed - his whole posture screamed of bridled nerves and caution, so it seemed.
Malcolm pulled up the chair and straddled it, facing Trip head on but saying nothing.
"What d'you want to talk about?" Trip asked eventually, breaking the uneasy silence.
"You and me," Malcolm replied. "Us, I suppose."
Trip looked surprised, as if he had been caught off guard. "Us?" he echoed faintly.
Malcolm nodded in the affirmative. "There past few weeks, I don't know, I just... I'm sorry," he eventually said.
Malcolm grunted noncommittally and shrugged. "Being an arse. Being an arse to you."
"S'ok," Trip told him. "I haven't exactly been an angel either."
Malcolm stared at him for a moment. "Why are you doing this?"
"Doin' what?" Trip asked, clearly mystified.
"Making excuses for me. Making me out to be somebody I'm fairly sure I'm not." He paused, then took on a much stronger,
much more distinctive accent. "S'ok Cap'n, Malcolm had a long night doin' recalibrations, he's jus' tired. Or there's: Will
ya leave Loo-tenant Reed outta this, he's got reasons for bein' the way he is." Malcolm broke off and when he spoke again
it was with his normal voice again. "See?"
Trip watched him for a moment, his face unreadable. "I'm sorry, Malcolm," he said. It was hard to tell whether or not he
was being sincere. "I just... I'm jus' lookin' out for ya."
"But I don't need that," Malcolm shot back. "I can look after myself and I can take care of my own mistakes and shortcomings."
"An' those of everyone else around ya as well?" Trip now sounded faintly sceptical.
Quite simply... "Yes."
Trip straightened up and stretched his legs out. "Well, I don't agree with ya, Loo-tenant," he replied quietly, if not
a little stiffly.
Malcolm looked up from the floor, just in time to see Trip reach out to him, offering him his hand.
Slowly, feeling as though he was in some kind of dream Malcolm stood up and let Trip pull him in closer, and the hug was
simple but complicated at the same time; it seemed to demand nothing and everything at once, and for a while Malcolm just
stayed standing there, letting his colleague, his friend, his... Trip hold him.
They stayed like that for a few minutes, Trip rubbing slow circles into Malcolm's back, and Malcolm holding onto Trip as
if he was the only thing preventing him from falling forever. Malcolm closed his eyes and leaned into Trip's neck, enjoying
the comfortable feeling that came with it, and the feeling of total security that only increased as Trip tightened his grip
on him ever so slightly. He breathed in and out, listening to and feeling the heartbeat in the neck beneath his face, letting
it calm him down.
And all the while he could hear Trip's voice whispering against his ear. "You're not perfect, Mal, nobody's expecting ya
to be. You jus' gotta let someone else look out for ya once in a while, 'kay?"
Without moving away from the position he was in at the moment, Malcolm nodded. It was the barest of movements, just enough
for Trip to feel. Malcolm felt, rather than heard Trip's nod against his hair, and a few seconds later he felt a hand cup
the side of his face and lift it up and out until the two of them were facing each other, Malcolm looking up into Trip's face
- the commander's eyes were smiling.
Slowly, Trip brought Malcolm's face up the last few centimetres and kissed the younger man gently, and Malcolm closed his
eyes again as he felt the warmth that seemed to just radiate from Trip. But after a few seconds, he could feel Trip's whole
body shaking, and he reluctantly broke off the kiss and took a step backward so that he could see what was going on.
Trip was crying. Eyes closed, with tears slipping down the sides of his face. Worried, Malcolm reached out again to try
to comfort the commander, but the instant his hands reached Trip's the man disappeared, leaving Malcolm to stare stupidly
at the empty space where just seconds before there had been somebody standing.
The room shifted out of focus again, and when things came back into focus Malcolm was lying on his side in bed, clutching
a blanket as if it was some sort of lifeline. There were some small damp patches near the top of the blanket, and he quickly
realised they were tears.
They were his tears, and he had been dreaming. Trip had never come into his quarters, had never offered him comfort or
But this... this Dream Trip had been right, at least partly. Malcolm did need someone - he needed someone who would tell
him that things were going to be okay in the morning, even if that wouldn't necessarily be the case. He needed someone who
could make him feel better about being who he was instead of who he wasn't. He needed someone, full stop.
He needed Trip.
Rolling over onto his back and staring up at the ceiling, Malcolm came to a decision. He may have needed Trip, but at the
moment, with everything else that was happening as well, Trip needed him just as much, if not so much more.
And that was something Malcolm could do.
o o o o o
i know i can be afraid but i'm alive
and i hope that you trust this heart behind my tired eyes
In Lieutenant Reed's opinion, being the chief of security onboard Enterprise meant that you knew between ninety
eight and ninety nine percent of what was happening at any given moment; the remaining one or two percent were either the
most private of private matters, or other things that were beyond his ability to find out (like, for example, exactly how
many water polo matches were hidden in the ship's systems).
So it was therefore a reasonably simple matter for Malcolm to begin to keep a closer eye on Trip than perhaps he would
have done before. This counted as checking the shifts that he pulled down below decks (both his own and cover ones), making
sure that he made sufficient trips to the mess hall each day, and that he spent enough time in his own quarters each evening
to constitute at least a few hours of sleep, which although potentially damaging in the long run, was also better than him
getting no sleep at all.
Malcolm also found himself unconsciously watching Trip as well when they were in the same room, just checking him to see
that Trip looked as though he was getting at least some rest, that he wasn't wasting away from lack of food and so forth.
And through everything that happened, Malcolm became increasingly satisfied that Trip was coping with everything happening
around him, at least on the surface that everyone else saw during the normal day to day routine, although sometimes the lieutenant
would make his way to the mess late at night for something quick to eat, and in there he would see Trip sitting at a table
by himself, an untouched meal or drink in front of him - he would just be staring blankly down at his table or out into space.
It was during moments like this that Malcolm just wanted to throw whatever he was holding down to the deck and go offer Trip
some comfort, some sign that the man was cared about, that someone wanted to make sure that he was going to be okay in the
morning. But he couldn't - Malcolm physically could not do that; not only for the obvious reason that he had no idea what
exactly he could do to make Trip feel any better about things, but for perhaps the more pertinent reason that he had no clue
as to whether his - his feelings - were returned in any way, shape or form. Usually Malcolm could tell when someone was harbouring
some kind of affection or feeling for him, but here in the Expanse, it was as though Trip had just shut himself off from everything
and everybody that wasn't connected to the mission at hand, and in doing so he had become a closed book, and one that try
as he might, Malcolm couldn't read.
And all the while, he could only hope that his own reasons behind this sudden interest in Trip's activities would never
be found out, at least not for the moment. In all honesty Malcolm didn't know what he would do if - when? - Trip ever found
out that maybe, just maybe Malcolm was falling in love with him.
Because that was what it was.
And until something happened to change the... the situation, Malcolm could only hope to hide behind his officer appearance
and his tired facade and watch and listen and make sure that Trip was in a state where he would be able to wake up the next
morning and get through the next day without anything happening to him to send him flying backwards once more.
But something would happen.
Sooner or later, something would happen.
It always did.
o o o o o
i'm no angel, but please don't think that i won't try and try
Malcolm's first 'relationship' had been when he was nineteen and at university, studying naval history (his father) and
applied mathematics (his own choice). Oh, there had been fumblings with various girls before then but this - this was as different
as you could get. Harry Oseythe-James was one of the few people in the maths tutorial that Malcolm felt at all comfortable
talking with and spending time outside classes with. And that was what they did. Long walks through the leafy campus that
Malcolm had chosen for the explicit reasons that a) it was more than seventy miles to the nearest coastline, and b) it was
more than a hundred miles from his parents' house, which was the way Malcolm liked it. Evenings in each other's rooms that
were awkward to begin with, but soon became more relaxed as they got to know each other better. Which they did, of course.
They had only been together for fourteen months, a little over one year, but Malcolm still carried precious memories of that
time; more so than of anyone else he had ever been with because Harry had loved Malcolm for the person he was, warts and all,
rather than the person he could have been in the future, or the person he wasn't at that time in his life. And in return Malcolm
had loved Harry because of this level of acceptance that he had rarely found before, or since.
Sometimes, Malcolm liked to imagine that he found another Harry in the form of Trip here on Enterprise - the friendship
that they had shared up to the time of the Xindi attack on Earth certainly indicated to Malcolm now that a proper relationship
with Trip would follow the same lines - those of trust, acceptance and a kind of love that couldn't just be found anywhere.
But, Malcolm also knew that there was only the smallest chance that Trip would ever return these kinds of feelings for him,
but at the same time while there was even a remote possibility for something like that to happen, then there was also room
for a tiny flicker of hope to remain.
And Malcolm tried. He tried to be less formal when he was talking to Trip - he would consciously replace the previous "goodbye"
with a "good night" or "good evening", and "Commander" slowly but surely made way for either a sly "Mister Tucker" or a more
open and genuine "Trip". And he also knew that he was never going to be perfect - he always slipped up on the speeches and
addresses - but on a more serious note, he also knew that he was fairly sure that he didn't have it in him to actually make
any kind of a move on Trip. Fear held him back, fear of misunderstanding, fear of any kind of accusation, even fear of rejection.
But most of all, there was also a fear of acceptance - what would he do if Trip did want something to happen between them?
Malcolm thought he'd found his answer after the accident in Engineering. There had been an almighty explosion in the engine
room, taking some of the equipment with it, and trapping four of the duty shift down there, including Trip. Malcolm had led
the rescue team through the smoke-filled department, around the larger pieces of debris until one by one they found the engineers
- Crewmen Rostov and Ferris and finally Lieutenant Bathurst were taken up to Sickbay by the others, and there was only Trip
left to be found, and only Malcolm left to find him. And he had found him - half hidden underneath debris and rubble and pinned
in place by metal rods and poles. Malcolm had managed to pull Trip out from underneath everything and get him up to the safety
of sickbay, all the while uncomfortably aware that Trip was leaning into him as they made their way up to where the doctor
was waiting; Malcolm couldn't help but notice that it seemed... that it seemed so right to have Trip leaning in beside him,
for the two if them to be so close together.
And when Trip was lying down on one of the biobeds and slowly succumbing to Phlox's medication, he could have sworn he
heard the engineer mumble something about Malcolm being his own guardian angel.
After that jumble of what could have been a pronouncement, Malcolm had stayed by Trip's bedside for a few hours, trying
to think straight and get his head around everything that had been happening. Different ideas and conclusions raced around
inside his head until he could no longer remember which were his own and which were spur of the moment and little more than
wishful thinking. And when he had come to the single conclusion that made both the most sense and seemed the most likely,
Malcolm had made himself scarce. Buried himself in the armoury. Buried himself in anything that meant he didn't have to face
Trip for longer than a few scared seconds in the mess hall inbetween shifts, double shifts and certain MACO commanders who
clearly believed that they had a special right to Malcolm's time, especially when he was up to his eyeballs in other things
that were much more important at that precise moment in time.
Days had passed since the explosion, and Malcolm had not seen hide nor hair of the chief engineer until on evening when
he was in his quarters and trying to read through some reports that Ensign Rose had sent his way about the impact of the torpedo
upgrades on other interacting systems.
The door chimed, breaking Malcolm away from one of the driest narrations he had even come across, and gratefully he got
up to open the door. And when it opened with a faint hiss...
"Trip." Malcolm gripped tightly on to the side of the wall.
"Hey Malcolm." He looked a lot better for his latest stint in Sickbay, although the medication didn't seem to have done
anything for Trip's exhaustion - he still looked as though he could keel over at any given moment. "Can I come in?"
Malcolm nodded. "Of course," he replied, and stepped away from the door so that Trip could come in; he did, and sat down
on the bed, looking, for all intents and purposes, at complete ease with his surroundings.
Malcolm wished he could have felt the same. He pulled the chair away from his desk and straddled it, facing Trip, and unconsciously
echoing the dream he had had a few weeks before. On the bed, Trip looked uncertain. He shifted position a couple of times,
once bringing his legs up to his chest, but a few seconds later extending them back out again. After a while, he finally broke
the silence. "Think I oughta thank you," he said quietly. "But then again I don't really know what I'm thankin' you for."
"What do you mean?" Malcolm asked, frowning. He brought his chair a little closer into the bed and leaned forward slightly.
Trip shook his head. "I'm probably bein' paranoid or somethin'," he said, "but before I go any further I jus' wanna ask
"Ask me what?"
"You've been watchin' me, haven't you?"
There was no denying it. "Yes."
There was no point beating around the bush, either. "I suppose I wanted to make sure that you were okay," Malcolm replied,
feeling a little more foolish by the second.
There was a pause, then, "Why?"
Malcolm paused for a moment. "I care about you," he said finally, bracing himself for something - anything that could be
coming his way.
But there was nothing, and a few seconds later Malcolm looked up to see Trip watching him with something unreadable in
his eyes. The lieutenant swallowed nervously. And when something did come, it was so quiet that Malcolm nearly didn't hear
it. "I care 'bout you, too," Trip said softly and reached out with a tentative hand, and rested it on Malcolm's left arm,
just below the shoulder.
Taking the plunge straight into the deep end, Malcolm moved his chair a few more centimetres until there was almost no
distance at all between himself and Trip, and with one hand reached out to touch the side of Trip's face, leaving it there
as Trip closed his eyes at the touch. When he opened them again, Trip leaned forward slightly, just enough to be able to kiss
Malcolm gently, so gently that Malcolm very nearly couldn't feel it. After a few seconds Trip pulled away, smiling slightly.
"That was nice," he said quietly.
Malcolm smiled back. "More than just nice," he replied, trying to put paid to the swirling mass of sensations down where
his stomach had once been. He closed his eyes briefly. "I've wanted to do that for a long time," he added softly, almost inaudibly
in the room.
"Same here," Trip replied, "and thank you."
"What for?" Malcolm asked.
"Keepin' an eye out for me. Bein' there when I needed savin'." Trip paused. "Bein' there when I needed someone to love."
Malcolm didn't even hesitate. "I love you, too."
The smile on Trip's face grew, and he let out an explosive breath that seemed incredibly loud in the confined space. He
chuckled dryly, then said, "It all seems so strange now."
"What does?" Malcolm asked, getting up off the chair and joining Trip on the bed.
"Everythin'." Trip turned to face him, and let Malcolm draw him into a tight hug. "More so now I know this is real."
He leaned into Malcolm's embrace, and felt his smile against his head. "This is very real, love," Malcolm whispered. "As
real as you want it to be."
Trip nodded wordlessly and tightened his grip on Malcolm, not wanting to let the younger man go. He felt Malcolm run a
hand up and down his back, seeming to offer so much and demand so little back in return. And as he felt himself calm down,
letting himself be soothed by Malcolm's gentle movement, Trip could only wonder at how much of an angel Real Malcolm could
be as well, when he wanted to be.
And for his part, Malcolm was thinking along a similar line, except that with him it was more of a practical line of thought,
one that he hoped would come true like it had done only once or twice before in his life.
i'm no angel, but does that mean that i won't fly?