o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o
o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o
Gone out. Be back later. No need to wait up.
Malcolm Reed looked at the little scrap of paper stuck on the kitchen's noticeboard, and
sighed. This sort of thing had been happening more and more often lately over the past six months. Brief notes like this one
appearing on the noticeboard, often accompanied with little or no explanation when she did come home. He knew that he himself
had been working later and later at Starfleet recently, but he knew for a fact that the hours he had been putting in were
substantially more compared to how long she worked.
He had his social life outside work, and he knew that Hoshi had hers as well, but still...
he was beginning to understand the real meaning of the "life in a small town" analogy that Lieutenant Petersson in Weapons
Division liked quoting on an almost weekly basis. Malcolm and his wife had clearly been seeing too much of each other, and
that was how the story went, so it seemed. Now, it seemed, things were apparently cooling off, so to speak.
Walking out of the kitchen, Malcolm grimaced slightly. He had several reports to read and
approve by tomorrow's staff meeting, and each of them would take some time to peruse thoroughly.
Due to his semi-recent promotion to head of Starfleet Weapons & Research Division, Commander
Malcolm Reed had found that often, the only solace he found nowadays was buried deep in a mountain of administrative work.
Going into the living room of the apartment that he and his wife shared, Malcolm's eyes fell
on one of the photographs hung on the wall. It had been taken on the day he had married Hoshi, in a small cathedral in Arundel,
in the south of England. Standing in the sunshine with the Gothic walls as a backdrop, four friends stood smiling for the
camera man - Malcolm and Hoshi, the bride and groom; a friend of Hoshi's from college who had been the maid of honour, whose
name Malcolm could barely remember, let alone pronounce; the best man, Trip Tucker. One of Malcolm's best friends in as long
as he could remember. Trip Tucker, who had insisted on telling everyone assembled at the wedding reception how and about what
exactly Malcolm had talked in his sleep while stranded on Shuttlepod One a mere seven months into Enterprise's mission. For
some reason, that had always stuck in Malcolm's mind. More so because of what had happened the second time the pair of them
had been left drifting a few long light-years from home.
It wasn't something he cared to recall or remember very often, because of the memories he
had associated with the days immediately following the event, rather than the event itself. Just eleven months left to go
until Starfleet's flagship had been due to return home in a blaze of glory and smug looks in the general direction of the
Vulcan High Command, and for the second time, the ship's chief engineer and armoury officer had been stuck together in a shuttlepod...
this time without any alcohol to make the time pass more quickly.
But this time, Malcolm thought, bourbon wasn't exactly high on the list of requirements.
This time around he and Trip had had the benefit of nearly four years' friendship going for them, and for several hours they
had simply talked until the armoury officer had succumbed to his usual maudlin tendencies and as a joke had started envisioning
gruesome, creepy and generally bizarre deaths for the two of them.
And then, without really thinking about it, he had come out with a truly snide remark about
how he would like to go. And then, without really thinking about it, he had acted upon that instinct.
It had been good, that much he remembered. He recalled being surprised that Trip had been
as good as he was, and... Malcolm also recalled what an arsehole he had been when they had finally reunited with Enterprise.
Terror, he thought, still looking at the photograph. That would have been an appropriate
description for what he had been feeling. Terror of what he had done, after having sworn off men after the last relationship
he had been in before boarding Enterprise. Terror, mostly, of what he was afraid could happen this time around.
Malcolm Reed was no fool. He had known whom on the ship had had... feelings for him, having
been trained to notice and respond appropriately to deviant behaviour in individuals around him. He had therefore known that
a certain someone had been staring his way on more than one occasion, but he had also refused point-blank to let anything
take root in his mind, and merely resigned himself to letting things carry on as normal.
Then, after the shuttlepod, everything had changed. Trip's feelings for him had become so
much more real to him, and as a person, the engineer had become so much more real to him that Malcolm had started finding
it hard to breathe, both figuratively and literally. So then he had done the only thing that he knew how to do - he called
things to a head and ran away from it all.
He had broken Trip's heart, Malcolm realised, eyes still on the photograph on the wall, this
time only focusing on the two men... and for the first time he noticed the expression in Trip's eyes.
They had looked desperately sad and lonely, despite the smile on his face as he had, seemingly
effortlessly, slid a friendly arm around the groom as they had posed for the person behind the camera, and for the life of
him, Malcolm couldn't realise how he hadn't seen that before, however many times he had looked at that image with a happy
Or maybe I just wasn't looking hard enough, his
mind supplied, and Malcolm breathed out, only just realising how long he had been holding it in. And maybe I've only just
Two weeks after the wedding, Trip had taken up the post offered to him on the Enterprise's
second mission, another five-year deal. Malcolm and Hoshi had declined the chance to re-board the ship, the former to focus
on work behind the scenes at Starfleet, and the latter to refocus on the teaching career that had been cut short the first
Something needed to be done. Now. Before he talked himself into changing his mind.
Malcolm made up his mind. Settling down in front of the computer console he began the process
that would start to record a vocal message that could be sent through subspace... that could be sent via the Echo probes to
a starship thirty light-years and fifty-four months from home.
The computer chirped its readiness to begin, and almost nervously Malcolm cleared his throat
and began to speak. Because he had to talk to Trip, to try and repair what damage he had done... however wittingly or unwittingly.
But the burning question still remained... did he have any feelings left for Trip? God only
knew he loved Hoshi, but it wasn't the same kind of emotion that had left him crying himself to sleep for nights on end after
simply dismissing Trip on Enterprise. And right now, that was all he knew.
Finally the first words tumbled out, and after that it became a little easier to speak.
"For the attention of Captain Charles Tucker..."