Seven in the Evening

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Title: Seven in the Evening
Pairing: Reed/Sato, Tucker/female
Category: Angst
Rating: PG
Summary: The moment you know someone's never coming back.
Author's Note: Written to satisfy people's itches regarding "Six in the Morning"...!

"Young man, step away from the oven!"

The declaration was followed immediately by a protest. "But Dad..."

"No," the first voice said firmly. "You do not eat food while it's still cookin'."

"But Dad," the second voice repeated, "I was oglin' the dinner, not stealin' it!"

Then a third voice. "Malcolm honey, leave your father alone. He'll get dinner finished sooner or later." The speaker paused. "Come to think of it, it'll be a lot later."

"Hey!" Trip called from out of the kitchen. "Ya can't rush art!"

"That's not art, honey, that's our dinner," the third voice shot back instantly. "Try to keep it that way."

In the living room, Hoshi Sato-Reed smiled to herself as the owner of the second voice all but stormed out of the kitchen and through to where she was. Literally to where she was, and for a second, Hoshi hoped that he wasn't going to repeat a childhood habit and try to sit on her lap. He may have only been fourteen-odd years old, but Malcolm Tucker was growing taller every day.

However - much to her relief - he instead plopped down onto the sofa next to her. He scowled, and for a moment Hoshi was hit by a wave of recognition, provoking both a sense of warmth and chilling loss at the same time. The expression on her face must have been obvious, because Malcolm turned around to face her. "You alright, Aunty Hoshi?" he asked, his voice tone-for-intonation a higher-pitched version of his dad's. "You don't look so happy."

"I was just thinking about someone," Hoshi told him.



Comprehension dawned on the boy's face. "Ah. Dad talks about him sometimes as well."

Hoshi smiled slightly, throwing a quick look back in the direction of the kitchen. "And what does he say?" she asked.

Malcolm shrugged. "Weird things," he said. "Talks about targetin' scanners a lot. That and pineapple cake."

Her smile grew wider. "That sounds about right. Has he ever told you any of the stories, then?"

Malcolm leaned forward eagerly. "No. What?"

"Well, there were quite a few. I can't believe your dad hasn't told you about them." She was going to enjoy this, she knew it. "Like the time we all went down to this pleasure planet for shore leave and your dad and Malcolm ended up tied up and in their underwear. And when your dad took Malcolm out to celebrate him getting his first captaincy, they didn't come home for two nights."

Malcolm goggled at Hoshi. "Dad did what?"

Hoshi tried not to laugh as she remembered. "Malcolm and I were still living in England at that point, you understand," she replied. "He and your dad disappeared at about seven in the evening with some spurious excuse about pub crawls. The next we heard from them was nearly forty-eight hours later when Malcolm's cousin in Scotland contacted your mum and I, saying the two of them had ended up at her's, and were still recovering from hangovers."

At that last part Malcolm laughed out loud, which got the attention of both his parents, both of whom stuck their heads in the living room. When they saw Hoshi sitting with him, Kath smiled and ducked back through the door again, while Trip just stayed there for a moment, a dripping spoon in one hand and a smile verging on sappy on his face. Eventually, however, he got a hold of himself. "Mal, go get the twins down for dinner," he said.

"'Kay, Dad," Malcolm replied, bounding up from the sofa and disappearing in the direction of the hallway, the stairs and his sisters' bedroom.

Throwing the tea towel he'd been holding over his shoulder and shoving the hopefully dry ladle in his trouser pocket, Trip came over to sit next to Hoshi on the sofa. He poked her good-naturedly a couple of times. "How're the kids doin'?"

Hoshi smiled, grateful for the small offer of escape. "Quite well, I'll have you know," she told him jokingly. "Miles and Bruin have both got Vulcan accents like you wouldn't believe, and Hannah's finally gotten a grip on the verb formations. She's done really well to catch up with the others after the stay in hospital."

"Well, that's good to hear," Trip smiled back. He pulled the ladle out of his pocket and pointed at the kitchen. "You stayin' for some dinner?"

"No, not tonight," she told him, "but thank you for the invitation. Ian offered to cook for me tonight, it wouldn't be fair on him if I showed up having already eaten."

Trip nodded in understanding. Hoshi and Ian had only been seeing each other for a few months but it already showed that he was good for her; Trip couldn't recall seeing his friend this happy in a long time. "Well, you get goin' then," he told her, gently scuffing her off the sofa. "Tell him I said hey."

"I'll do that," Hoshi replied. She picked up her jacket off the back of the sofa and slipped into it. She gave Trip a quick peck on the cheek before saying goodbye to Kath in the kitchen, and calling to the kids who were still upstairs somewhere, and leaving the house altogether. From here the public shuttle was about a ten minute walk away, and although it was still only October it was starting to get cold, despite it being light still. Hoshi pulled the jacket closer around her, stuck her hands firmly in the large pockets and walked a little quicker than normal to get to the station where the shuttles departed from.

She got there in plenty of time, and chose a seat near the back of the shuttle, next to one of the viewports where she could see most things going on outside. A few more people got on after her, including a couple with a baby in tow, and also a couple of studenty-types who chatted to each other constantly in quiet tones. A few minutes after the students got on, the shuttle lifted off, completing a couple of low circuits of the station before moving properly through the crisp autumn air. Hoshi had taken this route countless times before after spending time at Trip's house, and as a result she knew exactly when she could look down and left from her seat to see the roof of Trip and Kath's medium sized suburban semi.

Suddenly shaky, Hoshi leaned back in her seat, taking several deep breaths to try and calm herself. It worked, and for a short while she simply stared at the back of the seat in front of her, using it as a centre to stop herself from shaking and shivering again. In an effort to distract herself more than anything else, Hoshi tried to remember the first time she'd met Kath, Trip's wife...

Kathleen Moran was a friend of Trip's Irish brother-in-law, the daughter of some industrial businessman back in Ireland, although an expert civilian engineering designer in her own right. She and Trip had met when he'd gotten captaincy of the Yorktown and they'd clashed over design and implementation of the warp six engines in the fleet. Within two years, they were married, although Hoshi hadn't actually met her face-to-face until she'd heard via Starfleet that Captain Tucker's wife was about to go into labour, and said captain had wanted Hoshi to be there.

At the time, they'd lost contact with the Terebinthia, the ship Malcolm had only just literally received captaincy of, and for the two weeks the ship had been completely incommunicado with anybody and everybody, Hoshi had been out of her mind with worry and anxiety. She and Malcolm had only been married for a few months by that point, and the last communication he'd had with her from the ship, Malcolm had shyly broached the subject of them having children, impracticalities and everything else aside. But Malcolm Reed had always been one to do things by the book as much as possible, and his family had been no exception. But he was now missing, along with his ship and crew, and Trip had rightly thought that getting her away from the empty house for a few hours would do her some good.

So she'd caught the next shuttle that would get her near to the hospital where Kath was going into labour, at exactly the same time that the announcement had come:

The Terebinthia had been found by a Vulcan search vessel, debris scattered across three star systems - the result of a deadly and futile battle with the Suliban. Their weapons' energy signatures had blared like a foghorn on the Vulcan ship's sensors. No escape pods had been launched, and there had been no hope whatsoever of finding any survivors.

Having heard the announcement on the public shuttle's speaker systems, Hoshi had pretty much stumbled into the hospital's reception and straight into Trip's arms. He'd heard the announcement too, and had been waiting for her by the doors.

She hadn't cried. Hoshi could remember vividly - there had been no tears the whole time Trip had held her and kept her from collapsing to the floor altogether. And she could remember, in slow motion almost, how Trip had taken her hand and quietly led her up to the maternity wing of the hospital where Kath Tucker was still giving birth. Sat with her just outside the open door to the labour room, and gently tried to coax her into talking.

But Hoshi had been numb, unable to comprehend and unable to believe. This was Malcolm they were talking about - Malcolm didn't die, he defeated the odds by coming back from behind and annihilating anybody who dared to attack those it was his duty to protect. He couldn't be dead. He just couldn't be...

And then she'd noticed in a dazed state that Trip was gone from her side, and that in the labour room, Kath had stopped screaming, a sure sign the baby had been born. Hoshi had never been able to account for her thoughts or feelings during the ten or fifteen minutes before Trip going into the labour room and Trip coming back out again with his wife by his side and their baby in her arms.

Hoshi remembered looking up and really seeing Kath's face for the first time. Piercing green eyes hidden behind sweat-streaked damp curly red hair that was literally plastered to the sides of her face and neck. And one of the most cheerful smiles that Hoshi had ever seen on a person, although this time the exhaustion came off the woman in waves.

Hoshi didn't remember the first words to come out of Kath's mouth, but in the years afterwards she'd been pretty sure that she'd been told the baby was a boy, very healthy and whole, and she could remember seeing Trip beam at his wife and son like he'd never smiled before.

Then Trip had come over and sat next to Hoshi, and quietly - almost nervously at first, told her that he and Kath had talked about it, and they wanted to name their son after Malcolm. And Hoshi could remember looking up at Trip, waiting like a scared animal for her response, before she nodded, feeling the growing, bulging lump in her throat and the strange sensation building up in a certain spot right behind each of her eyes.

She'd nodded, giving Trip her permission to name his son after her dead husband, and as the doctor came out of the labour room, telling the couple the details of their child's birth - he'd been born at precisely seven in the evening - and other miscellaneous things, it finally hit Hoshi.

You only name a baby after someone if they're never coming back.

Malcolm was never coming back.

She'd lost him.


And finally Hoshi began to cry.

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