Title: Courage

Author: Joules Mer

Author's e-mail: julia_ocean_child@yahoo.co.uk

Author's URL: http://jmenterprise.popullus.net

Date: Posted to EntSTSlash 1/13/2004

Archive: Permission to archive granted to EntSTCommunity and BLTS.  All others ask me.

Fandom: Star Trek Enterprise

Category: Slash

Rating: PG

Pairing: Tucker/Reed

Summary:  Courage in the face of fear.

Series:  Sequel to Fear

Beta: None

Spoilers: None

Disclaimer: Enterprise is the property of Paramount.  No profit was made, no copyright infringement is intended.

A/N:  Big thanks go to Leah without whom this fic wouldn't exist.  This one's for the monkey.


    A soft rustling sound was the first thing he was aware of, but it was immediately followed by a dull throbbing in his head.  Trip moaned softly and blinked his eyes open.  An action he immediately regretted as the bright light drove a painful spike through his forehead.  He moaned again and weakly attempted to turn away from the light.  It was another action he regretted as he was immediately assailed by an unpleasant urge, "I'm gonna be sick."  Hands gripped him under his armpits and hauled him upwards as a basin was placed in his lap.  Trip's vision swam as he retched and heaved, wishing he could just pass out right then and there.

    A sharp pinch at his neck accompanied by the hiss of a hypospray was soon followed by a wonderful sense of relief.  "That should help with the pain and nausea, Commander.  You've suffered a rather severe concussion."  The hands gently lowered him back down to the biobed as Trip blinked the involuntary tears out of his eyes.

    "Thanks Doc."

    His captain's face swam into focus and Trip managed a weak smile, "Hey Cap'n."

    Jon smiled warmly at his friend, "Hey, Trip.  You gave us all quite a scare.  Seems there's never a boring away mission with you around."

    "I aim to please."  Trip sighed and blinked his eyes sleepily as he suppressed a yawn, "Malcolm alright?"

    Jon indicated the biobed to Trip's right.  "He wanted to be here when you woke up, but he was absolutely exhausted.  He sat with you for a while, but Phlox finally made him pack it in."

    "He saved my life."  Jon abruptly turned back to his friend at Trip's quiet statement.  "He was scared out of his mind, but he saved my life."


    "Malcolm!"  The shaking frees me from the clutches of the nightmare.  I take a gulping breath and snap my eyes open, quickly reduced to squinting in the sudden light.  "Whoa, Malcolm.  Take it easy."  I bring a hand up and sweep the sleep from my eyes.  Blue swims into view in front of me and I almost panic again before I realize what it is.  Blue eyes.


    "Yeah."  He shifts and I realize he'd had a hand near my cheek.  "Nightmare?"  I nod slowly, it's not like I can deny it now.  "Want to talk about it?"

    The automatic refusal dies on my lips and I surprise even myself, it's what he does to me, "Water."  Trip doesn't do anything so I continue, "I was drowning."  I feel myself begin to flush, but before I can feel foolish Trip surprises me by reaching out and taking my hand.  He's always been a tactile person, but for some reason I'm so startled my eyes snap to his face and I'm further surprised to find his normally expressive features strangely unreadable.  "Trip?"  The word comes out as a funny croak as he leans closer.

    His blue eyes sear into me as he speaks softly, "You saved my life, Malcolm."

    I squirm under his intense gaze, "It's my job."  The weakly muttered words do little to deflect his attention.

    "Last I checked leaping off cliffs to fish foolhardy superior officers out of alien oceans wasn't part of the job description."  I can feel myself blush and unable to do more than mumble something indistinct which causes him to grip my hand more tightly as if afraid I'm going to pull away.  "I call that above and beyond, Malcolm, and I'm very grateful.  His gaze is so intense I sit up quickly to get a brief respite from it, instead I am confronted by our entwined hands on the surface of the biobed.  Slowly, a new idea presents itself and I cautiously look up at the man in front of me.


    He shuffles his feet, but doesn't release my hand.  "This has kinda made me realize some things." 

    I don't dare let myself hope.  "What exactly?"

    Trip runs his hand through his hair in a nervous gesture, "Hell, Malcolm, you're smart, kind, and really brave..."  He trails off for a moment before continuing softly, "You're very special to me."

    At that moment I feel my heart stop in my chest.


    "Coward."  The word echoed in the jeffries tube and Malcolm winced.  He thought he'd gotten over talking to himself.  Malcolm wriggled out from under the cannon assembly and carefully placed his spanner back in its toolkit, it wasn't like he could really focus on work right now. 

    Malcolm could remember the only time he'd ever been called a coward before by anyone, including himself.  When he'd told his family he was going to join Starfleet his shocked father had spat the word at him and left the room.  He'd told himself it wasn't true and tried to brush it off, but it had hurt him.  It was a wound that had smarted and festered for years.  When Malcolm had been sitting on that ledge he'd felt like a great weight had been lifted from him.  Now he wasn't so sure the feeling was justified.

    "But it's true."  The words echoed slightly in the confined space, a fact which seemed to add more substance to their sentiment.  "In the instant that I saw him floating face down I realized that there is one thing that I'm more afraid of than drowning."  Malcolm let his head fall back and hit the wall, "Did I overcome a fear or surrender to a greater one?"  The cold metal walls didn't offer any answers.

    He sat that way for a while before his shoulders slumped at a more recent memory, "And now what have I done?"  He winced as he remembered how he'd leapt off of the biobed and fled from sickbay.  He fought the guilty feeling that welled up inside him, "I did not hurt him!  He had a concussion, he wasn't thinking clearly!  There's no way he'd say that otherwise."  But what if he did mean it?  Malcolm didn't know where that niggling thought came from, but he was determined to banish it.  "Impossible!  It was the concussion and Phlox's drugs talking, the combination is bound to make people silly."  Malcolm toyed with the zipper on his sleeve and continued softly, "He'd never mean that.  It's just not possible."

    I've barely seen him in the past few days.  Phlox let him come back on duty the day before yesterday, but he hasn't been to the bridge at all.  I actually went down to engineering this morning, on the pretence of picking up a replacement part, and he was nowhere to be found.  I asked Crewman Rostov where I could find him, but the man didn't know.  It seems Trip did come in on time and hand out assignments, but then he'd said something about completing some refits and vanished.  I suppose I could comm him, but I don't want to bother him if he's knee deep in repairs.

    Maybe he's more embarrassed about his little concussed overture than I thought he would be, but something like embarrassment never stopped him from talking to me before.  Honestly, the only other possibility I can come up with to explain his behaviour is that... oh bloody hell.


    My pulse is racing faster than it has any right to when I finally track him down in engineering.  "Commander!"

    He spins around to face me and his eyes narrow dangerously, "Lieutenant."  The warning is clearly present in the icy tone.  Back off.

    "I was hoping to speak with you, Trip."

    He blinks at the use of his name, but quickly schools his features again.  "I'm busy right now, Lieutenant."

    "As soon as you're free is fine."

    "I don't think I have time to chat today, Lieutenant.  Maybe tomorrow, or next week."

    I can tell I'm tempting the Tucker temper, but this is too important for me to care, "I'll wait until the end of your shift if I have to, but I *will* talk with you today, Trip."

    He scowls outright at that, but I refuse to back down.  When his best glare is met with a firm gaze he finally relents, "Fine."  He stormily leads the way to his small office and shuts the door behind us, "You've got one minute."

    "I need, want, to apologize for my behaviour in sickbay.  It was completely out of line."  I wince inwardly at the stiffness of my words, that's not quite what I want to say.

    He positively snarls his next words at me, unable to keep the hurt from his tone, "Most people have heard of letting someone down lightly."

    "Oh, Trip."  His angry face crumbles and he just looks sad.  In that instant I can tell he meant everything, and words just start tumbling out of me, "I'm so sorry, Trip.  You see, I do care about you, more than I've ever really cared for someone else, well, besides my sister, but that's different.  I really care about you, Trip, that's why I could jump into that bloody ocean.  When you said all that stuff, I thought it was just the concussion talking, I didn't think you could mean it.  I wanted to stay, but I was afraid.  I thought you'd come to your senses in a few days and be horrified.  I couldn't bear to go through that.  I was too afraid, so I ran for it."  My voice hitches and threatens to give out, but I manage to choke out my last few words, "I'm just a coward, Trip."

    He gapes at me dumbly for a moment before he finds his voice, "Malcolm, you're the bravest person I've ever met!  You volunteer to go out on the hull and diffuse a mine or get beaten up by the Suliban, and you've saved my sorry ass a few times.  You sure as hell aren't a coward, Malcolm, and I care deeply for you.  Remember that."

    "I'm not a coward?"  There is a note of wonder in my voice and I don't know where the tremble comes from, perhaps it's because no one's ever told me that before.  Not my superiors, not my instructors, not my cadet leaders, not my parents.

    "Oh no, Malcolm, not now, not ever."  Something about the expression on my face affects him because he suddenly steps forward and just grabs me, crushing me into a tight embrace.

    I stand there for a moment in shock before I tentatively encircle him with my arms and relax into the embrace.  I remember the forbidding, icy look that had been in Trip's eyes and can't help but smile, maybe I have some courage after all.