Title: Cyrus
Author Joules Mer
Rating: PG
Disclaimer:  Enterprise is the property of Paramount.  No profit was made, no copyright infringement is intended.
Spoilers: Shuttlepod One, First Flight, Precious Cargo.
Archive:  Yes to EntSTCommunity, Tim Ruben, and BLTS.  All others please ask.
Website: jmenterprise.popullus.net
Beta: None.
Note: In canon with my fic 3 Days (set a number of years before this).


    "Charlie!  Erica!"  The singsong tone carried across the playground, causing two small heads to turn towards the source.  Blue eyes met as the pair gauged each other and their father's tone of voice.  As one they decided what to do.

    "Come catch us!"  They split up, running in opposite directions.  Charlie made a beeline for the protection of the jungle gym, while his sister was halfway up a tree in the blink of an eye.  Malcolm stood shaking his head and wondering why he was blessed, or cursed, with such energetic children.  He carefully placed his thermal mug of tea on the ground and surveyed the situation, planning out a strategy before he took off at a dead run towards his son.  He sprinted up to the structure, executing a perfect drop and roll under the lower bar and inside.  Charlie was on his knees, halfway out the other side, when he felt his arm taken in a gentle, but firm, grasp.

    "Got you.  Now you have to help me with your sister."  Charlie nodded his acceptance, aware that fleeing a second time was ill-advised.  They clambered out of the cage-like structure and found that Erica had abandoned her first tree.  She was now comfortably perched atop the beam that held up the tire swing.  Malcolm scrutinized her perch carefully.  He wanted to be sure she wouldn't fall as he executed the next trick he had up his sleeve.  He began to run, gaining momentum as he went.  When he was about a stride in front of her he leapt, gently tagging the toes that she had been sure were out of reach.  "Caught you, love.  Now come down."

    "Okay Dad."  She huffed, but like her brother, she knew when she was beaten.  

    Malcolm herded his children back to the bench he'd been sitting on and pulled out sandwiches and drinks from a rucksack proffered by his husband.  "You've still got it darlin'."  
    Malcolm couldn't help but grin at the compliment, "You saw?"

    Trip chuckled, "Got here just in time for the drop and roll."  He reached out and brushed off some leaves and twigs that were clinging to Malcolm's jacket.  "Very nice."

    Malcolm blushed slightly and recovered his abandoned tea before joining Trip on the bench.  "Are you working tomorrow too?"  

    "Naw, Sundays off were part of the deal, remember?  We're going to start testing the intermix on Monday though."

    Malcolm nodded his assent, "I can send them off to school, but I might be a bit late getting home as I've got to do some performance reviews.  It's your dinner night, anyway."

    "That it is, Mal.  It'll be on the table when ya get home."

    Anything further was forestalled by a figure sitting on the ground at their feet, "Done!"  

    Trip smiled down at his son, "Then put the wrappings in the recycle bin and you can go and play."  His children ran off again and Trip slipped an arm around Malcolm, cuddling him gently.  "Y'know what we should do next Saturday?"

    "No.  What love?"

    Trip turned his head and whispered into Malcolm's ear, "Get us a babysitter.  I fancy and evenin' of just you and me."

    Malcolm snorted and shifted to face his husband, "And just who do you think we can convince to look after our children?"  His pointedly raised eyebrow forced Trip to recall an incident involving a babysitter, a water balloon, and his daughter.

    Trip winced at the memory, "They're not like that all the time.  She apologized and she said she'll never do it again."

    "So did the babysitter."

    Trip groaned at his husband's deadpan.  "Look, Maya and Rick have this kid they highly recommend.  He's looked after their four kids for a couple of years and you know what their children are like."  Trip could tell he was winning as Malcolm gave a little shudder so he pressed his point home, "Besides, he's got full first aid certification."

    Malcolm's eyebrow raised, "Fully certified you say?"


    Malcolm's grin matched his husband's.  "I think this is something we should look into."  


    The doorbell rang just as Malcolm finished tying his tie.  Since a quick glance around the room told him that their sitter was right on time, and that Trip was still doing up his shirt, he headed for the front door.  The teenage boy on their porch introduced himself as Cyrus and proceeded to impress Malcolm by inquiring about emergency contact information and food allergies or other medical issues as soon as his quick tour of the house began.

    When Trip finally called from the front door that he was ready to go, Malcolm left his children with Cyrus and firmly worded instructions to be good.  They both swept out the front door and into their vehicle, looking forward to a nice evening out.  


    Malcolm unlocked and opened the front door as quietly as possible, grateful that the porch light had been left on.  They found Cyrus in the living room reading one of Trip's engineering periodicals from a stack on the coffee table.  The teenager told them that Charlie and Erica had behaved themselves.  Eating dinner, playing, and then going to bed without complaint, or at least, not too much complaint where bed was concerned.  While Trip went upstairs to check on their children, Malcolm offered Cyrus a ride home.  He didn't want to force him to take a lengthy trip on public transit late at night.  

    Ten minutes later Malcolm was piloting the ground vehicle through nearly deserted streets and talking at length with the vehicle's other occupant.  Cyrus was in his final year of general public education, and hoped to enter Starfleet Academy at the beginning of next year's term.  It was then that Malcolm asked if Cyrus had any family in the fleet.

    "I think so.  I mean, my father might be.  My mom used to know a lot of people in the fleet.  She even says she knew Jonathan Archer."  Malcolm smiled at the hero worship in the boy's tone as he hastened to finish his thought, "I mean, not that that's anything new to you, but for folks back here meeting him is a really big deal.  Heck, it's a really big deal to meet you and Captain Tucker as well.  My friends in physics class are going to be so jealous that I read his NX progress report from his very own copy of the journal.  And Erica showed me your model of the force field generator, the net ranks it among the best inventions of the century."  Malcolm blushed as Cyrus continued to babble for a few minutes.  Sometimes it was tough being a recognizable figure.

    "I can send you the schematics for the newer version if you'd like, they'll be made public in a few days anyway."

    "Really?"  There was a distinct squeak to his tone.  "That would be great, wow.  I mean thanks."

    Malcolm's lips twitched into a smile, "No problem."

    Cyrus fidgeted in silence for a minute or so before he spoke again, "Can I ask you something?  It's kinda personal."  Malcolm nodded as he pulled up in front of the condominium that bore the address Cyrus had given him.  "There was a bar in San Francisco where people from Starfleet used to go, the 602 club."

    Malcolm smiled slightly, "I know it quite well."

    "Oh."  Cyrus looked both relieved and even more apprehensive at the same time.  "My mom used to work there when she was younger.  She said she met my father there.  I never knew him and she doesn't really talk about him much.  My mom's name is Ruby.  Did you know her?"  At Malcolm's slightly shocked look he hurriedly continued, "I wouldn't have asked, but I've been trying to find out any information that I can and you're the best lead I've come across.  I went there last year, but no one remembered her.  Most of the people that hung out there back then are all pretty important people and I can't get in touch with them."

    "It's okay."  Cyrus' mouth closed with an audible snap.  "It's all right, you just surprised me.  I knew your mother, fairly well in fact."

    "Really?  Cyrus' eyes were wide as Malcolm pondered what exactly to tell him.  He didn't want to cause any familial problems, but Cyrus was technically of age.

    "We actually went out a few times."

    "My mom went out with you!  Wow."  

    Malcolm barley resisted the urge to laugh at the Trip-ism of the "wow."  "From what I've heard she knew my husband quite well too.  She had cadets and officers alike vying for her affection."

    Cyrus considered this, "So my dad was probably in Starfleet?"

    Malcolm nodded, "Almost everyone who went to the club was."

    Cyrus fidgeted again, which Malcolm took to mean there was something else he wanted to ask, "Anything else?"

    Cyrus looked at him gratefully, "She doesn't have much of anything from back then, but I found this photo.  It was the only one I could find that she'd kept, so I thought it might be important."  He hesitantly pulled out his wallet and removed a printout of a slightly grainy photo.  "Do you know any of them?"

    Malcolm squinted at the small picture, it contained several figures.  Ruby was front and centre.  Standing next to her and laughing was a tall man while seated at the bar was a figure in a Starfleet uniform with his face down, about to take a swig of his drink.  Another man had an arm around Ruby and seemed to be in the process of kissing her.  Malcolm focused his attention on them one at a time, "That man," he pointed at the laughing man and Cyrus leaned over to see, "is A.G. Robinson.  I recognize him from pictures that Trip has."  He scrutinized the seated figure more closely before concluding, "That's Jonathan Archer."

    "No way!"

    Malcolm smiled, "I'm quite sure, and I've had a few drinks with him in my time."

    Cyrus nodded eagerly and indicated the third man, "But who's that?  I think it might be my father."

    Malcolm looked at the photo closely, it almost looked like, but it couldn't be. The man's face was turned away from the camera, but the section of profile that was presented was strangely familiar.  Malcolm felt his heart leap into his throat as the realized why it seemed familiar.  Malcolm slowly lowered the photo and found himself looking at Cyrus' eager face.  Cyrus, with blond hair, blue eyes, and aspirations to be a Starfleet engineer.  Malcolm's heart skipped a beat.  He recognized the third man in the photo.  He was married to him.

    When Malcolm spoke he forced his voice to be as steady and light as possible.  "He seems a bit familiar, but I can't see enough of him to be sure."  

    "Do you want to keep the photo?  I've got a few copies, and Captain Tucker might know who it is."

    Malcolm gave Cyrus a weak smile as he took the photo, "I'll try and find out for you."

    "Thanks so much."  He swung open the door,  "Goodnight."  Cyrus bounded out of the car and up the walkway.  Malcolm waited until he'd disappeared from sight before he took another look at the photo, hoping it had changed somehow.  It hadn't.  It was still Trip with his arm around Ruby.  She was smiling as he kissed her cheek.  Malcolm stared at it for a moment before he tucked it inside his jacket and started up the vehicle.  Perhaps he'd take the long route home.


    "Hey darlin', didn't get lost didja?  I was expecting you a while ago."

    Malcolm slipped into bed beside his husband and automatically put an arm around Trip when he snuggled in close to his side.  "No, I was talking with Cyrus.  He wants join Starfleet you know."

    Trip laughed, "No wonder he was so eager to look after Charlie and Eri, he wanted to pick our brains.  What was it that he cancelled so that he could come tonight?"

    "Some sporting event, but he had to sell his ticket.  That's why he couldn't give us a yes or no until yesterday."

    "Oh.  Anyway, enough taking about him.  I have something in mind, but one of us is overdressed, and it's not me."

    Malcolm could almost sense Trip wagging his eyebrows in the dark room.  He felt a hand gripping the waistband of his boxers and hastened to speak up.  "It was a truly lovely evening, Trip,"  he placed his hand over his husband's and steered it upwards, "but I'm not quite up for that."

    "But what about what ya said on the way home?"  There was almost a whine in the man's tone.  "I've been waiting for you to get back."

    Malcolm sighed, "I'm so sorry love, but I'm absolutely exhausted."  He twisted and gave Trip a tender kiss on the lips.  A tactic known to make Trip readily capitulate to any and all of Malcolm's demands.

    "Okay, Mal."  Trip reached out and gently pulled Malcolm to him, holding him in a tender embrace.  He planted a quick kiss on Malcolm's forehead before settling himself comfortably on the bed.  Despite his earlier demands, Trip fell asleep quite quickly.  Malcolm lay awake for hours.


    Malcolm shuffled downstairs, following the aromas of coffee, tea, and toast to the kitchen.  There were two empty bowl on the table, the traces of cereal and milk attesting to the fact that they'd once held Charlie and Erica's breakfasts.  "Mornin' darlin'."  Trip turned away from the stove to give him a quick peck on the cheek.  "Eggs?"

    "Please."  Malcolm poured himself a cup of tea from the freshly made pot and sat down at the table.  "You should have woken me."

    "Tried, but you were sleepin' pretty soundly.  You really must have been exhausted."

    Malcolm gave a vaguely agreeing harrumph.  He couldn't bear to blatantly lie to his husband.  Not that what he'd just done felt any better.

    "We should hire that kid again.  Charlie and Erica really like him, and from what I can tell he did a great job.  How 'bout next weekend?"

    Malcolm felt a sudden flash of irrational panic at the suggestion, "Em, I've really got to check my schedule, love, I'm so busy these days with the design modifications."

    Trip raised an eyebrow, "So busy you can't take one night off?  On the weekend?"

    "I just said I'd have to check.  I might be free."  Malcolm winced at how defensive he sounded.  He wondered how he would stall until it was too late to ask Cyrus to babysit.  Knowing Trip, the man would phone an hour before they would hypothetically go out just in case Cyrus was free that evening.

    "You do that."  Malcolm turned away from the careful scrutiny that he was being subjected to.  He didn't want Trip to directly ask him what was wrong.  "You feelin' alright Mal?"  Damn.  Malcolm inwardly cursed while trying to maintain his composure.

    "Not really, love."  Malcolm gave Trip an apologetic smile, "I think I might just go back to bed for a while."

    Trip quickly crossed the room and placed his hand on Malcolm's forehead, "No fever.  Got a headache?"  Malcolm nodded, which was by now the truth.  "Do ya want anythin' for it?"

    "I think I'll just take my tea with me and hope it goes away."  He noticed Trip's worried frown, "I'm fine, really.  It's just a nuisance.  I don't think it will last anyway."

    Trip gnawed his bottom lip, "We were gonna go to the park, but we can..."

    Malcolm cut him off, "No, love.  You take them to the park.  I'll have a rest and will probably be as good as new when you get back.

    "Are ya sure?"  The uncertainty in Trip's eyes was clearly visible.

    "I'm positive."  He gave a weak smile, "I'll be fine."


    Malcolm blinked to clear his vision and was confronted by two smiling faces, and two turned away from him.  "A.G., Ruby, Jon, Trip."  He rolled the names off the tip of his tongue as he stared at the photo propped up on the pillow beside his head.  "What were you doing that night?"  The words echoed in the empty room.  Great Malcolm, talking to yourself is the first sign of insanity you know.  Well probably not really, but maybe... Phlox would know.  Malcolm audibly groaned at his inner monologue.  He picked up the photo and flopped onto his back .  Malcolm angled the photo so the light hit it, there was no doubt of the identity of the man with Ruby.  It was Lieutenant Charles Tucker III, or perhaps Lieutenant Commander,  it was hard to tell exactly how old the picture was.  Malcolm dropped his arms onto the mattress.  What was he going to do now?  

    "Bloody hell."  He liked the way that sounded, "Blood-dy hell."  He drew out the syllables and almost felt a bit better for it.  The way he saw it, there were a few options.  The first being that he did nothing.  While it might be the easiest on his family, he didn't think he could look Cyrus in the eye and tell him he didn't recognize the man with his mother.  Besides, Cyrus might show the photo to Trip, and that would blow the whole thing into the open while bringing unpleasant questions about why Malcolm hadn't said anything.  If Trip was Cyrus' father Malcolm felt Trip did have an obligation to his son.  One that should be fulfilled.  "Bollocks."  He punched a hapless pillow and pondered option two.  He could talk to Ruby.  Oh sure, that would be such a good idea.  Why not call her up right now?  Just wait until she comes on the screen, open your mouth and ask if your husband fathered her son.  No, he didn't think he could do that.  Then there was option three: talk to Trip.  It made the most sense if he thought about it.  Trip could answer one of his most immediate questions:  did he know about Cyrus?  They could also consider Cyrus' age and try to work back from there.  If it seemed that Trip could be his father they could go and talk to Ruby and Cyrus.  Perhaps they could all have an amicable relationship.  Images of having Cyrus over on weekends and helping him fill in his academy application forms didn't seem too bad.  They could even have been pleasant, if Malcolm's nagging self doubt, that he had thought fairly well banished when he married Trip, reasserted itself.  He could see himself in divorce court, Trip explaining to the judge that he should have full custody of Charlie and Erica.  Images of Trip, Ruby, Cyrus, Charlie, and Erica standing on one side of the courtroom and declaring themselves to be the perfect family threatened to choke him.  In his mind's eye he was all alone on the other side.  It was his worst nightmare.  He curled up and pulled the quilt over his head, sobs wracking his frame.


    Trip tiptoed down the hallway and peered around the corner of the door.  He didn't want to wake a sleeping Malcolm.  He was confronted by a large bump completely covered by quilt.  "Malcolm?"  He whispered as softly as possible.  When the bump stirred slightly he tiptoed into the room and gently knelt beside the bed.  "You okay, darlin'?"  There was a muffled mumble that sounded vaguely like "I'm fine."  Trip grinned and gently twitched a corner of the quilt down to reveal the side of his husband's face.  Malcolm rolled over to face him and Trip was dismayed by what he saw.  Malcolm's eyes were red and puffy and his nose looked like he'd been wiping it.  Trip reached out and gently ran a hand over the other man's brow, "Do ya need some allergy medication?  Or do you think you have a cold?"

    "I'm okay Trip, don't worry."  Malcolm rubbed his eyes and sat up, "What time is it?"

    "About 1400, have ya eaten?  I'll get ya something."

    "No, love, I'll come down."

    "Are ya sure?"  The doubt was clearly present in Trip's tone.

    Malcolm tried to smile, "I'm sure."


    Trip piled the dishes into the dishwasher and tried to hide his concern from his children.  Something was definitely wrong with or bothering Malcolm, and Trip didn't have a clue what it was.  That in itself bothered him, he'd thought Malcolm's days of closing himself off were over.  Trip sighed as he placed the last of the dinner plates in the machine and set the timer.  He hoped he could find out what it was soon.  Anyone who knew Malcolm would have been able to tell that he was miserable, and had been all day.  Moping around the house and insisting he was "fine."

    Trip washed his hands and dried them on a dishcloth, frowning at the dirt he saw on it.  He should probably do a load of laundry while he was thinking of it.  He took the cloth with him as he collected Charlie and Erica's laundry.  Malcolm's office door was closed, but the light was on.  Trip knocked gently and waited for a reply, becoming even more concerned when none came.  "Mal?"  He tried again more loudly, "Malcolm?  Ya in there?"


    Trip took that as an invitation and opened the door, "Whatcha working on?"  Malcolm gave him a decidedly shifty look.

    "Nothing important."

    Trip eyed Malcolm's empty desk, "I can see that."  Malcolm squirmed in his seat, not meeting his husband's eyes.  Trip looked searchingly at Malcolm for a moment before he continued, "I'm gonna do some laundry.  Do you have anything else to add to the pile?"

    "No, it's all there.  Thanks."

    "Ya know if you need to talk or somethin'..."

    "I know, love."  Malcolm finally looked up and gave Trip a ghost of a smile, "I will."

    Trip sighed as Malcolm pulled out a padd and began to read, "Okay then."  He slipped from the room and shut the door behind him.


    Trip unrolled one of his socks and threw it onto the "dark" pile, Charlie's pants and a shirt of Malcolm's followed it.  He couldn't fathom what would have put Malcolm into the mood he was in, or why he wouldn't want to talk about it.  He knew Malcolm had been somewhat ignored by both parents, his father in particular as the man was often on a tour of duty somewhere.  This had resulted in Malcolm being unused to talking about his personal feelings with others.  Trip had thought that their years together had turned Malcolm from the rather reticent armoury officer to the loving husband, and doting father, he was today.  In all fairness, the loving man had been there all along, Malcolm just hadn't been used to expressing that side of himself.  Trip gathered up the folded whites that were clean and headed upstairs to put them away.  He dropped of some of the stack in Charlie and Erica's rooms, some in the linen cupboard, and the rest he took to his room.  He carefully hung up a few shirts before pulling open drawers to put away socks and boxers.  As he crammed socks into Malcolm's drawer a faint crinkling sound caught his attention.  Puzzled, he pulled out a layer of clothes to reveal a piece of glossy paper.  He pondered whether he should just pretend he'd never seen it, or maybe ask Malcolm about it later, but in light of his husband's recent behaviour he felt maybe a little snooping wouldn't hurt.  It wasn't like Malcolm had gone to any lengths to actually hide whatever it was.  He knew Trip went into this drawer on a fairly regular basis.

    Trip pulled out the sheet and turned it over to reveal an image.  He frowned at it, he hadn't seen this picture before.  If Malcolm hadn't gotten if from him, where did it come from?  Puzzled, Trip placed the picture on the top of the dresser and left the room.


    Trip knocked on Malcolm's door with a dangerously full mug of tea.  "Hey darlin', can I come in?  I've brought tea."  He heard some shuffling noises before a muffled, "of course, " was heard.  He pushed the door open with his shoulder and walked into the room, depositing two mugs on Malcolm's desk.  "How's it going?"

    "Quite well, actually.  I think I might have figured out how to regulate the power flow."  Malcolm regarded his husband for a moment, he could tell that his short time of being evasive was over,  "But that's not what you wanted to talk about, is it?"

    "No, It's not." Trip fiddled with the handle of his mug for a moment, "What's bugging you, Malcolm?  I can tell there's something, but I don't know why you won't talk to me about it."  Trip couldn't keep the hurt from his tone and Malcolm winced.

    "I was given something, and I think it might effect our family, and I'm not sure I want it to."  

    Trip waited for Malcolm to continue, but nothing more was forthcoming.  "What is it, Mal?"  He thought for a moment, "Is it at all to do with that photo from the 602?"  Malcolm's head snapped up and Trip looked apologetic, "I was putting away your laundry and I kinda..."

    Malcolm nodded as his husband trailed off.  He took a deep breath before he continued, "I got it from Cyrus.  Ruby is his mother."

    Trip just about fell off of his perch at that, "Ruby! Our Ruby?  Oh man I wanna talk ta her.  It's been so long.  Gawd Mal, I was totally head over heels for her back then."  

    Malcolm nodded despondently, "I know."  He paused to think and then continued, "Trip, is it possible you are Cyrus' father?"

    Trip did fall of of the edge of his chair at that, "What?"  His eyes goggled wildly, "You've got ta be kidding me, Malcolm.  I mean, that's just, she never said anything."

    "Cyrus thinks you might be."

    "What?  That's preposterous!  Did Ruby tell him I was?"

    "I don't think Ruby told him much of anything.  He doesn't know who his father is, just that he met Ruby at the 602.  Cyrus said that picture was the only thing that she'd kept from back then, and that she'd talked about the man kissing her as if he was his father."  The veins were bulging on Trip's neck and the side of his forehead so he hastened to continue, "Cyrus doesn't know the man is you.  I did tell him about A.G. and Jon though.  He just thinks I need time to look at it more closely."

    "Get up."


    Trip's face was hard, "We're calling her right now."


    "Trip?"  There was an incredulous tone to the voice, "Malcolm!"  The woman on the screen was definitely an older Ruby, "It's been so long."

    "I know, Ruby, but we have something we need to ask you."

    Malcolm had to give her credit, she looked genuinely puzzled.  "Sure, what is it?"

    Malcolm took over, "We met Cyrus last night, he actually looked after our children for us."

    "You two have kids?"  Her tone was incredulous.

    "Yes, we have two children, Charlie and Erica, but they're not why we're calling.  Last night, "  Malcolm held the photo up to the camera, "Cyrus gave me this."

    Ruby scrutinized the screen, "That's my photo.  It's from the night Trip was promoted to Lieutenant Commander.  We had quite a party."  She smiled fondly at the memory.

    Trip couldn't contain himself any longer, "Am I his dad?"

    Ruby's mouth opened for a moment, before she closed it, "No... No you're not.  Whatever gave you that idea?"

    "Your son."  Malcolm wasn't about to pull any punches.  "He showed me this photo, asking me if I knew who the men were.  He said you talked about it as if the man kissing you was his father."

    Ruby's eyes were downcast, "I said I was very fond of that man, and I said he was in love with me."  She raised her eyes to the screen, "Both of which were true at the time."  Trip nodded mutely, unable to deny the truth.  "I suppose I owe you both an explanation."  She made herself comfortable in her seat before continuing, "I did love you, Trip.  Far more than I ever let on.  I knew you were going to be a great engineer, and I knew without a doubt that you would be posted on Enterprise when it was finally built."  Ruby paused as she searched for the right words, "I knew you would be off exploring while I would be back on Earth.  I also knew I couldn't live like that.  So I went along with your flirting, but never let it turn into anything more.  Not even when I wanted it to.  You were eventually unable to come by the bar anymore,  and I did the only think I could."  Her cheeks coloured as she continued, "I slept with the next Trip Tucker look alike that walked in the front door."  She swiped at her eyes,  " I got pregnant and decided to raise the child myself as his father wasn't interested in him.  I named him after you.  Do you remember what you said to me that night you met Jon?"

    Trip quoted himself from so long ago, "It was my great grandfather's name."

    She nodded, "I couldn't really name him Charlie, but Cyrus seemed okay."  She took a slow breath, "I'm sorry to have put you through this, Trip.  To have put both of you through this.  I hope sometime we can meet under more pleasant circumstances."

    Malcolm nodded uncomfortably, "Thanks for clearing this up.  I think you need to talk to your son, though.  He's old enough to know the truth."

    She nodded again, "I can't put it off forever can I?  Well, thanks for the wake up call.  I needed it."  She leaned towards the console, clearly wanting to end the conversation, "Bye."

    "Bye Ruby."

    They stared at the darkened screen for a moment before a cry from the back garden caught their attention.  As one they turned towards the source, "Dammit!  They should have been in bed ages ago."


    Malcolm snuggled close to his husband, but Trip didn't move.  He felt a sigh run through the larger frame beneath him.  Malcolm didn't want to do this, but as Ruby said, he couldn't put if off forever.  "Trip?"

    Trip stirred slightly, "Yeah Mal?"

    "Talk to me, Trip."

    Trip smiled weakly at having his earlier request thrown back at him, "Why Malcolm?"


    "Why didn't ya talk to me?  What did ya think I would do?  Don't you trust me?"

    The tone of his husband's voice made Malcolm's heart ache, "I do trust you, love."

    Trip snorted, "Funny way of showing it."

    Malcolm tried to pick his words carefully, he had a lot he needed to say and he wanted to make sure Trip understood it all.  "I trust you on a rational level Trip.  I know you love me, and I know you wouldn't really leave me,  but I'm still afraid."  Trip's hand began to gently caress Malcolm's  arm, drawing the story out of him.  "When I was little my bedroom was directly above my parent's room, and there was a heat vent in my floor that must have been connected to theirs.  Sometimes, late at night when they probably thought I was asleep, I could hear them talking.  It scared me, Trip.  It scared me a lot."

    "What did ya hear?"

    "Things I shouldn't have.  My parents didn't have the happiest of marriages.  I think that's why my father was away so much.  Or maybe it was because he was away so much, I don't know.  Many nights I heard my mother threatening to divorce him.  She said she'd get custody of Maddie and I, leaving him all alone.  He always said it would never work because she's a stay at home mum.  He always said Maddie and I would have a better life with his navy salary fully looking after us and her at home.  I suppose he'd have paid as little child support as possible just to spite her.  They'd bicker back and forth like that on a regular basis, but they never divorced.  I was actually expecting them to after Maddie and I had moved out, but they didn't  for some reason.  Father had retired by then so that might have had something to do with it.  They talked about divorced family members and friends a lot.  Always about poor so and so left all alone.  I guess it gave me a bit of a warped picture of what marriage was all about."  Malcolm took a shuddering breath before continuing, "I also heard them talking about me.  I think my mum first figured out I might be gay.  My father didn't have a problem with it, but he was quite concerned I'd be used and tossed aside.  They always said I was a 'sensitive child' and I guess they were trying to protect me.  When my first relationship with a man turned out like that, I threw myself at women I couldn't love.  Ruby was like that."

    "Is that why you were so shifty when I first asked you out?"

    Trip felt Malcolm nod, "You were the first man in a long time."

    Trip caressed Malcolm's arm gently, "Oh, Mal.  I'm really sorry you had to go through that when ya were little, but I don't understand how you could have doubted me.  I thought... I thought we were better than that."

    "I was going to tell you about Cyrus, I was just afraid."  He took a deep breath, "Do you remember what happened a few months after we got together?"

    Trip sucked in a breath, "Kaitaama."

    Malcolm nodded again, "I didn't tell you at the time, but what we had was the most serious relationship I'd ever been in.  I was absolutely shaken by what you did.  I came so close to leaving you."

    "And I'm thankful every day that ya didn't."

    "I just... I know it's silly, but..."

    "It's still bothering you isn't it?  Gawd that was over 10 years ago."

    "We never really talked."  Malcolm quiet voice gave Trip pause.  He was right.  There had been yelling, and there had been make up sex, but there had never been a real talk.  Trip rolled away briefly and flicked on his reading light.  When he turned back he was confronted by Malcolm blinking in the sudden light.

    "Then let's talk now.  I've got the feeling you have some things you've been needing to say for more than a decade."

    Malcolm nodded slowly, "I don't understand why you did it.  I thought 'us' meant more to you than that."

    "It did and it does, Mal.  It was some crazy shock and instinct.  I didn't really want it in my heart."

    Malcolm nodded slowly, "I've heard of that kind of thing happening."  

    He was quiet for a while so Trip prompted, "What else?"

    Malcolm gnawed on his lip for a moment, "Do you ever wish you were doing this," he waved his arm to indicate them and their life together, "with a woman?"

    Trip was taken aback, "Gender doesn't matter, Mal.  I want to be doing it with you.  I love you."

    "Are you sure?  I mean, not many people have the slightest issue with it, but some do.  You've always been bisexual, and I've always been gay.  I guess I don't really 'get' the liking both men and women thing.  You'd always appeared straight to me, so it was quite a shock when you asked me out.  I spent the first couple of months terrified that some woman would ask what you were doing with a guy like me, and that you would leave.  And then just when I'd convinced myself that you loved me and wouldn't leave..."

    "I slept with Kaitaama."  Trip and Malcolm both winced at the name.

    "I think I was always afraid you'd leave me for a woman."  Trip was amazed to hear Malcolm give a weak chuckle, "It sounds absolutely preposterous now that I've finally said it out loud, you know."

    Trip looked deeply into his husband's eyes and noticed that he seemed lighter somehow.  "I wish you'd said this back then."

    Malcolm sighed, "I know, I was just afraid we'd get in a fight and I'd lose you."  He fidgeted slightly, "Like I said, I've had a pretty bad experience with another man."

    Trip reached out and gathered Malcolm into his arms, "You won't lose me, Malcolm.  Ever."

    Malcolm smiled at his husband, "I know."  He was finally certain of it.