"I hadn't really registered that Trip
had his arm around me until we arrived at sickbay. Until then it had
just been a comforting weight I hadn't really processed. When the sickbay
doors closed behind us and we were engulfed in a flurry of activity he, very
reluctantly in my opinion, let me go.
"When the captain caught my eye he gave me a funny look,
almost like a smile. I was too shocked to do anything in return and
Trip didn't notice the exchange. He just took my elbow and steered
me to the biobed next to the captain's. Trip was very kind, helping
me climb up onto the biobed and lie down. Phlox fussed over the captain
just long enough to ensure he wasn't suffering anything more than a concussion
and a few cuts and bruises before turning his full attention on me.
I've been the focus of that gaze a few times too many. Predictably,
Trip snitched and I didn't have time to protest before they cut my shirt
off me so the doctor could get a good look. When they finally wrestled
me out of my clothes I was subjected to the humiliation of having all the
med techs gawk at me while Phlox carefully explained primitive healing techniques
and how to correct them."
The chime of my door interrupts my ramblings and I quickly
turn off the recorder, calling for whoever it is to enter while saving the
file as part of my encrypted personal log. It's Trip. He's had
a shower and is in a pair of sweats and a loose t-shirt. He's clearly
exhausted, but for some reason he's at my door instead of resting in his
quarters like Phlox told him to. "Hey, Malcolm. Can I come in
for a minute or were you going to bed?"
I'm crushingly exhausted, but I've always had trouble
saying no to him. "No, I was still up. Come on in." He
sinks down into my small sofa and I catch him staring at my shoulder.
"Are you okay? You really did a number on yourself."
"I'm fine." I shrug, spoiling the gesture by wincing
a little as it pulls at sensitive flesh. "It had to be serious enough
that they'd be more worried about helping than asking questions."
His brow furrows in disapproval. "It was a pretty
I try to keep my tone level, sometimes it's like talking
to a child. "It was a calculated risk." I'm too tired for this
discussion, but it was wishful thinking to hope Trip wouldn't want to talk.
"Besides, we were desperate."
I think that gets through to him. Trip nods a few
times and murmurs, "I know." He fidgets for a moment before offering
softly, "You scared the shit out of me, that's all." I can tell there's
something else eating at him so I wait quietly. Finally he blurts out,
"I don't understand it, Malcolm.""
"How they could have kept fighting for so long."
"Sometimes it's harder to stop a war than keep it going."
"But wouldn't the people have gotten fed up? Wouldn't
they have done something about the people in power? About those aliens?"
I think for a minute and paraphrase as best I can, "When
you're at war and in danger handing over all power to a small caste seems
natural and unavoidable in the interests of survival." I can tell that
he's mulling it over. "Have you read a book called 1984?"
When Trip has to try and remember I know he can't have
read it. I pull a padd off my shelf and do a few word searches until
I find the right passages. I copy them onto one page and hand the padd
to him. He scrolls through them slowly, actually reading the last one
"Who controls the past, ran the Party slogan, controls
the future: who controls the present controls the past." He puts down
the padd. "That sounds like the temporal cold war to me, Malcolm.
When was it written?"
I can feel a smirk on my face at the irony of the date.
"1948. Just after the second world war."
"Huh." He scrubs a hand through his hair.
"I'll have to borrow it from you sometime." We've run out of polite
things to say and he fidgets for a minute before turning intent eyes on me.
"Promise me that whatever we have to do next you won't..." He trails
off without finishing. I know what he's going to say, but I don't think
I can agree to it.
There's an uncomfortable silence before I murmur, "I can't
do that, Trip."
His shoulders visibly slump and he replies just as softly.
When he looks up again there's so much dancing in his
eyes that I just freeze. I've never been good around emotional people.
Before I collect myself enough to say something he composes himself and the
moment is gone. "Well..." He plasters a smile on his face and stands
up. "We'd better take the doc's advice and get some sleep."
He's almost at the door before I find my voice.
"Trip." He turns at his name. "Sleep well." He gives me
a real smile at that and for the first time since beaming down to that forest
I feel warm.