"I'm picking up a distress call, Captain." Hoshi's
voice broke the monotony of a long day in empty space.
"Let's hear it Ensign."
"It's audio only, a bit garbled." Hoshi worked at
her console, "This is the best I can do Sir." So saying, she patched
the message through the bridge speakers. A loud hissing preceded the
voice of the speaker and the message itself crackled and popped.
"This is the Xyrillian vessel...... requesting immediate
assistance....... under attack by a Feraze freighter.... vessels in range
please respond. This is an emergency."
Hoshi cut off the message. "It just keeps repeating
"How far away are we?"
"An hour and a half at warp 4.5." It was Malcolm
who replied as he'd called up the information at the first sign of trouble.
"Set a course, Travis. T'Pol, check the Vulcan database
and get any information you have on the Feraze." He leaned over and
pressed the comm button, "Commander Tucker to the bridge."
Enterprise dropped out of warp astern of the Xyrillian
vessel. The smaller ship was nearly destroyed. Large scorch marks
covered the hull, the result of heavy weapons fire. A small debris
field surrounded the ship and it was evident that several bulkheads had been
blown off. "What's their status, Malcolm?"
"I'm reading a major systems failure, Captain. Several
compartments have decompressed and those remaining intact are losing life
support. There's only one biosign but it's very weak. I wouldn't
attempt a transport."
"T'Pol, any sign of the Feraze vessel?"
"I'm not detecting anything on sensors Captain. It should
be noted that the Feraze are a highly xenophobic species. They would attack the
Xyrillians if surprised but would not remain as that would
risk further contact."
He turned expectantly to Hoshi who answered his unasked
question. "I'm not getting any response to hails."
He considered only a moment. "Have them prep a shuttlepod,
I want it standing by as soon as possible." "She nodded and relayed
the message. "Malcolm, Trip you're with me, tell Phlox to meet us as
we get suited up." The three men strode from the bridge.
The Xyrillian vessel was eerily quiet. Main power
was offline, the only illumination came from the lights on their EV suits.
They were slowly working their way towards a faint biosign when they came
upon the first casualty, a Xyrillian male with a deep gash across his upper
torso. Trip gasped as the light fell upon the unfortunate man's face.
Archer didn't hide his reaction either, "It's Captain Trena'L." Malcolm
watched as Trip's face went ashen.
They hurried through the ship as quickly as the slightly
bulky suits would allow, sidestepping broken components and fallen Xyrillians.
They rounded a bend in the corridor and Trip, who had been leading the group,
abruptly stopped. The lights affixed to his helmet were directed at
a still figure on the ground. Although Malcolm couldn't clearly remember
what the Xyrillian engineer looked like, Trip's posture told him everything
he needed to know. They had found Ah'Len. She hadn't survived.
Trip carefully knelt and reached out with a gloved hand to touch her cheek.
The captain gently clasped Trip's upper arm, giving it a gentle squeeze through
the suit. He shifted sideways to make room as Malcolm approached the
pair. Malcolm crouched next to Trip and clumsily slung an arm as close
to over Trip's shoulders as he could. "Trip." He spoke softly
through the comm, "We've got to keep going." Trip sagged towards the
corpse and hung his head. "We've got to keep going Trip." He
repeated and carried on, "Phlox has the remaining biosign fixed, it's further
down the corridor and it's very faint. We've got to hurry Trip."
Trip's helmet bobbed slightly as he nodded. They lurched to their feet
together and continued towards the faint life sign.
The room they were led to was approximately nine meters
square and looked to be the scene of some sort of explosion. Debris
was strewn throughout the entire area and a tangle of beams and wires hung
from the ceiling. Phlox checked his scanner, "The biosign is definitely
originating from this compartment."
Malcolm surveyed the room, "Then with all due respect
doctor, where is the body?" There were several heaps of debris but
none seemed big enough to hide a person. Phlox continued scanning while
the other three each tackled a heap of debris. Both Malcolm and the
captain came up empty handed, Trip was more fortunate.
"Jon!" The captain positively leapt to his friend's
side. The unusual address was reason enough but there was something
else in Trip's tone that necessitated quick action. Trip was clasping
something to the front of his suit. At first Jon thought it was a bundle
of rags, then it moved. The doctor bustled over and at Phlox's command
Trip tilted the bundle to reveal an infant Xyrillian, its tiny greenish eyes
squinting up at the men in the harsh light from their suits.
Trip has been in decon for over two
hours. I stood at the window for a while but he was completely entranced
by the infant in the incubator, he didn't so much as glance up during the
half hour I spent watching. Trip has been uncharacteristically silent
since he found the child, only uttering three words during our return trip
in the shuttlepod. We'd filled the shuttlepod with Xyrillian atmosphere
in anticipation of survivors. He was carefully holding the child while
the doctor checked its vitals. His head lamp was switched off so I
couldn't see his face when he spoke, "Is it her?" The doctor had replied
with a simple "yes" and Trip has been completely absorbed with the child
since. I hadn't understood the exchange at the time but now, sitting
in the mess hall, it is beginning to make a horrible kind of sense.
I think this must be the child that he carried during that frenzied time
after our first contact. Only Trip Tucker could go to fix a warp reactor
and wind up pregnant, I'm almost glad we weren't together at the time. Almost.
I'm glad the mess is deserted at this time of night, it's
far better to brood in private, away from the prying eyes of the well intentioned.
My tea has long since grown cold but I can't muster the energy to go replace
it. If I'm honest, I must admit that I'm rather alarmed by the turn
my feelings are taking. It seems that all my buried insecurities, that
I had thought well laid to rest, are being slowly resurrected.
I hunker down in the chair to think. We never talked much about Trip's
experiences with the Xyrillians, I didn't even know it was a she. I
do know he didn't have any hatred for Ah'Len, I'd even go so far as to say
he liked her. Now she's dead, but the baby girl in our hastily assembled
decompression chamber is likely her daughter. And it's another half
hour before the baby and Trip get out of decon-cum-decompression. Another
half hour before I can try and talk to him.
The sickbay lights were dimmed and it took a moment for
Malcolm's eyes to adjust after he left the corridor. When they did
he caught sight of Trip bent over an incubator. He was dressed in casual
clothes Malcolm didn't immediately recognize. Closer inspection let
him conclude that the slightly baggy "NX-Test Program" sweats must belong
to the captain. He felt the now familiar niggling fear and jealousy
until he quashed it by reasoning that the captain must have felt it a better
solution than rummaging through their joint quarters in search of Trip's
clothes. The captain knew Malcolm hated any invasion of his privacy,
he was also notified the exact moment Trip stepped out of the decon chamber,
something Malcolm hadn't thought to request. He approached quietly
and Trip didn't seem to notice his presence until Malcolm placed his hand
on Trip's shoulder. Trip turned to look at Malcolm and his eyes seemed
to be almost glowing.
"Ain't she beautiful Mal?" Malcolm dutifully looked
into the incubator and was confronted by reddish-brown scales.
"Quite." At his appraisal the infant stirred in
its sleep and whimpered. Trip was there instantly, almost shouldering
Malcolm out of his way as he hurried to bend over the child. He reached
out and gently stroked the small ridges on her skull. Malcolm stood
in the background and tried to identify the feeling that was brewing in his
insides. Trip began gently cooing at the fretful baby. Malcolm
turned and despondently walked to their quarters. It would be a long
In truth, they hadn't been together very long. They
had fully moved in together a scant two weeks ago but had spent every night
of the last month and a half together, until now. He'd tossed and turned
for the last two hours, since it became evident that Trip was spending the
night in sickbay. With a snort of disgust Malcolm kicked the twisted
sheets off the end of the bunk and rolled onto his stomach, clasping the
pillow. Hopefully the situation would be better in the morning.
Malcolm turned over and squinted at the chronometer on
the desk, 0300 and he was still wide awake. He couldn't believe he
was jealous of a baby. Well, that wasn't it entirely. All his
past lovers had left him, usually when a better offer came along. At
some level his irrational side was becoming convinced that Trip would somehow
leave him for Rosalie. It was the third night since the Xyrillian had
been brought aboard Enterprise and as yet Trip still hadn't slept in his
own bed. Trip had been sleeping, even eating, in sickbay, only leaving
to work a short shift in engineering. Little Rosie, as Trip called
her, was fast becoming the apple of her "father's" eye. It was plain
that the role of father was how Trip now saw himself. When a review
of the vessel's logs hadn't yielded the name of the child Trip had christened
her Rosalie due to the hue of her skin. The name had seemed to spark
some recognition in Captain Archer as well. When Malcolm had subtly
enquired he'd been told that it was from the day the Jon had met Trip, then
a cocky lieutenant. A more direct enquiry tied the name directly to
Therein lay the crux of Malcolm's worries. Trip
Tucker was a family man and Malcolm's familial experience was decidedly on
the dysfunctional side. He couldn't help but worry that Trip would
someday leave him for a woman. They'd go and get married and have children
of their own, the picture perfect family. His mind's eye showed him
Trip and Ruby surrounded by a pack of children, each bearing an uncanny resemblance
to a parent. While society seemed accepting of same sex couples, it
was still true that practically every single holiday card depicting a family
would have a smiling mother and father. He pounded the mattress in
frustration and flopped onto his back.
Family was an issue that had always been somewhat skirted.
He suspected it was because Trip might be afraid of his opinions. In
truth, however, Malcolm wasn't particularly opposed to the idea. On
several occasions he'd tried to picture their life together after Enterprise,
some of his portraits had included children. While a fancy bit of manipulation
could create an embryo with half of Trip's genetic material and half of Malcolm's,
the whole process was considerably more difficult than the old fashioned
method. In its defence it could create a Charlie IV that would somehow
resemble his parents. Since direct manipulation for a less than medical
reason was unlawful you had to hope for the "right" traits to be passed on.
Images of possible Charlie IVs flooded his thoughts. Slightly short
with Trip's blue eyes and nose, and a mop of chocolate brown hair.
Taller, with Trip's blue eyes, blond hair, and Malcolm's defined cheekbones.
Trip's height, with dark hair, high cheekbones, straight nose, and Trip's
eyes. This was his son; always smiling, always with Trip's blue eyes. He
finally fell asleep and blue eyes filled his dreams.
He reached for the chime again and
was slightly disgusted when he stopped short of pressing it. He told
himself to get a grip and then held his breath as he firmly punched the button.
"Come." He stepped inside. "Malcolm! What can I do for
you?" The captain was reclining on his bed, one hand holding a padd
while the other was gently petting Porthos.
"I hope I'm not disturbing you, Sir. I was wondering
if you would be available to..." here he faltered, "talk?" Jon regarded
his armoury officer. Malcolm was standing at attention, carefully staring
at a point somewhere beyond his left ear. Malcolm's mask of professionalism
was in place, but Jon could tell something was wrong, and he had a good idea
what it was.
"Anytime, Malcolm." He gestured to a chair, "Why
don't you sit down."
"Thank you, Sir."
"Malcolm, you're involved with my best friend and this
clearly isn't a business call, please call me Jon." Malcolm gave a
curt nod so Jon continued, "What's on your mind?"
Malcolm would have preferred to be talking to Travis about
his insecurities. Travis was someone he'd shared an easy banter with
since space dock, not something that came easily or often to Malcolm.
He'd known, however, that the captain was the person he really had to talk
to. Not only would the captain have the answers he needed, the captain
was the only person Trip wouldn't mind Malcolm talking to about intensely
personal issues. Now he was finally before Captain Archer, and he just
couldn't figure out what to say. The silence stretched. It was
Jon that finally broke it.
"Are you being completely ignored too?" The play
of emotion on Malcolm's face told the captain he'd hit his mark. Now
it was up to Malcolm. Jon waited. After much eyeing of his own
feet Malcolm drew in a long breath and began.
"We never really talked about his experiences with the
Xyrillians. I was so afraid of pushing him away I didn't bring it up
in case it still bothered him. He mentioned Ah'Len occasionally, but
not any more than Liana, or Ambassador Soval for that matter. I guess
I just let it go." Malcolm shuffled his feet before continuing, "He's
completely entranced Ca," he caught himself, " Jon. I went to visit
him in sickbay when she was asleep. I tried to speak to him but he
couldn't tear his eyes away from her. He kept stroking her back and
quietly talking to her. I left." Malcolm looked up at Jon, "I
just left. I couldn't stand it." The captain watched, unmoving,
as Malcolm brusquely swiped at his tearing eyes with the back of his hand.
"He loves her so much." His voice dropped to a whisper, "I think I'm
Jon considered just how much he should tell Malcolm before
settling on everything. "Once the reality of being pregnant sunk in, Trip
was terrified. He was so desperate to get the embryo out of him he
didn't really think about what it meant to carry a child. I know he
wound up in tears on more than one occasion, and it wasn't just due to the
hormones." Porthos stirred and Jon paused to lightly scratch behind
the beagle's ears. "It was only after we'd parted ways with the Xyrillians
that events caught up with him." The captain shifted to a more comfortable
position on the bed before he continued, "I caught him in the mess at 0400
two nights after we'd left them. He was looking out the windows, and
he looked like he'd been there a long time. I talked with him, hoping
he could get whatever it was off his chest and maybe go to sleep. I
didn't realize just how much the experience had affected him until we talked
about it. Trip told me how frightened he'd been. He told me how
it felt to look in the mirror and see the bulge pushing out, stretching his
skin. He said he'd always thought of the protrusion as a kind of inanimate
'it' until Ah'Len showed him 'it's' picture, and declared 'it' a she.
Then he realized that 'it' was going to be a child, a child he would never
see. It hurt him to let go, Malcolm. I think the moment he saw
her picture on the scanner he realized that he cared about her. I think
that surprised him." Jon paused to choose his words carefully before
he continued. "Having her back, especially with Ah'Len gone, has brought
all these feeling back. Seeing her there, being able to touch her,
might make him feel that it was worth it. It comforts him now, Malcolm,
but I think he's afraid of how much it might hurt to let go again."
Jon let Malcolm consider what he'd already said before
he continued. "And then there's you." Malcolm looked up sharply.
"Contrary to what some of this crew might think, Trip does know what a serious
relationship is. And he's serious about you Malcolm, more serious than
I've ever seen him before." He made sure he had Malcolm's full attention
before he continued, "He loves you Malcolm. Don't ever doubt that."
If Malcolm was going to go against generations of ingrained
Reedness and have a heart-to-heart with his captain he might as well go all
out. He threw the remnants of his reservations to the wind, "You know,
I used to be afraid that Trip loved you." He paused and the captain
regarded him with an almost sorrowful expression on his face. "Now
I know that he does, but it's okay. It's a different kind of love than
what we share."
"He's my best friend, Malcolm."
"And I wish I knew what it was like to have a friend like
Jon favoured him with a sad smile. Malcolm rose
and silently left his captain's, now friend's, quarters.
It was the fifth evening since Rosie had been brought
on board and Trip was finally eating a meal outside of sickbay. T'Pol
was supervising a stellar cartography experiment so the captain's mess was
occupied by Malcolm, Trip, and the captain himself. Jon had practically
ordered Trip to join them for dinner as he had stated that he preferred to
eat in sickbay. Jon had persisted, he knew Malcolm needed some time
with Trip, but without Rosie's distracting presence. Dinner had been
quiet, talk had revolved around trivialities. Now the pecan pie was
almost gone and Jon wanted to discuss the real issues before Trip made a
break for sickbay. "Travis tells me that we'll be in orbit of the Xyrillian
home world in about 48 hours. We haven't been able to reach them on
long range communication but we couldn't get their comm protocols from the
portion of their computer memory that we could access. It's a good
thing their star charts were handy or we could have been wandering around
for quite a while." Malcolm gave him a weak smile while Trip continued
to mope at his side of the table. "I don't think we can stay at their
planet too long. While Starfleet is anxious to have a good diplomatic
relationship with the Xyrillians, they want us to investigate a possible
wormhole that's a few light years from here as soon as possible." He
carefully attempted to gauge Trip's reaction to what he had to say next,
"We'll have to drop her off and carry on."
It was then that Trip dropped a bombshell, "I don't think
I can let her go again Cap'n." There was a clank as Malcolm's dessert
fork plummeted from his hand to the table.
The captain carefully set his cutlery on the table and
then turned to his best friend with all the calmness he could muster, "What,
exactly, are you saying, Trip?"
"I'm saying I want to be with her." Jon spared a
glance at Malcolm, who still appeared stunned, before he replied.
"She can't stay here on Enterprise, Trip." Trip
looked down at his half eaten pie.
"I know." Jon tried to wrap his head around what
his best friend was proposing.
"If you leave Enterprise you won't be coming back.
You know that, right? Starfleet would consider you unreliable and you'd
never be in deep space again." Trip nodded, eyes still downcast.
"I watched you work for this position for years Trip, you can't just throw
it all away." That didn't elicit a response so Jon tried harder.
"What about your family on Earth? Your parents? Your sisters?
You might never talk to them, let alone see them, again. Surely you
can't give that up?"
Trip kept his eyes downcast as he mumbled, "They'd understand." Malcolm
looked to be on the verge of throwing up.
"What about us?" Trip finally looked up. "What
about Malcolm and I?" Out of the corner of his eye he saw Malcolm gripping
his napkin so tightly his knuckles were white. "I need you out here.
I can't be a good captain without you. I can unwind with you, Trip."
He paused and swallowed before he continued, "You keep me human." Jon
could see that Malcolm wouldn't, or couldn't, speak right now so he endeavoured
to speak on his behalf. "What about Malcolm, Trip?" Trip's head
snapped around to face a still sick looking Malcolm. "I've been your
friend for a long time, I can tell when you're truly in love." He watched
emotions flicker across Trip's face. "Don't leave Malcolm, Trip.
What the two of you share shouldn't be thrown away. It's far, far too
special for that. From the moment I realized that the two of you had
feelings for each other I could picture you growing old together. Cherish
that Trip, it's never happened before, and I've seen you through other 'serious'
Trip's eyes returned to his unfinished dessert.
"Please think about this, Trip. I don't think you've fully weighed
out your options."
Trip couldn't look either of them in the eye, "I gotta
go, she needs feedin' now." He left the room quickly, carefully avoiding
eye contact all the way. Jon clenched his hands into tight fists under
the table. He wanted to grab Trip and shake him. To demand that
he stay on Enterprise with Malcolm and himself. To selfishly demand
that he not leave his "family."
He turned to the still too quiet Malcolm, "He'll come
to his senses." Malcolm turned away from the closed door to look at
He almost choked on his words, "I hope you're right, Sir." Jon
didn't bother to correct Malcolm's form of address.
It was 0900 the next morning and a hunched figure stood
outside the captain's quarters. It was the captains "day off," which
meant Jon was probably working in his quarters instead of his ready room.
After some time he tentatively raised his hand and pressed the chime.
Trip entered and carefully placed a padd on the captain's
desk. "What's this?" Jon picked it up and activated it, dread
pooling in the pit of his stomach. He hoped the padd didn't contain
what he thought it did.
"It's my resignation from Starfleet, Sir." Jon let
out an explosive breath and set down the pad as if it had stung him. He
turned to his friend but any protest died on his lips when he got a good look
at Trip's face.
"Trip, I'm not going to make this official until you step
off this ship." Trip swallowed convulsively.
"I wouldn't expect any less from ya, Jon." With
that, he turned and left. Jon stared numbly at the closed door.
"What are we gonna do boy?" The beagle merely cocked
his head at him.
"Archer to Reed."
"Reed here, Sir."
"Are you on duty, Malcolm?" The lieutenant eyed
"I am in the armoury, Sir. What can I do for you?"
Jon called up the crew rotation and wasn't surprised at what he saw. He
lowered his voice so that it wouldn't carry far from Reed's handheld communicator.
"It's your day off, Malcolm. Consider yourself banned
from the bridge and the armoury."
"Sir?" Reed's surprise was apparent.
"We've got a problem Malcolm. He came in an hour
ago and tried to resign. The papers are all in order but I won't accept
it until he actually steps off of Enterprise. The captain lowered his
voice even more. Malcolm might never forgive him if someone overheard
such a personal conversation. "I know you haven't talked with him since
this whole mess began, I think now is the time."
"Understood, Sir. I'll go to sickbay tonight, I
need some time to think first."
"Okay, Malcolm. Good luck. Archer out."
The sickbay lights were dimmed for the night even though
it was only 1900. Malcolm entered to find Trip sitting next to the
incubator in one of the notoriously uncomfortable chairs. This time
Trip acknowledged his presence by standing as Malcolm moved to his side.
"The captain spoke with me." Trip guiltily shuffled his feet but didn't
reply. "When were you going to tell me?"
More shuffling preceded a soft, "Soon." Malcolm
decided to drop that line of questing in favour of the more important one.
"What are you planning on doing, Trip?"
"I had Hoshi give me a translated copy of their database.
I went through it, lookin' for the diplomatic protocols and stuff that might
apply to this." He indicated himself and Rosie. "It would work,
Malcolm. It's kind of like asylum, if I step onto their vessel or planet
and ask to stay, I can stay. They even let people like that adopt if
there's 'extenuating circumstances.' They gave some examples of what
that would be and this would definitely count. I'd be her daddy, Malcolm."
"You'd leave your family on Earth? You'd leave Enterprise?"
Trip nodded. Malcolm sighed.
"Enterprise is my first real family, Trip. It's
the first place I've felt I belong."
"I can't ask you to give up your family, Malcolm."
"Just my love?" Trip looked at him, really looked
at him. Malcolm's eyes were glistening as unshed tears welled up uncontrollably.
"Oh gawd, Malcolm. Trip stepped forward to close
the distance between them and carefully reached out to gently raise Malcolm's
chin. He kept his hand gently holding Malcolm's jaw as he looked into
his love's eyes. "I didn't think..."
"No, Trip. You sure didn't think." Malcolm
interrupted angrily. "Do you have any idea what the last while has
been like for me? You ignore me, and the captain, and when we finally
get you to talk you just announce that you're leaving us." Malcolm
roughly wiped away the tears that were running down his cheeks in time with
his tirade. "And for what Trip?" Here Malcolm's control broke
and he began to yell, "She's not even your daughter!" Trip went absolutely
white and his eyes widened alarmingly. He took two jerky steps back
from Malcolm, his gaze swinging between Malcolm's furious face and the tiny
infant in the incubator. "I love you, Trip. I've never been in
love like this before." A hurt expression came over Malcolm's face,
"You wouldn't even talk to me, Trip." Trip stumbled and had to sit
down in his chair. "I think you've gone off on one of your impracticable
and bloody idealistic tangents. A very poorly thought out one at that,
if you didn't even consider me, and the rest of Enterprise. Malcolm
lowered his voice as Phlox's menagerie was beginning to stir at the disturbance.
"Do you think that your little plan would really work out?" Trip opened
his mouth to speak but Malcolm hushed him and continued, "You'd be the only
human on their planet, Trip. Do you even know what long term exposure
to their atmosphere would do to you?" The slight furrowing of his brow
told Malcolm Trip hadn't really considered that complication. "Who
is this best for?"
"Are you doing what's best for her? Or what's best
for you?" Trip's mouth opened and closed like a landed codfish.
"I didn't think you'd be able to answer that." Malcolm's voice had
a cutting edge to it. "I think you need to get over your own feelings
and do what's best for her. You couldn't be a good parent for her Trip.
Think about it, being raised by the only human on a planet of Xyrillians.
I may not be very knowledgeable where happy childhoods are concerned, but
I can say that that doesn't sound like one to me." Malcolm stepped
over and gently ran a hand over the back of the sleeping child, touching
her for the first time. "Look at her, Trip." Trip obligingly
leaned over. "She's a Xyrillian. Do you know anything whatsoever
about them? Their culture? Their needs?" He let Trip contemplate
what he'd said, the anger flowing out of him during the respite.
"I love you, Trip, and I want what's best for everyone."
He stepped closer to Trip, "I think you need to think about this some more,
but know one thing," Malcolm gently took Trip's hand in his own, "If
you go, Trip, I'm going with you."
When Phlox entered sickbay the next morning he found the
couple awkwardly spooned together on a too small biobed. They were
both sound asleep.
Hoshi managed to contact the Xyrillians at around 0800.
Captain Archer had explained the situation and a Xyrillian vessel had been
dispatched to rendezvous with them at 1800 hours. Jon informed the
crew, and pointedly gave Trip and Malcolm the day off. He also asked
the doctor to arrange as much privacy as possible for the couple, a request
Phlox was happy to oblige.
Docking had gone off without a hitch, the Xyrillians offering
to decompress this time. It was now 2100 hours and the captain, Trip,
Malcolm, and Phlox were gathered around the airlock. The hatch slid
open to reveal two adult Xyrillians. Pleasantries had already been
exchanged via the viewscreen so one carefully extended its arms towards the
bundle clasped in Trip's arms. Trip bent down to whisper one last good-bye
in her ear before he tenderly placed her in the arms of a stranger.
"I didn't know what ta call her." Trip's voice was choked with emotion.
The Xyrillians looked on expectantly. "We couldn't find a mention of
her name in their records. I kinda..." He faltered before continuing,
"I kinda called her Rosie, it's short for Rosalie, 'cause of the colour of
"An apt name." The Xyrillian holding her nodded
at Trip before its companion spoke, "It is often the custom of our people
to have the one that carries the child name it. It is a name that she
will keep." Trip nodded, not trusting his voice. He stood on
the threshold of the airlock. A single step on the floor of the Xyrillian
vessel would be his resignation from Starfleet. Trip glanced at Jon
who was standing unobtrusively off to the side. He gripped Malcolm's
hand tightly and took one step, then another, towards the rest of his life.
While Jon had managed to maintain his outward composure,
his emotions were in a turmoil. This was taking far too long.
He fought the urge to push the Xyrillians through the airlock and slam the
hatch before Trip could follow. Jon felt his heart skip a beat as Trip
glanced at him, then took Malcolm's hand. He couldn't believe the magnitude
of the relief he felt when they backed away from the hatch, hand in hand.
He honestly couldn't say that he'd been confidant this would be the outcome.
While Trip leaving was unthinkable, his character had made it a definite
possibility. Jon was infinitely thankful that Malcolm was able to keep
Trip on Enterprise. He owed Malcolm a debt that would take a lifetime
to repay. His thoughts were jarred back to the present as Trip spoke.
"I've transmitted my Starfleet contact information.
If she's ever in the solar system I'd appreciate a visit." Then Trip
Tucker did one of the hardest things he'd ever done. He walked away. And
he didn't look back.
They walked back to their quarters in silence, Malcolm
covertly watched Trip without turning his head. The southerner's expression
was stoney, slight tremors of his jaw belied the hidden emotion.
After an age they reached their sanctuary and Malcolm ducked inside, followed
by Trip. They stood inside, silent. Malcolm could tell that Trip
had something to say, he just needed some time. Eventually Trip breathed
a sigh and turned to face his lover directly. When he spoke Malcolm
could see unshed tears in his eyes.
"I just feel awful, Malcolm. I ignored you, shut
ya out. Heck, I've bugged ya about doin' that to me and then I went
and did it to you. And then I was just going to go without even thinking.
I didn't want to leave ya." Trip was getting himself wound up, "I always
pictured you coming too, I never thought about what ya'd be giving up.
After I left her the first time..." Malcolm couldn't take any more
of Trip's tirade so he placed a placating hand on Trip's arm.
"Shhh, it's okay. I know." Trip gave him a
confused look. "I talked with Jon." Trip looked at Malcolm in
Trip gulped, "Talked?"
"Talked, Trip. It's what one does with their friends." Trip
had a hard time grasping what Malcolm was saying.
"Talked? With Jon?" Trip emphasized the abbreviation
of the captain's given name. Malcolm just rolled his eyes.
"Come off it, love. Stranger things have happened."
Trip gave him a skeptical look. "It was really quite helpful. He's
a very understanding person."
"Huh. Well. Okay then." Malcolm grinned,
a speechless Trip Tucker was not an everyday occurrence.
"He gave me some insight into what it was like for you.
Don't worry, Trip. I know you, I understand." Malcolm stepped
forward and took one of Trip's hands. "You're kind, sensitive, cavalier,
quixotic, and bloody passionate. You're the love of my life, Trip.
I'll never, ever, leave you. Even if you behave like an ass."
Trip grinned through his tears and swooped in for a passionate kiss.
He gently thrust his tongue into Malcolm's mouth and stepped closer to facilitate
more contact, but something was wrong. Trip kissed him harder, but
Malcolm simply wasn't responding. He stepped back and found Malcolm
vacantly smiling at him with an odd expression on his face. He planted
a quick peck on Malcolm's nose to get his attention.
"What is it Mal? Malcolm grinned, that drop dead
sexy grin that made Trip's insides go through a gymnastics routine.
"C'mon, what is it? Ya look like you're gonna start laughing or something.
Makes it hard to seduce ya." Malcolm's grin only got wider. After
a moment he spoke.
"Shortly before Enterprise left space dock, after the
crew manifest was published, I was in Mill Valley looking at a new weapons
system. I was assailed by a strong bout of nostalgia and wound up at
the 602 Club on a Saturday night. I'd been there about half an hour
when who should come in but Ruby, along with her husband." Trip stiffened
slightly at this bit of information. A detail that didn't escape Malcolm's
notice. "We chatted for a bit, exchanged pleasantries and the like,
she even congratulated me on my posting to Enterprise. It was when
we parted that she said something that never made sense, until now." He
paused and a thoughtful expression came over his face.
"An' what was that?"
"She was walking away, but then she turned and said, 'When
you meet the love of your life on Enterprise tell him that I wasn't keen
on a C.T.IV. It was Oswald, Laertes and Imogen.' Then she just
turned and walked away." He considered a moment. "I daresay Ruby
predicted this," he waved his arm to indicate the two of them and their shared
quarters, "before we even thought it possible."
"I believe I remember you telling me about a challenge
Ruby once issued."
It suddenly made sense to Trip as well. "Those were
the...? How was I supposed ta...?" Trip could only babble.
Malcolm decided the befuddled expression on his lover's face was strangely
endearing. "What kinda name is Imogen? I don't even know it that's
for a boy or a girl!" Malcolm pondered the question for a moment.
"What?" Malcolm sighed at Trip's question. Time
for Shakespeare for the comic book minded.
"Imogen was the daughter of Cymbeline in the play by that
name. Oswald is the steward of Goneril in King Lear. Laertes
is Ophelia's brother. There's the great sword fight at the end where
Hamlet..." Malcolm seemed to be gearing up for a weapons and tactics
dissertation so Trip cut him off before he could continue.
"Well thank you 'Professor Reed.' Gimme some credit,
I knew who Laertes was. Can't help it if my school didn't have a 'core
curriculum' can I. " Malcolm looked to be on the verge of some witty
retort so Trip continued grumbling before Malcolm could get a word in edgewise.
"What kinda names are those for a kid? In this day an' age an Oswald
would be eaten alive at elementary school." Trip trailed off and thought
for a moment before exclaiming, "Damn."
"Her daddy was a Shakespearean actor. I shoulda
known to try those kinda names."
"Is that what you want?" The words were out before
Malcolm could think to stifle them. He'd never planned on sharing this
particular worry with Trip, always bottling it inside. Maybe his subconscious
had reached the breaking point.
"Is what what I want?" The somewhat confusing sentence
told him he wouldn't be able to wriggle out of the trap he'd just set for
himself. Oh well, in for a penny, in for a pound. It was finally
time to get it all out in the open.
"To have guessed the names and have married Ruby.
Or to just marry a woman and have children of your own. You could be
the family on the Christmas cards." The last part of Malcolm's sentence
didn't make much sense to Trip so he grasped at the beginning.
"Malcolm, you have to understand something. I don't
want Ruby, or any other person: man or a woman. I want you, Mal."
Malcolm gave him a cautiously guarded half smile so Trip worked harder.
"If I picture myself with someone, I picture you. If I picture myself
growing old with someone, I see you there with me. And if I picture
myself with a family, you're my husband. You're the one with me, Malcolm.
Forever." Trip carefully eyed Malcolm and was relieved to see that
he was looking more at ease. He continued cautiously, hoping he wasn't
treading on a landmine, "Even if I'd guessed them, it wouldn't have
worked out. I'm fairly set on 'Charles Tucker the Fourth' for a son
Malcolm smiled as a familiar pair of blue eyes filled
his mind's eye. He could tell that this was Trip's roundabout way of
asking the 'family question.' "I would definitely be partial towards
a Charles Tucker the Fourth." At Trip's grin he continued, "I wouldn't
mind a Daniel either. If one is named after you the other should be
named after my great uncle." Trip nodded happily, knowing the significance
of Malcolm's relative. "For a girl, well, how about Jane, Angelina,
or Johanna? They remind me of you with your bloody harmonica."
He smiled at Trip's quizzical expression, "Bob Dylan, Love."
Trip grinned as well as enlightenment dawned. Malcolm
would never cease to amaze him.