Title: The Mourning After

Author: Joules Mer

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

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

Date: Completed Nov. 22, 2004

Archive: Will be sent to EntSTCommunity.  Everyone else please ask first.

Fandom: Star Trek Enterprise

Category: Slash

Rating: PG-13

Pairing: T/R

Summary:  Regrets

Series:  None

Beta: None

Spoilers: None

Disclaimer: Enterprise is the property of Paramount.  Characters just borrowed for fun.  No profit was, or will be, made by this story.  



I'd thought that pushing him away was a smart move.  I knew this was a dangerous mission.  I knew he could die.  I didn't think I could bear to lose anyone else I was close to, so I pushed him away.

    This is worse though.  We were dancing around a relationship when the Xindi attacked, and I made sure that nothing developed when we headed into the Expanse.  Now I've lost him, and I don't even have a happy time together to look back on.  All I have are regrets.  It's too damn late to do anything about regrets.

    It hurts every time my heart beats.  It hurts more than I'd ever thought possible.



    It takes a surprising amount of effort to raise my head from the padd I've been pretending to read.  "Yeah?"

    Jon slips into the seat next to me and watches me sideways for a moment before commenting, "You won't do anyone any good if you collapse."  I don't favour that with anything more than a noncommittal grunt.  After a moment he tries again, "We'll be arriving at the co-ordinates in a few hours.  Maybe Phlox could give you something to help you sleep until then.  You'll want to be fresh when we get there."

    "There's no point."

    He's got that old desperate optimism back when he argues, "We don't know for sure what happened, Trip.  He could still-"

    I cut him off before he can try and get my hopes up.  "The main generator was overloading.  I've studied that ship, Cap'n.  If the generator overloads the whole ship will blow."  I scrub a hand through my hair.  "You heard the transmissions."  We all heard them.  Yesterday morning a small Xindi raiding party boarded Enterprise.  They'd been hiding on a small ship in a dense asteroid field and we hadn't noticed them until they were on top of us.  Two groups of them beamed aboard: one disabling the engines while the other somehow downloaded information from our main computer.  Seeing that they were getting away with information that could compromise the last shreds of Earth and Enterprise's security, Malcolm had taken matters into his own hands.  He took off after them in the Suliban cell ship that had been collecting dust in our launch bay ever since that incident with the communicator.  We'd received two transmissions from him: one to let us know that he'd managed to creep up on them with his ship cloaked and a second, panicked, transmission telling us that he'd managed to destroy the Xindi vessel, but that his generator had been damaged in the fight and was overloading.  A few minutes after the second transmission the cell ship's signal had disappeared from our sensors.  Malcolm is dead, no amount of optimism on Jon's part is gonna change that.

    "Trip."  I look up again, not even realizing I'd been staring into my cold cup of coffee.  "It's 0200, go get some sleep."  I nod reluctantly and he helps me heave myself out of my chair.  As he leads me out of the deserted mess I realize he must have got out of bed to hunt me down and make sure I slept.  Jon's a good friend that way.


    I force myself to be on the bridge when we arrive at the co-ordinates.  While I, intellectually, know that he's dead, I have to be there to prove to my heart that he's really gone.  Malcolm had always seemed to invincible.  To my surprise something larger than fist sized bits of debris comes up on sensors.  As we close in it resolves itself into something the size of a cell ship, but without any power readings or comm signal.  I've commandeered the chair at tactical so I put the position to good use and run a scan of the object.

    Imagine my shock when there's a weak biosign.  It has to be Malcolm.  Only Malcolm's biosign is that stubborn.  I'm hauling it in with the grapplers before the cap'n can finish giving the order.  As soon as it's aboard Jon and I are impatiently punching the lift control's while Hoshi tells the doc to meet us in the launch bay.

    A whole outer panel on the cell ship is blown away and the hatch refuses to open when I press the release.  I comm engineering and tell Rostov to bring a plasma torch as fast as he can, I'm certain Malcolm is suffocating in there while we're figuring out how to get in.  When he arrives I set to work on the door's locking mechanism.  As soon as I think I'm done I throw my torch to the side and yank on the panel as hard as I can.  It gives way and I fling it aside, stumbling when something tumbles out of the opening and lands on me.  It's Malcolm.  Weak, woozy, half frozen, but alive.  I just about burst into tears right there in the launch bay.  


    Phlox's animals aren't all that quiet tonight, but Malcolm's out for the count anyway.  He's been asleep since this morning, and the doc says it's for the best.  When he first flopped out of the cell ship he tried to fight me.  Then he realized who had pried the side off the cell ship.  He gave me a dopey smile, said my name, and promptly passed out.

    Malcolm used a microdetonator to jettison the main generator before it could explode.  The move saved his life, but it left all the cell ship's systems inoperative.  Including life support.  He's damn lucky we got there when we did.  I reach out and cover his lax hand with my own.  I'm damn lucky.


    I don't even remember feeling like I was going to drift off, but it's hours later when I wake up.  There's a soft noise by my side and I realize that it's Malcolm that's woken me up: he appears to be having a nightmare.  

    "Hey, Malcolm."  He just keeps shifting around and making little noises deep in his throat.  From the looks of things it's a bad one so I try again a little more loudly.  "Malcolm!  Wake up."

    The restless motion stops and Malcolm gives this funny little frown before he manages to force his eyes open.  He blinks up at me with a quizzical expression on his face and after a moment comments, "You look terrible."  A moment later he's blushing when he realizes what just popped out of his mouth.

    I can't suppress a chuckle of pure relief.  I love it when his mouth gets ahead of him.  "Good morning to you too, sunshine."  Even the tips of his ears flush at that.  I take his hand like I did when he was asleep.  "When you jettisoned the generator we lost the ship's signal.  Took ten years off my life."

    He gives our joined hands a curious glance before his gaze flits back to my face.  His voice is husky when he speaks, "I didn't think you were going to make it in time."

    I give his hand a squeeze and lean in a bit more.  "I'm glad you're okay.  When I thought I'd lost you..."  I keep leaning in as I talk, quickly closing the distance between us.

    I'm almost there when he pulls away.  "Trip?"

    I'd closed my eyes in anticipation and I open them to find him watching me hawkishly.  "What?"

    He pulls back even more.  "What are you doing?"

    I blink in surprise.  Isn't it obvious?  "Um..."

    "I understand that you were worried, but I hardly think this is appropriate."

    That type of formality from him used to just get me going, but after serving with Malcolm for almost three years I've learned to take it as a sign that he'd upset about something.  "Thinking I'd lost you made me realize a few things.  I want a relationship with you, Mal."

    He answers me in clipped tones.  "While I do consider you my friend, I hardly think that we're in a position to be a couple."

    I try to suppress my rising frustration.  "Malcolm, you can't pretend that we weren't-"

    He doesn't let me finish.  "And you can't pretend you didn't push me away.  I don't take rejection lightly."

    All my frustration just deflates at the hurt in his tone.  "Look, Malcolm-"

    He cuts me off again.  "According to the chronometer it's almost 0400.  I've had a rather taxing couple of days and would really like to get some rest.  If you insist on pursuing this conversation you can do so in the morning."  With that closes his eyes and rolls onto his side so that he's facing away from me.

    I'm too tired for a fight, so I pull a spare blanket up over myself and try to get comfortable in my chair.  I inject just as much of a challenge into my tone as he had in his.  "I'll see you in the morning."


    I never did get back to sleep.  After an hour of staring at his back I retreated to the mess hall where I spent two hours trying to figure out what to say.  By then people were beginning to file in for breakfast so I got myself some coffee and toast and spent another hour fretting over what I'd decided to say.  When I actually made it to sickbay I was too late.  Phlox had already released him to rest in his quarters.

    When I got to his quarters I hovered nervously by the door for a full three minutes before I forced myself to press the chime.  He was in little worn civilian clothing as he sat on his bed reading a padd which he lowered when I stepped inside.  "Hey, Malcolm."  He sets the padd down on the bunk, but doesn't make any effort to make me feel welcome.  When he just sits there watching me I awkwardly launch into my prepared speech.  "First I think I owe you an overdue apology.  When Lizzy was killed I was just devastated, and as we prepared to ship out into the Expanse I decided I couldn't bear to go through that kind of pain again.  I thought that pushing you away was the best thing to do.  I'm sorry for hurting you."  

    I pause to catch my breath and he just keeps watching me silently.  It's kinda unnerving so I continue as best I can, "But when I thought you were dead it was even worse than I'd ever imagined it could be.  With Lizzy I have all kinds of happy memories to look back on and try and remember her by, but with you I just regretted that we hadn't been more.  I couldn't believe what I'd thrown away."  I can't remember any of the other things I wanted to say so I just cross my arms and wait to see what happens.

    He looks down and fiddles with the bedspread, picking invisible bits of fuzz off it.  After a minute he looks up at me again.  "I'd wondered if this morning was just the relief getting to your head."


    He holds up a hand, effectively silencing my outburst.  "I know."

    He lets his head thump back against the wall behind him.  "You're just so selfish, Trip."  I blink in surprise at the pronouncement and he expels a huff of breath.  "You always just blaze ahead into situations without so much as a thought for what the consequences could be for the people involved."  I watch worriedly as his fingers go back to plucking at the blanket.  He finally gives me a rueful smile and says, "I still can't help how I feel about you.  Even after all this."  He waves a hand, and it's not just encompassing the two of us, but Lizzy, the Expanse, Starfleet, T'Pol and everything else as well.

    The hope blossoming in my chest makes it hard to breathe.  "You mean?"

    He sounds cross when he replies.  Whether at me or at himself I can't tell.  "I don't know what I mean.  I can't stand to be without you, but I don't know if I can stand to be with you either."

    The bubble bursts and I just gasp, "Malcolm!"  He's breaking it off with me.  He's really, truly, ending everything we've worked towards before it can even have a chance.  Our friendship might not survive this.  "Please, Malcolm.  Don't."  Any shreds of eloquence I'd normally possess have vanished.

    "I'm sorry, Trip, but I don't think we should pursue anything more than a friendship."

    It occurs to me that he sounds more hurt than sure of himself.  Playing the last card I have I say, "If that's what you really want I'll respect it, but I need to hear it from you.  Look me in the eyes and tell me you don't want to be with me."  Maybe it's how he was raised, but one thing I've learned about Malcolm is that while he can be wily as hell and impossible to corner, he just doesn't lie.  Not to his friends.

    There's a lengthy pause before he says, "I can't."  He looks vaguely disgusted with himself.

    I'm across the room in three strides and carefully perch on the edge of his bunk.  "Then if you want it too can't you just give it a chance?"  I can feel the tension radiating off him.  He's so close to giving in, he just needs to be pushed over the edge.  I tentatively set my hand on his shin and give a gentle squeeze.  It's enough.

    Malcolm gives a little shudder before looking at me with his sad, tired eyes.  "Fine."  He lays his hands palm up on the blankets and leans back against the bulkhead.  The surrender plain.  "Fine."

    I clamber up the narrow bunk, knocking his padd onto the floor on the way, and gather him into a hug.  When his arms come up and wrap around my back there's a flood of relief so strong I can feel my eyes prickling.  I hug him so tightly he gives a little grunt, but he doesn't try to pull away.

    When I finally pull back my tiredness asserts itself and makes me feel almost light headed.  I must have wobbled because Malcolm fixes me with a stern gaze.  "When did you last sleep?"

    "I got a few hours."

    He's not budging.  "Out of how many?"

    When he fixes me with that gaze I can't lie either.  "The last couple days."

    "Then you're going to sleep.  Now."

    I think of the walk back to my quarters and, more importantly, not being with Malcolm.  "But Malcolm..."  He rolls his eyes just like he used to and the gesture is enough make me forget what I was going to say.

    "You could stay."  He suddenly looks uncertain.  "If you'd like."    

    "I don't want to disturb you or anything."  I must be really tired to be saying stupid things like that when he just asked me to stay with him.    

    "I'm offering.  I'm still on sick leave so I was just reading a novel."  He pulls out the pillow from where it was folded behind his back and sets it properly at the head of the bed.  "You can sleep, I'll read, and we'll both be happy.  I know how you get without enough sleep.  It wouldn't do for you to be cranky."  He treats me to that smirk of his and I'm sold.

    "Sounds nice."  I drawl out the words in a way that I know he secretly likes.

    Malcolm slithers down the bed so he's lying with his head on the pillow, plucking his padd off the floor as he does so.  He regards me where I'm still dumbly sitting, paralysed by fatigue.  "Well?"  Malcolm pats his left shoulder invitingly.  "Take off your shoes and get down here."

    As I lie there with my ear pressed to his chest I can hear his heart beating.  On the verge of drifting off it occurs to me just how lucky I am.  I won't mess this up.  There's too much at stake.