Title: The Mourning After
Author: Joules Mer
Author's e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Author's URL: http://jmenterprise.popullus.net
Date: Completed Nov. 22, 2004
Archive: Will be sent to EntSTCommunity. Everyone else please
Fandom: Star Trek Enterprise
Disclaimer: Enterprise is the property of Paramount. Characters
just borrowed for fun. No profit was, or will be, made by this
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
"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