Malcolm headed towards the poorly lit corner table and, after verifying that
it was indeed his friend, sank into the empty seat across from the other man.
"Where have you been? Everyone's been looking for you, and there was
a rumour going around that you went to Vulcan."***
Trip managed to give his friend a weary smile.
"I did." He waved vaguely at the two bags stacked between his chair
and the wall. "I got back a couple of hours ago."
Malcolm signalled the waitress to bring him one of the
beers Trip was drinking and leaned across the table. "T'Pol took you?"
"Yeah." Trip took a large swig of his drink.
"Cap'n ordered me to take a break. She called me on the fact that I've
told the captain I don't get to see as many alien cultures as I'd like, and
it's not like I have a home to go to. I actually stayed at her mom's
There was something about Trip's manner that told Malcolm
he wasn't as comfortable with the subject as he'd like people to think.
Nevertheless, he pressed on. "How was it?"
"She took me 16 light years to watch her get married
to someone she barely knows." There was a bitterness in the tone that
gave Malcolm pause before his surprise at the statement itself took over.
"T'Pol got married?"
"Yup, to a Vulcan called Koss." He gave a hand
signal that the waitress seemed to understand as she hurried over with what
looked like a double shot of bourbon. Trip downed it and ordered another.
"It was a bit of a surprise."
Malcolm took a good look at his friend and got it.
"You... care... for her. Don't you?"
Trip gave a mirthless, hitching chuckle. "I've
never enjoyed arguing with someone before, well, except you." He rubbed
a hand over his face and downed the fresh double shot that had appeared in
front of him. "I didn't really realize how I felt until she told me
she was going to marry Koss. We'd climbed up to this place with monumental
statues and lava flows. It was amazing, but I could tell something was
eating at her. When I asked what was up she told me her plans.
I felt like someone had punched me in the stomach right then and there.
I tried to talk to her about it. It was all wrong, Malcolm, she doesn't
care for him at all." He covered his face with his hands for a moment
before saying softly, "I asked her how I was supposed to take it, and she
just said she was sorry. I hadn't realized that I loved her until then."
"Oh, Trip, I..." Malcolm trailed off, not wanting
to utter a useless platitude and not sure what he was feeling at the news.
Trip took a fortifying swig of his beer and stared at
his hands as he continued, "They dressed me up in Vulcan robes for the wedding.
Supposedly they'd belonged to her father. Her mother came and helped
me get ready. She asked me if I'd told T'Pol I was in love with her.
She thought I should give T'Pol all the facts. I didn't know what to
do, Malcolm." Trip drained his bottle and fiddled with the label as
he continued, "I chickened out." Trip gave his friend a forced smile.
"I was afraid of what would happen if I told her. I didn't know what
I'd do if she called it off, and I was terrified I'd tell her and she'd get
married anyway." Last call had sounded a while ago, and the waitress
stopped off at their table to leave the bill. When she was a safe distance
away Trip continued, "She was so beautiful, Malcolm, all dressed up.
She thanked me for coming, and I said I wouldn't miss it for the world."
He took a juddering breath before continuing, "She kissed me, you know."
Trip gave a watery smile. "On my cheek." Malcolm's eyes widened
slightly and Trip elaborated, "Right there in front of the other Vulcans,
already on her way up to the ceremonial fire." He set his head in his
hands and tried to regain his composure.
Malcolm collected the bill, eyes widening slightly when
it revealed just how much alcohol the commander had consumed. He ran
his card through the device built into the table, adding a reasonable tip
for their server. "Trip?" He friend looked up at him blearily.
"Where are you staying?"
Trip shrugged. "Nowhere."
"Okay." Malcolm gathered up Trip's duffel bags
and slung them across his own back. That done he pulled Trip up and
put an arm around him, guiding the inebriated man out of the bar and through
the dark streets to his temporary Starfleet housing. The small apartment
was even more spartan than his quarters on Enterprise, but it served its purpose.
He led Trip into the bedroom and let him tumble onto the bed. Malcolm
pulled off his friend's boots and moved up the bed to remove Trip's jacket.
Just when he got the thick outer layer off he felt a hand cup the back of
his head and pull him in for a sloppy kiss. He was so startled it took
him a moment to pull back.
Trip's hand kept him from getting too far away.
"I want... I want what we almost had." Malcolm almost flinched away
from the intensity of Trip's gaze. "I pushed you away, Malcolm.
I couldn't see past my grief for Lizzy. I'm sorry." Malcolm looked
at the damp eyes and liquor induced flush before pulling himself from his
friend's grasp and pulling the blanket up over the other man.
"Go to sleep, Trip." Malcolm quickly ran a soothing
hand over his friend's forehead before turning off the light and stepping
back from the bed. He kicked off his shoes and went to the far side
of the room, sitting at his desk until long after the other man had drifted
Trip mashed his face into the pillow, trying to escape
the pounding of his own head. The bed was soft and warm, far more comfortable
than anything on the Vulcan transport ship. He borrowed into the mattress,
grimacing as he realized that his stomach was also protesting the previous
night's excesses. He was just about to go back to sleep when he heard
it: the rhythmic sounds of a sleeper's breathing. Trip froze, then very
carefully raised himself up on one elbow. He was confronted by an unmistakable
mass of spiky dark hair. Malcolm. He was in bed with Malcolm.
At least that's what he thought until he looked more
closely. It turned out he was the only one actually under the covers.
Malcolm was lying on top of the bedspread with a spare blanket pulled over
himself. Trip carefully sank back down, frowning as more and more of
the previous evening came back to him. There was no telling how Malcolm
was going to respond to his booze induced sob story or subsequent proposition.
Trip desperately wondered if the other man would believe that he couldn't
remember the night before. He winced as the piercing sound of Malcolm's
alarm cut off his musings. There was a grumble and then the bed heaved
as Malcolm rolled over and sat up. "Trip?"
There was no use pretending to be asleep. "Yeah?"
"How are you feeling?"
"Like shit." Trip could picture the smirk on the
other man's face.
"Then stay here while I get breakfast and see if I can
scrounge something to make you feel better." With that Malcolm pushed
himself up from the bed and wandered into the main room. Trip could
only blink in surprise at his friend's retreating back. He hadn't expected
him to handle the situation quite like that.
It wasn't long before Malcolm was back, carefully balancing
two plates of toast, a packet of hangover medication, and two mugs.
He passed a plate, medication and a mug to Trip who eagerly swallowed two
of the virulent blue tablets before tentatively nibbling at his toast.
Malcolm turned to the computer console built into his desk, calling up information
as he sipped his tea. After a minute of two he spoke without turning
away from the screen, "You didn't have to come back so soon. The armoury
refits are taking longer than planned. We've got another week off."
"Oh." Trip swirled the coffee around in his mug.
"I guess I'd better book myself a place here."
"Don't bother." Malcolm pressed a few buttons
on his computer. "Ever been to Paris?"
Trip's brow furrowed at the non sequitur. "No."
Malcolm's lips twitched in a hint of a smile.
"Well that's an appalling deficit that deserves to be rectified."
Malcolm punched a few more keys before turning to his
friend triumphantly. "There. I've booked us on a transport and
made a reservation at a little hotel I've used before. It's not fancy,
but the ambience makes up for it. It's the perfect place for a diversion."
"But..." Trip narrowly avoided upsetting his drink
all over the blankets. "But I just got back from Vulcan."
"Yes." Malcolm crossed his arms. "Which
means you don't even have to pack."
"But... there's stuff we don't have. Like a French
Malcolm rolled his eyes. "Trip, it's a major tourist
destination. All the attractions have translators."
"But what if we need to ask someone for directions...
"Est-ce que vous ne parlez pas le français, Monsieur
"You can speak French?"
Malcolm smirked. "Sometimes I wonder what they
taught you at school. I couldn't give a lecture on warp theory, but
we won't get lost or go hungry."
Every protest successfully defeated and still a bit
too hung over to come up with a better one, Trip reluctantly capitulated.
Malcolm beamed. "Great." He waved in the
direction of the main room. "Bathroom's the door on the left.
You'd better have a shower while I pack. We leave in two hours."
Trip fell asleep over the Atlantic, only waking when
the intercontinental transport touched down at Charles de Gaulle Shuttleport.
It wasn't surprising considering that the man looked like he hadn't had a
proper sleep in weeks. With minimal coaxing he gathered up his bags
and allowed himself to be led through a checkpoint and out into the twilight.
Trip blinked at the change from San Francisco. "What time is it?"
"Half past eight. It's a nine hour difference."
Malcolm waved and a ground transport powered up and drove over to them.
"We could take the Nouveau Métro, but it would probably be best to
get to the hotel before it gets late."
Trip shrugged. "You're the one running this show."
With that he took Malcolm's bag and threw their luggage into the transport's
trunk before climbing into the back with Malcolm.
Malcolm leaned forward to answer the driver. "Quatre.
Rue du Plâtre et Temple: l'Hôtel Saint-Jean."
The vehicle sped off into the gathering darkness and
Trip found himself peering out the window despite himself. Eventually
highway gave way to city and it wasn't too long before the vehicle slowed
and stopped on a narrow side street. Malcolm paid the driver while Trip
gathered up their bags. When the taxi had left Malcolm turned and indicated
a tall, precariously narrow building across from them. "There's our
place." Trip eyed the ancient looking wooden door dubiously, it would
take a heck of a lot of atmosphere to make up for the fact that the rooms
were bound to be terribly cramped. Nevertheless, he followed Malcolm
across the street and into the hotel. They had barely made it three
meters into the lobby when the clerk at the desk noticed them.
"Jean-Pierre!" Trip watched with an almost sick
fascination as Malcolm practically bounded up to the desk and the two men
theatrically kissed each other's cheeks. They immediately started prattling
away in French so Trip wandered around inspecting the furniture. "Trip!"
Malcolm waved him over so he ambled up to the desk. "Mon ami, Monsieur
Trip could guess what that meant so he held out his
hand, grinning as it was enthusiastically shook. "Um..." He looked
between Malcolm and the hotel owner. "Call me Trip."
Malcolm shrugged at Jean-Pierre and offered, "Il s'appelle
"Ah! Bienvenue à Paris, Trip."
Trip risked a glance at Malcolm before hazarding, "Merci."
He winced inwardly, fairly sure it wasn't supposed to sound quite like that.
Jean-Pierre didn't seem to mind the mispronunciation
as he beamed at Trip before turning to Malcolm. "Il est américain?"
Malcolm smirked. "Oui."
Jean-Pierre rolled his eyes. "Oh là là,
Malcolm." With that he turned to a set of cubby holes behind him, fumbling
until he retrieved a key that he held aloft. "Voilà."
Malcolm raised an eyebrow. "Double avec une vue?"
"Avec *la* vue." When Malcolm held out his hand
Jean-Pierre tossed the keys to the other man. "À demain."
"Bonne nuit." He waved for Trip to follow him
into a rickety elevator where he pressed the button for the top floor.
They rode the lift in silence, Trip casting surreptitious sideways glances
at his friend. When it came to a shuddering stop Malcolm led the way
down a dim corridor, unlocking the door at the end and ushering Trip inside.
The room was small, but there were two neatly made beds, a coffeemaker and
kettle, small fridge, and what was presumably the door to a bathroom.
Malcolm tossed the keys onto the countertop. "I've
got some of Phlox's finest to put us to sleep until tomorrow morning."
"Great." Trip dropped his bags on the floor by
one of the beds. "I'm still messed up from going from the middle of
the Vulcan night on their ship to afternoon in San Francisco."
Malcolm set his own bags down. "You can use the
lav first, but I've got something to show you before you go to sleep."
"Alright." Trip poked through one of his bags
before retrieving a few items and disappearing into the bathroom. While
he was gone Malcolm unpacked his bag, filling half a small chest of drawers
and a few hangers in the closet with his clothes and belongings. That
done he pulled out a hypospray normally used for away missions and set it
to the correct dosage.
It wasn't long before Trip wandered out of the bathroom
wearing nothing more than a pair of loose pajama bottoms. He threw a
few things back into his bag before turning to his friend. "What did
you want to show me?"
Malcolm swallowed convulsively. "Just, stand there."
He appeared almost flustered as he pointed to a spot near the room's window.
"Close your eyes." At Trip's skeptical look he implored. "Trust
me." When Trip reluctantly closed his eyes Malcolm hurried to the window,
pulling back the thick curtain and swinging the paned glass outwards.
He took Trip by the shoulders and carefully manoeuvred the other man to stand
in front of the open window. "Open them... now."
Trip opened his eyes, blinking when he was suddenly
confronted by a flash of light. "Whoa.. what?" When the spots
cleared Trip gazed at the dazzling array of lights, averting his eyes when
the bright beam passed just over the window again. "Is that?"
Malcolm stepped up to stand by Trip's shoulder.
"The Eiffel Tower searchlight, yes." He pointed out the window.
"Notre Dame is just over there, well within walking distance."
Trip took another step towards the window to get a better
view of the array of lights, finally appreciating what his friend was trying
to do for him. "It's beautiful." He turned away from the window
to give Malcolm a cautious smile. "Thanks."
Malcolm managed to muster one of his half smiles.
"No problem." There was a moment of awkward silence before Malcolm brandished
the hypospray. "How does a night's sleep sound? You'll wake up
just in time for breakfast in Paris."
"That sounds nice." Trip tilted his head to the
side and Malcolm took that as an invitation to deftly inject a dose into his
neck. After a moment a warm lassitude spread through Trip's body and
he sighed. "That stuff works fast." The world tilted slightly
to the left and he hurriedly clambered into his bed. Trip was out cold
before he could get the blankets pulled up.
Malcolm stepped up to the bed, carefully drawing the
covers over his friend. He eyed the hypospray for a moment before tossing
it onto his bed. Kicking off his shoes he went back to the large window,
gripping the frame and pulling himself up with practised ease. Malcolm
settled onto the broad sill, letting his feet dangle above the rooftop next
door. He lost track of time as he sat there, watching the beam of light
flash over the city as he tried to put his feelings into some semblance of
Trip fiddled with his camera, making sure that it had
enough power to last for the whole day. His stomach grumbled a bit,
as if unsure whether bread with jam and practically a bowl of coffee should
be considered breakfast. "Monsieur Trip!"
He looked up to find the hotel owner hurrying across
the lobby to him. "Jean-Pierre."
Jean-Pierre looked around in apparent confusion.
"Où est Monsieur Reed?"
"He's... um." Trip frowned for a moment before
pointing up at the ceiling. "He's up at the room. He's..."
Trip mimed combing his hair, "still getting ready."
"Ah, oui." Jean-Pierre took a look around before
stepping closer to the other man. "Vous ne parlez pas français?"
Trip shrugged apologetically. "I'm sorry.
I don't understand."
Jean-Pierre grinned at that and took another step closer.
"Vous êtes très beau." When Trip still looked politely
apologetic Jean-Pierre continued, "Voulez-vous m'enculer? Vous ne me
comprenez pas? Enculer?" At Trip's perplexed look Jean-Pierre
shrugged. "Non? C'est dommage."
Trip shook his head. "I really have no clue what
you're saying. Sorry."
The comm unit in the front desk chose that moment to
clamour for attention and Jean-Pierre hurried over to it, casting some parting
words over his shoulder that were as incomprehensible to Trip as everything
else the man had said. It wasn't long before Malcolm emerged from the
elevator, waving at Jean-Pierre as he made his way over to Trip. Jean-Pierre
returned the gesture before turning back to the heated conversation he was
having over the comm system. "Ready to go?"
"Yup." Trip followed Malcolm out of the building,
displacing a group of pigeons that had been strutting around on the sidewalk
outside of the front door. "Care to tell me what the plan is for our
week in Paris?
"But of course." Malcolm had a smug little smile
on his face. "We are going to do every touristy cliché associated
with Paris, from seeing the Mona Lisa to going up the Eiffel Tower.
Think of it as shore leave, but without having to worry about creating an
"That sounds alright. What's the plan for today?"
"Today..." Malcolm steered Trip around the corner
and down another narrow street. "Today we're going to go to spend the
morning at Versailles. Coming from a relatively young country that never
really had a phase of empire building I think you'll find the scale of the
site quite impressive. We can have lunch there, but I suggest we bring
our own as the prices at the cafe are atrocious. I thought we could
come back and do the Louvre in the afternoon." Malcolm's features reflected
an inner uncertainty. "I don't know how you feel about museums, but
the Louvre has a truly amazing collection and I always enjoyed..."
"I'd like to go to the Louvre." Malcolm's jaw
shut with an audible click and Trip grinned. "But you might have to
explain some of the pieces to me, what with my substandard American education
Somewhat flustered, it took Malcolm a moment to get
back on track. "Yes, well, I'm glad to hear that. Anyway, if
we finish early we can go for a walk to Notre Dame. There are boats
that take tourists up and down the Seine, if we can get on one around sunset
it would be nice. It's a short ride so I'll be fine so long as we're
on one of the larger ones and I can sit well back from the railing.
Then we should be able to make it to the Eiffel Tower after it's dark.
The view of the city lights is spectacular."
Trip nodded, mildly amused at the extent of Malcolm's
planning. He swept an arm forward and with a wink proclaimed, "To misquote
the bard: lead on MacDuff."
Visibly relieved, Malcolm took advantage of the situation
and led Trip into a small shop. Once inside, he picked up a wire basket
from a stack by the door and headed into the shelves of food. "See anything
Trip inspected the packages of food before pulling one
off a refrigerated shelf at random. "What's this?"
Malcolm inspected the label. "Fromage... avec
des olives... it's cream cheese with olives."
"Why can't we just get one of those tourist translators?"
There was more than the trace of a whine in Trip's tone.
Malcolm smirked. "Because it's more fun this way."
"More fun for you."
Instead of replying he held up the basket. "It
could be good with a baguette."
Trip rolled his eyes and dropped the cream cheese into
A gust of wind ruffled his hair and he pulled up the
collar of his jacket, shivering a bit.
"A little." Trip gave a weak smile. "It's
not as bad as a certain shuttlepod was though."
Malcolm chuckled. "Heaven forbid." They
turned back to the railing, leaning against it and gazing through the holes
in the large grill.
After a while Malcolm tentatively started, "Trip?"
"When you said you don't have a home to go to, what
did you mean?" That remark had been bothering Malcolm since Trip had
uttered it in the bar. Before the Expanse Trip had eagerly chatted
about his close family to anyone willing to listen, and as far as Malcolm
knew only his younger sister has been killed in the attack.
Trip seemed to slump slightly. "I... I'd always
stayed at Lizzy's when I was on leave or in between places. I didn't
know where to go."
Malcolm frowned. "But what about your parents?
Or your older sister?" Even his own parents had insisted on seeing him,
and Madeline had hugged him so tightly he'd thought she was liable to fracture
"They wanted to see me." Trip kept his gaze fixed
on the city lights as he continued softly, "I talked to them over the
comm from the Vulcan transport. They wanted me to stay with them at
my parents' place. My sister and my nephew were going to come too."
He took a juddering breath. "I wanted to see them, but I just couldn't
do it. I haven't stayed there since Lizzy was killed. I visited
them before we shipped out into the Expanse, and that was bad enough.
There's pictures everywhere, and all sorts of things that were hers when we
were little. Everywhere you look you're reminded of her. It still
hurts, Malcolm. It hurts too much." He swiped at his eyes and
looked anywhere but his friend's face. "Pretty stupid, huh?"
"No." Malcolm risked taking a step closer and
putting a hand on Trip's shoulder. "It isn't stupid. It's perfectly
understandable." He gave a little squeeze and Trip finally looked at
him, his eyes still slightly damp. "I understand."
Trip managed a tight smile that didn't quite reach his
They turned back to the view, each caught up in their
own thoughts. A plan was beginning to form in Malcolm's mind.
He didn't know if Trip would welcome it or not, but he knew he had to try.
Eventually the chill forced them to make their way back
to the second set of elevators. As they stood in the queue Trip remembered
something that he'd been wondering about since that morning. "Malcolm?"
"What's an..." He fumbled over the strange word,
Malcolm's eyes narrowed. "Have you been chatting
Trip shrugged with affected nonchalance. "Maybe.
What does it mean?"
Malcolm pursed his lips as he stepped into the elevator.
"It means I'm going to have to have a chat with him."
He turned from where he was using one of the lobby's
mirrors to check his hair. "Oui?"
Malcolm made sure they were alone before continuing,
"I need to have a word with you."
"Oui you. Now get over here."
Jean-Pierre ran a hand through his hair to keep it slicked
back and glided across the lobby. "Qu'est-"
Malcolm cut him off before he could finish. "Drop
it. Have you been talking to Trip?"
A grin tugged at the corner of Jean-Pierre's mouth.
Malcolm crossed his arms. "Would you be behind
him asking me what an enculer is?"
Jean-Pierre barked out a laugh. "Did he really?
Oh Malcolm, I wish I could have seen that!"
A scowl darkened his face. "I'm glad you find
it amusing, because I just about had a heart attack."
"I'm sorry, but he's so adorably clueless I couldn't
resist." He held up a placating hand. "Don't worry. I'm
not trying to encroach on your territory. You saw him first, unfortunately."
"Please." Malcolm scuffed his feet on the carpet.
"Don't do it again."
Jean-Pierre regarded his friend for a moment before
commenting, "I take it the double room isn't for show?"
"No." Malcolm shifted some more. "I don't
want to pressure him or anything. He's... getting over someone else."
"Merde. Why didn't you say so?"
"It's a bit personal, don't you think?"
Jean-Pierre chewed on his lower lip. "Is there
anything I can do?"
Malcolm managed a weak smile. "Does your sister
still own that restaurant?"
Trip was sprawled across his bed, his feet overhanging
the end and almost touching the floor. "So what's the plan for our last
night in Paris, Mal? You cooked up something good?"
Malcolm looked up from where he was poking through a
drawer of clothing. "Dinner at a restaurant on the Champs-Elysées."
A frown creased Trip's brow. "Formal?"
"Dressy, but not overly formal." Seeing that Trip
was about to protest Malcolm continued, "Just look clean and pressed and you'll
be fine. Les Trois Fleurs has great food and you can't go to Paris
without eating on the Champs-Elysées."
Malcolm held his breath until his friend acquiesced.
"Fine." Trip rolled off the bed and started rummaging through the small
closet. "But if I wind up looking underdressed you won't hear the end
of it." Malcolm bit his lip and went back to sorting through his clothes
as he tried to decide what to wear.
Trip followed the waiter upstairs to where the restaurant
was divided into private dining rooms overlooking the street. The man
indicated a door and carefully opened it for them. "Les autres attendent."
Malcolm hung back slightly so Trip moved to enter the room first, freezing
in the doorway at the sight that greeted him.
Rachel Tucker drew her son into a tight embrace.
"It's so good to see you, honey."
After a moment Trip recovered from his shock enough
to return the embrace. Half muffled by her shoulder he stammered, "How
did you get here?"
Charles Tucker the Second stepped forward. "You
have Malcolm to thank for that."
Trip's father clapped him on the shoulder, examining
his son carefully for a moment before turning to Malcolm. "Malcolm Reed?"
Malcolm shook the proffered hand. "It's good to
meet you, sir. Mrs. Tucker."
"Please, Malcolm, it's Charles and Rachel." She
caught her son eyeing the six chairs at the table. "Sarah and Nicholas
will be joining us for dessert. Your father and I wanted some time to
talk to you without Nick here."
"Sarah and Nicky are coming?"
Charles grinned as he ushered his still somewhat bemused
son to a seat. "You'll be amazed at how much he's grown. Now he's
saying he wants to be an engineer like his uncle."
"Really?" Trip visibly brightened. "Then
who am I to dissuade the boy?" He caught sight of his friend still standing
rather awkwardly in the doorway and indicated one of the empty chairs.
"Have a seat Malcolm. We can tell my folks some stories about deep space."
Malcolm gave a shy smile and did as he was instructed.
Stuffing his hands deep into his pockets to keep them
warm, Malcolm led his friend along the broad sidewalk. "I hope it was
all right for me to be there. I hadn't intended to be, but when I was
planning it with your mother she told me to stay. She said she'd like
to meet me in person."
Trip gave a chuckle that was muffled by the upturned
collar of his coat. "I told her enough about you during our first two
years. She was probably pretty curious." Malcolm didn't know how
to reply to that so it was a good thing that Trip continued, "It was really
nice, but you've gotta let me pick up some of the tab. I appreciate
you treating my family and all, but that place seemed pretty expensive."
"Don't worry about it. It's taken care of."
At his friend's frown Malcolm explained, "Jean-Pierre's sister owns Les Trois
Fleurs. I get the family rate: gratuit." He glanced at Trip and
added, "Free but for the tip."
Trip gave something resembling an affirmative grunt.
They walked in silence for a few minutes, but as they neared the métro
station Trip spoke up, "Can I ask you something?" He carried on without
waiting for a reply, "What's the deal with you and Jean-Pierre?"
One corner of Malcolm's mouth quirked upwards.
After a moment he admitted, "We met, I suppose it was the second time I came
to Paris. It was 48 hours of pure debauchery and hedonism, followed
by nine hours of sobering up, and three days cordially pretending we hadn't
been fucking each other senseless. We've been good friends ever since."
They made their way underground, through the turnstile and to the correct
platform as Trip contemplated that. It wasn't long before a train hissed
and screeched to a stop in front of them. They entered the nearest car
and were pleasantly surprised to find that they were its only occupants.
Malcolm selected a seat and was mildly surprised when
Trip choose to sit in the adjoining seat rather than across from him.
After a minute or two he felt Trip shift slightly so that he was leaning lightly
against him. "I can't believe you managed to get my family to have
dinner with us in Paris."
"I merely called your mother and explained that I'd
kidnapped you and brought you to Paris. She actually did most of the
Trip leaned against his friend a little more.
"Yeah, well, thanks. It means a lot to me." The car rocked from
side to side and Trip let his head fall onto Malcolm's shoulder.
After holding his breath for a few seconds Malcolm whispered,
He burrowed into Malcolm's side a little. "Yeah?"
"What do you want?"
Trip didn't hesitate as he replied, "You."
Malcolm twisted in the seat, forcing Trip to sit up
and meet his gaze. "What for?"
Trip caught the poorly masked hurt in the tone and winced
inwardly. "I'm sorry, Malcolm. I never meant..."
"You were hurting and I didn't know how to help.
It's understandable that you'd push me away."
"Doesn't make it okay." The utter defeat in Trip's
tone shut them both up. The train rattled on through the dark tunnel
as they sat in silence. Eventually Trip spoke up, "I've been thinking
a lot this past week. I've really enjoyed spending time with you, Malcolm.
It's been like it was before the Xindi attack, you know?" Trip tentatively
put his arm around Malcolm, relieved when the other man didn't pull away.
"I was kinda hoping you might be up to giving us another go."
Malcolm sighed at the allusion to how close they'd been
a year ago. They'd been dancing around a mutual attraction for a long
time, and just when it looked like one of them was going to do something about
it the Xindi had attacked. "I don't want you to settle for me."
His voice was choked as he forced out, "I won't be your rebound fling after
"I'm not asking you to be." Trip scrubbed a hand
over his face and fought for the words that would make Malcolm believe him.
"I realized something this week: I realized that I'd put T'Pol on some kinda
pedestal, even though she's not what I need. Or what I want."
He took a deep breath and continued, "You're right for me, Malcolm.
Who else would have dragged me off to Paris to make me feel better, and then
arranged for my family to come too? You understand me. I don't
think she ever really did." He reached up and toyed with the hair at
the nape of Malcolm's neck. "With you it just feels right." When
Malcolm leaned into the caress he played the best card in his deck.
"I love you."
Malcolm's eyes, which had been sliding shut, flew open.
"Really?" When Trip nodded he gave a cautious smile. "I think
I might love you too."
Trip used the hand at Malcolm's neck to pull the other
man in for a kiss. When they finally pulled apart there was a sparkle
in Malcolm's eyes that Trip hadn't seen in a long time. He grinned broadly
in return and commented, "You know the Cap'n is gonna want to know what I
did this week, and he usually doesn't back down until he gets all the details."
"Well." Malcolm leaned forward conspiratorially.
"There's something I could teach you to do that would shut him up, but it
might take a bit of practise."
"Practise huh?" Trip leaned in for another quick
kiss. "Could be fun."
Trip turned from where he was fussing with his bags
to find the hotel owner hurrying across the lobby to him. "Hey Jean-Pierre."
"Trip! The taxi's here." Malcolm's shout
from the street had him quickly shouldering his bags and looking between the
door and the approaching man.
Jean-Pierre practically skidded to a stop before him.
"I wanted to catch you before you left and wish you good luck on Enterprise."
Momentarily taken aback Trip could only blink in surprise
before saying, "You can speak English?"
"I got my BA at McGill University in Québec.
There were loads of anglophones in my class, and between you and me that Québecois
patois can be incomprehensible at times."
"You never said anything!"
Jean-Pierre shrugged. "You never asked."
A sly smile alighted on his features and he remarked, "Malcolm seems happy
A blush stained Trip's cheeks. "Yeah, well..."
He cleared his throat as he trailed off.
Jean-Pierre set a hand on Trip's shoulder. "Take
care of him."
Trip managed a smile. "I'll do my best."
Their shuttle docked smoothly with Enterprise and, just
as they'd expected, the captain was waiting to greet them at the airlock.
"Trip, Malcolm, good to have you back."
"It's good to see you again, sir."
Jon smiled warmly at his officers. "Thanks, Malcolm.
I wanted to let you know that the engineer who oversaw the armoury refits
is waiting to speak with you."
"Oh." Malcolm glanced at Trip briefly before shouldering
his bag. "I may as well go straight there, I can drop this off afterwards.
I'll see you later." So saying he hurried off down the corridor, eager
to check on the status of what he considered his domain.
Jon fell into step beside Trip as he walked to the turbolift.
"Is it true you went to Vulcan?"
Trip kept his eyes straight ahead. "Yeah."
The captain couldn't resist further prying. "Were
you there the whole time?"
Trip shook his head. "Didn't hear about
the schedule change so I came back a week early."
Jon turned to his friend. "So, what did you get
up to with your extra week?"
He carefully schooled his features as he replied,
"J'ai voyagé à Paris avec Malcolm. C'est une belle ville."
As he walyou the fix anyway.