Title: Tumble Down the Walls
Author: Joules Mer
Rating: PG-13
Pairing: Tu/R
Date:  First posted to Live Journal (joulesmer)  October 23, 2004.
Disclaimer: Enterprise is the property of Paramount.  No profit was made, no copyright infringement was intended.
Archive:  Anyone else please ask.
Beta: None.

    He's always too close.  Standing behind me on the bridge.  Sitting with me at lunch, innocently bumping my knees under the too small table.  He's a tactile person.  He doesn't just say "good job," he thumps it into your back with his hand.  He doesn't say "get some sleep," he gently squeezes your arm so you know it's a friendly suggestion.  Trip's just like that.  Probably why I've gotten myself into this ridiculous situation.

    I wasn't comfortable fraternizing.  A level of detachment is good for my job.  It makes it easier, you know?  Tragedy is a sliding scale, of sorts, and it isn't as horrible when you didn't know the person you couldn't quite save.  I'd managed to stick with that all the way to Enterprise.  Then Trip breezed into my life.  He was all easy charm, and persistence.  He wanted to make sure I felt like a part of the crew.

    It was easy to appreciate what he was trying to do, which made it easy to appreciate him.  Then before I'd realized what was happening he was standing on the rubble he'd made of my cyclopean walls and offering to be my friend.  It was so easy to be his friend, which made it too easy to fall into this.  I've fallen for my best friend, and he doesn't have any idea that it's happened.


    "Hey Malcolm!"  His call is too loud to pretend I didn't hear.  I slow down and brace myself for the assault.  Trip jogs to catch up and then falls into step with me.  "Going for dinner?"

    "Yes."  I keep my voice level and my eyes to the front.

    "Great!  I'll join you."  I marvel at how easily he invites himself along.  He's always so confident that he's welcome.  He starts prattling on about his day in engineering and it's a relief to just be able to make affirmative noises every now and then.  When I talk with him I invariably wind up saying something I'll kick myself for afterwards.  Small talk was never my forte. 

    He somehow manages to keep talking all the way to the messhall, through us picking our food and a table, and through the first half of my dinner.  I don't mind at all.  I've gotten to the point where I'm just letting it wash over me without processing it very much, when he says something unexpected.  "Want to sit with me at the movie tonight?"

    *That* makes me look up from the steak I'd been industriously carving and when I get a good look at his face I pause mid chew.  He looks nervous.  His face is a bit flushed and the fingers of his right hand are restlessly tapping on the tabletop.  He can't possibly mean what I hope he means, but there's *something* going on.  I've taken too long to respond and he starts to backtrack.   "I mean, it's that war film. Lots of strategy and explosions, you know?  I just assumed you'd be going.  Thought you might be able to tell me what the heck was going on."  He gives a funny laugh, his face colouring a little more.

    I swallow my half chewed food, wincing as the lump scrapes its way down my throat, and try to put him at ease.  "I'd love to.  I've been looking forward to the movie all week."

    That gets me a big smile and I swear my stomach inverts itself at the way his face lights up.  "Great!"  He takes a swig of his milk and it leaves a smear over his upper lip.  I just about loose my composure when he licks it off.  I remind myself that tonight is just going to be a trip to the movies with a friend, nothing more.  No sense in getting worked up about it.  Trip closes his eyes as he chews his pie, a soft smile on his face at the taste.  It's going to be a long night.


    By the time we finish our dinner there's still over an hour until the movie starts.  I'm uncomfortably aware of the fact that I've spent the entire day working in the uniform I'm wearing, and as a result it's none too fresh.  I don't need to try and surreptitiously sniff myself to know that I'm in desperate need of a shower.  This may be a trip to the movies with a friend, but I'll be damned if I'm going to sit next to him for two hours stinking like one of those skunks we ran into during survival training.  When Trip says something about having a coffee and offers to get me some tea I hurry to make my escape.  "Actually, I was thinking of getting changed before the movie."  I stand up, careful not to upset anything on the table as I do so.  "Shall I meet you there at ten to?" 

    Trip almost looks disappointed, but quickly agrees.  "Sure, Malcolm."  He flashes me one of those smiles that does nothing to keep my dinner in it's place.  "I could do with a change myself."  As we gather up our dishes and put them away I catch him watching me with an unusual look on his face and wonder if I've got something stuck in my teeth.  Once in the corridor he reverts back to discussing a malfunction in the targeting array and I go back to my affirmative grunts.  It's strange how talkative he gets around me sometimes, it reminds me of what Madeline used to be like when she was nervous.

    We go our separate ways and I peel off my uniform as soon as the door to my quarters closes behind me.  It's a relief to get out of all those layers.  After a shower I'm confronted by the damnable task of deciding what to wear.  Yesterday I sent a load of my clothes to be cleaned, and they haven't arrived back yet.  I poke through my drawers and closet and feel a flash of panic at the precious little to choose from.  I finally pull out the only truly casual article of clothing not being cleaned, and am horrified to find a stain of some sort marring the fabric of the blue shirt.  Raking a hand through my hair I throw the offending garment towards the hamper.  The khakis are gone, so are the jeans and my blue trousers.   I've got the dress pants that go with my suit, but they're way too formal.  I can't wear my workout sweats, and after turning down tea to get changed I can't show up in my uniform.  I peer into the depths of my closet.  There's only my dark pants left.  The pants that are a little tighter than anything I'd normally wear.  The pants Mark Latrelle dared me to buy and wear.  The pants that bear more than a passing resemblance to leather.

    Cursing, I haul them out and pull them on, certain everyone at movie night is going to get a better view of my arse than they ever wanted.  That done I rifle through my drawers for a shirt, cursing even more when I realize I sent most of them to the wash as well.  The only thing I can find is a dark sweater.  All black isn't the look I was going for, but Madeline once told me I looked good in black and I've never had any reason to doubt her.  As it is I've got just enough time to get my hair into some semblance of order before I have to leave.

    At exactly ten to I make my way into our little "theatre," only to find that he's not there.  I really should work on the concept of fashionable tardiness.  After a minute of forced casualness and wiping my sweaty palms on my pants he finally arrives.  Trip's clearly showered as well and his attire displays a tastefulness I wouldn't normally associate with the man.  That light grey sweater does wonders at setting off his eyes.  When he catches sight of me his eyes widen and I cringe at the thought that I might look like I'm trying. 

    I'm on the verge of panic as he ambles over, so his greeting just blows me away.  "Hey Malcolm, lookin' good!" 

    He gives me one of those stomach inverting smiles and I barely manage to grin back and reply, "The grey does wonders, Trip.  Perhaps we'd have had a bit more luck if you'd worn it on Risa instead of the purple."  His smile broadens and I'm done for.  The time spent finding seats and getting popcorn is a blur, but he doesn't act like he's noticed anything amiss so I must have managed to make appropriate interjections in the conversation.  About halfway through the movie Trip shifts slightly in his seat and our knees wind up touching.  I force myself to keep breathing normally.  A few minutes later he shifts again and then the full lengths of our thighs are pressed together.  I risk a sideways glance, but find that he's got his gaze resolutely fixed on the screen.  I spare a few minutes to wonder if his posture is intentional before dismissing the thought altogether and turning my attention back to the film.


    The lights come up slowly as the credits start to roll and people begin to talk as they gather up their empty food containers.  "So..."  There's twinkle in Trip's eye as he turns to me.  "What did you think of those guns?"  I can't stop myself from launching into a dissertation on them and Trip has an almost imperceptible smile on his face as he gathers up our things and listens to me prattle on.

    We stop in front of my quarters and I punch in the door code without ceasing to talk about the phase pistol type weapons in the film.  They were pretty brilliant and Trip did seem genuinely interested when he asked me about them.  I trail off when the door slides open, steeling myself to say goodnight without sounding too wistful.  I turn around only to find that Trip is standing far too close to me for comfort.  I gulp reflexively and take an involuntary step backwards.  His eyes are sparkling in a terribly distracting manner and I have to actively focus on his words.  "So I had a really great time tonight, Malcolm."

    I take another step backwards and wind up hitting the edge of the doorframe.  "I did too."  I sort of stammer that out and then my helpful brain supplies, "That's been my favourite movie since I was a boy."  Not what I want to say at all.  That could imply that the movie made my evening worthwhile, rather than the company.  What I want to say is that I enjoyed spending time with him.

    He grins and I feel even more flustered.  "I know.  That's why I requested it get put on the movie rotation."

    I think my mouth has fallen open.  It takes a concerted effort to get it shut and then a few tries to get a coherent sentence out.  "You put it on the rotation?  For me?"

    A shrug and a lazy smile and I feel like I've misplaced my stomach and a large portion of my intestines.  Only Trip can make me downright giddy.  He takes another step closer and practically whispers, "I thought it might be nice."  Then he kisses me.

    I just about die right then and there.  After a moment he breaks the kiss and steps back.  My hand comes up on its own accord and ghosts over my lips as if in an effort to verify that I didn't just have the most wonderful hallucination.  My dazed eyes meet his gaze and I'm confused to see his face fall.  It's only then that I realize I was so stunned I forgot to kiss him back.  He licks his lips nervously and starts to stammer, "I... I'm sorry, Malcolm.  I thought..."

    He looks like he's on the verge of bolting so I do the only thing I can think of.  I grab him by the front of his fetching grey sweater and haul him into my quarters.  I've had enough of being reserved.