"Ghost of a Chance"
of a Chance
Christmas Carol', Enterprise style
The Expanse, Season 3
Disclaimer: All characters and things
Enterprise belong to Paramount, I just like to take them out and play with them
occasionally. I make no money from this and have nothing that’d make it worth
anyone’s while suing me.
Apart from being my Enterprise Christmas story for 2003, this is also my
response to Regina Bellatrix's request for a birthday fic for 30th December. She
wanted Tu/R, longish, and offered the quotation from Sophocles as inspiration.
reader(s): None, owing to time constraints. I needed to get this posted before
Christmas was completely over! But thanks go to Charles Dickens for the format.
EntSTSlash on 01/03/2004.
Archived at Trip*Malcolm with the author's express
hunched a shoulder and tried to focus on the panel in front of him, but the
festive jollity, subdued though it was in engineering, refused to be shut out.
He reached for the toolbox at his side, and caught sight of Travis Mayweather,
who was working with him to correct a glitch in the helm control. The young
ensign positively radiated tension and unease.
Trip acknowledge to himself with a sigh.
wrong, Commander?' Travis asked, uncertainly.
frowned at a sudden burst of laughter from the walkway above them. 'Nothing that
couldn't be fixed by people concentrating on their work,' he finished shortly.
turned back to his task without comment.
again and clambered to his feet. 'I'm going to swap out the relays,' he said,
picking up his toolbox. 'I'll be in the shaft if you need me.'
down in the confined space of the maintenance shaft, Trip started to replace the
first of the fourteen relays. It was a simple, routine job any one of his
subordinates could have done in their sleep, but he'd jumped at the excuse to
get away on his own. Unfortunately, while his body worked on autopilot his mind
had time to wander.
He knew damn
well it was his fault that Travis was so uncomfortable working alongside him. He
had that effect on just about everyone these days.
not my fault I can't get into the goddamned Christmas spirit,' he muttered,
tiredly. Since chef, of all people, had persuaded Captain Archer that a
Christmas Day party would be good for morale it seemed like everyone on board
was hip deep in fun and carols.
everyone, of course. T'Pol wasn't full of Christmas cheer, thankfully. It would
have made their already awkward neuro-pressure sessions unbearable if she was.
And the novelty even seemed to have worn off for Doctor Phlox, seeing as how
this was his third Enterprise Christmas.
there was Malcolm.
under his breath as his vision unaccountably blurred.
his fault Malcolm didn't understand he couldn't cope with a relationship right
now. It wasn't his fault Malcolm had kept sticking his nose in where it wasn't
wanted until Trip had been forced to put him in his place. It wasn't his fault
Malcolm had gotten reckless on away missions lately. It wasn't his fault Malcolm
had had to be carried two pain-filled kilometres back to the shuttlepod, Major
Hayes's grey uniform crimson with Malcolm's blood. It wasn't his fault Malcolm
was lying in sickbay, his leg so badly smashed up rumour had it he might never
walk again without crutches.
'It's not my
fault,' he said savagely, as he pushed home the final relay. 'I don't have time
for this now.'
himself out of the maintenance shaft and across to his office to check the
results of his and Travis's work.
He jumped at
the captain's voice. Here was another person, if not exactly full of the
Christmas spirit, at least putting on a brave show for the crew. Jonathan
Archer. His friend. Trip knew the months since the attack on Earth had been hard
on Jon too, and that he, Trip, hadn't been as supportive as he should have.
Enterprise's new mission weighed heavy on her captain's shoulders.
But here Jon
was, getting over it, moving on, getting back to normal so he could concentrate
more clearly. And refusing to understand why Trip couldn't do the same.
can I do for you?'
thought I'd come an see how you were getting on with the helm controls.'
like we may have got it licked. Just got a few more tests to run.' Trip turned
back to the computer, hoping the captain would take the hint and leave him
decided about tomorrow yet?'
He looked up at Archer, blankly.
The party. Today's Christmas Eve, Trip. The party's tomorrow.'
Cap'n, I'm not really in the mood. I think I'll stay on duty, let the rest of my
it alone, will you!' Trip snapped. He stopped, took a deep breath and scrubbed a
hand through his hair. 'I'm sorry, sir. That was out of line. But I can't be
doing with this party thing. Just doesn't seem right. You and the others enjoy
yourselves if you want to, but just let me be. Please.'
captain had left him alone, moving off for a quick word with Travis before
leaving engineering without a backward glance at his erstwhile friend.
At the end
of his shift, Trip grabbed a quick dinner in the mess hall. He ate alone, a mini
dampening-field of gloom spreading out from where he sat. When he noticed one of
his engineers nod in his direction and joke to her companions, 'Bah! Humbug!',
he briefly considered tearing her off a strip, but in the end he just got up and
quarters, Trip locked the door and put a 'do not disturb' flag on his comm.
Picking up his harmonica he toyed with it for a while, but wasn't in the mood to
play. As he replaced it on the shelf his eyes fell on the framed picture of his
sister, Lizzie. It had been taken not long before her death. She sat at a cafe
table, her blue dress bright in the sunlight, her long blond hair framing her
face as she laughed at the photographer. It was the picture that haunted his
nightmares of her death in the Xindi attack. But it was also how he liked to
remember her, happy and carefree.
to get the bastards who killed you, Lizzie,' he promised her laughing image.
will that do?'
Trip spun around. 'Lizzie?' He goggled at the apparition perched on the edge of
his bed. It was his sister, just as she looked in the photograph, but paler,
transparent almost. 'Lizzie?' he repeated, then, shaking off his stunned
surprise, 'What in hell are you?' He reached out and jabbed the comm button on
his desk console. 'Tucker to security, intruder alert.'
apparition laughed. 'You didn't used to be so slow to catch on.'
comment, Trip repeated his hail to security and , when he got no reply, started
towards the door.
don't go! I've come such a long way. Please, Charlie, stay and talk.'
called him Charlie, and in just that way. In spite of himself Trip was drawn
towards the bed.
you?' he asked again.
apparition's smile faltered. 'And that's made you very sad.'
Trip gave a
harsh, joyless laugh. 'That surprises you?'
Charlie, there's a difference between mourning my death and destroying your own
'You are not
Lizzie,' he accused. 'Lizzie's dead.'
'I know it's
difficult to believe, Charlie, but I am Lizzie. Lizzie's ghost anyway. And I've
come to help you.'
How?' The whole situation was surreal, but this...whatever it was, sitting there
looked so like Lizzie that he found it impossible to leave, or do anything that
might make her...it leave. He sat on the bed, at the far end from the ghost.
'I know my
death must have hit you hard, Charlie, but what you're doing, pushing everyone
away, that's just making things worse. You won't let your friends even try to
help you, and even worse, you won't help the one who depends on you. So I've
come to help.'
'No one can
help. Lizzie's dead and I don't care if you are her ghost, you can't make things
right about that, at least. The only person who can make things better is you,
Charlie. But at least I can show you your choices, and what they'll mean. I've
enlisted three spirits to guide you.'
ghosts. What good will they do?'
show you the possibilities, Charlie. That's all they can do. Which path you
decide to take is entirely up to you. The first spirit will come to you tonight
at one o'clock, the second at the same time tomorrow and the third at exactly
midnight the following night.'
haunting. Can't I just see them all tonight and get it over with?'
work like that. You always were impatient, but better to be haunted now than for
the rest of your life. Make your choice wisely, and never forget that I love
you, Charlie.' Lizzie's ghost extended a fading hand and caressed his cheek with
nearly invisible fingers.
awake. He was sitting on the end of his bunk, leaning awkwardly against the
bulkhead, Lizzie's picture on the pillow besides him.
looked around the room, almost convinced that he'd see her, but of course, he
was alone. Resignedly he put the photograph back on the shelf and got himself
ready for bed. As he turned out the light and closed his eyes in hope of sleep
the clock on his nightstand read 23.36.
over onto his back, wondering what had woken him, surprised that he'd actually
been asleep. As he lay in the dark he heard the town hall clock strike one. He
was just about to turn over and try to go back to sleep when the incongruity of
what he'd heard registered. Sitting up, he fumbled for the lighting control,
confused when he couldn't find it.
the other side, Trip, just where it's always been.'
dark, Trip recognised his mother's voice. Not that it was fully dark now, he
realised, as a glowing form materialised at the foot of his bed. His bed back in
the big attic bedroom at the top of the Tucker family home, the room he'd
claimed for his own on his eleventh birthday. He swung his legs out of bed and
stood up, not really surprised to realise he was fully dressed.
first of the ghosts, aren't you? The ones Lizzie talked about. Not my Mom.'
'Oh, I am
your mother, Trip. One version of her, anyway. I'm here to show you your past.'
good will that do?'
'How can you
make the right choice about the future if you can't remember the past?'
remember the past,' Trip protested. 'I don't need a ghost to show me how things
used to be.'
see shall we, son. See just how well you remember.'
mother's spirit took hold of his arm the scene faded and reformed around them
and Trip found himself in the living room of the house.
full, Christmas tree stood in the picture window, it's coloured lights shining
for passers by to see. A fair haired boy of about eight stood on a chair tying
tinplate decorations in the shape of planes and spaceships to the branches,
while on the floor a little girl with the palest of blond hair and a scarlet
face bawled her eyes out. A younger version of his mother bustled into the room
and swept the crying toddler into her arms.
you done now, Trip Tucker?' the woman demanded. 'Can't I leave you to look after
your sister for five minutes?'
done nothing,' the young Trip replied. 'She wants fairies on the tree, and
angels, is all.'
her have some, for goodness sake.'
'But it's my
turn to chose, Mama,' he protested. 'Jack was last year, and this year is mine.
Lizzie can chose next year.'
'Just hang a
couple of angels, Trip. It won't spoil your arrangement.'
will. It'll look stupid, spaceships and angels. Why does she have to get
everything she wants?'
she's your baby sister, Trip. It wouldn't hurt you to be kind to her once in a
The boy sulkily conceded defeat and picked up the box of painted cardboard
angels. Taking one out he dangled it in front of the little girl. 'See, Lizzie,
an angel. Show me where you want it hung.'
forgotten just how much I used to hate that,' the older Trip said. 'Any time she
couldn't get her own way, Lizzie would scream the place down 'til Mom or Pop
came and made me do what she wanted. Seems so stupid now. I kinda wish I could
tell her I'm sorry. Can I make her hear me?'
ghost mother replied. 'We're here to observe only. You learned to put up with
her eventually,' she added, with a smile.
As she spoke
the scene shifted again. They were in the same room, but now a sofa stood under
the window and the tree, which was in the alcove by the fire, was tastefully
hung with glass balls and ribbons, and lights like candles on the ends of the
Lizzie and Trip were there alone, and once more Lizzie was crying. But this time
Lizzie, looking about fourteen, was held tightly in her big brother's arms as
she sobbed against his shoulder.
Lizzie, please. It'll be all right.'
'How can it
be all right?' she wailed. 'It's Christmas Eve and Andy's broken up with me and
now I can't go to the party and I'm so unhappy.'
It all came
out in one long tumble of words, making it difficult to work out what she was
more upset about, being dumped by her boyfriend or not being able to go to the
party. But apparently the twenty year old Trip knew.
still go to the party, Lizzie,' he said.
'Not on my
own I can't. It's too far, and Mama said I could only go because Andy was taking
me, and now that he won't, I can't.'
Trip remembered the night on the town with the guys he'd had planed. The night
out he'd cancelled for Lizzie.
you,' his younger self said, and Trip watched the radiant smile spread across
Lizzie's face as her guardian angel of a brother came to her rescue once again.
could twist me 'round her little finger,' he said.
because you loved her, Trip,' the ghost said. 'You were always there to make
'Not when it
really mattered, I wasn't.'
'And what if
you had been, Trip? What could you have done? Die alongside her? Who would that
have helped? Not me or your father and brother, that's for sure.'
could reply the room faded, reforming into a Spartan grey office, with a rather
glum version of himself in a Starfleet lieutenant's uniform sitting at the desk.
A calendar on the wall showed the date as December 24, 2144.
'This is the
year I couldn't get home for Christmas,' Trip realised. 'We were heavy into
tests leading up to breaking the warp three barrier and all leave was
watched, the door opened and Jonathan Archer, a commander's pips on his uniform
shoulder, walked in.
nearly finished here?'
there. Why, you need me in the hanger?'
We're about done there for tonight.' Archer wandered across the room and started
fidgeting with the padds on the shelf. 'I just thought you might fancy a drink.
Christmas Eve and all. I've got some 15 year old bourbon at home.'
know, Jon. I'd really like to get these calculations finished tonight, and I'm
going to need a clear head in the morning. Why don't you try the 602? Duval said
he was going with some of the others.'
shoulders slumped, but he managed a smile for Trip as he said, 'Yeah, maybe I'll
do that. See you in the morning then.'
and the younger Trip buried his head in his calculations again.
gone with him. Jon always did find Christmas hard. Reminds him of when his daddy
died. I wasn't much help to him then, just like I'm not now.' He turned to the
ghost. 'This is depressing, we finished yet?'
son. Just one more call to pay.'
As she spoke
Trip's old office rippled around them and reformed into Enterprise's mess hall.
The room was decked out with an odd looking tree and coloured streamers.
Christmas in space,' Trip marvelled, taking in all the happy people around him.
'That yellow tree never did look right. I remember we got it on some
pre-industrial planet. Went into the woods at night and Malcolm cut it down with
a phase pistol. Then when we dragged it back to the shuttlepod we couldn't
hardly get it in. He complained all the way back about the branches sticking in
looking for himself in the crowded room, drawing in a sharp breath when he
finally located his target.
standing with Malcolm by one of the windows. They were facing each
other--Malcolm with his hands on Trip's waist, Trip gripping both Malcolm's
shoulders--apparently oblivious to the party carrying on around them. Hoshi Sato
pushed past them with a comment he couldn't hear and he watched as Trip laughed
self-consciously and Malcolm ducked his head, blushing.
first time he told me he loved me.'
his throat to cover the catch in his voice and turned away, but he found himself
drawn back to the tableau.
'I was so
happy. We both were. It should have stayed like that. Not this...this...' He
angrily wiped a tear from his eye. 'I want to go back,' he demanded. 'I don't
want to see us like we should be. Like we can't be any more. I want him so bad,
and I can't 'cause I promised Lizzie. Take me back. Please.'
with a start and looked around with confusion. He was lying on a biobed in
Enterprise's sickbay, but had no recollection of how or why he was there.
Commander, you're awake. Good, good.' Phlox bustled over to him, a disturbing
Denobulan smile splitting his face. 'Up you get now. It's one o'clock. Time to
muttered, dropping back onto the pillows. 'You're another of the ghosts, aren't
'Yes, and we
have a lot to see, so quickly, please, if you don't mind.'
now, Commander. This is what's going on around you at present, but which you're
too blind to see. Now come with me, please.'
Phlox took Trip on a tour of the ship. The bridge, the armoury, engineering, the
mess hall: everywhere they went the story was the same. Plans were being made
for tomorrow's Christmas party and crewmembers were discussing what to wear,
what they could contribute to the festivities, what hours they had off duty to
attend, but always the conversation eventually came around to those who would
not be attending: Trip and, more particularly, Malcolm Reed.
again Trip was forced to listen to people, some of them he considered good
friends, condemn his behaviour. They didn't all have the details right, and he
was shocked at some of the rumours apparently circulating of what he'd done and
He tried to
protest, to put his side of the story. Several times he stepped forward to argue
a point of fact or to disagree with an opinion, only to pull up in frustration
as he realised people could neither see nor hear him.
right,' he objected to his guide. 'They don't understand.'
clearly they don't,' the ghost agreed, with all Phlox's maddening alien calm.
what I mean! You know that. There's reasons--the attack. I have to be able to
concentrate, to focus on our mission. They have to know that. Malcolm has to
let's see, shall we?'
could say anything else, they were in sickbay, in the curtained off section
where Malcolm's biobed stood.
lieutenant was propped up against a pile of pillows, the blanket covering him
from the waist down clearly outlining the support frame around his injured leg.
There was quite a crowd gathered around the bed: Mayweather and Sato, Tanner,
and Foster from the armoury, Major Hayes, Dr. Phlox and crewman Cutler. They all
had glasses containing a variety of beverages. A table had been positioned
across the bed, holding what was clearly Malcolm's Christmas lunch.
There was an
air of forced jollity as the visitors made determinedly upbeat small-talk,
careful to include the lieutenant in their conversation, while Malcolm picked
listlessly at his food. To Trip, and presumably also to those around the bed, it
was obvious that Malcolm was not enjoying the fuss and attention, well-meant
though it was.
trying to convince Malcolm to allow them to move his biobed to the mess hall
later in the evening so that he could join in the party. Malcolm wouldn't hear
of it, becoming agitated when pressed. Eventually he complained fretfully that
he wasn't hungry any more, that he was tired and needed to sleep.
broke up in a rather subdued mood. Travis and Hoshi promised to return later to
keep Malcolm company, but he had his eyes closed and refused to acknowledge
As the doors
slid closed behind the others, Phlox turned to Malcolm with a disapproving
very polite, Lieutenant,' he admonished.
'What do you
expect?' Malcolm retorted petulantly. 'I don't know why they bother. They only
come because they feel sorry for me. I can't stand that. I wish they'd just
leave me alone.'
you don't really mean that.'
'Yes I do.
I'm used to being abandoned, after all,' he said bitterly. 'I'm stuck here, a
useless cripple. I can't work. I'm never going to be able to walk unaided.'
know that,' the doctor objected. 'When we start your physical therapy tomorrow
I'll be able to make a better assessment of your condition. It will take time,
but I have every confidence the with the right attitude--'
Malcolm interrupted. 'I'm fed up with lectures about my attitude. 'Keep
positive', 'look on the bright side.' There is no bright side as far as I'm
concerned, and the only thing I'm positive about is that I'm just a useless
drain on Enterprise's resources. You shouldn't be wasting your time on me,
Doctor. I'm not worth it.'
'Lieutenant,' Phlox began, but Malcolm turned his head away and refused to
and I really do want to be left alone,' he snapped.
resigned shake of his head, Phlox left the area, pulling the privacy curtain
behind him. Trip, followed by the ghost Phlox, walked around the bed and watched
Malcolm closely, but it looked as if he may have been telling the truth about
being tired as his breathing deepened and he relaxed into sleep.
'Will he be
all right?' Trip asked, trying to keep any emotion out of his voice.
depends,' the ghost said.
'On what? On
continued as if Trip hadn't spoken. 'The picture is clouded, uncertain, but I
see an empty chair on the bridge and a different face in the armoury.'
he's right, he won't walk again?'
eyes, bright with compassion, met Trip's. 'That's not what you mean, is it? You
mean he's going to die. He's going to give up and die.' Trip turned to the
sleeping man, reaching out to shake him awake before he realised that he
couldn't. He settled for shouting, even though he knew he couldn't be heard.
'You can't do that, Malcolm. You can't just give up. What about the ship? What
about the people who need you? What about me?' Trip swung back to face the
ghost. 'It doesn't have to happen like that, does it? Can it be changed?'
is always dependant on the past,' was the ghost's enigmatic reply.
around them changed again, shifting and swirling to finally coalesce into the
dressed in civvies, presumably ready for the party. A bottle of bourbon was open
on the table and as Trip and the ghost Phlox watched, Archer poured himself a
measure. He raised the glass in a toast towards the framed photograph of his
father, Henry Archer.
you, Dad,' he said. 'Now more than ever. Happy Christmas.' Archer took a drink
from the glass, then raised it again. 'And Happy Christmas, Trip, wherever you
are,' he said, sadly, before finishing the drink and calling Porthos to heel.
his dog left, leaving the ghost and a puzzled Trip behind.
'What did he
mean, 'wherever you are'? I thought you said this was the present. I'm here,
the ghost asked. 'Commander Tucker is here, certainly. Going through the
motions: duty, eat, sleep--or not sleep, as the case may be. But as for whether
or not Trip is here...'
form faded into mist and Trip could see through it to the clock on Archer's
nightstand as the numbers changed to read midnight.
Christmas Yet to Come
Trip was expecting the change and opened his eyes looking for the ghost. He was
surprised to find himself in T'Pol's quarters, lying face down on her meditation
mat as he often did during their neuro-pressure sessions. Rolling onto his back,
he eyed the Vulcan kneeling alongside him.
ghost, right?' T'Pol inclined her head in a stately nod. 'We've had past and
present, so I'm guessing you're future.
the ghost T'Pol agreed.
on Enterprise, so not far in the future presumably.'
Come, let us see.'
As soon as
they stepped into the corridor Trip noticed the change. Gone was the tension,
the sense of desperate urgency that had hung over Enterprise since they set out
on their mission to the Expanse. The atmosphere on board this Enterprise was of
satisfaction and a scarcely suppressed excited happiness.
mission's over? We were successful?' When the ghost didn't reply he asked, 'Did
we beat the Xindi? When is this?'
'This is the
future. Humanity is no longer at war with the Xindi.'
'We did it!
That's good, right?'
'You do not
ask the cost.'
pleasure at Enterprise's victory dimmed abruptly. 'Cost? You mean Malcolm?'
him to sickbay and to a biobed where a Human form lay draped with a blanket.
'Did he have
to die? I mean, he had a dangerous job, he knew it could kill him, but he
wouldn't have wanted to die like that. Couldn't someone have done something?'
Lieutenant Reed? Yes, someone could have done something, but chose not to.' Trip
looked away guiltily but before he could collect himself enough to comment,
T'Pol continued. 'However, you are mistaken in your identification.'
the captain emerged from the doctor's officer and crossed to the biobed.
Captain. He planned it well. By the time anyone realised, there was nothing I
Phlox. It wasn't your fault. He died a long time ago.'
They were in
engineering. The sudden transition confused Trip so that he missed the first
part of the conversation he was witnessing.
difficult.' It was Trip's second in command, Hess speaking, her hand toying with
the third pip on her uniform. 'It's not that he's going to be missed exactly.
You know what he was like to work with.'
companion, Michael Rostov, grimaced. 'Especially since Lieutenant Reed...'
caused a lot of bad feeling.'
talking about me? What's going on here, T'Pol, or whatever you are?'
replying the ghost took hold of his arm and the scene shifted around them.
back in sickbay.
Trip thought they had returned to the previous scene, then he noticed that the
shrouded body on the biobed was a shorter, slighter figure and realised that
they had gone to a different time.
Trip whispered, stepping closer to the bed.
standing besides the bed, his head bent. The captain and Hoshi Sato joined him,
moving in front of Trip, as if protecting the body from him.
Trip bit his
lip and choked back a sob.
doors slid open and Travis Mayweather rushed in, slowing to a halt when he saw
the covered body. Hoshi hurried over to give him a hug.
sorry you couldn't be here, but it was very peaceful. He just fell asleep and
wouldn't wake up.'
ensigns held each other, crying. Trip sniffed and wiped his own eyes.
'What...what's going to happen to...have you decided...'
Archer answered the distraught Travis gently. 'I thought maybe he'd want to stay
in space, but you knew him best, Travis. What do you think?'
Commander Tucker, sir, don't you think--'
don't,' Archer interrupted coldly. 'Commander Tucker forfeited any rights he
might have had in this matter.'
to the T'Pol ghost, his vision blurred by tears.
the things I've been shown, are they things that will happen, or only things
that may happen? You wouldn't show me all this if there was nothing I could do
about it, would you? I can change all this, can't I, if I just stop acting like
an idiot?' he pleaded.
expression softened and he thought he saw compassion in T'Pol's brown eyes.
the lessons you've been showing me. All of you, past, present and future. I
understand what I've got to do, and I will do it if you just give me the chance.
Please. I don't want to let Malcolm die. Tell me I can change that.'
frees us of all the weight and pain of life: That word is love",' T'Pol said.
'The words of Sophocles, one of Humanity's great writers. You would do well to
the hope the ghost's words offered and hung on tight.
I'll remember what all of you have said. I promise.'
to grasp the ghost's arm, trying to reinforce what he was saying, to prove he
meant it. The arm changed as he touched it; the silky cloth of T'Pol's exercise
clothes becoming coarse under his hand. He opened his eyes and was astonished to
find he was in his own quarters, lying on his bunk, clutching his blanket as if
he were drowning and it was his only lifeline.
End Of It
Trip sat up,
swung his legs off the bed and stretched. The clock on his nightstand read 0620.
He felt refreshed, as if he'd had full night's good sleep, only the dried tears
on his face said differently. Lizzie had said that the ghosts would visit him on
three consecutive nights. He remembered their visits vividly, but had no
recollection of any time between them. Crossing to his desk, he checked the date
on the computer: December 25th, Christmas Day.
'So it was
only one night. I can still have Christmas,' he said excitedly.
his eyes to the shelf above the desk, to the photograph of Lizzie.
Sis. Thanks for showing me that just because I love you, it don't mean that I
can't love Malcolm too. I miss you something fierce, always will, but I'll try
to keep going, to keep living my life. For you, Lizzie.'
smiled down at him from the photograph, as she always did, but today, as he
smiled back at her for the first time in a long while, he thought there was an
extra sparkle in her eyes.
washed and dressed, all the while going over in his mind his plans for the rest
of the day. First port of call was, as always, engineering to check the
overnight logs and to make sure his presence wasn't required.
into the engine room with a bounce in his step and was met by Margaret Hess, his
second in command. He was happy to see that she had only a lieutenant's two pips
on her uniform. She handed him the report from gamma shift and he scanned it
quickly before outlining what he wanted doing that day. Duty dealt with, he
moved on to personal matters.
party tonight,' he started. Hess stiffened, a wary, almost frightened,
expression crossing her face, and Trip felt ashamed that his behaviour had
caused a member of his team, and someone he considered a friend, to react to him
like that. 'It's nothing bad,' he assured her. 'I just wanted to ask if you'd
mind finishing at eight instead of seven to let me show my face at the party?'
er, I mean no. No, no problem.'
thanks,' he said, ignoring her obvious confusion. 'There's a couple of things I
need to do. I'll be in sickbay if you need me. Oh, and Happy Christmas, Mags.'
engineering, torn between guilt and amusement at the amazed glances he was
getting from his staff.
he was met by Phlox, who was obviously surprised to see him there.
What can I do for you. You look well rested.'
'I am, Doc.
Best night's sleep in a long time. Is Malcolm awake? Can I go see him?'
no, I don't think so.'
reply brought Trip up short. He wasn't sure what sort of reception he'd get from
Malcolm, but he certainly hadn't expected the doctor to refuse to let him see
glanced towards the curtain which Trip knew screened Malcolm's bed. 'My office
if you please, Commander.'
Once in the
small office, Trip took the proffered chair and waited nervously for the doctor
to close the door and sit himself at his desk.
'Why do you
want to see Mr. Reed, Commander?'
was beginning to feel his earlier excitement drain away. How could he put things
right if he couldn't talk to Malcolm.
'There was a
time when you would have been a welcome visitor, but I'm not sure that that is
still the case. Mr. Reed's emotional state is somewhat fragile at the moment. I
can not permit anything to upset him further.'
want to upset him, Doc. I want to make things better. I know I've treated him
real bad. I was so wrapped up in my own misery that I couldn't see what I was
doing to Malcolm. Didn't care, even,' he admitted sadly. 'But I want to put that
right. I...it's difficult to explain, but I had a vision...a dream I guess you'd
call it. It made me see what a damn fool I've been, how much I need Malcolm, and
how much he needs me.'
spoke to me, and she sent ghosts from the past, present and future. They showed
me what I was doing, how badly I was letting Malcolm down. And what might
happen, how...how Malcolm might die. I can't let that happen, Doc. You gotta let
me see him. Let me try and make things right between us.'
to your dead sister, and she sent ghosts to show you the error of your ways?'
looking at him very strangely and Trip was worried that he was making things
worse, not better.
'I know it
sounds crazy, but it was a dream, a nightmare really. At least, I think it was.
Does it matter, so long as it knocked some sense into me?'
not,' Phlox conceded. 'And it is true that dreams can sometimes help Humans face
their fears and choose the correct course of action.'
gonna let me see him?'
held up a warning hand as Trip leapt to his feet, 'provided Mr. Reed agrees.'
go ask him, Doc, what's the word on his leg? I've heard rumours that it might
not heal real good, that he might not be able to get back on duty. Not that it'd
make a difference,' he said hurriedly, as Phlox gave him a questioning look. 'I
mean, I want him to get better and all, but if he didn't, if he can't walk
properly...well, I just want you to know, I'll stick with him whatever.'
Reed is never an easy patient, as you know. He's too impatient for quick results
and gets despondent at the slightest setback. I have never been successful in
impressing upon him the importance of a positive mental attitude to the healing
process. It is true that I have expressed doubts about how his leg is healing.
But if you are serious in your wish to, as you put it, 'make things better
between you', then hopefully his attitude will improve, and if that happens then
I see no reason why he should not, eventually, make a full recovery. Now if you
will kindly wait here, I will go and let him know that you would like to see
him. Assuming he agrees, I shall be monitoring his condition from here during
your visit, Commander, and at the first sign of distress I'm afraid I shall have
to ask you to leave. Understood, hmm?'
and agreed, Doc.'
relieved to have got past this hurdle, but he had an anxious few minutes waiting
until Phlox returned to say that Malcolm was willing to see him.
with his hand on the curtain, paralysed by the fear that Malcolm wouldn't want
him, would refuse to accept his apology and tell him to get lost. Then he
remembered Lizzie's smile in the photograph, and the ghost T'Pol telling him
that love would free him from life's pains, and he made himself believe that all
would be well, because there was no other acceptable outcome.
sitting in bed, propped up by pillows. Trip was shocked at how pale he was; his
complexion seemed almost translucent, his grey eyes two dark hollows, their
depths exaggerated by his high cheekbones. And he was so thin! The normally
slender but well-muscled body looked wasted, fragile.
voice--at least that was the same--broke the spell.
Trip shifted his weight uneasily from foot to foot, not certain, now he was
here, how to begin.
He looked at
Malcolm and saw the pain. Not physical pain, but pain nevertheless, and caused
by his, Trip's, own behaviour. He saw the tension in the frail form, and the
tentative expression of hope. But it was the shadow of fear in Malcolm's eyes
that galvanised him into action. It was clear that Malcolm was afraid of the
reason for Trip's visit and was mentally preparing himself for some new crushing
took him to the bedside and he reached out to grasp Malcolm's nearest hand in
both of his. 'I'm sorry, Malcolm. For everything. For shutting you out and
pushing you away. For not realising how much I need you, how much you mean to
me. For being an asshole. For not being there for you when you needed me. I'm so
very sorry. Can you forgive me?'
briefly in Malcolm's eyes before being overtaken by his natural pessimism.
put you up to this?' he demanded roughly, pulling his hand out of Trip's grasp.
'To try and improve my attitude,' he sneered.
well used to Malcolm's 'attack is the best defence' method of dealing with
expected disappointment, and fortunately his experiences with the ghosts had
left him thinking clearly enough to recognise it for what it was. Instead of
being put out by the words he latched onto the meaning behind them and took hope
has nothing to do with Phlox. In fact he put me through the third degree before
he let me in here. Made me promise not to upset you.' He tried to take Malcolm's
hand again, but the lieutenant wouldn't let him, folding his arms to keep it out
'So what has
caused this sudden about face then? Three weeks I've been stuck in here and this
is the first time you've come to see me. In fact the last time we spoke you said
I was a luxury you hadn't got time for and told me to get out of your face and
out of your life.'
desperate sadness in Malcolm's voice almost broke Trip's heart.
'I know and
I'm sorry. I was way out of line, speaking to you like that. I don't have an
excuse. Nothing can excuse how I've treated you.' Trip hung his head and, since
he couldn't hold Malcolm's hand, he twisted his own together. 'When the Xindi
attacked Earth, when Lizzie died, my world fell apart. Nothing that bad's ever
happened to me before. I didn't know what to do, how to deal with the hurt. Mom
and Pop and Jack, they had each other for support and the rest of the family.
But I was out here on my own. And yeah, I know I had you and I had Jon, but that
wasn't the same. Now, I think that's a load of bull. I always felt like you were
family, heck I'm closer to you than I am to more than half of my blood
relations. But I wasn't thinking straight. And then I just seemed to keep making
things worse instead of better, and even though I knew I was doing it and wanted
to stop, I couldn't.' He finally looked up at Malcolm. 'Am I making any sense
'So I'll ask
again, what changed your mind?' Malcolm insisted, truculently. Suddenly a sound,
half gasp half sob, escaped him. 'It's because you feel sorry for me, isn't it?
Now my leg's smashed up? If that's it, you can get out of here now. I don't need
your pity, or anyone else's.'
out loud, Malcolm, I don't pity you. I mean, I'm sorry you got--'
Malcolm interrupted. 'Everyone else does. Poor, fucked up Lieutenant Reed. Got
careless and now he's crippled. That's why they keep coming to see me, trying to
cheer me up. They'd like to stop, I'm sure. It must be getting tedious by now,
after all. But they can't--because they pity me.'
becoming increasingly agitated as he spoke. Trip, conscious of Phlox's
monitoring, could see his one chance to make amends slipping out of his grasp.
just shut up. Stop that goddamn whining and listen!' he shouted, jumping to his
immediately fell into a shocked silence.
Malcolm, I'm sorry. I didn't mean that.' Trip sank back into the chair, dragging
a hand through his hair in frustration. 'It's just, if you get upset, Phlox is
going to throw me out, and I really need to tell you this. I love you, and I
need you. I know I've been treating you like shit, and I'm more sorry about that
than you can know. I don't care if your leg is smashed up or not. I mean...I do
care, but that's not why I'm here. I want you, Malcolm. If you're
crippled, then that's how I'll take you, but I gotta tell you that Phlox says
your leg can get better, if only you'd try.'
For a long
moment Malcolm just stared at him blankly. Then, quietly, uncertainly, but with
no trace of whining, he asked, 'So what did make you change your mind?'
and Charles Dickens, or maybe it was just the corn dogs from last night. Okay,
now I know I'm not making any sense,' he said, with a snort as he saw Malcolm
was giving him the same strange look Phlox had. 'I had a dream. I'm pretty
certain now that's what it musta been, but it sure seemed real at the time.
Lizzie was in it, and three ghosts, like "A Christmas Carol", you know? Though
that's only just occurred to me.'
one of the ghosts said. I'll tell you all about it later. If you'll let me?'
tensely, trying to gauge what Malcolm was thinking, but the lieutenant had all
his shields up and was giving no clues away.
Malcolm unfolded his arms to pluck nervously at the bedcover.
mean it? You want us to be together again, like we were?' His voice shook and he
wouldn't meet Trip's eyes, focusing instead on the pleats his fingers were busy
making in his blanket.
said fervently. 'I really mean it, and I want us to be together again. If you'll
have me back after what I've put you through.'
say no. Make you suffer,' Malcolm said with a flash of spirit. But he didn't
sound as if his heart was in it, and when he did finally look up and meet Trip's
gaze his eyes were awash with tears.
cry, love, please.'
Trip hugged Malcolm to him, rubbing a hand in gentle circles on his back.
that moment to join them, making Trip suspect that his monitoring had been
conducted from far closer than his office.
'What did I
say about upsetting Mr. Reed?' he asked. But his smile belied his words. 'I take
it you gentlemen have reached an understanding?' He bustled about, checking the
monitors at the head of the biobed, while Trip laid Malcolm back against the
good.' Trip replied. 'That's right, ain't it, Malcolm?' he asked, the smile on
Malcolm's pale face all the answer he needed.
to hear that,' Phlox said. 'But now I think Mr. Reed would benefit from some
peace and quiet.' Raising a hand to forestall the objections from both men, he
continued to Malcolm. 'You need to conserve your strength. We start your
physical therapy tomorrow, and it's going to take a great deal of hard work to
get you back on your feet. And I do expect you to get back on your feet,
Lieutenant. Don't forget that.' Apparently satisfied that Malcolm believed him,
he turned to Trip. 'Commander, maybe you'd like to return at lunchtime, hmm? You
can make it your duty to ensure that Mr. Reed eats properly from now on.'
Doc.' Trip said, ignoring Malcolm's long-suffering look and melodramatic sigh.
Leaning forward, he cupped Malcolm's face with one hand, running his thumb over
the prominent cheekbone before planting a kiss on his forehead. 'See you later,
darlin',' he promised.
Malcolm said happily. 'I'm counting on it.'
between the curtains just as the sickbay doors slid open to admit Captain
Archer said, his surprise evident. 'What are you doing here?'
should have done a long time ago, Jon. Making things right with Malcolm.'
Right, as in back together again?'
confirmed. 'It's gonna take time. He didn't say it, but I know it'll be hard for
Malcolm to learn to trust me again. But at least we've--I've taken the first
step.' He rubbed his hands on his thighs, wanting to take another first step but
not sure how to go about it. Seemingly his friend of eleven years understood.
breakfast yet,' Archer asked.
checked engineering then came straight here to see Malcolm.'
Care to join me?'
that, Cap'n. If you're sure?'
I'm sure, Trip. It's been a while. I've missed our morning chats.'
too. And Malcolm's not the only person I owe an apology.'
it until after breakfast, eh?'
The last of
Trip's fears fell away as the familiar weight of Archer's arm settled across his
back, Trip,' Archer said as he steered his chief engineer towards the door. 'And