"For Worse or For Better"

Author - Trillian | Genre - Angst | Main Story | Rating - PG-13
Trip * Malcolm Fanfic Home
 

Author: Trillian
Rating: PG-13
Spoilers: The Communicator, SP1, Similitude
Beta: Jensen
Sequel to: We Belong
Disclaimer:Paramount owns the characters, only the storyline belongs to the author and may not be archived anywhere else but here without the author's permission.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

It had been almost three weeks now since Lieutenant Malcolm Reed had miraculously escaped from the jaws of death. Three weeks during which he had been constantly torn between feeling newly born, and realising that this could happen again any time. Space was not exactly a fun park.

Not without reason Malcolm always took great care that the weapons and security systems on Enterprise were in perfect shape and ready to do their job any time. That was after all his duty as Captain Archer's tactical and armoury officer. He also considered it his duty to be a little bit more paranoid than everyone else on the ship. Or maybe that had always been his nature.

Malcolm's life had been in danger quite a few times before. He had even almost been hanged once. Not to mention nearly asphyxiating or freezing to death in that bloody shuttlepod.

But he had never been this close.

He wasn't really convinced of what Commander Tucker had told him. That the absence of anything that he had expected to find when dying was merely a sign that he hadn't really been dead. There was no way to tell. And maybe Trip was right after all.

But one thing was even worse than the thought of vanishing into total oblivion one day. Malcolm was paralysed by the thought that one day Trip might be the one to get hurt. Severely hurt. And Malcolm might not be there to protect him.

What was he supposed to do? He couldn't watch Trip or have him watched all the time. He couldn't do anything to prevent accidents in engineering or attacks on away missions with Trip being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Trip was the most important person in Malcolm's life right now. But he wasn't the only one whose security was Malcolm's responsibility. Commander Tucker was a very important member of the crew, but he wasn't the only one. And he wasn't irreplaceable.

He was irreplaceable to Malcolm, though.

Malcolm remembered one of the reasons why he had never gotten close to anyone, not even to his own family, was that he didn't want to get hurt. People who are close to you can hurt you. They hurt you when you have them, they hurt you when you lose them.

When you lose them.

He could lose Trip any day. He had been close to it before, but they hadn't been together yet at the time. Therefore the pain and fear had been ... bearable.

But now Malcolm couldn't stand the fear any longer. The fear of losing his love in a tragic accident, or incident. Therefore he had made a decision.

He had run from their relationship like a coward.

Malcolm had visited Trip the night before in his quarters and told him that he thought it would be best if they broke up. That they were too different after all. That in time Trip would understand.

Understand what? Malcolm hadn't even been so fair as to tell Trip the true reason for hurting him like this. And he had considered it pathetic to start citing Starfleet regulations all of a sudden after all this time. So how could Trip ever understand?

Having been left shocked and shattered, Trip had tried to contact Malcolm almost all night long. He had used the comm and even come to his door. But Malcolm had refused to talk to him.

Head hidden under his pillow, blanket drawn over it, Malcolm had finally cried himself to sleep after endless hours. And he was convinced that Trip had done just the same.

In the morning, Malcolm had woken up with the awareness that the way he was treating his ... lover was downright wrong. He was jeopardising what little bit was left of their friendship after those pain-inflicting words he had said to Trip, and that was the last thing he wanted to do. He was determined to apologise for his behaviour, and maybe ask for a chance to explain. To tell Trip the truth after all.

Therefore Malcolm had finished some reports, one of which he would have to discuss with engineering anyway, picked up his PADD and headed off.

* * * * *

After having walked all over engineering twice without finding even a trace of Trip, Malcolm approached the man working at the console closest to him.

"Crewman Davis? Here's the report Captain Archer wanted me to go through with engineering. You don't happen to know where Commander Tucker is at the moment?"

Davis stopped working and turned around to Malcolm. "Commander Tucker, Sir? He, um, he was taken to sickbay."

Malcolm went pale, as Davis continued, "There's been a little accident when he was recalibrating the ..."

"Thank you!" Malcolm pushed the PADD into the crewman's hand and turned around to leave. 'Don't run!' he tried to calm himself. 'Oh my God! I knew it! I knew this was going to happen!'

It seemed like ages to Malcolm before the turbolift finally arrived. He stepped into it fast, almost running directly into Captain Archer who was already inside the lift.

"Lieutenant." Archer greeted his officer.

"Captain!" Malcolm nervously replied.

"Where are you heading to, Malcolm?"

"Sickbay, Sir."

"Oh, really?" Archer asked, and Malcolm thought he heard a touch of irony in the Captain's voice.

"Um, yes Sir, I, er, have to see the doctor about something."

"What a coincidence, Lieutenant. I'm on my way to sickbay myself. But I'm going there to see Commander Tucker." Archer paused.

"Sir?"

"Looks like he has been a bit careless with one of his tools. Not typical for Trip, wouldn't you agree, Malcolm?"

Malcolm didn't answer. Archer's voice had tangibly tensed up. Could it be that he knew?

"And that wasn't all, Lieutenant!" Archer violently hit the button that stopped the lift, then turned to face Malcolm.

"Trip didn't only oversleep this morning, he also spilled his coffee over his uniform and put sugar on his eggs during breakfast. But he obviously wasn't very hungry anyway. He refused to tell me what was wrong when I asked him, and I didn't order him to. I simply said 'Is anything wrong with you and Malcolm?'"

Malcolm felt his face grow hot. He looked up and stared into Archer's eyes. "Sir? You know about ... us?"

"Yes, Malcolm, I know," Archer replied, more quietly now, "But don't worry about that. Trip just said 'Don't ask.' And I didn't. But I can put two and two together. And looking at you right here and now is confirmation enough." He turned and let the lift continue its journey.


* * * * *

They finally reached sickbay, and when the doors opened, Archer called cheerily, "How's the patient, doc?"

"Ah, Captain," Phlox replied, "Almost as good as new."

"Good, because I brought you another patient who was on his way up here to see you." Archer walked over to Trip who was sitting on a biobed in his blue underwear, his wounded leg stretched out on the bed and the other dangling down.

"I will be with you in a few moments, Lieutenant!" Phlox shouted to Malcolm who was still standing at the door.

"There's no hurry!" Malcolm replied. He tried hard to hear what Trip and Archer were so quietly talking about, but failed.

After a short while, Archer started walking towards the door again. Turning halfway around, he said to Phlox, "Keep me updated."

"Of course, Captain."

Then Archer walked up to Malcolm, grabbed him by the arm and dragged him into a corner.

"I don't care how you do it," he hissed, "but I want my Chief Engineer back at one hundred percent efficiency. Understood?"

"Captain, you don't CARE how I do it?"

"You heard me."

"But, Sir..."

"You heard me?"

Malcolm sighed inaudibly, "Yes, Sir."

"Good." Archer turned to leave sickbay. Before he reached the door he turned his head back to Commander Tucker. "Trip? See you at dinner tonight!"

"Aye, Cap'n!" came the reply from the direction of the biobed.

"You too, Lieutenant Reed!" Archer added.

"Yes, Sir."

When the doors had closed behind Archer, Malcolm took a deep breath and approached the biobed, where Phlox was still working on Trip.

He was more than relieved to see that Trip apparently wasn't seriously injured. But he could also see and sense the tension all over the man he still loved very much.

"How are you doing?" Malcolm asked.

"Wha' d' ya think?" Trip replied. "It hurts like hell." He looked up to gaze into his lover's grey-blue eyes and repeated, very slowly, to emphasise the difference in meaning, "It hurts like hell."

"We will have to let this take effect for a few moments," Phlox reported, when he had finished his treatment of Trip's leg. Then he gathered his intruments, turned and vanished behind a curtain.

"Okay, that's your chance to talk to Phlox." Trip said coldly.

"About what?"

"The Cap'n said ya came to see Phlox 'bou' somethin'."

"Well, that's not entirely accurate." Malcolm said. "I lied to the Captain, and he knew it. I'm sure you noticed."

"Alrigh'. Then wha' d' ya want?" Trip lay back on the bed and closed his eyes, fatigue starting to overcome him.

"Trip," Malcolm walked around the bed and stopped next to the head end, looking down at Trip, "if we don't manage to talk about this like adults, this is going to be one awkward dinner tonight."

"So?" Trip replied without opening his eyes. "That'll be over again after an hour. An' I've had worse dinners, believe me." He paused and looked up at Malcolm. "Besides, don' you come and tell me ta behave like an adult. You were the one who walked out on me without a believable explanation."

He paused once more and closed his eyes again, then added, "Did the Cap'n order ya ta make up wi' me? If he did, don' bother. Ah'll jus' preten' ya did."

Malcolm felt the sting in Trip's words deep in his heart, painfully. He swallowed hard. "Well, he did say something like that, but that's not the reason I'm here. He said I was already on my way up here, remember? That was the truth."

When Trip didn't reply, Malcolm went on, "I dropped off a report at engineering, and was kind of hoping to run into you. I thought I might at least just say 'I'm sorry' while running past you. Beg you to give me another chance to explain."

Trip looked up at Malcolm again, pain and doubt showing in his eyes, but he still didn't say a word.

Malcolm continued, "Crewman Davis told me that you're here. That you had a 'little accident'. I turned all cold with shock when he said that. And that's when I realised ... I ... realised once again ... I can't go on this way. I can't bear to see anything happen to you."

Trip propped himself up on his elbows. "So ya simply don' wanna see me at all any more?"

"That's the bottom line of it, I guess." Malcolm looked down at his feet.

"Jus' great!" Trip let himself fall back down on the bed and covered his face with his hands for a minute before continuing, "Ya mean ya wanna leave me, because ya might lose me one day? Do ya have any clue jus' how insane that sounds?"

Malcolm sat down on the edge of the bed. "I don't claim that this is supposed to make any sense to you ... right now. Not like that. It's just ... I can't stand the fear of losing you. It's killing me. It's slowly eating me up from inside. I don't understand how you can be so calm after having been on the brim of losing me."

Trip sat up and moved closer to Malcolm. "That's simple, mah dear. You've been taken away from me. Then brought back to me. That was a miracle. Well, maybe no' really. I still don' think you were altogether gone, bu' that's what I thought a' the time. That's what I felt. And I'd be crazy to reject the wonderful gift that I was granted."

Malcolm looked up and looked straight into Trip's clear blue eyes. They sat like this for a moment, then Trip smiled and went on.

"An' wasn' it you who said 'Live every day as if it were your las'?"

Malcolm snorted, "Yes, MY last. But right now I'm living as if every day could be YOUR last. And that has become unbearable."

"Jeez, Malcolm. Of course I'm gonna die!"

Malcolm gave his lover a shocked look.

"One day!" Trip continued quickly, "I'm not immortal, you know. Hell. It might even happen tomorrow. Who knows? Bu' do ya really wanna le' the time we could have together go ta waste jus' because it's no' gonna be forever? I love you, Malcolm," Trip whispered and tenderly brushed his fingertips across his lover's cheek. "I love you here an' now. Ta hell with tomorrow."

Malcolm looked sadly at Trip. "You make it sound so easy. I wish I could be as light-hearted as you."

"Light-hearted?" Trip replied, running his fingers through Malcolm's hair, knowing this kind of touch always had a soothing effect on the armoury officer. "Not really. It's jus' ... " he paused and thought for a moment. "Love is powerful, Malcolm. Stronger than death. An' maybe that's what we proved when I totally ignored the people aroun' me ta hold ya close to my heart for the very las' time as I thought. That motion reanimated you, made your heart beat again. There's a medical explanation with a .. with an emotional background. Whatever."

Trip put his arm around Malcolm's shoulder and pulled him close to whisper in his ear, "I'd be damned if I allowed ya ta le' this love go down the drain. Definitely no' without a fight. An' I know wha' kind of a fighter you are. So here's a little warnin'! Ah'm prepared!"

Malcolm slightly leant over and touched his temple to Trip's forehead. He felt tears welling up in his eyes and closed them, whispering, "I'm still afraid of losing you, Trip."

Trip sighed, "I hate ta get all logical with ya, bu' will tha' fear go away if we break up? Jus' like that?" Trip snapped his fingers. "Will it even go away if ya should manage to quit lovin' me?"

Malcolm turned his head to look at Trip. "What do you mean?"

"Ah mean, as far as I know ya, you'd still worry 'bou' me even if we're jus' friends. You did so before we ... go' together."

Malcolm looked away, but Trip could still see his mouth twitching the way it always did when Malcolm was unhappy about something.

Trip started stroking Malcolm's back. "I don' think there's anything I can say ta make tha' fear go away, is there?"

Malcolm hesitated, then shook his head, so Trip went on, "I could say I'll resign, go back ta Earth, if you're willin' ta go wi' me. But that Earth isn' the safes' place ... we both know that. An' I could jus' as well ge' hit by a car on my firs' day back." He chuckled. "An' finally, you would never have fallen in love wi' me, if I wasn' the kinda guy I am. An' I'm no' the resignin' kind."

"I know." Malcolm had closed his eyes and slightly hung his head, obviously enjoying Trip's touch. "And I'd never ask you to do that. We both love our work out here too much."

"Hey," Trip whispered, "I don' love my work more than I love you. An' if that's what it takes ... to hell with it," he added provokingly.

Malcolm opened his eyes and turned to face Trip. "No! You said it. We love each other for what we are. And chances are we wouldn't be the same back home. And since we are what we are, we won't just give up...."

"There!" Trip interrupted him, "Have ya jus' been listenin' to yourself? 'We won' jus' give up'? An' still you're willin' ta give ME up? You're not willin' ta fight for me like I fought for you? You're not willin' ta fight your own fears? Ya have faced Klingons, Xindi and Suliban. An' now you're runnin' away from ... from somethin' that could happen? Oh Lieutenant!"

Trip lay back down on the biobed, grinning. He was certain that he had just struck the decisive blow that would persuade his lover to change his mind.

He gave Malcolm a few minutes to let his little speech sink in, then added, "I think we've had this kinda conversation before. What's ya problem with having a little hope? A little hope tha' we will get a chance to be together for a very long time. Ah was righ' las' time, remember?"

"Yes, Mister Tucker. I remember." Malcolm nodded and smiled.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Paradise Regained is a continuation of this story.


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This material is posted here with the author's express permission. Please do not repost this material without permission directly from the author.


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Two folks have made comments

awwwwwwww, lovely, very nice, kinda teary AGAIN!!! lovely story realy enjoyed it

This story is so realistic -- Malcolm worrying about something that could happen, and Trip telling him to have some hope. Hit just the right chord. Liked this story very much, and a fitting sequel to the previous story.

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