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"Hull Plating?!“ Captain Archer yelled to be heard over the commotion and
explosions caused by the hostile weapon fire.
"Down to forty-five percent, Sir!" came Travis' answer.
"Is the shuttlepod in?" Archer shouted towards Hoshi, who nodded, face pale,
eyes wide open.
"I sent a medical team to the shuttle bay." she added.
"Travis! Get us out of here! Maximum warp!"
When Enterprise had whooshed into relative safety, Archer turned to face
Hoshi, fully aware of his best friend sitting behind him, who had assumed the
tactical station during the supposedly short and uneventful away mission on
which Lieutenant Reed had gone with Subcommander T'Pol.
It had become longer than expected, and it had not been uneventful. They had
come across a hostile alien species, like so many times before. And they had
been attacked, like so many times before. The shuttlepod had been taken by
surprise, because the small but heavily armed alien ship had been lurking in the
eternal dark, cloaked, like they had encountered so many times before with the
But one thing was different this time.
Unlike before, two hearts that had finally realised that they belonged
together, were possibly torn apart by this incident. One taken away by violent
death, the other – left behind, but just as dead and broken.
Jonathan Archer felt his friend's eyes resting on him, waiting for him to
release him from his post, to let him run to sickbay, to see for himself that
what could just not be true – was indeed brutal truth.
But instead, Jonathan Archer quietly uttered just one word in Hoshi's
direction. One short question, the answer to which he always dreaded.
She slowly shook her head. "Still only one, Captain. Vulcan."
Trip's mind started racing. 'Maybe he jus' isn' there. Maybe the aliens jus'
abducted him. It has happened before – so many times before....'
Archer turned towards the turbo lift. He swallowed hard and, without taking
his eyes off the lift door, he whispered, "Trip!"
Commander Tucker jumped up from Malcolm's chair and almost knocked over the
ensign that had approached to take over the station. "Sorry," he mumbled, and
hurried into the lift, where his captain, his friend was waiting for him with
the gravest expression on his face that Trip had ever seen on him.
Trip and Malcolm had done their best to keep their relationship maybe not as
much as a secret, but they had been discreet. Jonathan Archer, however, had
noticed the change in his best friend's behaviour. A very positive change. And
when he had confronted him one evening, openly if somewhat jokingly asking if it
might have anything to do with some development in his private life, Trip had
reluctantly confessed to him.
Now Trip and Jonathan stood in silence side by side, while the lift carried
them to the deck where behind sickbay doors the truth was waiting for them.
Merciless, cold, pain-inflicting.
Trip's mind was blank when the two friends walked towards sickbay together.
But he sensed the presence of the man next to him, who wasn't only here as a
captain wanting to count, register and log the possible casualties. He was also,
maybe mainly, here as a friend. Ready to provide comfort and strength if needed
And it was Jonathan who found the strength to push the button that opened the
Doctor Phlox and two other medical personnel were busy, hovering over the
still figure on the biobed, exchanging orders, replies, commentaries and medical
intruments across it.
Trip and Jonathan stood just inside the door, watching, shocked. Jonathan
took a small step sidewards, closer to Trip, so that the outsides of their arms
touched. He knew there was nothing else he could do at the moment.
Suddenly, T'Pol was standing in front of Archer. "Captain," she started.
"Not now," Archer interrupted her. "Your report can wait. Have you been
injured as well?"
"I have suffered only very minor injuries. Nothing that cannot wait."
T'Pol fell silent, and Jonathan wondered what was going on inside her. What
kind of emotions was she so bravely suppressing right now? Did she even have a
clue what pain the man beside him was suffering?
All of a sudden he felt his friend tensing next to him. He also noticed that
the men that had been so diligently working at the biobed had fallen silent and
had almost stopped moving.
Doctor Phlox slowly turned around to towards the three people at the door and
walked over to them. "I am very sorry, Captain. We have done everything we
could. I thought we had him back for a moment. There was a faint biosign again.
But I'm afraid...."
Trip didn't wait to hear the doctor say the words he was so afraid of
hearing. ".... Lieutenant Reed has passed away."
He started walking towards the bed, numb, cold, unaware of Jonathan's voice
behind him. "Trip!"
He kept walking until he reached the bed where Malcolm was lying. His
Malcolm, his friend, his lover. Trip stopped the medic who moved to pull a sheet
over Malcolm's face. "No. Not yet, please," he whispered hoarsely.
'He looks as if he's asleep,' Trip thought. 'He doesn't look ... dead. He
isn't dead. He can't be!'
'As soon as you give up, the game's lost,' Jonathan had once said to him. As
soon as you give up ...
"NO! MALCOLM! NO!" Trip roared, pulling his lover into his arms, mad with
pain and desperation, totally ignorant of the people around him witnessing the
scene. He violently pressed Malcolm's body against his own, holding on to him
for dear life.
"God, Malcolm!" He sobbed into his lover's shoulder. "Don't leave me!"
Suddenly, Trip thought he felt a shudder going through Malcolm's limp body,
but at the same time he was convinced that it was only wishful thinking. That it
was only his own grief that shook them both in a final joint emotion.
But there it was again!
Trip stopped breathing and listened, still pressing his lover to his chest
with all that remained of his strength.
"Malcolm?" he whispered.
And the reply came!
Malcolm shuddered once more and started coughing, hard and obviously
Doctor Phlox rushed over and pushed Trip out of the way, laying Malcolm back
down on the biobed and calling orders to the other medics who had also
Trip had stumbled backwards and right into Jonathan who now stood behind him,
putting his hands on Trip's shoulders, grasping them hard, giving him strength
to hold on to this new but fragile hope.
"Trip!" a hoarse but familiar voice suddenly called from across the room.
Doctor Phlox turned around to the three people waiting, with a puzzled but
relieved look on his face. He nodded his consent, and Trip moved away from Jon's
Malcolm was still violently shivering and sobbing, but managed to lift a hand
towards his lover, who took it with both his own.
"Oh God, Trip! It hurts! What happened?" Malcolm hissed through clenched
"Ya scared the hell outta me! That's what happened!"
Another sob shook Malcolm. "I was gone!" he cried.
Trip nodded slowly and leant forward. "Don' worry 'bou' tha' now, love," he
whispered and breathed a kiss on Malcolm's forehead. He knew they were being
watched, but he didn't care. After the scene he had given them earlier, it was
certainly no secret any more what he felt for Lieutenant Reed. Jon had known
before, and now some more knew. To hell with it.
"You're back," he continued, "an' nothin' else matters."
The sobs decreased, and Malcolm even managed a smile. "Love," he whispered,
only for Trip to hear.
"Commander," Phlox said quietly, "I will have to run some more tests and then
we should let Lieutenant Reed get some rest. I promise, I will keep you updated,
and I guess you can visit him again in a few hours."
Reluctantly, Trip pressed his lover's hand one more time, then tenderly laid
it down on Malcolm's stomach, taking care to touch it as much and long as
* * * * *
Trip was sitting on his bunk, face buried in his hands. It had been a long
day. Far too long for his taste. And far too eventful.
He had feared for his love, lost, and almost miraculously regained it. All
within one hour.
He felt exhausted to the bone. The shower and the change into a fresh shirt
and sweatpants hadn't brought back the degree of normality and relaxation he had
hoped for. The horrors of the day's events were still too tangible.
Lost in thoughts, he almost missed the low chime from the door. "Yes?"
The door slid open, and a slim, almost fragile, ghostlike figure entered,
clad in leisures like Trip.
"Good God, Malcolm!" Trip jumped up. "Are ya crazy? Ya can' run aroun' like
this yet!" He went to put his arms around Malcolm, but was stopped by a motion
of his lover's hand.
"I couldn't stand being alone. Phlox thought I was asleep and left. But I
wasn't. I had just pretended, so I could get out of there."
Trip knew better than to try and touch the dreadfully pale and tired-looking
man again as he entered the room further and sat down on Trip's bed. Trip just
watched him as he kicked off his shoes and pulled his legs up to his chest,
grabbing Trip's blanket and hugging it.
Trip slowly moved over to the bed and perched down on the far corner from
Malcolm, not wanting to force himself on him or even to intrude into his
friend's thoughts, just wanting to show the other man that he was there and
ready to listen.
"I was never afraid of dying," Malcolm started after a few minutes of
silently rocking back and forth, quietly, almost as if talking to himself.
"Never. Until today." He paused for another minute, then went on, "There was
nothing, Trip. Nothing. I'm not sure what I expected to be there. I don't know.
A light, maybe. A tunnel. Saint Peter. Hell, I really don't know. But there was
... nothing. It was just ... cold. Lonely. Dark. I was all alone. In pain. And
He looked up and stared at Trip, but to Trip it looked like Malcolm was
staring right through him. It became more and more difficult to resist the
temptation to move closer and gather Malcolm into his arms. But Trip was
determined to wait for a sign from his lover.
"And then ..." Malcolm continued after a while, "I heard you call my name. I
heard you ... you were crying, calling out to me. I could feel your pain. And
that only made things worse. Made my own pain worse. I started to run. To run
into the direction where your voice came from. Your cries got louder, and the
pain got more intense. But I kept running."
Malcolm paused, eyes roaming as if he was looking for something. For
something he had lost, but he was sure he could find it here. And nowhere else.
His eyes met Trip's, and there they ceased wandering.
"Next thing I know is ... I'm in your arms. In sickbay. I can smell it. All
that medical stuff the doctor has used to try and bring me back. But failed. I
hear you. Very close. I struggle to stay. I try to put my arms around you. But I
A single tear ran down Malcolm's cheek, the sign Trip had been waiting for.
Carefully he moved to sit in front of Malcolm, and slowly he put his arms around
his lover's shoulders.
Trip felt Malcolm slipping his arms around his waist, and Malcolm's silent
tears soaking his shirt.
'Ya gotta say somethin'!' Trip thought. He took a deep breath and hoped he
would find the right words.
"Ya know what? I'd say, ya weren' where ya thought ya were. Know what I
He felt Malcolm shake his head and continued. "What I'm tryin' ta say is, ya
weren' dead. Not really. Your time hadn' come yet, ya could say."
Malcolm sat up to look into Trip's eyes again. "Not really dead?"
"No," Trip went on. "Jus' ... very ... severely unconscious. The doc said
somethin' 'bou' biosigns bein' there an' gone again. Guess ya jus' had him
thoroughly fooled." Trip managed a smirk.
Malcolm hung his head, pondering on his friend's words.
Trip continued, "So don' be afraid of what ya don' know. Bu' there's one
thing ya do know. An' that's that you an' me belong together. Forever. An' it
was me callin' you back. An' not you callin' me forward. That means that' we
both still belong here."
Malcolm looked at Trip for a very long time. Then he leaned forward and
placed a passionate kiss on his lover's lips, who only carefully kissed back.
"Make love to me, Trip," Malcolm whispered, "Let me feel alive. Please."
"Do ya think that's such a good idea, love?" Trip whispered back. "You were
pretty badly injured."
"Live every day as if it were your last." Malcolm replied, "One day will be."
He grinned and added, "Besides, if Phlox misses me, I'm sure he'll know where to
"Let's not overdo it, love." Trip lay back on his bed next to Malcolm,
pulling him down into his embrace. "Let's start with makin' ya feel alive by
jus' fallin' asleep here together, okay?"
Malcolm rested his head on Trip's chest and relaxed. "I already do. Thank
you. I love you, Trip."
This is big time – this is larger than life.
See the sparks fly
when you're standing by my side.
Every step, every move, everything I do.
Life is beautiful because of you.
- Rick Jude/Steve Balsamo
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