Log Rhythms - Season Two
Reed walked tiredly down the corridor. He'd just come from the Armory where he'd intended to give the systems a once-over before turning in for the night. He'd been out of commission during the Suliban attack and wanted to be sure his weapons weren't too badly damaged; he already knew the hull plating had taken some serious hits. It would make for an easier morning if he knew what he was in for in the way of repairs.
Of course he hadn't actually gotten his hands on any of the systems before being all but ordered out the Armory by Ensign Cormack. He chuckled at the recent memory.
"With all due respect, Lieutenant," Cormack had begun. He'd laughed inside, guessing what was coming. "You look like hell. Young and I have everything under control here. Go to bed. Get some sleep. You've earned it."
"I think I can handle a brief inspection tour of my own department," he'd argued half-heartedly. There'd been a familiar glint in his friend's eye, however, and he'd decided this was a battle he didn't need to fight.
"I'll have a status report sent to you before the night's out," she insisted.
"All right. I'll see you in the morning," he'd said, clearly surprising her with his easy acquiescence.
That was only minutes ago. Now he was at his cabin door. He opened it and squinted a little in the unexpectedly bright light, his swollen eye protesting.
"Sorry," said Trip, immediately dimming the light to what he hoped would be a tolerable level for his injured partner. "I hope you don't mind. I let myself in."
"Of course I don't mind," answered Malcolm, stepping farther into the room and allowing the door to shut behind him.
"I brought you some dinner. Figured you wouldn't really be up to the mess hall, but you need to eat something, so I thought I'd just bring it here for you." Trip trailed off when he realized he was babbling. He gave Malcolm a somewhat sheepish shrug.
Malcolm smiled as much as his split lip would allow. Phlox had doctored him up well, but he couldn't heal everything instantly. The Denobulan physician probably could have done more had he let him, but the armory officer had been anxious to get back to his job.
Now, of course, he regretted the decision; he was exhausted and he ached from head to toe. "That was very thoughtful of you, but I'm really not hungry," he said. Trip's resultant crest-fallen look tugged at his conscience. "Sorry."
Disappointment wasn't going to stop the engineer. "Doesn't matter if you're not hungry," he said. "I know you haven't eaten much the past couple of days. Your body needs food if it's going to heal. Takes energy, you know."
"Yes, I think I do." Malcolm and Trip exchanged knowing looks. In less than a year on Enterprise they'd both had more than their fair share of injuries and illnesses—and one very unexpected pregnancy.
Malcolm chuckled a little at the memory.
"What's so funny?" Trip asked.
"Just remembering something."
"I think maybe I will have something to eat after all," said Malcolm, deliberately avoiding the question. "What did you bring me?"
"Curried lentil soup. Figured you wouldn't want anything too tough to chew on. What were you remembering?"
Malcolm sat at the desk and removed the cover from the tray of food. He inhaled the steam coming off the hot soup. "Smells wonderful."
"Malcolm, why aren't you answering my question?" Trip wanted to know. He sat on the end of the bunk—the closest point to his lover without actually sitting on the table itself or the floor.
"This soup is excellent. Did you try it?"
Malcolm took another bite before replying. "I was thinking about Ah'Len, actually."
"Ah'Len?" Trip was taken aback. It was months since they'd crossed paths with the Xyrillian engineer and while Tucker certainly hadn't forgotten her, she wasn't exactly foremost in his thoughts, either. "What made you think of her?"
"Something you said just now. It made me think of when I learned you were pregnant." Even after the better part of a year, he found it hard to say out loud. His lover, his male lover, had been accidentally impregnated by an alien woman. He didn't know whether he found it funny or disturbing. He decided it was both. "I was quite surprised."
"You were surprised?" countered Trip. "You weren't the one who was knocked up!" Both men chuckled.
Malcolm continued to eat in the quiet that followed. Trip laid back on the bunk, too tired to hold himself upright any longer. It had been a stressful, exhausting few days. It felt good to be here with Malcolm where he could simply relax. Here, he was just Trip. He wasn't the Commander; he wasn't the Chief Engineer. There would be plenty of time to be those people tomorrow morning when they began the serious repair work on the ship. He wasn't looking forward to the morning.
He let himself get wrapped up in his memories. Time allowed him to look more objectively on those few strange days he'd spent with the Xyrillians.
He and Malcolm hadn't been together when he'd had his encounter with Ah'Len. It hadn't ever occurred to him to ask what the armory officer thought of the incident. Now he wondered. It felt almost surreal to be thinking back to that time. After what had transpired over the past forty-eight hours—Yeah. The past forty-eight hours and the future 900 years, the engineer thought.—what had happened with Ah'Len seemed like a lifetime ago.
It was a lifetime ago, thought Trip. In more ways than one.
"What did you think?" he said aloud. He sat up enough to lean on his elbows and look over at Malcolm.
"What?" Malcolm was completely unaware of the track his partner's mind had been following and was caught unprepared by the question.
"When you heard I was pregnant," Trip clarified, "what did you think?"
"As I recall, my first reaction was blank astonishment." He gave the blond a small, wry smile that was returned easily. "After the initial shock faded, I was rather disappointed to think you preferred women to men—and alien women, no less. Glad to discover I was wrong on that, by the way."
Trip chuckled. "Me, too."
"Aside from that," Malcolm continued, "I have to admit I found it a bit amusing. Sorry."
"Don't apologize. If it hadn't happened to me, I'd probably have found it hilarious. I know the Captain thought it was."
"He didn't— What did he do?"
"Mostly tried not to laugh at me, I think. Once he'd figured out I really had kept my dick in my pants and wasn't sticking it where it didn't belong, that is." He laid back down heavily.
The unexpected statement was so unlike his partner that it made Malcolm laugh, then flinch abruptly as the muscles of his injured face were stretched painfully. He was glad Trip wasn't in a position to see his discomfort. "He really thought you were " He hesitated, stifling another laugh. " 'sticking it where it didn't belong'?"
"Only for a minute. I mean, he knows I'm not that stupid. I'd never jeopardize my career like that! And now " Trip sat up completely, looked at Malcolm intently. "Well now I've got an even better reason not to go sowing my oats with aliens."
Malcolm smiled tentatively, not wanting to cause himself any more pain but wanting to express the warm feeling that filled him at Trip's words. "I'm glad you feel that way."
"Of course I do! Don't you ever doubt it! That's an order," he added, punctuating it with a stab of his finger in the air.
"Yes, sir!" Malcolm quipped, laughing. He winced again at the sharp jolt of pain his mirth caused.
This time, Trip noticed. He expression was suddenly concerned. "You okay?" He had forgotten that no matter how tired he was, Malcolm must surely be feeling far worse.
"Yeah," Malcolm assured him. "At least I will be."
Trip rose and crossed the short distance to his lover. He knelt next to him and placed a gentle hand on his bruised cheek. Cautious fingers barely brushed the discoloration around Malcolm's right eye. He wished there was something he could do to make it better. "I hated to send you out to the Suliban," he said quietly.
"Someone had to go. I was the only one with the code to unlock the door to Daniels' quarters."
"You could've given someone else the code."
"Whom?" the dark-haired tactical officer asked logically. "T'Pol? Travis? Hoshi? I don't think so."
"I was thinking me, actually."
"Not bloody likely!"
Tucker started at the surprisingly vehement denial. "But—"
"No buts, Trip. It had to be me. I knew what I was getting myself into when I took the commission as Enterprise's Armory Officer. I knew as well as anyone could know," he amended, seeing the engineer about to protest. "And if you think I was going to send you off to be tortured by the Suliban, you've got another think coming."
"Tortured?" Trip's eyes widened in horror and shock. "You never said—"
Damn, thought Malcolm. Definitely the wrong choice of words. He tried to dismiss it. "You know what I mean. We didn't know what they'd do to whomever they caught. I couldn't send someone else to face that when it was my responsibility."
"It wasn't just your responsibility." Trip rose, looking down at the still-seated lieutenant. "What if something had happened—something even worse than what they did?"
"Trip, I'm fine." He tried to sound reassuring, but his partner was having none of it.
"Did they torture you? What did they do to you?!" It was a demand and a plea wrapped together. Fear, anger, and pain were warring in the blond man. He could barely keep still. He felt as if he wanted to chase after the Suliban who had hurt his lover and rip them limb from limb.
"Nothing!" said Malcolm firmly. "Nothing beyond what you can see for yourself." He stood, placed strong hands on Trip's shoulders, willing him to calm down. "Look at me."
Held tightly and close, the engineer looked into Malcolm's eyes. He saw pain there, but he also saw strength and courage and truth. Trip relaxed a little, his shoulders slumping with the release of tension. "I was worried about you."
"I know," said Malcolm softly. "And I won't tell you not to worry. You wouldn't listen anyway," he added lightly to take the sting out of the words. "I have a dangerous job. So do you. I worry about you, too. A lot."
"Of course I do!" he exclaimed, unintentionally echoing his partner's earlier words. "Any time we're in unknown territory. Any time we meet a potentially hostile alien. Any time you're not where I can protect you."
"I don't always need protecting, Malcolm." There was just the slightest edge of reproof in the younger man's voice.
"I know. But asking me not to want to protect you is like me asking you not to worry about me. Fair's fair, sweetheart. You'd better be prepared to accept it."
Trip considered his words. "I suppose you're right," he admitted at last. Again he looked deep into is partner's eyes. "I love you, Malcolm Reed."
"I love you, too, Charles Tucker the Third. I'm sorry it's taken me so long to say it out loud."
Those words spoken aloud filled Trip's heart, but he couldn't bear to hurt Malcolm's feelings by showing him how badly he'd wanted to hear him say it. He gave what he hoped was an off-hand shrug. "I knew you did."
Malcolm wasn't fooled for a moment. He placed a hand around the back of Trip's neck, tenderly running his fingers through soft blond hair. "But you deserve to hear it. I promise from now on, you will."
Anything Trip could think of to say felt inadequate in comparison, so he changed the subject. "Your soup's getting cold."
"Thanks." Malcolm sat. Before he could continue his meal, however, he noticed a light flashing on his computer. A quick tap of keys told him what he wanted to know.
"What's that?" asked Trip. He was sitting on the bunk again, content simply to be in Malcolm's company.
"Status report on the weapons. It can wait until morning."
"Good choice. Now finish your dinner so you can come to bed."
"Yes, sir," answered Malcolm with a smile.
While Malcolm ate, Trip laid back once again and stared blankly at the few items on the shelf above the bunk. His mind was on other things. Several minutes passed in which neither man spoke, each enjoying the comfortable silence of companionship.
Finally, Trip could keep his thoughts to himself no longer. "Do you think they'll still make us go home?" he asked quietly.
"I don't know," answered Malcolm, equally subdued. "After the speeches Captain Archer and T'Pol made, well Maybe not."
"After their speeches, yeah. I should've kept my mouth shut."
Malcolm agreed, but thought better than to say so outright. "Nothing you said to Soval is going to affect the outcome. Starfleet will make its decision with or without your help, I'm sure. Besides," he added almost conspiratorially, "everything you said was absolutely right."
Trip snorted derisively. "Still shouldn't've said it."
"No." There was silence while Trip brooded and Malcolm tried to think of a way to make him feel better. "You could always apologize."
"I suppose so," said Trip with a grimace. "Too bad I'm not actually sorry. I already apologized to the captain, though, for acting so out of line." He genuinely regretted his actions on that level. Actions, sure. Words, nope.
"There's nothing to be done about it tonight," Malcolm said. "Get some sleep. We're sure to hear something one way or the other by morning."
"That's a cheerful way to put it." Tirp rolled onto his side an leaned on his elbow. "You done eating?"
"Yeah. Let's get ready for bed. I'm exhausted."
"So am I. And I'm really looking forward to climbing into this bunk and just holding onto you for a while," replied Trip tenderly.
"That sounds perfect."
Trip woke early to the sound of the chirping alarm. "Computer, alarm off," he whispered harshly. He glanced at his partner, who was still asleep beside him. Malcolm's face was relaxed and sweet in slumber. He hated to awaken him to the aches and pains of the day. Carefully, he slipped out of the bunk and tucked the blanket back around the sleeping form. Malcolm shifted but didn't wake.
He's gonna be royally pissed at me for this, thought Trip. But I'm willing to take that chance.
He straightened out his pajama bottoms so they were sitting properly on his hips. Then he picked up the bright blue undershirt he'd worn the day before and pulled it on. He didn't mind talking to the Captain half-dressed, but half-dressed and calling from his lover's cabin was another matter. Trip ran a hand through his short-cropped hair. It made him feel better if he knew he looked presentable; it didn't matter that the comm was audio only.
He opened a channel and quietly hailed Archer.
"Morning, Trip!" came the too chipper reply.
Trip winced at the volume and instinctively made a shushing gesture at the comm. He felt stupid when he realized the absurdity of his actions. He glanced quickly over at the bunk to make sure Malcolm hadn't seen or heard anything. Good. Still asleep.
Keeping his voice low, he said, "Mornin', sir. I've got a little favor to ask."
"Oh?" Archer had caught on to his old friend's quiet tones and immediately adopted them. "What is it?"
"Malcolm's pretty wiped out, sir. I know the Doc okayed him for duty, but "
"What does Malcolm say?"
Trip's chagrined look was wasted with no audience. "He's still asleep."
"Ah." The Captain's knowing tone was clear even through the hushed comm connection.
"I know. He'll tell me off something fierce later, but I don't care. He needs to rest—otherwise he'd've woken up when the alarm went off."
"You know you're going to get me in trouble, too," joked Archer.
"Yeah, but you'll never hear it from him."
The Captain didn't entirely agree, but he let it go. "If you're willing to risk getting the lieutenant mad at you, there must be a good reason. Let him sleep, Trip. I'll make a note in the duty roster so his team doesn't wonder where he is."
"Thanks, Captain." Trip closed the comm and gave another glance toward the bed. He must be exhausted! he thought. Normally Malcolm woke easily with his alarm; today a whole conversation had transpired and still he slept on.
Moving as quietly as he could, Trip made a few small adjustments to the room. Then he leaned over his sleeping partner and dared a feather-light kiss on his rough cheek. Malcolm never moved.
"See you later, lover," he whispered. Silently, he slipped out of the cabin.
Malcolm awoke confused. He rolled over, expecting to find Trip's warm presence in the bunk beside him, but he was alone. He glanced at the bedside chronometer only to find it had been turned to face away from the bed. What ? his still-sleepy mind wondered. The dishes from the night before had been cleared away as well, he saw as he looked around the room. The "message waiting" light was blinking on his computer. He sat up, carefully rubbing sleep out of tired eyes. He was pleased to feel the bruise that surrounded his right eye was less sensitive than it had been the previous night.
"Computer, play message."
"Malcolm, before you say anything just listen," said the image of Trip that appeared on the monitor. Reed barely had time to wonder what was going on before the recording continued. "I don't know what time you'll get this. It'll depend what time you wake up I suppose. Just know that everything's okay."
"What?" Malcolm asked the screen pointlessly.
"Captain Archer okayed you for light duties today whenever you wake up."
Realization was beginning to dawn on the lieutenant. "You didn't—?" He grabbed the chronometer. Bright green letters glared at him: 0952. "You did!"
The recording was still running, oblivious to this small outburst but anticipating its tone. "I know you're probably mad, but well tough. The Armory's where you left it. I checked. It should still be there whenever you're ready. You can chew me out over dinner tonight at 2030 hours. I love you. Oh! And we're not going home! I'll tell you all about it tonight."
The message ended and Malcolm was left staring at the blank screen. "You little shit," he said, but his tone was warmed by affection. Trip had done what he felt he had to do. It was sweet. It was thoughtful. And Malcolm was going give him what for when he saw him that evening.
There was nothing for it now but to get on with his day. Deciding a shower was in order no matter how late it was, he put on his robe, picked up a towel, and headed to the shower room.
Lieutenant Reed entered the Armory with a datapad in one hand and a large mug of hot, strong tea in the other. Organized chaos greeted his entrance. People were moving quickly and efficiently to repair every system that was damaged in the Suliban attack. Reed spotted Cormack at the main console and descended the stairs to the lower level.
Cormack turned at the sound of his boots ringing on the metallic staircase. "Morning, Lieutenant," she said as he approached.
"Only just," he muttered to himself. "Good morning, Ensign."
"How are you?"
"Fine, thank you." He held up the datapad. "I have the report you sent last night," he continued, ending the discussion of his current well-being. "What can you give me in the way of an update?"
"We have a team working with an engineering team to repair the aft phase-cannon. It took a serious hit just before the Suliban broke off their attack. I've got Martinez and Griffith working on the port side fore phase cannon. The cannon port stabilizers are all out of whack."
"What a very high tech description," said Reed wryly.
"Yes, sir," answered the ensign with a smile. "They should have it taken care of before the end of the day."
"Not a lot. Really it's Engineering who have most of the work. That faked reactor breach caused a lot more damage than anything our systems took."
"At least we didn't add to it."
"Yes, sir!" agreed Cormack emphatically.
The late hours they'd put in trying to stabilize the phase cannons' beam emitters so the weapons could be fired at warp speed had certainly paid off.
"Not how I would have chosen to field test them," added the lieutenant, "but needs must as the devil drives, as the old saying goes. I'm very glad it worked."
"All right. Show me what you were working on when I came in."
"Commander, I have an update on the hull plating." Lawless handed over a datapad, which Tucker reluctantly took.
"Tell me it's good news, Ensign," he said.
Tucker let out a despondent sigh. "All right. Thanks."
Lawless made a judicious exit. It had been a long day of repairs and they weren't even close to finished. It was going to take weeks to fix all the damaged systems and equipment. Frankly, she doubted they could do it on their own. That was the problem with being the first Earth ship to travel this far—there were no established bases where they could put in for repairs.
The Chief Engineer studied the report wearily. He would have agreed with the ensign had he known her thoughts. The ship was a mess. Between the faked breach and the Suliban attack, nearly every system was in need of some sort of repair, whether it be major like the hull plating or minor like the long-range sensors. He briefly considered calling Malcolm and postponing dinner, but decided against it.
It'd just look like you were trying to delay the inevitable, he told himself. And it'd be partly true. While he was looking forward to seeing his partner that evening, he wasn't looking forward to the dressing down he was bound to get. Oh well. All in a good cause.
He returned his attention to the datapad. "Damn."
Reed was waiting when Tucker arrived. He sat at a small table, sipping a mug of tea.
"Hey," said Trip.
"Hey, yourself. Hungry?"
"Like you wouldn't believe."
They collected their dinners in silence. Trip had decided before coming that he was going to let his lover take the lead in the conversation. He hoped it would be a brief one.
For his part, Malcolm had no intention of making it easy for Trip. He maintained a pleasant, neutral expression as he chose a plate of ravioli with pesto and small salad. Tucker opted for steak and roasted vegetables; if he was going down, he was going down well fed.
They sat. Malcolm took a bite of salad, surreptitiously watching the fair-haired engineer. He looked tired and tense. There wasn't much he could do about the former, but the latter he could alleviate. First, however
"Did you sleep well?" asked Malcolm innocently.
Crap. Here it comes, thought Trip. "Yeah, thanks. You?"
"Very well. A bit too well, even."
"Uh Okay." Trip could feel the hammer suspended over him, waited for it to fall.
"I had this odd dream," continued Malcolm.
"Yes. I dreamed I overslept. I wonder what that might mean."
"Maybe you should ask Doctor Douglas," Trip said, trying desperately to delay the inevitable. "He knows a lot about dream interpretation."
"I'm sure he does." There was an uncomfortable pause, which Malcolm finally broke. "You should have woken me."
"I've never overslept a duty shift before."
"Then I'd say I did the right thing!"
"Excuse me? Just how do you figure that?"
"Obviously you needed the rest, or you'd have woken up when I did. It's not like the alarm didn't go off," he added defensively.
"I expect you shut it off instantly."
"Of course. I didn't want it to wake you," said Trip sheepishly. There goes that argument.
Malcolm regarded him sternly, lips pressed into a thin line. It was an expression he'd unconsciously learned from his father many years ago; he wouldn't have wanted to know he was using it now. "Trip, I don't expect you to take responsibility for me. I don't expect you to make sure I get up on time every day. I have managed on my own up to now, after all. Equally, I expect you to respect my right to make my own decisions. The alarm would have eventually woken me if you'd let it. I might have contacted the captain myself, if I'd felt I needed more time to recuperate."
"Doubt it," muttered Trip.
Malcolm ignored the comment. "The point is it was my decision to make, not yours."
"You needed the sleep, Malcolm. I know you did."
"That's not the issue."
"I know. I'm just arguing because I know I did something I shouldn't have and I'm trying to justify it to myself." Trip gave an abashed shrug. "Don't you ever do that?"
"I try to avoid situations where I need to do that," replied Malcolm pointedly.
"Yeah, well " The engineer looked at the dark-haired man across the table, saw the barely perceptible smile and the hint of a twinkle in his blue eyes. He playfully gave him his best hopeful puppy-dog look. "Forgive me?"
"Someday that expression isn't going to work, and then you'll be in real trouble," joked Malcolm.
Trip grinned. Clearly all was forgiven. "Never happen."
"You don't think?"
"Nope. Not as long as you love me."
Malcolm returned his lover's grin with a rare one of his own. "You're right, then. It'll never happen. Now, tell me what you heard about Enterprise not getting sent home."
End Log 2:1