Title: What Would It Take?

Author: Buttercup

E-mail: Buttercupgaud@aol.com

Date: 10/12/02

Pairing: Tucker/Reed

Archive: Yes, at EntSTSlash, Tim Ruben, Archers_Enterprise, Allslash, Situation Room, and WWoMB; anyone else, ask and you shall receive.

Rating: PG-13

Summary: Q, the most helpful man in the universe, proves that he's a slasher at heart. Or you can look at it this way: He likes messing with the guys lives as much as we do *g*.

Author's notes: Starts off in Shuttlepod 1 then goes off into my own little fantasy world. I've finished this and its sitting on my comp waiting. This is technically the first story I wrote in the fandom, but I've been holding it back until now. I've been trying to get it as good as I can.

Thanks to: Leah, can you believe that we're finally here? That I'm posting it? You've been so very helpful. I'm sure that this wouldn't have even gotten started without you, thanks. And then there's all the help you offered as I went along, the many beta readings and putting up with my whining. You deserve to be made a saint at the very least!

Mara: Thank you also. You've saved me from embarrassing mistakes and were always the voice of reason.

Sue: You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy when skies are grey. You'll never know, dear, how much I love you. Oh please, don't take, my sunshine, away! Why does it feel like I'm writing my will or something? *sighs* Anyway, on with the fic!

Comments: Part 3: This part is for Nijijin, because when I was wrote it I was reading A Deeper Fate, and the sexual tension was killing me. Someone had to suffer…Part 4: Okay people, I should warn you now, tissue may be needed. This is a little sad. I would like you all to remember that I *adore* Malcolm and I won't do any permeate damage to him…ever. Also, I would like to introduce a new game to all, it's called 'Spotting where I 'borrowed' this scene from'. Have fun now. And also, one more thing, because ya'll be so nice, I'm going to post the other three chapters tomorrow, in one go. Part 7: This one's just a little baby chapter, but I hope you like it anyway. Thanks very much for all the lovely feedback, I'll try to get on for a long enough time to email you all individually, but I'd like to say thank you again now. It means a lot when people take the time to say they've enjoyed something I've written. Again, I say: Thanks!

Trip fought the losing battle of keeping his eyes from falling shut. It was so cold, and he knew that if he just let the darkness engulf him he'd stop feeling it. He felt his head drop forward, then shook it, trying desperately to clear it of the fog. It was so quiet; surely it shouldn't be so quiet. He couldn't even hear his own breathing. He couldn't feel it either, couldn't feel anything. Not even the solid form of his shipmate next to him, not the cold floor beneath him. Nothing. It would be so easy to just drift away…

There was a bright flash of light, and then, sitting at the control panels of the Shuttle, was a man who Trip had never seen before. He wore a uniform Trip didn't recognise. It was an all-in-one suit, with black legs and a band of red over the torso, finishing with more black around the shoulders. There was also a small, triangular-shaped badge on the man's left breast. The stranger was tall and thin with dark hair and eyes. He turned and looked at the commander for a moment, then frowning, stood up.

"I seem to be overdressed," was all he said, then he disappeared. Just as the chief engineer thought that the whole thing must have been a hallucination a voice next to his ear made him jump.

"That's better."

Trip turned to see the same man, now with a few days worth of stubble, a Starfleet uniform, and a blanket wrapped around his body, huddled next to him. "Wha'?" Trip asked, trying to make himself focus.

The man didn't seem to hear him as he continued to speak. "I don't think that I'll ever understand humans," he said. "They like to talk about how important emotions are, how they are willing to die for love, but it's all just that, isn't it? Talk."

"Who the hell are you?" Trip asked with some difficultly. His lungs were protesting at having to bring in more of the shuttle pod's frozen air.

This too was ignored, instead the man stood up and walked over to the still form on the other side of the commander. "He's dying you know," he told Trip softly.

"I…" Trip didn't really know what to say to that.

"He doesn't know, you'll let him die without ever saying it. He'll never know what love is."

"What are you talking about?" Trip's asked. He tried to stand up but his body protested too vehemently and so he had to stay where he was.

"You would let that man," the intruder gestured toward Malcolm's sleeping form, "die without ever telling him of your feelings for him."

"And what would you know about that?" the commander demanded angrily.

"A great deal. He will be dead soon and you couldn't gather enough courage to tell him that you love him!"

"Hey now! That ain't true!" Trip protested crossly, "We're not gonna die, there's no need to tell him anything, we'll be fine!" Trip again tried to stand but, in the end, had to give up. "Enterprise will be here soon, I know they will. We'll be fine." He looked over at Malcolm and sighed, "Just fine."

"You really believe that?"

"Yes! They saw our engine explode, I know Jon'll get here in time."

There was a small laugh at the conviction of Trip's answer. "Very well," The stranger nodded. "I wonder," he said, his head cocked to the side as he looked at Trip, "What would it take for you to tell him?" This suddenly made him smile widely. "Yes," he repeated, grinning now, "What would it take?"

Trip blinked and the man was gone. He blinked several more times and turned his head to get a better look at his surroundings, this time the man really had gone. The commander tried to focus on what the man had said, tried to make sense of it, but it was too confusing for his numbed mind to process. It had been about Malcolm. Trip turned and looked at the other man in the Shuttle with him for a moment. He looked so peaceful, so happy and content, asleep like that. Asleep. The commander felt his eyes stinging. Maybe if he just closed them for a second…he wouldn't go to sleep, just rest his eyes.


He woke with a start.

"Where…?" Trip began, but a gentle hand on his shoulder stopped him from moving and the familiar form of the doctor loomed over him.

"Just relax, Mr. Tucker."

"You found us…Malcolm!" he tried to sit up again but the doctor was forceful and held him in place.

"Stay still. Mr. Reed is fine. He's sleeping now, he awoke earlier and talked briefly with the Captain and Sub-commander T'Pol."

Trip didn't answer, just lay back and closed his eyes sighing contently. They were okay. Malcolm was going to be fine. He felt himself relax. Just as he was about to fall asleep a glimmer of a memory stirred within him. There was something…something that someone wanted him to do. He sighed. Whatever it was it could wait until the morning.


Days past fairly quickly and before he knew it, Trip was back on duty and working hard in engineering. There was nothing quite like thinking that he'd never see 'Enterprise' again to remind him how much he loved his job, the ship…the people on it. As most of his trains of thought tended to these days he was soon led back to thinking about the armoury officer. Each time they passed in the corridors Trip would get a flash, a crystal clear image of the Malcolm unconscious on the shuttlepod. It made Trip shudder to think how close they had come to death. How close he was to losing Malcolm. Still, he hadn't. They were fine. There was plenty of time to get to know Malcolm properly before he told the younger man of his feelings.

And he would tell him that he loved him. Of course he would. Just as soon as the right moment presented itself.


It was about three days after he returned to duty that 'Enterprise' suddenly dropped out of warp. Trip walked over to the nearest comm. and opened a channel.

"Tucker to the Bridge."

"Yes, Trip?" The Captain's voice answered smoothly.

"Everything all right there?"

"Yeah, but if you want to come to the bridge I think we're about to make first contact with someone." Trip could practically hear the Captain's smile. "Be right there."

Trip walked out onto the bridge just in time to hear Hoshi say:

"They're hailing us."

"Put them through," Archer answered, sitting up straighter in his chair. Trip spared the briefest of glances over in Malcolm's direction before turning to watch the screen.

"Captain Archer." It wasn't a question. The alien on the screen looked arrogantly at the captain. He was humanoid, but was much bigger than a human man; fierce looking with long blond hair and pale green skin. It was the eyes though, Trip decided, that really made him look menacing. They were bright violet and seemed to have no pupil.

"Yes," Jon looked at Trip and smiled slightly before continuing, "It seems that you have me at a disadvantage. I don't you're name."

"That is of no importance." The answer was curt; the alien didn't seem to be very interested in what Jon had to say.

The captain nodded, but frowned slightly, "Okay then," he tried again, "What is it that we can do for you?"

"My emperor, the ruler of the part of space, wants something that by all rights belongs to him."

Archer's frown deepened. "I'm sure if we have something that belongs to you then we'll gladly return it—"

"It is his by law," the alien snapped back.

"Okay then," Archer sighed to control his frustration, "but unless you tell me what it is that you want, I can't help you."

"It is not a choice, *Captain*," the word was said with distain, and Trip noticed Jon's jaw set in annoyance.

"What do you want?"

"The emperor has chosen his mate."

"I'm sorry?" The captain looked around at the other members of the bridge crew as if for answers, but he found none. They all looked as mystified as he did.

"My emperor is in need of a new mate, and has been keeping an eye out for some time. We have therefore been tracking your ship. He was impressed with one of your people, Captain. You should be honoured. We have orders to take them back with us to our home-world where the mating ceremony will be held."

"I'm sorry? Your…emperor wants one of my crew for his mate?"

"That is what I said."

"How do you even know anything about my crew?" Archer stood up and glared at the screen. Trip stood taller trying to show his support for the captain.

"We have intercepted your reports to your home-world." Came the simple reply.

At this Archer breathed sharply through his nose and Trip saw him work very hard to keep his temper in check. "You read our personal letters? Why?"

"Your personal lives are of no interest to us," the alien looked disgusted at the very thought. "We are only interested in your reports to your superiors."

"Why?" Jon repeated.

"It was the best way to determine your worthiness," the alien looked decidedly bored. "Just hand over what we want and we'll let you go."

"I'm sorry, but you can't take one of my crew! If she chooses to leave, then—" Jon was stopped by a barking laugh. "What's funny?" the captain gritted his teeth, trying to remain civil.

"Emperor Preatorix is not looking to procreate, *Captain*, he has no need of one your females."

"Then I'm sorry—I really don't understand."

The alien on the screen sighed; he seemed to have lost the small amount of patience that he had.

"Listen," he snarled, leaning closer into the screen, "Just have the one you call Malcolm Reed ready to be handed over to us in ten minutes, or we will destroy your ship." The communication abruptly cut off. All eyes turned to a stunned and slightly pale Armoury officer.

"Malcolm?" the captain asked. "I…" the lieutenant began to reply, seemed to realise that he didn't know what to say and closed his mouth again.

"Ummm," Jon ran a hand distractedly over his chin, thinking for a second. "What about their weapons? Can we defend ourselves?"

Malcolm looked down at his console for a moment. Unbelievably, he seemed to lose more colour. Then he looked back up again. "Captain," Trip was amazed to hear the lieutenant's voice so level. "I don't think that we'd stand a chance if they decided to attack."

"Maybe if we hail them again…they can't just…" Jon seemed to notice he was babbling and stopped talking abruptly. He looked at Malcolm before saying confidently, "We're not going to give you up. Not without a fight."

Trip let out a breath he didn't even notice he'd been holding. Of course Jon wouldn't just hand Malcolm over to these aliens. They'd figure something out.

"Sir," Malcolm called, although Trip realised, it wasn't Malcolm; he'd disappeared behind the wall of Lieutenant Reed.

"Yes?" Jon asked.

"We don't have any time to fight, Sir."

"What are you talking about?" Archer looked at Malcolm, a frown marring his features.

"They wanted you to hand me over in ten minutes. Forgive me, but they don't seem like the sort of people that would enjoy being kept waiting. As tactical officer, it's my job to protect this ship. That's what I signed up to do, Sir, and I intend to do it."

"That's all well and good, Malcolm," Jon started, looking confused, "but as you said our weapons are no match for them, unless you think that we can outrun them?"

"No, Sir," Reed took a slow breath in and swallowed, "I meant that it would be best if I went with them."

Trip snapped out of the stupor he'd been in since the alien had made his demand. "Hell no! Jon, you can't let him just go off with them! God only knows what they'll do! You can't! You just can't!"

"Hey, steady Trip," the captain said, holding up a hand, "No one's going anywhere."

"Well…good," Trip felt a little stupid for his outburst.

"I think you'll find that you can't stop me," Malcolm spoke quietly, but with conviction.

"As your captain, I can order you not to go anywhere." Trip noticed a glimmer of annoyance stir within the captain.

"Sir, if I don't leave, then you won't have a ship to *be* captain of." Trip saw the same defiance in Malcolm that he had witnessed on the shuttle, when he had been trying to climb into the airlock.

"The lieutenant has a point, Captain," T'Pol spoke for the first time.

"Oh you would say that!" Trip answered fiercely, "What do you care about him?"

T'Pol looked coolly at him for a second before turning back to the captain. "Just because he goes with them, it does not mean that he will not return. I doubt that the mating ceremony will happen directly after he arrives at their home planet. We should therefore have some time to think of an alternative plan of action."

"Who knows what's gonna happen!" Trip cut in loudly. "My people have encountered this species before. They are aggressive, but also extremely law abiding. A mating ceremony would take time to prepare."

"If you knew that this could happen, then why didn't you tell us?" Trip demanded, walking right up to the sub-commander.

"I am not aware of every single law of this culture, Commander," T'Pol answered smoothly, "I have not heard of anything like this ever happening before."

"Maybe the Vulcan's would help," Travis spoke for the first time since they had encountered the aliens.

"There are no ships anywhere near here. Time is running out," Malcolm said quickly. The captain looked briefly at T'Pol, then at Malcolm, then back to the screen where, a few minutes before, the alien had been.

"I won't order you to do this, Malcolm," Archer said looking sternly at his tactical officer, "if you don't want to go…"

"I *have* to go, Sir."

A heavy sigh, then: "If you're sure…"

"Hey!" Trip called, "has everyone lost their minds? He can't go! This is stupid, call them back and tell them where to get off!"

"I'm sure," Malcolm said, with a conviction Trip couldn't believe he actually felt.

Jon nodded and turned to look at T'Pol. "Do you think that we'll be able to find a way to get him back before this…ceremony?"

"It seems more likely than finding one before their deadline."

"Come on, Jon! You're not seriously thinking of letting him go, are you?"

"I suppose that will have to do," Archer spoke first to T'Pol, and then he turned and looked at Trip, "If there was another way…" the captain shook his head. Finally Jon turned to Malcolm, "I'm sorry, Malcolm; we'll do everything that we can…"

"I know, Sir," Malcolm nodded, "I'll be fine."

"Malcolm, we all know what your 'fine' means!" Trip was shouting now. "Jon! T'Pol…" he wondered if anyone could actually hear him.

"Sir, we're being hailed," Hoshi said in a shaky voice.

A slight nod. "Put them through."

The screen flashed and there was the alien again, looking annoyed in a bored sort of way, "Your time is up, *Captain*. Are you ready to hand over what is ours?" he drawled.

"I want you to know, that this is not the end of this. We'll get him back," Jon glared at the screen.

The green skinned alien laughed sharply, then turned from the screen. "Lock onto him." Was all they heard before the commutation was cut.

"Malcolm!" Trip called as the tactical officer began to shimmer with a blue light. Then he was gone. And silence filled the bridge.


"They're going to warp," T'Pol said after a second.

"Well, follow them!" Trip shouted. He quickly moved toward Mayweather, who was already keying in the co-ordinates. "What the hell are we gonna do?" Trip asked no one in particular as he ran a hand through his hair.

"Should I hail the Vulcan High command?" Hoshi asked.

"Yes," Jon sighed, "T'Pol, would you speak with them? You can use my ready room. I think it'd be better coming from you, they seem to have a distinct dislike for me."

A small nod was all Jon got as an answer before T'Pol walked away. No one spoke, they didn't really know what to say. Trip stood watching the space where Malcolm had been standing, trying not think about what might be happening to the other man right at that second.

About ten minutes of silence later the doors to the bridge slid open again to reveal T'Pol.

"Well?" Trip asked quickly, not letting her even step through the doors before he spoke.

"What did they say?" Jon asked slightly more calmly.

"I'm afraid that they will not help us."

"What?" Trip yelled.

"They do not wish to risk starting a war over—"

"Over what?" Trip demanded, "A human?"

T'Pol didn't answer this, instead she said, "They said that this law was in the database, and that you should have been more careful to heed the risks before entering this part of space."

"What law?" Trip demanded.

"The law clearly states," T'Pol answered, "that the emperor of this section of space can choose whomever he wishes to be his mate. Even someone from a passing ship."

"Why didn't we know about it?" Jon asked.

"The law is old, Captain," T'Pol explained, "It hasn't be used in over a century. There was to reason to suspect that it would be necessary to be cautious of it."

"Well," Jon said, "clearly there was."

"It was an over sight on my part," T'Pol answered, she stood up straight, head held high.

"It's not your fault, T'Pol," Jon said.

"Huh," Trip huffed.

Jon turned to him sharply. "Maybe it'd be better if you went down to engineering, Trip. Make sure that the engines are in tip top condition. They'll have to be if we want to track this ship."

"Ah'm not going anywhere," the commander answered, crossing his arms over his chest. He took Jon's point though. He knew that the captain was telling him to shut-up or get out. Trip knew he wouldn't be able to take not knowing what was going on so he took the first option, choosing instead to grind his teeth.

"There's no way that the Vulcan's will change their mind and decide to help us?" Jon asked rubbing his eyes with one hand.

"No," T'Pol said flatly.

"Sir?" Hoshi asked.

"Yes?" Archer turned to her sharply.

"Well, T'Pol said that these aliens are very law abiding?" The comm. Officer looked at the Vulcan for confirmation of this.

"They are," T'Pol confirmed.

"My Uncle was a lawyer," Hoshi informed them, "and he used to say that there is a way around every law. A way to get out of it."

T'Pol seemed to think about this for a second before saying with a single raised eyebrow, "There may be a loophole."

"Well," the captain said after a moment of contemplation, "it's the best idea we've got. Let's get on it." He nodded at T'Pol, who immediately turned to her console and brought up all the information on the aliens that currently were in the process of taking Malcolm back to their home-world.


Trip had stood watching over T'Pol's shoulder until the captain had all-but dragged him from the bridge and into his ready-room. Where the commander was now pacing back and forth, still fighting the losing battle of not imagining what might be happening to Malcolm.

"Could you stop, or at least change the pattern? I'm feeling sick here," Jon spoke softly, but the warning in his voice was clear.

"Ah'm sorry, but I can't help it. I feel like I should be doin' something, I hate not being able to help him," Trip stopped his pacing and looked at the captain his blue eyes filled with worry.

"Trip, you're not the only one who's worried about Malcolm," Jon said softly looking at the ground. "We'll get him back."

"Ah'm the only one who seemed to think that it was a bad idea for him to leave!" Trip answered angrily, "God only knows what they're doing to him. We might get him back, but who knows what sort of state he'll be in!" As soon as Trip had finished his rant he wanted nothing more than to recapture the words. Pain flickered in Jon's green eyes and the older man visibly paled.

"I know you blame me, Trip, but…I…" The taller man seemed to run out of words and he looked back at his boots. Neither of them spoke for a few seconds. Trip wanted to say something, but didn't know what. So the silence stretched on.

Eventually their was a chime signalling someone's arrival. There was a pause while they waited for Jon to tell them to come in, then T'Pol entered followed by Hoshi.

"Well?" Jon was on his feet in a second.

"I think we have found something, Captain," T'Pol said slowly, "Ensign?" She looked at Hoshi, who stepped forward slowly, looking nervous.

"Well? Spit it out," Jon ordered, looking at the small woman closely.

"I think we may have something, but it's really a technicality. They may not even believe us, and it'll involve some…acting," she said hesitantly.

"Well, when you put it like that, how can it not work?" Jon asked dryly. Hoshi smiled slightly.

"What is it?" Trip demanded. The words were more aggressive than he would have liked, but no one seemed to notice.

"Okay, well," Hoshi began, "the law states that if someone has already been selected by his or her superior then no other may also lay claim to them."

"So you're saying that if he's been mated already then he can't do it again?" the commander asked after a moment.

"Sort of," Hoshi answered, "the ceremony doesn't have to have been conducted, but he would have had to be…involved with the person already."

"So," Jon said, catching on, "if we tell them that someone higher ranking than Malcolm has already claimed him, then that guy can't have him?"

"Exactly," Hoshi confirmed, looking pleased.

"That's great! Sub-Commander, do you think you're up to it?" Jon turned to the Vulcan, who opened her mouth to answer but was cut short by Hoshi:

"Well, Sir, in theory yes."

"Why do I feel a 'but' coming on?" Trip asked softly.

"*But*" Hoshi added, "the Telairien's view females more as a sub-species than equals. So, in theory because the Sub-Commander is higher ranking it would work if she had laid claim to him, but it might seem more…impressive if it came from a male. They'd certainly be more likely to take notice if a male had claimed Malcolm."

"So that leaves—" Jon started.

"You, or Commander Tucker…or the doctor," T'Pol supplied helpfully.

"Yes, thank you," Jon said, he looked at Trip before turning back to the others in the room. "Could you give us a second?" They both nodded and turned and left the room. "So," he began when he was alone with Trip.

"So," Trip agreed.

"Do you think this'll work?"

"I'm not sure," Trip answered truthfully, "It don't look like we'll have much of a choice in the matter though."

"No" Jon said. He turned away and looked out the window, "I think you should pretend to be Malcolm's mate."


"Yes, you always were good at that sort of thing. Always able to talk your way convincingly out of any situation."

"I was?" Trip asked, too shocked to answer coherently.

"Will you do it?" Jon turned back to look at the other man.

"Can I think about it?"

"We don't have long."

"I won't take long, I just…is it all right?"

"Yes," Jon nodded. Trip left the room.

He walked back slowly to his quarters, he had no particular desire to be there, he just didn't know where else to go. Maybe he should be the one to do this. Malcolm needed his help and Trip would rather spend the next ten years in de-con with a bunch of Klingons then leave the other man to this fate. Only…How could he say that he wanted Malcolm as his mate and then pretend it was all a lie? Anyone who saw him saying it would know it wasn't a lie. Then everyone would know how he felt about Malcolm. Everyday he'd have put up with sympathetic looks and smiles. And how long until one of them let slip to Malcolm? That thought terrified him.

He hadn't even keyed in the code to his door before he was heading back to the Captain's ready-room.

"Come." Trip was already opening the door before the captain answered. "Have you decided"?

"I think it would be a better idea of you went, Cap'n."


"Well…" Trip thought fast and then continued, "You're the Captain—it would seem more impressive if you said it."

The other man seemed to think about this for a second. He looked Trip in the eye before speaking again. "Are you sure you trust me with this?"

"I'd trust you with my life," Trip answered smoothly.

"That's not what I asked."

"It's not what you wanted to know either, Jon." "No?"

"Listen," Trip began, "no one blames you for letting Malcolm go with them. He insisted on going. And he's as stubborn as a mule about stuff like that. You couldn't have stopped him, even if there was another choice—which there wasn't." Trip was surprised to find that this was what he really did feel. Admittedly he had been angry after Malcolm had been taken, but that was more to do with the fact that there was nothing that Trip could have done to stop it. Corny as it sounded, he was angry at the situation, not at anyone. Especially not the captain.

"I should have done more, I just handed him over, I didn't even fight," Jon seemed distraught as he ran a hand over his face.

"There was no other choice, they'd have blown us to bits," Trip answered softly, hoping that the captain would believe him, "Malcolm'll be okay, I know you'll get him back."

"Thank you, Trip," Jon said gratefully.



"Whose bright idea was it for me to do this?" Captain Archer asked as he stood waiting for the alien ship to answer their hails. No one answered him. A nervous tension filled the bridge. Trip wondered if everyone else could hear his heart beating.

"They're answering," Hoshi said suddenly making Trip jump. "Okay," Jon said. He seemed nervous, but there was a determined air about him.

"What is it now, Captain?" the green-skinned alien who they had spoken to before drawled.

"I have come to claim back what is mine," Archer answered with a conviction so strong even Trip believed it.

"What do you mean?" the Telairien looked suspicious.

"I have just been reading your laws," Jon began, "It clearly states that no one else may claim what is mine. Malcolm is *mine*—I claimed him, long before you even knew he existed."

"Is that so?"

"It is. By your own law that means that he cannot be mated with anyone else."

"He is yours?"

"That's what I said." The captain seemed to be really getting into his role now.

"Why was this not mentioned in any of your transmissions, your reports to your home planet?"

"These things are between a man and his mate."

"You expect me to believe this?" the green alien asked angrily.

"It's the truth," Jon hissed at him, "You do not want to come between me and my mate, you won't like the consequences."

The Telairien laughed. Jon all but growled at the screen, "The Vulcan's I'm sure will be *very* interested in helping us when they find that you are breaking your own laws. Is it worth getting your ship blown apart? And trust me, if I don't get my mate back, safely, and unharmed I'll hold you personally responsible and you won't like that either." There was a pause where the captain and the Telairien stared at each other. After the rather long pause, during which Trip didn't dare even breathe, the alien blinked and shook his head.

"I'll have to contact Emperor Preatorix, he won't be happy."

"I don't care how your ruler feels," Jon snarled, "just give me back what's mine!"

"All in good time. You can come and get him; I'd like to see how mates of your species behave around one another." The alien all but leered. "We'll contact you again." The screen went blank.

"How do you think it went?" Jon asked quickly.

"I believe that he wants to test you, to see if you are lying or not," T'Pol answered coolly.

"You're right. Which is going to be tricky. I mean, I can't just walk up to Malcolm and act like I'm his mate, can I?" Jon asked looking, around.

"You could," Trip answered after a moment, "but he'd think you'd gone off your rocker."

"Exactly, and might say as much—and then they'd know we were lying," Archer finished with a heavy sigh.

"We need to get a message to him," T'Pol answered.

"How do we do that without alerting the Telairien's?" Trip asked.

"Sigh language!" Hoshi stood up.

"I'm sorry?"

"Malcolm can speak it, I know he can, his aunt was deaf and so he had to learn, I was helping him brush up his skills the other day. He's not bad. There's no way that the Telairien's can speak it, so I could communicate with him, it'd have to be short, but it might be enough."

"I guess that means you're coming with me," Jon said.

"It would be best to take as many people as possible," T'Pol cut in, "if you look to govern a great number of people they would think you more…impressive."

"You want me to enter into a pissing competition with them, Sub-Commander?" Jon asked dryly. T'Pol raised an eyebrow at this but didn't answer.

"Sir, they're hailing again."

"Put them through, Hoshi," Jon turned to face the screen, head held high.

"You may come and claim him back, Captain."

"It's the only option you had," Jon answered simply.

"We shall expect you in ten minutes." The screen returned to black.

"Not big on goodbyes are they?" Mayweather asked after a moment. The tension that had been thick in the air had had cleared somewhat. Things were definitely looking better. There was a real chance that they might get Malcolm back now—if Jon put on a convincing display of being Malcolm's mate. Trip ignored the slight stab he felt at the thought of what the captain might have to do to convince these aliens.


Five minutes later and Trip, The Captain, Hoshi and a number of other crew were boarding two shuttlepods and preparing to fly to the other ship. T'Pol had spoken with Jon before taking command of Enterprise.

"They will expect you to behave very dominantly toward Lieutenant Reed, make sure it looks like you own him. They do not view relationships in the same way as humans. One of them is in charge at all times." She had said slowly before Jon got into the lift.

"Okay," Jon had answered looking very much like it wasn't.

"We ready?" Jon asked Trip as he sat down next to the captain in the shuttle, breaking the commander's reverie.

"As we'll ever be."


Once they were aboard the alien ship, they were greeted by the Telairien who had spoken to them before.

"Where is he?" Jon asked sharply. He drew himself up to his full height, which was still significantly shorter than the alien before him.

"This way," The Telairien motioned for them to follow him, and the ten members of the 'Enterprise' crew followed behind. Trip walked behind the captain too worried about what was going to happen to watch where they were going. He knew that if Malcolm knew what they were doing he'd be outraged: Boarding an alien ship with little to no weapons and no way of escape but their own shuttlepods. This could be a trap. Trip wondered if it was, and if they'd let him spend some time with Malcolm before they killed them all.

They reached a door and the green skinned alien motioned for them to enter. The room appeared to be a holding or storage room. It was completely bare. Save for one thing. As they entered a figure slouched in a corner jumped to their feet. Malcolm. Trip grinned despite himself. He watched as the armoury officer looked at them all, a frown on his face. Hoshi coughed drawing Malcolm's eyes to her. She made a single motion with her hands and Malcolm nodded, but very slightly.

"What'd you say?" Trip asked her softly.

"Trust," was the simple answer before she lightly tapped the Captain's heel with the point of her boot—the signal that she'd communicated with the prisoner.

"Mine," Jon growled, stalking toward the younger man. Malcolm locked eyes with his captain. If he was surprised at the other man's word it didn't show.

"Yours," the armoury officer agreed before Jon grabbed him and roughly brought the other man to him. There was a briefest of pauses: you wouldn't have seen it unless you were looking very closely, and were standing near them. Neither of which the single Telairien that was with them seemed to be. Trip was though—he was looking very closely and holding his breath as well. In that moment permission was sought by Jon and given by Malcolm and then their lips met. The kiss was fierce and possessive, almost animal. Jon gripped the other man roughly by the front of his uniform and Malcolm seemed to be hanging on for dear life. Trip had to physically stop himself from moving and yanking them apart. He'd heard of putting on a good show, but this was ridiculous.

As Trip watched, a glare forming on his face, the two men seemed to slow down. The kiss became less urgent, but still they didn't separate. Trip was breathing heavily from suppressed rage. What the hell was the captain playing at? Come to that, what was Malcolm thinking? He was so reserved usually, the thought of him kissing anyone with an audience didn't seem very likely let alone the captain of his ship. But yet here he was…and was Jon's hand where he thought it was…? Trip actually heard himself growl.

A sound from just behind Trip made the commander spin round. Was someone clapping? Sure enough, there was a crewman looking right at him, clapping his hands.

"Can I help you…*Crewman*?" Trip snarled. Then he remembered. He'd seen this man before. On the shuttlepod, he'd talked about Trip's feelings for Malcolm and scolded him for not acting on them. "You," he breathed angrily, looking around him to alert everyone. But the rest of the crew were frozen. Trip frowned and turned back to the other man.

"Who the hell are you?"

"Call me Q," He said, "not that it'll matter, you won't remember meeting me. That is as soon as you've managed to do what I want you to."

"And what's that exactly?" Trip was getting angry now, what the hell was going on? Was this man somehow to blame for all the strange things that had been happening lately? But how would that even be possible?

Q ignored him and instead spoke lightly while clapping his hands together again. "That performance really was spectacular you know. Not only did you not use my perfect excuse to tell him but you seem to have managed to make your captain act on feelings he otherwise never would have even been aware of having. And to be honest," Q walked up to the two men locked in their kiss, "Malcolm doesn't seem to mind it overly, does he?"

"You got a point?" Trip snarled at Q.

"Why didn't you tell him? I thought this would be perfect."

"Well, it ain't," Trip snapped back at him. "I never imagined tellin' him how I felt in front of a load of people. Public rejection ain't really my idea of a good time."

"No, you *have* thought about this a lot, haven't you—what your first time together might be like?" The stranger smiled wickedly.

"Well, I…it's none of your business!" Trip shouted.

"Everything is my business." There was a long pause, during which Q looked thoughtfully at Trip and Trip glared back at him. "I have a better idea. Let's try this again." "What?" A white flash was the last thing Trip saw before darkness took over.


"Master? Master?" Trip squinted against the light and tried to focus on the noise that had woken him. He dimly became aware of his surroundings.

He had become used waking up in only two places. One of those was squashed up to a wall on the tiny bed in his quarters. The other was a rather uncomfortable bio-bed with a much-to-cheerful alien looming over him telling him not move.

Trip soon understood that he was in neither of these places. The bed was vast and covered in many cushions…and was that silk he could feel under him?

The commander sat up shaking his head and trying to focus on where he was. He appeared to be in a huge, brightly-lit room. The bed he had been asleep in was a four-poster with great silk hangings that were all currently wide open.

Sun flooded through an open window. Trip could hear birds singing loudly outside. Where the hell was he?

"Master?" the voice that had woken him made Trip look at its source. He gasped. Malcolm. But Malcolm as Trip had never seen him before.

The armoury officer wore white cotton pants that hung loosely about his hips. He didn't have a top on at all, and Trip traced the muscles on the other man's torso with his eyes, rapture clear on his face.

"Would Master like some food?" Malcolm offered a plate of fruit out to Trip. The commander looked dumbly at the tray, having ripped his eyes from Malcolm's body.

"Malcolm?" Trip said slowly, "What's going on? Why are you dressed like that?"

"Master does not like it?" Malcolm looked hurt. He cast his eyes to the ground.

"No, I do—" Trip stopped. "Why do you keep calling me that?"


"Yeah," Trip suddenly realised that he wasn't wearing anything under the silk of the covers. He felt himself blush and pulled the material tighter around himself.

"Because that is what you wished for me to call you," Malcolm looked confused. "You are my master."

"I'm not, I'm your superior officer, but that ain't the same."

Malcolm clearly had no idea what Trip was talking about. Trip began to panic.

"It's okay, Malcolm," he told the armoury officer, "I'm going to figure out what's going on here. I'll get us back to 'Enterprise', just you hold on."

"My superior officer?" Malcolm questioned.

"That's right," Trip nodded. And was relieved to a see a glimmer of understanding in Malcolm's intense eyes.

"Oh, I see," Malcolm answered. He smiled in a way that Trip hadn't seen before. It was seductive.

"I've always found men more powerful than myself *very* attractive," Malcolm all but purred.

"You have?" Trip gulped. What the hell was this?

"Yes," Malcolm nodded. He moved to the bed and sat down on the edge. He carefully placed the tray of fruit down on a small table before turning back to face Trip. "They make me…hot." When their eyes met Trip thought that he might explode. This was too much to take in.

"Hot?" Trip whimpered.

"Yes," Malcolm nodded, and ran a hand over his own chest. He slowly licked his lips, and Trip watched, transfixed as the pink tongue moistened the lips. "I hope that won't be a problem, Trip," Malcolm breathed, his eyes fluttering shut.

Trip couldn't breathe. Then, when Malcolm's eyes opened, they were filled with lust, darkened to a deep blue. "I guess not," Trip answered, still totally unsure of what was happening.

"I want you," the smaller man whispered.

Trip blanched. He remembered this. He'd *imagined* this. The exact same thing. Malcolm coming to him, telling him that he found powerful men attractive. The 'master' thing was new to him, but it was all here. In his fantasy, Malcolm had been dressed in loose sweat-pants and no top. Sometimes, he was just out of the shower and water droplets chased each other down Malcolm's pale skin. Trip sighed at the memory.

"Take me," Malcolm said, before moving toward Trip. Malcolm planted a soft kiss on the commander's lips.

"God, Malcolm," Trip groaned when they parted.

"I love you, Master," Malcolm looked at Trip, a smile on his lips.

Trip thought that he was going to cry. If only the last word hadn't been there. 'Master'. It was true that in his fantasy Malcolm called him 'sir' just before Trip took Malcolm, but that wasn't real, it wasn't how it was supposed to really happen. The whispered word just proved what Trip had known since he opened his eyes: What was happening here wasn't real. He'd waited so long to hear those words, and now the perfect moment was ruined.

"Do you love me?" Malcolm looked at Trip expectantly.

Was this part of the game? Did Malcolm ask because he thought Trip wanted it that way? Trip wouldn't say the words to Malcolm. Not like this. Not so he could make himself feel better about…using him.

"Should I undress now, Master?" Malcolm asked, snapping Trip back to attention. Malcolm stood and pulled at the cord that held the loose material around his waist. It began to fall, and Trip caught a tantalising glimpse of dark hair, and sharp hip bones, before he put a hand to the white material to stop it completing its journey.

"No," Trip answered.

"No?" Malcolm asked his confusion clear. Then he smiled, as if understanding had dawned. Hope sprang up in Trip. Maybe Malcolm remembered who he was. Who they both were. "You would like me to pleasure you in a different way?" he asked. Then his hands were moving. They came to rest on Trip's thighs.

Malcolm's hands began to slowly move upwards, massaging as they went. Trip tried to control his breathing. The silk sheets did nothing to hide his obvious arousal; upon spotting this, Malcolm smiled again and crawled forward on the bed. He smiled seductively, bent forward and began to kiss Trip's jaw. Malcolm made his way to Trip's ear before continuing down the neck.

"Oh, God," Trip gasped, as Malcolm's hands began to move on his inner thighs.

"You like that?" Malcolm questioned, before he sucked lightly on Trip's neck just below his ear.

"Yes, God, yes," Trip breathed. He took two sharp breaths to centre himself. "No," he said weakly. Malcolm chuckled but didn't stop what he was doing. Then he pushed Trip backwards, and stretched out on top of him.

"Do you want this?" Trip asked, on the verge of just giving into his desire. If Malcolm really wanted him, then maybe it was okay. Trip did love him; he had no desire to just use Malcolm.

"I am yours," Malcolm answered, seeming puzzled. "Of course I want this, Master."

"Would you stop?" Trip snapped. He pushed Malcolm off him and sat up. "I'm not your master! Don't you know who you are? You're Lieutenant Malcolm Reed! You don't belong to anyone! Least of all me."

"Is this a new game?" Malcolm asked, sitting up. He looked so sad, so hurt, that Trip wanted to reach out and hold him. He didn't, though. He knew that Malcolm would just take that as a sign to continue with his seduction. And Trip didn't think he'd be strong enough to tell the other man 'no' again.

Half of Trip was telling him to just go with it, not question this wondrous gift. After all, he'd longed for this moment for so long, he should seize the opportunity. The other half, the half Trip knew was right, was telling him not to. Something clearly wasn't right here, something had happened to Malcolm. Trip wasn't sure what yet, but he should try to find out. He should be helping Malcolm, not sleeping with him! Not using him like that. It didn't matter how wonderful it would be for Trip, how much love he'd pour into the act, to all intents and purposes it would be rape. Malcolm had no idea what was real and what wasn't. He thought that he belonged to Trip and even if he wanted to say no, he couldn't.

That thought made the commander feel sick. He rolled away, pulling the sheet with him. He stood up and walked a little way from the bed.

"No, Malcolm," he said firmly. The other man looked heartbroken. Tears welled up in his eyes. "Oh God," Trip went to move toward the bed, but stopped himself. "Listen," he said, and Malcolm looked up and their eyes met. "This isn't right, you don't belong to me. I won't make love to you, I don't like the idea that you couldn't say no, do you understand?"

"Yes," Malcolm swallowed heavily. "You don't find me desirable any more, you wish for someone younger, I will fetch you someone," Malcolm stood from the bed, and quickly fastened his pants and began to move toward the door.

"Malcolm—" Trip began.

"Goodbye, Master," Malcolm said sadly, and then he was gone.

"What was wrong that time?" a new voice from just behind him asked.

Trip spun on his heel and glared. "Q! You son of bitch!" Trip tried to move toward the other man, but got caught in the silk sheet that was still wrapped around him. "Why didn't I remember you? Why didn't I know that it was you that did this?"

"Where would the fun be if each time you knew what I wanted?" Q asked, sounding like the answer was obvious. "Well? You didn't answer my question."

"He couldn't say no!" Trip exploded gesturing with the hand that wasn't holding the silk to him.

"But this was *your* fantasy." Q sounded genuinely confused. "I even added a few interesting touches of my own."

"That's all it was: a damn fantasy!" Trip yelled. In his anger he didn't even stop to question how Q knew what his fantasies involving Malcolm were like. "I didn't want to be with him when he couldn't say no! I'd never take advantage of anyone like that! Let alone someone I loved!" Trip was beside himself with rage.

"I see. That *does* fit with what I know about humans." Q looked thoughtful. "Let me see," he looked at Trip for a moment as though trying to understand something, then snapped his fingers. "Perfect," he grinned.

Trip was about to ask what was perfect when white light surrounded him, cutting off the question before he even had a chance to open his mouth.


Trip gasped, finding that it was difficult to take breath in, something was pinning his neck to a wall…no, not a wall. It wasn't the right shape or feel to be that. He looked up and very nearly screamed.

He was in a wood, pleasantly lit by sunlight, but standing right in front of him was…something. It was humanoid but it wasn't human. It had a painted face, like the ancient Earth warriors Trip had seen in school. It was bearing its sharp teeth at him and was preparing to throw a long, very sharp-looking sword at him. He redoubled his efforts to get free from whatever was pinning his neck in place. In the moment before he found he could slip down and out of his restraint a glimmer of a memory caught his attention. He looked up at the creature as he wriggled down the tree and rolled away, sure that he'd seen it somewhere before.

Just as Trip hit the ground, gasping for breath and trying to get his bearings, the creature began to stalk toward him, snarling and grabbing at him. Trip tried to move away but was too slow. It picked him up by the collar of his clothes and promptly head-butted him. With a cry of pain Trip fell to the leaf-strewn ground. He lay there for a second, stunned, before it occurred to him that he should find a weapon of some sort so that he could defend himself. This time when the creature moved toward him he was quicker, he scooted backwards, as fast as possible, all the while trying to find something on his person that would help him. Just as it caught up with him, his hand closed around cool metal.

The monster pulled him up sharply by his arm and snarled. Trip took the opportunity to thrust the knife he'd found hanging from his belt deep into the creature's flesh. It snarled again, presumably in pain and punched him viciously in the stomach before throwing him away. The commander landed heavily, the wind knocked out of him. He looked up at the creature. He closed his eyes as it reached for the knife and pulled it out without so much as flinching.

He looked about him and frantically lunged forward, snatching up an abandoned sword near to where he'd fallen. The creature was still snarling…or was that a smile? It held Trip's knife in its hand and then took aim. As the creature released the knife Trip dived forward, and held his breath as he felt the air move past his shoulder, the knife must have missed him by a hair's breadth.

This time, when the creature growled and moved toward him, Trip lay where he was, waiting. Just as it bent down to grab him, Trip thrust the sword diagonally upwards, hard through where he hoped its heart would be. The creature just snarled again. To Trip's horror, it reached down and held on to the blade, and pulled the engineer up by it. They stood, face to face for a moment. Trip pulled with all his might, until the sword ripped free from his opponent's flesh. Then he swung it wildly at the creature's head, which cleanly left the monster's body. Trip stood panting, unsure of what to do now.

Lying about the forest were a number of creatures similar to the one he had just killed. It seemed strange that a place of such beauty should also be the place of such brutality. He turned a full circle, looking for more attackers, until he saw something: another body, but this one, even from this distance was clearly human. The body was punctured with three, maybe more arrows, but…Trip squinted, it was still breathing.

It was definitely a man. He was dressed in heavy-looking garments that made him seem bigger than he actually was. The clothes were dark and weather-worn, made mostly of leather. Wrapped around him was a cloak, which seemed to blend into the ground around him. He had shoulder length hair, which was falling messily around his face, and a neat beard. Trip only now began to wonder how his own clothes had changed. He was dressed very similarly to the other man, although his clothes seemed to be less well made, with fewer decorations. He suddenly realised that his own hair was falling around his face, and—he ran a hand over his face—he was also now sporting a ragged beard…what the hell?

The commander was maybe ten feet away before he recognised the person lying on the soft earth, propped against a tree. The blood in Trip's veins turned to ice. Malcolm. Trip began to run despite the protests of his tired body. He dropped to his knees by the Malcolm's side.

"Mal," Tucker whispered, as though afraid that speaking too loudly would somehow further damage the wounded man.

"They took the little ones." The words came out as a horse whisper. "The little ones?" Trip asked, but Malcolm didn't seem to hear him.

"Where is Frodo?"

"Frodo?" the question died on his lips as Trip suddenly remembered why he recognised all this. "Oh. Oh crap."

He'd seen this film just a week before. Strangely, Mal had been sitting right behind him at the time. But how was that possible? This couldn't be real. It couldn't be, because Middle Earth didn't exist—it was fiction. Which left what? A dream? The pain he was in seemed to make that unlikely. An elaborate hologram? But what was the point? The confusing thoughts were pushed away by a pained sigh from below him. Trip would have to figure this out later, all that mattered right now was Malcolm. Trip shook his head and his blue eyes flicked to the smaller man. Malcolm looked so panicked, so desperate.

"Where…?" A cough broke up the sentence. "Where is he?" This time he tried to sit up, but couldn't.

"He's gone, Mal," Trip answered softly, putting a hand out to stop him from trying to get up again.

"Then you have done what I could not. I tried to take the ring from him." Malcolm seemed so devastated that Trip had to close his eyes against the pain that radiated from the other man.

The commander reached out and gently stroked the smaller man's hair in what he hoped was a comforting manner. "Mal," he started soothingly "We gotta get you some help. I don't know what's going on here, but you're hurt bad and if—"

"Leave it! It is over. The world of men shall fall. And all will come to darkness. My city to ruin." Trip winced at the last sentence. Pain, guilt and anguish were clear in the fading blue eyes—there was nothing he could do to save him. Trip had no idea what had happened to Malcolm, someone must have messed with his head in someway. The armoury officer, for whatever reason, thought he was a character from a book. A character that died. The cold hand of panic now had a firm hold of the commander's heart, but he pushed aside his feelings and the million or so questions that exploded inside his head. The only thing that mattered was Malcolm. He could only offer whatever comfort possible to the dying man, something that made Trip feel slightly sick. He hated being so helpless, and racked his brain trying to recall what the man in his position in the movie had said at this point. It was difficult, as at the time, Trip had been too busy trying to pretend not to be crying to actually listen to the words.

"Um," he started, "No, I'm not gonna let that happen…" what was it the dark-haired man had said? Whatever it was it had gotten a final smile from the dying man. He closed his eyes so he could concentrate, then they flew open again. "I won't let our people fail," he finished with all the conviction that he could muster. It had the desired effect: Malcolm smiled weakly.

"Our people," Malcolm echoed, "*Our* people." Then the smaller man reached out for his sword, which lay just out of his reach. The armoury officer had once told Trip that, if he died on duty he only hoped that he went, weapon in hand, fighting to the last. Trip carefully reached out and brought the metal sword to the other man. Carrying out his friend's last wish. Another weak smile.

"I would have followed you, my brother. My captain. My king…" There was a brief pause during which Trip fought to keep back the tears that stung his eyes. Malcolm was dying, and all Trip could do was play along with his delusion, offer what comfort he could before the lieutenant died. Despite his best efforts, the tears began to leak from his eyes and down his cheek, one or two fell onto the leather the other man was wearing with a faint 'plop'. Malcolm took a shuddering breath and as he let it go he whispered, "My love."

That wasn't in the movie, Trip thought dimly. He took a breath so that he could answer him. Tell him the feeling was returned, but the words wouldn't come out. They stuck in his painfully tight throat. Then it was too late. Trip, breathing heavily reached out a hand to the pale face.

A sigh to his left made Trip's head whip round.

"How dare you?" he hissed when his eyes came to rest on the only new person in the wood. Q was dressed mostly in green. He wore the same cloak as Malcolm, with the same leaf-clasp around the neck. He wore green leggings and tunic. On his back he wore a quiver of arrows. The most striking difference was that he now had long, impossibly neat, blond hair. It was tied in tiny plates in various places, and was swept back to keep it out of his face.

"Don't get upset," Q said, holding up a hand. "It's not like he's really dead."

"That ain't the point!" Trip yelled, standing up. "And you know it!"

"But you said that you needed it to be something that didn't mean Malcolm *had* to do anything. I thought this would be perfect."

Trip had had about all he could take from this man. He lunged forward, his hand screwed into a tight fist. The commander fell forward when his hand connected with nothing but air. He spun around searching for the man who had been standing right there just a second before.

"Now, now, Trip," Q said wagging his finger at him. "Play nice, or I might not return you to your ship."

Trip stopped moving, he glared at the other man, working hard to control his breathing.

"Are you trying to say that this wasn't the perfect time to tell our dear Malcolm of your feelings?"

"No!" Trip yelled at him. "There wasn't time. There was so much I needed to say. But I couldn't. Not like that, not with Malcolm dyin' in m'damn arms! I…" Trip ran a hand through his hair and sighed. He wasn't sure what he needed anymore. His anger mixed with the sadness of losing Malcolm making him feel exhausted.

Q looked thoughtful for a second. "Okay then. Let's try this again."

"N-!" the engineer was cut off mid-protest.


"Trip?" the voice filtered down through the commander's hazy brain. He cracked his eyes open—the light was so bright that he closed them firmly again. "Trip, wake up!" Tucker didn't recognise the voice. It was a young woman, presumably human, although it was possible that the UT was working for once. He tried to ask where he was, but all that came out was a moan.

"He's waking up!" a new voice said, this one was male, young and very anxious sounding.

"Give him some room!" the third voice was also male, clearly someone with authority from the way they barked the order. For a moment, Trip almost thought it was Malcolm—the authority in the voice and the British accent. On closer inspection he knew that it wasn't, and his heart sank.

The commander struggled to sit up, but found that he was firmly pushed back down by a small hand. The girl said, "Don't move, Trip, it's going to be okay."

"Where…?" he croaked. He swallowed before trying again. "Where am I?"

"You're going to be okay now, Trip, just try and relax," the British man told him.

Trip opened his eyes a little, and this time the light didn't hurt so much. His surroundings were fuzzy but he could make out three shapes, all leaning over him. He closed his eyes and gently shook his head, and then opened his eyes for a third time. This time everything seemed to come into focus. He realised that he was lying on the floor, and that his head was pounding. He didn't recognise the room at all.

There was a pretty blonde woman to his left. She was tiny and looked rather fragile, although by the way she held herself it seemed like she hadn't noticed her own size. On his right were the two men: one of them was a young boy with dark, unruly hair and big brown eyes. The third person was older than the other two. His hair was greying and he wore glasses, or at least Trip assumed he did because at that moment they were held in his hand. They all looked very nervous.

"Where am I?" Trip asked again.

"You're at Giles' house, Trip," the younger man said.

"What happened?" The commander was finding it difficult to concentrate.

"We were rather hoping that you might be able to tell us that," the older man said, then bent down to help Trip stand up. Trip took the offered help and they made their way over to a sofa. He fell back onto it with a grunt of pain.

"Were you doing magic again?" the younger man asked sternly. Annoyance seemed to have blurred in with his panic.

"Magic?" Trip asked. Nothing was making much sense here.

"I told you not to do anything so advanced without my help!" The older guy scolded.

"You mean nothing broke in? You weren't attacked?" the girl asked, fixing Trip with her green eyes.

"I don't remember," Trip answered truthfully. "Listen," he began rubbing his face with one hand, "don't take this the wrong way, but who are you people?"

"You don't remember us?" the British man asked. He sat down beside him, a worried look on his face.

"Should I?" the commander asked, looking into the concerned face of the man next to him. "Am I back on Earth again?" Trip asked, after looking around some more. These people were definitely human, and this looked like an Earth home, if not a very modern one.

"Huh?" the young woman asked, frowning.

"Do you know who you are?" the older man asked, ignoring Trip's question.

"Yeah," Trip responded confidently, "I'm Charles Tucker III, Chief Engineer aboard the Starship Enterprise."

All three of them stared at him, horrified.

"*Enterprise*?" the boy echoed.

"Yeah, you heard of it?" Trip asked. Irritation was beginning to creep into the confusion. Why wouldn't anyone give him a straight answer? Why did they all know who he was, when he didn't know them from Adam?

"Yeah," the boy replied uncertainly.

"Giles?" the girl said, turning to the man next to Trip. "What's going on? Why doesn't he know who he is? Why does he think he's living in a TV show?"

"I, err, I'm not sure," the man—Giles—answered with a frown.

"I gotta ask," the boy interrupted, "Which one?"

"Huh?" Trip asked.

"Which Enterprise? Who's your captain?"

"Jonathan Archer, and what do you mean, 'which one?' There is only one!" Trip tried to stand up, but his legs wouldn't support him and he fell back again, head spinning. This was getting ridiculous!

"Xander, try not to confuse him more than is necessary!" Giles scolded, he looked witheringly at Xander. It was a very fatherly look, and Trip wondered if they were related.

Giles turned back to Trip. "You don't know who any of us are?" he asked.

Trip concentrated on them all. He shook his head. "I…I don't know…there's something…I dunno, like I've seen you before. But I don't know your names."

"Could it be the spell he was trying to do?" the girl asked Giles.

"It's possible, I'd have to see which one it was." Giles paused and looked at Trip. "There may be some significance to the fact he thinks he's from a TV show, but I'm not sure."

"Um," Xander said, shifting his feet. "Well, maybe not. We were watching it this morning," he looked sort of guilty, "you know, there was re-runs and stuff."

The girl raised her eyebrows. "You two were watching Star Trek?"

"Yeah, what's wrong with that?" the boy asked, "The Vulcan woman is hot!"

"T'Pol? You think T'Pol is hot?" Trip asked, astounded. He had no idea how the boy would even know her. He didn't know what was going on here. And the fact that they kept talking about him like he wasn't even in the room was starting to annoy him.

"Yeah, you were always more of an Archer type of guy," Xander smirked at him.

"What the hell do you mean?" Trip demanded angrily.

"Oh, don't try to deny it, I've seen you checking him out!" Xander was clearly enjoying teasing Trip.

"Jon and I are friends, that's all." Trip shuddered. "That'd be like incest or something."

"That's enough, Xander." Giles glared at the younger man for a second before turning back to Trip. "And you do what, on this ship, exactly?"

"I told you, Ah'm the chief engineer!" Trip was starting to get anxious. All he wanted was to get back to Enterprise. Why couldn't his life just be normal?

Giles and the girl looked to Xander, who shrugged. "In the show, it's a woman: Fairly hot, a little geeky, she's called Willow. Her and the Captain go way back."

"Listen," Trip stood, he swayed but didn't fall back this time. "It's been real fun to meet you all, but I gotta be getting back. The Cap'n'll be wondering where Ah am." "Oh no, you don't," the girl pushed him back with a surprising amount of force, and the commander landed heavily on the sofa with a pained 'oof!'.

"Buffy!" Xander protested, "Careful! Super strength, remember?"

"Buffy?" Trip questioned.

"Yes!" the girl exclaimed, "do you remember me?"

"I…" there was something, a glimmer of recognition, but nothing he could put his finger on. "Super strength?" he asked in the end.

"Yeah, I'm the slayer," she explained. "You really don't remember, at all?"


"Vampire slayer," Xander offered helpfully.

"'Buffy the Vampire Slayer,'" Trip mumbled to himself. Then it clicked. One of his old girlfriends had adored this classic show, and she used to make him watch it with her. But in that case, this couldn't be real, this was all fiction, vampires didn't exist. Trip rubbed his eyes again, hoping that it would clear his vision and he'd find himself safely back on board Enterprise. It didn't help.

"What are we going to do?" Buffy asked Giles, after watching Trip's face for a moment.

Then Buffy stopped moving. Everything had frozen. Trip jumped to his feet and looked for whatever new danger was about to present itself. He turned to see a man sitting on the kitchen bar, legs crossed, with a very pleased look on his face.

"Who the hell are you, and what's going on?" Trip growled and began to move toward the intruder, but his head swam and so he had to stop.

"You humans," The man said, jumping lightly off the counter. Trip frowned, this man *looked* human, why was he making a distinction? "So inquisitive. There are," he continued, raising an eyebrow, "millions of different things going on as we speak. Most of them don't concern you in the slightest."

"You know what I meant!" Trip answered, his frustration clear.

"Of course," the man answered, but to Trip's annoyance, didn't continue. "I love the twenty-first century, don't you?"

"What the hell are you talking about?"

"So uncomplicated, don't you think?"

Trip shook his head, choosing to ignore the stranger's words. "Are they okay?" Trip asked, motioning to the people around him, who still weren't moving.

"They'll be fine," the man answered in an offhand sort of way.

"Who are you?" Trip asked again, gritting his teeth in anger.

"You'll remember soon enough." The man answered with a wave of his hand. "If I told you, it'd ruin the fun of the game. You'd remember what I want—can't have that."

Trip sighed and decided to try a different question. "Okay then, *where* are we?"

The man looked pleased with himself again. "But you've worked that out already! We're in an alternate universe."

"What?" Trip couldn't be understanding him right. Why on earth was he here? Perhaps more to the point: How was he here?

"I," the man answered, seeming to read Trip's mind, "brought you here. It's worth remembering that in this place, your life is nothing more than a TV show."

"Huh?" Trip questioned, blankly.

The man—if he *was* a man—didn't answer. Instead he waved his hand at the TV in the corner, which flickered on. Trip turned so he could look at the screen. He suddenly felt his legs give way at what he saw, and sat down on the floor. Captain Archer had appeared, sitting in his chair, talking to T'Pol.

Trip sat, eyes bulging, transfixed by the small screen.

"What shall I expect when we get there?" Jon asked the Vulcan.

"The Karsaitions are a gentle race, Captain. But they do not expect—"

What the Karsaitions didn't expect Trip never found out for at that moment the Enterprise came to a shuddering halt. Jon had to grip the sides of his chair to stop from falling off it. The lights flickered but stayed on. When the tremors had stopped Jon looked about him briefly before tapping a button on the arm of his chair.

"Will?" he asked.

Suddenly the TV wasn't showing Jon anymore, it had changed to show engineering. A woman that Trip didn't recognise was ordering someone off-s creen to run a complete diagnostic of the warp coils. She was about Trip's age, small, with bright red hair and green eyes.

"Yes Captain?" she asked.

"What's going on down there?" Jon's disembodied voice questioned.

"I don't know," Will answered, shaking her head, "We just dropped out of warp. The engines appear to be fine, but they won't start up again."

"Willow," Jon said, sounding firm, "can you fix it?"

"I'm trying," she answered, pulling her red hair behind her ear where it had fallen out of its ponytail.

Archer appeared again, looking grave.

"Sir," a voice from behind the captain called. The camera cut to Malcolm's station, but it wasn't Malcolm standing there. Trip didn't know this man either. He was smaller than Malcolm, with light brown, spiky hair. He was frowning down at the console in front of him.

"Yes, Oz?" Jon asked.

"Sir," Oz answered, his frown deepening, "there's something out there…the sensors are picking up something, but I can't tell what it is."

"Try—" T'Pol was cut off abruptly as the TV returned to black.

"What the hell was that?" Trip demanded looking back at the only other moving person in the room.

"A TV series called Enterprise," the man answered, looking amused. "TV program? That ain't no TV program! That's my ship!" Trip yelled. He stood up and moved toward the other man, who promptly disappeared—only to reappear a few feet away, nearer the door.

"Not here," the man waved a hand, gesturing to the room about them, "Here, it is just a TV show, just as Buffy The Vampire Slayer was to you."

"Change it back!" Trip ordered, panic rising from the pit of his stomach.

"All in good time," the stranger answered with a smirk. "For the moment I suggest that you play along with this. Least your best friends think you've gone mad, and try to put a spell on you."

"How can I play along?" Trip was shouting again, but didn't care. "I don't know anything about them! Why are you doing this to me"

"Just play along the best you can," the man told Trip again.

"What?" Trip asked weakly.

"Oh—there's one more thing that you should know before I leave." The man was now holding a mirror in his right hand. He extended it toward Trip who took it.

Trip looked into the mirror and very nearly fainted. He put a hand to his face, testing if what he was seeing was real.

"Ah'm…" Trip started faintly.

"About eighteen I'd say," the man finished with a grin.

"What did you do to me?" Trip demanded. He glared at the other man, wanting very much to hurt him.

"It was necessary. You need to fit in here." The explanation was annoyingly simple.

"I can't go through my teens again!" Trip protested.

"You won't. If you play along as I told you to, I will return you to your ship as you were when you left it."

"How can I trust you?"

"You don't have a choice," the man answered. He tilted his head looking amused. "Now, just play along, and I'll return you safe and sound." He smirked. "Have fun." The man waved and before Trip could answer he was gone.

"I don't know," Giles said, making Trip jump about four feet into the air. The older man was presumably answering Buffy's question from before the stranger appeared.

"You alright there, Mr. Jumpy?" Xander asked, moving a little closer to Trip.

The commander never got a chance to reply because at that moment a door opened behind them.

"Hi, guys," a familiar voice called.

Trip whipped his head around to the source of the noise.

"Malcolm!" he yelled. He bounded forward, fully intending to pull Malcolm into the biggest hug of his life. As his arms encircled Malcolm he felt the lieutenant stiffen, and Trip realised that Malcolm probably wouldn't appreciate this show of affection and felt his face flush. He backed away and as he did, Trip saw that Malcolm wasn't as he remembered him. The lieutenant looked about ten years younger, the same age as Trip now was. His dark hair was spiky and Trip was sure that Malcolm would never wear those ripped, tight blue jeans back on 'Enterprise'.

"Hey, Trip." Malcolm seemed a little concerned at the overjoyed welcome he had received. Well, Trip thought, Malcolm *sounded* the same as he did before.

"Well, that's typical," Xander mumbled behind him, "Don't remember the guy you grew up with. But the moment wolfboy appears, it's all 'Hi Malcolm!'" Trip wasn't listening. He was watching Malcolm with a huge smile spread across his face.

"Wait," Buffy said, looking back and forth between the two men. "You remember him?"

"Of course I do!" Trip said, enthusiastically.

Malcolm frowned, "Why shouldn't he remember me? We only saw each other about an hour ago."

"How do you know Malcolm?" Giles asked, still looking uncertain.

Trip sighed and turned to face Giles. "He's the armoury and tactical officer on 'Enterprise', ain't that right?" Trip asked, looking at Malcolm for support.

"I'm what, on what?" Malcolm asked, his frown deepening. "What's going on?"

"No," Xander was saying, shaking his head, "Daniel 'Oz' Osborn is the armoury officer. He and Willow had a thing a little while back," he explained, sounding frustrated.

"Would someone mind telling me what's going on here?" Malcolm asked, he too, was clearly starting to get frustrated and had moved closer to Trip.

"I…" Trip suddenly remembered that he'd been advised to 'play along'. Malcolm must have been brought here by the same man. But why? And why did Malcolm not remember who he really was? Trip quickly decided that it would be better if he did just play along, and hope that the man was true to his word about eventually returning them to 'Enterprise'. "I think I must have been doing magic." He shrugged, "I don't remember anything."

"You knew who I was, though. Well," Malcolm corrected, "What my name was, anyway. What did you mean I'm the Armoury officer?" he asked.

Trip forced a somewhat hollow laugh past his lips. "I thought for a minute there I was a member of the crew on 'Enterprise'."

"Star Trek?" Malcolm questioned.

"Stupid, huh?" Trip asked, hoping he sounded sincere.

"Wait," Buffy said, holding up her hand, "Are you saying that you don't think that anymore?"

"Well," Trip started, taking a deep breath, "I mean, I still feel a little woozy, but…things are becoming clearer. I don't know what came over me…"

"Clearer, how?" Giles asked. He didn't look convinced.

"Um…" Trip thought, he knew he couldn't pretend that he had suddenly been cured. He'd have to make it look like he was slowly getting his memory back, bit by bit. It would be better that way. It meant that he could ask questions without arousing any suspicions. "I know where I am now," he started after a moment, "I remember you all. I can't believe all that stuff I said, you know, about being a Starship crewmember. You must have thought I'd gone nuts!" he tried to laugh again, and was a little more successful.

"We thought that you'd been messing with magic you can't control," Xander corrected, still sounding half annoyed, half worried.

"Magic?" Malcolm turned on Trip, "You said you weren't doing anything dangerous anymore!"

"I did?" Trip asked.

"Don't give me that!" Malcolm said, glaring at Trip.

"He might not remember," Buffy cut in. "He lost his memory."

"I'm getting it back!" Trip answered. "Slowly," he finished with a shrug.

"Trip!" Malcolm seemed more hurt than angry. Trip was beginning to wonder what it was about his apparent use of magic that was so upsetting everyone.

"What?" Trip asked, rubbing the back of his neck.

"You promised that you weren't going to mess with it," Malcolm answered, "When I asked what you were going to do today, you said that you'd be helping research that demon Buffy saw the other night. You lied to me."

"Hey, leave off him," Xander cut in. He turned and glared at Malcolm. "He's having a bad day, he doesn't need you yelling at him."

"Well, excuse me for being concerned!" Malcolm countered.

"Hey, guys!" Buffy called, raising her hand. "Call a truce would you? Trip," she said turning to him, "you look tired. Should I take you home?"

"Umm," Trip said, looking around at everyone. "I think, I mean, could Malcolm maybe take me instead?"

"I'm going your way, anyway," Buffy said.

"Yeah," Trip said, looking at Malcolm. He didn't want to leave the only familiar thing that he had in this strange world. "But I kind of needed to talk with him. You know, about…stuff." Trip cringed at himself. Could have come up with a more lame reason if he'd have tried? To his surprise Buffy, Xander and Giles smiled as if they understood *exactly* why Trip wanted Malcolm to walk him home. Trip was a little unsure of why they did this, but he wasn't about to argue.

"Okay," Buffy conceded. "Just you make sure that you get him home safely," she said to Malcolm.

"I will," Malcolm answered with a smile of his own.

"Want me to come too?" Xander asked, looking concerned.

"No," Trip said quickly. Maybe a little too quickly as everyone in the room seemed to smile knowingly again.

"Okay then," Xander said, "see you guys tomorrow."

"Goodnight," Malcolm said, he gave them all a warm smile before ushering Trip out of the door.

As he followed Malcolm outside, Trip noted that it must be late afternoon. The sun was shining brightly and it lit Malcolm's face. Trip couldn't tare his eyes away from the lieutenant. He looked so…good. Trip had never even seen pictures of Malcolm when he was younger. It was odd how different he looked, and yet at the same time it so was obviously him.

"You okay, Trip?" Malcolm asked.

Trip realised that he must have been staring and blushed. "I'm fine, you just look different, is all."

Malcolm seemed uncomfortable with the statement. "I just haven't been sleeping well, at least not last night."

"Oh!" Trip could have kicked himself. "Sorry. I didn't mean you looked bad, you don't look bad…you look good…different…but good different, you know?" Trip wondered if the ground would open up and swallow him. He'd managed to stop babbling like this around people he liked when was in his twenties. Now it appeared the habit was back with a vengeance.

"I'll have to take your word for it," Malcolm said, but he smiled.

Trip felt his skin heat again and he sighed. Now he remembered why he hated being a teenager.

"Mal," Trip said, he reached a hand out to touch the lieutenant, needing to reassure himself that the other man really was there. This whole thing was so strange. Malcolm looked very different, Trip needed to know that it was really him. "Are you all right?"

Malcolm turned to him sharply. "I'm fine," he answered.

Trip mentally rolled his eyes. Even in an alternate universe Malcolm was difficult. "I mean, you're feeling…" Trip wasn't really sure what he was asking. Everything was so confusing; he had no idea what was going on. He had no idea who the man who'd bought them both here was, or if he'd keep his word about returning them. Trip knew that he wanted the commander to do something, a test maybe, but Trip had no idea what it was. The only thing Trip knew here was Malcolm and the fact that Malcolm didn't seem to notice this was more than a little scary. "You're really okay?"

Malcolm sighed, he seemed annoyed. "I'm fine, Trip," he snapped.

Trip frowned. "I mean," he tried again, "you don't feel…different or anything?" A part of Trip was hoping that Malcolm was 'playing along' like Trip was. That the other man did remember 'Enterprise'. Remembered home.

"No!" Malcolm answered, testily. "I am feeling the same as always." Malcolm looked away from Trip and concentrated on the houses they were walking past.

Trip didn't understand what he'd said to so upset the lieutenant. "Malcolm," Trip started looking at him, he slowly reached out again to draw Malcolm's attention back to him. "You seem so tense." He felt Malcolm stiffen under his hand and the commander quickly dropped it back to his side. "I want to help."

"There's no need," Malcolm backed away a little.

For a second Trip actually thought Malcolm was going to call him 'Sir'. He'd gone very rigid, and was practically standing to attention. Malcolm seemed even more withdrawn, more uptight than Trip had ever seen him. Had the stranger done something to him? Trip sighed, "At ease lieutenant." He said the words softly but Malcolm heard. He visibly slumped.

"I'm sorry," he said, "I guess you can take the boy from the navy, but you can't take the navy from the boy."

Trip was confused for a moment, before he remembered that Malcolm's dad had been in the Navy. Malcolm was still doing the same thing he did on 'Enterprise' when he felt threatened: Hiding behind his military background. The only problem was: Trip still had no clue as to why Malcolm felt that way. Trip was only asking him if was all right.

"Your dad's not here now," Trip reminded him, "I'm not trying to hurt you. I'm just trying to find out if you really are okay or not."

"I am," Malcolm nodded.

"Jesus Malcolm, have you been taking lessons from T'Pol?" Trip asked irritably.

"Who?" Malcolm was looking at Trip, the concern that Trip felt for Malcolm was suddenly mirrored in Malcolm's face.

"It doesn't matter," Trip answered. Trip was worried now. Maybe the stranger had hurt Malcolm in some way. "I just meant that you're allowed to show emotion, no one's going to think any less of you." They'd stopped walking, they seemed to be in a small park. Trip hadn't really been watching where he'd been going.

Malcolm looked Trip in the eye. For a second Trip thought that he'd cracked it. He saw pain and worry, confusion, repressed anger, everything in Malcolm's blue-grey eyes. Then the shutters came down.

"I have to go," he said suddenly.

"What?" Trip asked blinking in confusion.

"Its getting late, Trip, I have to go."

"You're not going anywhere," Trip said angrily. He wasn't about to let Malcolm leave, not before Trip found out what was going on with him.

"Trip, I have to! You know I do!"

"The hell I do!" Trip was all but shouting now.

"Please, Trip," Malcolm's eyes were wide, he kept looking at the sky. The pale blue of it was beginning to turn red with the setting of the sun.

"What's going on?" Trip demanded. "Why won't you talk to me?"

"Can't you see?" Malcolm asked, the volume of his voice easily matched Trip's. "The sun's setting!"


"It's setting and I have to get away before it does. It's a full moon."

"What the hell are you going on about, Malcolm? Stop talking in riddles." He grabbed hold of the lieutenant, trying to get the other man to look at him.

"I'm a werewolf, Trip! You know that! I'm a bloody werewolf! Now let," he wrenched his arm away from Trip, "go of me!" Malcolm stormed away into someone near-by trees, leaving a very shell-shocked Trip standing rooted to the spot.


Trip was breathing hard. Malcolm was a werewolf? But how? Werewolves didn't exist. Expect, Trip groaned, in this universe they did. He seemed to remember there had been one on the show. But Malcolm Reed was not a werewolf! He knew that he wasn't. Not on 'Enterprise'. He blinked a few times, before turning and hurrying after Malcolm. The commander didn't even think about it. He just didn't want to let Malcolm get away. He needed to talk to him. Find out what had happened.

Trip had lost sight of Malcolm but that didn't stop him. He continued to try and follow him anyway. Hoping against hope that he would be able to help in some way when he did find the lieutenant. That Malcolm would let him help. Trip wandered around the small town for what seemed like forever, the sky had grown black and there was still no sign of Malcolm. Trip knew that he was hopelessly lost, but he wasn't really sure what he could do about it.

He was walking along what seemed to be another deserted path, which ran alongside the park when a low growl made Trip stop dead and look at the bush to his right. His heart began to beat a little faster as he stood straining to hear it again, but there was nothing but the low rumble of passing cars in the distance. He got the distinct impression that he was being watched. He turned around to see if there was anyone behind him, but there was no one there. Trip turned to continue along his path, then he gasped as he found his way blocked. A huge shaggy wolf stood before him, growling, baring all of its sharp teeth. Trip stood stock-still.

Without warning, the wolf charged him, leaving him no time to react. It leapt forward and bowled Trip over, luckily for the commander, its own momentum carried it right over Trip and the wolf skidded on the grass, leaving Trip panting on the ground. He scrambled to his feet, but the wolf was already getting ready to attack again. It growled.

"Malcolm?" Trip questioned. He couldn't really explain it, but he knew that the animal was Malcolm.

The wolf growled again. It began to stalk toward him.

"Malcolm?" Trip tried again. Surly it wasn't going to attack him. But from the way the wolf looked at him, Trip realised that it didn't recognise him—or that if it did it didn't care. There was no way he could defend himself. "Malcolm, please…it's me, Trip." Trip's blue eyes locked with wolf's, it paused, its eyes pinned on the commander.

A loud bang made Trip jump violently. There was a whimper of pain followed by a snarl. Trip's eyes flew to where the sound had come from just in time to see Buffy running toward them. She stopped and aimed the gun in her hand.

"Buffy!" Trip called, "No! It's Malcolm!" But she'd already shot for a second time. Malcolm whimpered again and fell to the ground.

Trip gasped for breath—she'd killed Malcolm.

"You killed him!" he yelled as Buffy stopped beside Trip.

"I did not!" she answered. "He's sleeping."

"He's not dead?" Trip asked, his voice trembling.

"No! They're tranquilising darts," Buffy held out the spares she was holding. She frowned, "You know that's what we always use, you've even shot him yourself before now."

"Oh," Trip breathed, "Thank God."

The strangeness of everything that had happened since he'd woken up on Giles' floor seemed to merge together with Trip's overactive hormones. He fought to not burst into tears. Buffy, upon seeing this, pulled him into a tight embrace.

Buffy sighed as Trip pulled back, wiping at his eyes. "You go to bed," she said, "I'll take Malcolm someplace safe."

"I don't want to leave him," Trip said, looking at the sleeping form of the wolf.

"There's nothing you can do," Buffy told him, "Wait until morning."

"I…" Trip couldn't muster the energy to argue. He let out another a sigh as he remembered something. "I don't know how to get back to my room."

Buffy sighed. "I'll take you. Just stay here for a minute while I do something with Malcolm."

Trip tried to gather himself while he waited for Buffy to return. When she did he let her all but carry him back to a room. He just lay down on the bed and stared at the ceiling. He only dimly heard the door shutting.


Trip woke from a very uneasy sleep the next morning when there was a soft knocking at his door. He got out of the bed and walked across the room and pulled it open.

"I came to see if you were okay," Malcolm said, without preamble. He looked tired, sad, and very guilty.

"Malcolm, are you okay?" Trip asked. He reached out to the lieutenant, almost to confirm that he was really there.

Malcolm laughed bitterly. "I'm fine, Trip."

"Are you sure?" Trip's brow was creased in a deep frown.

"Yes! For God's sake, Trip!" Malcolm exploded. He walked a little way into the room and shut the door behind him. "Trip! I nearly killed you last night! Do you not care?"

"But you," Trip said, "I mean: that wasn't your fault."

"Of course it was!" Malcolm shouted back. Then he sighed, clearly trying to gather himself. "It was my fault, and that's why," he drew another breath, "That's why I'm leaving."

"What?" Trip gasped.

"I just wanted to check you weren't hurt before I left," Malcolm explained.

"You can't leave," Trip said. He couldn't bear it if he was left alone in this strange world.

"I don't think I should be around people," Malcolm said.

"Well," Trip said, "I'm not sure that's going to be easy humans are kind of a world-wide plague."

"Then I suppose I'll have to go a very long way away," Malcolm answered resolutely.

"Malcolm," Trip said, "I know you're upset about what happened but—"

"I nearly killed you, Trip!" Malcolm shouted. "I won't risk you getting hurt! I can't."

"Don't I get a say in what happens to me?"

"Not in this," Malcolm answered, looking at the carpet.

"I can help you!" Trip said, becoming desperate. "You shouldn't have to do this alone—I want to help."

"I know," Malcolm answered, "But it's too dangerous."

Trip felt tears prick his eyes. "Stupid hormones," he growled, blinking his tears back.

"I should go," Malcolm said, "if I leave now I'll be far away by the time it gets around to the full moon again." He turned to leave.

"No!" Trip protested. He reached out and took hold of Malcolm's arm. "You can't leave," Trip's heart was beating hard in his chest, "I," he started, "I love you! Please don't leave me."

"I know," Malcolm said softly. He reached out and gently wiped away a lone tear that was making its way down Trip's cheek.

"Don't go. I love you, I can help," Trip tried again.

"No," Malcolm shook his head, resolutely. "It's because of how you feel that I have to go. I know that because you love me you'd put yourself in danger, you'd let me hurt you. So I have to be the one to stop myself. You can't keep covering for me, Trip."

Trip thought for a second. "Okay, then I'll come with you. We can be together. It'll be fine as long as we're together." He looked at Malcolm's face. He knew that his chances of getting back to Enterprise would be diminished if he left, but he couldn't let Malcolm go. He loved him too much.

Malcolm closed his eyes. "No, Trip," he said. "You're not listening to me."

"You don't feel the same?" Trip asked quietly.

Malcolm stepped away from the commander. He folded his arms across his chest and looked at Trip before he spoke. "I don't," Malcolm said. "I don't love you. To be honest I'll be glad when I'm away from you. You've been hanging around me like a sad little puppy for years. It's pathetic, Trip."

"What?" the commander said.

"I didn't want to tell you, but you haven't given me any choice. You bore me. You should just run off to your little friends and leave me be."

"Malcolm," Trip gasped, disbelieving. This couldn't be happening. "Don't."

"Goodbye," he said. Malcolm began to walk from the room.

It was so strange. It seemed Trip had been waiting his whole life to tell Malcolm about his feelings. He thought he had imagined everything the lieutenant might say in return. Trip thought he'd prepared himself for Malcolm's rejection. But the reality of it sent him to his knees, his legs no longer able to support his weight.

He didn't cry, which surprised him. He just felt hollow. He sat listlessly, watching as the door closed.

"Well, well," A voice from Trip's bed said. "Malcolm does like to make a grand exit, doesn't he?"

"Q," Trip said. He remembered everything, but he just couldn't seem to care. He didn't have the energy to get up, let alone be angry. "I've done it, I've told him. Just take me back to my ship."

"You humans are the most infuriating creatures that I've come across," Q didn't appear to be listening to what Trip was saying. "I go to *huge* efforts to make the perfect situation for you to tell him you love him. I even listened to what you thought would make it better. You told me that you needed it to be more like you imagined it, I made it happen. You then said you need a situation where Malcolm didn't *have* to say anything, I did that too. I did everything I could. And you were no help at all." He shook his head mournfully at Trip. "And what happens when I," Q put a hand to his chest, "come up with a stroke of genius that lets you tell him? Let's you pour out your little human heart in *exactly the way you want to*? Hmm?"

"He rejected me," Trip answered limply.

"He plays the martyr!" Q exclaimed.

"What?" Trip looked up from the small hole in his jeans.

"He's just cut his nose off to spite his face. He was so worried about what he might do, what he might become by the next full moon, that he pushed you away. For a moment there I thought the pain he was in was going to kill him. Humans are much more fragile than they seem to believe. Why they insist on making everything so difficult I'll never know."

"You mean he didn't mean all those things he said?" Trip asked, finding an energy, a hope he hadn't been aware of. He stood up and looked at Q.

Q turned to look back at him. He seemed to have only just spotted that Trip was there.

"Well of course not!" Q said, sounding as if it were obvious.

Trip felt his face spilt into a smile despite the situation. "Malcolm feels the same way?"

"What?" Q glared at Trip irritably, "Yes, yes, of course he does!

"I don't understand," Trip said.

"Of course you don't!" Q shook his head before saying, "But I give up! If you don't want help when it's offered, then fine. I'm past caring, you can just muddle through on your own."


Q snapped his fingers. Trip gasped. He felt cold envelop him, followed by darkness.

Q stood watching the two unconscious figures on the shuttle pod floor.

"I'll never understand," he muttered again. He was about to leave when he looked back at Trip. He sighed and knelt down and placed a hand on each man's chest. A warm light spread out from his hands into the two freezing men's bodies. He stood, looked about, clapped his hands to add a little more oxygen, and was gone.


Trip entered the mess hall after completing his second shift (once he'd been pronounced fit by the doctor). He did a quick search of the room, located the person he was looking for and headed over to get something to drink.

"Mind if I join you?" Trip asked Malcolm when he had a cup of strong coffee.

"Be my guest," the other man motioned to a spare seat, which Trip then filled.

As the commander began to drink he watched Malcolm out of the corner of his eye. When he brought the mug to his mouth for the third time a frown marred his features. "Malcolm, what are you doing?"

"Hmmm?" the other man didn't stop his actions and didn't even really look over at Trip.

"With the sugar cubes."

"I'm conducting an experiment," Malcolm answered as he picked up another cube.

"Really? Is that what you're doing? Cause it looks to me like you're building a tower."

"I am," was the simple answer.

"Oh," Trip shook his head, grinning, and then continued to drink his coffee for a moment. "Where'd ya even get sugar cubes from? I didn't think we had any."

Malcolm half laughed at this. "Well, Chef has everything, I always have them in my tea, or at least I did back home. I asked if he had any and he gave me some."

"So, it's only us uncouth yanks that get the packet stuff?" Trip asked with a grin, which the younger man mirrored.

"You said it." Malcolm glared at the commander as Trip reached over the table and snagged the top cube and popped it into his mouth. At that moment the doors opened and Jonathan Archer strolled through them. He spotted the two men and walked over.

"Hello there," he greeted as he drew up to the table.

"Hello, Captain," Reed answered, looking up from his tower and smiling broadly. Jon grinned back at him. Something stirred within Trip that he couldn't explain. It was like a remembered emotion. Jealousy. Suddenly Trip wanted the captain to leave, to go far, far away from Malcolm.

"Trip," Jon smiled at the commander.

"Can we help you?" Trip asked pointedly.

Archer blinked at the engineer's tone, "Am I interrupting something here?"

"Of course not," Malcolm answered truthfully, while at the same time Trip said:

"Actually yeah, you are," slightly less truthfully.

"Right," Jon said, slowly, looking form one of the men to the other. "I'll leave you to it, then." He looked with confusion at the sugar cube tower, the building of which was really the only thing that he was interrupting. He slowly began to walk away, his confusion still clear. As Trip watched the other man depart he had a sudden flash. Malcolm and Jon caught in a very passionate embrace, while Trip stood by watching. It caused an actual physical pain for a moment.

"What was all that about?" Malcolm asked. "Have you and the captain had a falling out?"

"Not that I remember," Trip answered honestly, then added, "I think I musta had a dream about the two of you."

"Really?" the armoury officer raised an eyebrow and stopped playing with the sugar to look at Trip more closely, "What were we doing?"

"You…" Trip stopped, shook his head slightly and said, "Nothin'. It don't matter."

Malcolm watched the other man for a second, with an eyebrow raised, seeming unconvinced, before shrugging and carrying on with the tower.

"So," Trip started in an effort of change the subject, "how ya doing now you're back on duty?"

"Fine," came the automatic response. Trip sighed and looked intently at Malcolm until he began to speak again. "Well, I don't suppose I'll ever be properly warm again. But I'm fine." After looking at the unconvinced face of the commander, Malcolm finished with: "Really, I am."

"Okay then," Trip conceded.

"And you?" Blue-grey eyes flicked up from the tower and met Trip's. The commander was struck at how much concern and affection he saw there and it took him a moment to answer.

"Yeah, the same."

The armoury officer smiled and nodded before turning his attention back to the sugar into front of him. Malcolm picked up the final cube and slid it on the table until it was just in front of the tower. With a sharp flick of his finger Malcolm propelled the last cube into the tower, which wobbled and then toppled over. Trip smirked, and after taking in the delighted face of the man opposite him, he began to laugh out loud.

"What?" The Brit asked although he chuckled as he did so.

"God, Mal, that is just so you. Spendin' so long buildin' something, just so you can knock it down," Trip continued to laugh, and then locked eyes with his friend. Still smiling warmly he said, "I love you." He laughed again, this time at himself, "It feels like I've been waiting to tell you that for years."

Malcolm smiled happily back before answering. "What took you so long?"

"I don't know," Trip said, shaking his head; he suspected that his huge smile might now be a permanent fixture on his face. "I just don't know."

"Shall we leave?" Malcolm asked after a second of staring at Trip. The commander grinned even wider and stood up from the table.

"Let's get outta here."

As the two men walked out into the corridor Trip suddenly had another flash as he passed a crewman to their left, working on replacing a power relay. The commander looked back at him, frowning.

"Something wrong?" Malcolm asked at his side.

"I feel like I've seen him somewhere before," Trip said slowly, turning back around to continue his path to the lift. His answer got a laugh out of Malcolm.

"Well, I'd hope so, we've been out here for nearly ten months now and there are only about eighty-two people on the ship."

"Yeah, I guess," Trip answered, before something else occurred to him—another odd feeling. As they walked into the lift he turned to the shorter man, "You don't got any strange urges to eat me, do you?"

Malcolm smiled, almost wolf-like. The temperature in the small lift seemed to rise a degree or two. "Well," he answered, his voice silky, seductive, "That would all depend on what you meant by *eat*, Commander…"

Trip grinned and leant down slightly before brushing his lips over Malcolm's. In that moment he felt complete. When he drew back he laughed and looked at Malcolm who still had his eyes closed. Malcolm smiled faintly and made a satisfied noise in the back of his throat that made Trip long to hear it again. Trip reached his arms around Malcolm and brought him close, looking into the lieutenant's now open eyes. They stayed like that for a moment before Malcolm tilted his head and closed the gap between them. Heaven, Trip thought, heaven.


A lone figure sat on the other side of the mess hall, his feet up on the table in front of him. He was frowning and watching the only other occupants of the room. He smiled slightly at the exchange between the two men and the captain, his eyes followed the captain as he left the room again, seeming to have forgotten all about getting something to eat. Then he focused on the two men while they laughed and his frown reappeared and deepened as they quickly left the room, all smiles and laughter. There was a pause; a faint popping sound and a flash of light, and the room was empty.

Q stopped work on the power relay after Trip and Malcolm had gone by. He watched them as they waited for the lift, he stared as they got onto it. Trip bent down to claim the Malcolm's lips an almost chaste kiss. It was a kiss filled with love and promises for the future. Then the doors shut.

Q shook his head. "I'll never understand humans," he muttered. There was a final flash of light, and he was gone.

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