Deciding Factors

By JadziaKathryn

Rating: PG

Genres: challenge

Keywords: E2

This story has been read by 1183 people.
This story has been read 2157 times.


Summary: As if he doesn't have enough to deal with, Malcolm has Trip badgering him. E2- verse.

Disclaimer: Paramount owns all, no profit made from this story.

A/N: Some time ago there was a ficathon for which I got Distracted's prompt about why Malcolm was single in the E2- verse. My first attempt was less than inspiring, and this stems from that.


1830 hours

It had been two days since Trip and Hoshi presented their morale-improving idea to Captain Archer, and in those two days Malcolm had no peace. As if being thrown back in time hadn't already given him enough work for two men, he now had Trip badgering him.


*** Two Days Earlier ***

"Anything else?" asked the captain after T'Pol finished detailing the latest scans on long-range sensors.

"Hoshi an' I had an idea. Since morale's been pretty low, we thought we could have a bachelor party for Ensign Jamison and a bachelorette party for Crewman Lanscot." Malcolm knew instantly that Trip had already discussed this with T'Pol because she didn't look surprised or confused. Somehow he didn't think bachelor parties were in the Vulcan database, although one could never be certain.

"Bachelor and bachelorette parties, hmm?" Archer's brow furrowed in consideration.

"But without the, y'know," added Trip.

"Without what?" prompted Archer.

Suddenly Trip was fascinated by his padd. "Umm, well, these things traditionally have certain..."

Hoshi cut Trip off and got straight to the point. "Without the strippers, obviously. If we do them a day apart, everyone who wants to can attend. We'll be happy to organize them. I know Liz Cutler would love to help with Crewman Lanscot's."

Archer nodded. "Sounds good. Jamison is in Security, right?"

"Yes, sir," replied Malcolm automatically, a move which in hindsight was perhaps a mistake.

"Why don't you help Trip if you've got time, Malcolm? Alright, meeting dismissed."

Having no other obvious recourse, Malcolm fled to the Armory.


*** The Present ***

Malcolm had spent the last two days coming up with every excuse he could think of to avoid helping. Trip wanted the party in ten days, so Malcolm figured that if he could keep busy for another day or two, Trip would simply have to find another helper.

He had taken over the last half of Ensign Li's shift after overhearing her mention a slight headache. When the forward cannons dropped to 99.34% efficiency, he personally completed a complete diagnostic which, unfortunately, had shown an easily fixable problem. When that was done, he inspected every phase rifle and phase pistol on Enterprise. He had even convinced Dr. Phlox to spend a bit of time practicing some basic self-defense moves. All of this was very useful and necessary.

Trip, however, disagreed. "C'mon, Malcolm, you can match up sparrin' partners later!"

"And delay important defense practice? I think not, Commander."

Trip rolled his eyes. "It's not gonna take all night to match up sparrin' partners."

It could if he carefully selected the partners based on their last review, height, and weight as well as who they had sparred with in the past. "You'd be surprised."

"You could at least tell me what this is all about."

"I've told you already. I'm very busy ensuring that Enterprise lasts for over one hundred years, a purpose for which it was not designed."

"For cryin' out loud, I know what the ship was designed for! I helped design it!"

"Then you of all people should appreciate the complications arising from defense. Not only do we have to protect our ship, we have to do it with the least possible risk to equipment and personnel. It's a time-consuming endeavor."

He thought he'd put enough finality into his voice, but Trip was unmoved. "Time is one thing we happen to have a lot of."

"You never know," he replied before turning back to his padd.

Trip stalked out of the Armory. Malcolm wondered if he could get the captain to approve a lock for his tiny office that the chief engineer didn't need the override code for. Probably not.


2245 hours

He waited half an hour after finishing the practice roster before returning to his quarters. By then it was a reasonable time to go to bed, and after his bridge shift the next day he was meeting with Phlox, the torpedo tubes could use a thorough inspection, and there was always the possibility of an impromptu drill.

After changing into sweatpants and a t-shirt, he realized that he wasn't actually tired enough to go to sleep yet, so he walked over to his bookshelf and pulled out the copy of Four Shakespearean Tragedies that Maddie had given him for a graduation present. Halfway back to the bed, his door chime went off.

It was probably Trip, so Malcolm considered the ethics of pretending to be asleep. That train of thought was ruined when he heard his friend say, "I know you're in there, Malcolm, an' you're not asleep either, so open up."

This was getting absurd. He jammed the door release and glared at Trip, who added insult to injury because he was wearing one of those hideous Hawaiian shirts. "Can't this wait?"

"Nope," replied Trip, who proceeded to walk in without bothering to wait for an invitation. "I didn't go through the trouble of havin' the computer tell me when you came back to wait 'till tomorrow, when you'll have another excuse handy." He sat down backwards on the desk chair and looked expectantly at Malcolm.

"I happen to have a great deal of responsibilities right now," huffed Malcolm, crossing his arms.

"Yeah, but you've been avoidin' this bachelor party an' me. I wanna know why."

Since denial wasn't working, it was clearly time to try another tactic. Malcolm didn't sit down, just to convey his displeasure. "It's really none of your business."

"You're avoidin' me an' it's none of my business? That's a good one, Malcolm."

"I'm not avoiding you. I'm avoiding this bachelor party."

"Well," said Trip as he folded his arms over the back of the chair, "now we're gettin' somewhere."

"I don't know about you, but I plan on getting to bed. So if you'll excuse me, I'll go back to that."

Trip looked pointedly at the book still in his hands. "You're not goin' to bed. You're goin' to read."

The man was infuriating! "In bed."

"Riiight. Well, I'm not leavin' 'till you tell me what's wrong, so you might as well get it over with."

"You can't do that!"

"Sure I can."

"That's harassment. It's against at least six regulations."

Trip just rolled his eyes. "Malcolm, Starfleet hasn't even been formed yet. I think regulations have gone out the window. Besides, then everyone will wanna know what was goin' on."

Damn it, he had a point. "Fine. Stay all bloody night. But I'm turning the light off after two scenes of MacBeth." He reclined against his pillow, half-seated and half-lying down.

"S'okay, I can talk in the dark."

Despite Trip's talk of regulations going out the window, it went against everything Malcolm believed in to throw a hardcover book at a senior officer. He was, however, sorely tempted. "We. Are. Not. Talking. About. This." To emphasize the point, he opened Four Shakespearean Tragedies.

"True. Right now we're talkin' about talkin' about it. But we'll get there eventually. Or we could talk about somethin' else instead. Oh!" Trip smiled and sat up straighter, which Malcolm observed out of the corner of his eye. "T'Pol an' I are workin' things out really well. It's crazy an' logical at the same time. Kinda hard to explain, but it just works."

"Congratulations."

"So, will you be my best man?"

That was enough surprise to pull Malcolm's eyes from the pages he was only pretending to read. "What?"

"Will you be my best man, when we get married? I haven't asked her yet, but I will."

"What about the captain?"

"He'll be perfomin' the ceremony. Besides..." Trip trailed off for a moment before shaking his head ever so slightly. "So, will you?"

"I'd be honored." And, despite his irritation, he really meant it.

"Great! Now we've just gotta get you a bride too!"

That was precisely what Malcolm had been trying to avoid for the past two days. He slammed his book shut. "Please leave," he growled through clenched teeth.

"What'd I say?" Trip looked genuinely confused as he stood up but didn't move towards the door.

"Now, Commander."

"What's wrong, Malcolm?"

"You are!" he snapped back a bit more forcefully than he intended.

"Yeah, I'm getting that message loud an' clear. But why?"

"It's almost 2300 hours. I've had a very long day and have another one ahead of me. I would like to get a decent night's sleep, but I can't because you're in my quarters badgering me about a bachelor party!"

Trip still didn't leave, but as he looked contemplative he was at least quiet. Malcolm tried to slow the beating of his heart, breathing in deeply and once again opening Four Shakespearean Tragedies. He got as far as "When the hurlyburly's done/ When the battle's lost and won" before Trip was once again compelled to open his mouth.

"Malcolm."

When no response was forthcoming, he tried again. "Malcolm, will you look at me?"

He had no intentions of doing that and tried to block out Trip's presence and focus on the Three Witches.

"Malcolm, are you gay?"

That got his attention. "What?" he sputtered, tossing aside the book and standing up angrily.

"'Cause you know you can tell me if you are."

"That's it! Bad enough that you haven't left me alone for two days, that you invited yourself into my quarters and ignored my repeated requests for you to leave, but now you think that my attempt at privacy gives you the right to assume whatever suits your fancy? Get out!"

Instead of leaving like any rational person would have done, Trip cocked his head and calmly stated, "Well, you don't wanna date any of the women on board an' you're obviously uncomfortable with a bachelor party."

Malcolm crossed his arms and gave Trip his most withering glare. His friend only shrugged. "Well, it's not like you've offered a better explanation."

"Can't you get it in that thick head of yours that I don't want to offer any explanation? I recall signing a lot of papers for Starfleet, but not a single one of them included telling the Chief Engineer everything he wants to know about my personal life!" He was never going to sleep now. On the plus side, the punching bags were likely to be free and he could practice on two at once.

"What about tellin' your friend?" asked Trip.

"What about letting your friend have a little privacy? Have I not made myself clear enough? I don't want you to set me up with anyone. I don't want to help you plan a bachelor party. I'm not going to attend the bachelor party. In fact, I'm going to stay in the Armory so the rest of the staff can go to the wedding. I am not gay. And I want you to leave me alone!"

Trip just shook his head. "I don't get you, Malcolm."

"Lovely. Now that we've established that, please go away."

"So what's your great plan? Spend the rest of your life holed up in the Armory?"

"No. I still have bridge shifts. Goodnight, Commander."

"You never wanna fall in love? Have kids? Maybe, if we're lucky, see your grandkids?"

In trying to avoid Trip and his incessant questions, Malcolm had eaten a very early breakfast, skipped lunch, and had a cup of tea for dinner. Maybe it was the irritation. Maybe it was the lack of food. Maybe it was the stress of the last four months. Most likely, it was a combination of all three. In any case, Malcolm Reed had finally had enough.

"Of course I want those things! But I can't have them, so I'd appreciate it if you'd keep your nose out of my business and let me live my life as I see fit. Did it ever occur to you that you might have to watch T'Pol die? Choose between her life and the lives of others? Could you make that choice?"

"Yeah, I have," Trip replied softly. "T'Pol would make me choose the welfare of the ship. I've thought about that, but decided it's worth it. Better than not livin' at all."

Malcolm inhaled and tried to regain his composure. "Well, that's your decision. I've made mine."

"Why?"

"Because, in the end, there's no decision to make. I'm the Security Officer. The only one as likely to end up dead is Major Hayes. It's not fair to ask anyone to live with that." He refused to go further, refused to confess that he didn't trust himself enough to fall in love with a crewmate. "Now, I would very much appreciate it if you left."

At last, Trip walked towards the door. Before it opened, he pivoted back to look at Malcolm. "But you could..." He trailed off when Malcolm shook his head. "I'm sorry," he said, and Malcolm knew it was for more than being such a bloody nuisance. He nodded in response and let his last, best chance to talk him out of this course of action walk out the door.

He counted to thirty, grabbed a towel, and headed for the punching bags.


0420 hours

He couldn't see her face, but he knew he loved her. She was lying there on alien soil, life bleeding out of her onto the blue grass. Several meters away a Klingon with an enormous knife advanced towards Captain Archer. He tried to yell, but his voice wouldn't work. He looked at her, blood gushing over the wedding band she wore. He looked at Captain Archer, fighting off a Xindi-Reptilian but unaware of the Klingon behind him. To his right a Suliban was sneaking towards the empty shuttlepod. And Malcolm Reed stood, unable to move, unable to make a choice until it was too late. He ran forward and covered her wound, but she was lost forever. Suddenly he realized she was pregnant. Overhead, Shuttlepod One lifted off with the Suliban at the helm, and he heard a strangled death cry from Archer.

"Malcolm!" came Hoshi's voice from nowhere. "What have you done?"

He shot up out of bed, gasping. "Damn you, Trip Tucker."

Then he lay back down, closed his eyes, and tried very hard to push all thoughts from his mind but sleep. When that didn't work, he considered the surprise drill he'd thought of earlier. Perhaps a boarding party. Yes, that would be good preparation. Maybe after this he could finally keep Dr. Phlox to keep a phase rifle in Sickbay. It would be wise to install a weapons locker in the Mess Hall as well. It wouldn't do to have a third of the crew surprised during mealtime and ambushed without a single weapon to defend themselves. Chef needed target practice, too, and he should strategize with Hayes in regards to away missions. Then there was the matter of convincing Captain Archer to stop going on potentially dangerous away missions...

Malcolm slept.

 

 


Comments:

Distracted

Very well-done and very in character.  It's typical that Malcolm is the one who feels so responsible for the safety of everyone on the ship that he dares not divide his attention by falling in love while Archer, supposedly the one who IS responsible for the safety of everyone on the ship, ends up married. Malcolm's vocation is to preserve everyone's safety and he doesn't want to divide his loyalties or risk the distraction of a wife.  Priests avoid marriage for the same reason.

Mary

Poor Malcolm too afraid og failing hid duty to allow himself personal happiness. A stilted upbringing and over developed sence of responsibilty stopping him from reaching out to people. It's obvious that onlt Trip's over exuberant persistance allowed their friendship to form but unless a female crew takes the ssame tack, Malcolm will remain distant and alone. Too bad because he really is quite delicious

Silverbullet

Malcom, he is his own worst enemy.  I liked this story a lot.  But I was hoping that Malcom would at last realize that no matter what, things happen so he might as well grab a little happiness for himself.

Trip is a true friend because he is able to talk to  Malcom like a brother telling him some hard truths but inviting Malcom to unbend and give life a chance.

 

 

Hummingbird2

This is excellent! If you posted this on ff.net or W5C, I would add it to my favorites.

bluetiger

Poor Malcolm, how sad for him not to take a little happiness for himself. Not committing to a person doesn't mean he will feel their loss any less.

It does however feel true to Malcolm's character.

 

Dinah

I really liked this story.  It's a reasonable explanation for Malcolm's failure to marry in the E2 universe.  Even though Trip's conversation with Malcolm was rather adversarial, their friendship shines through.  It's obvious these two men are great friends and really care about each other's welfare.  Trip is happy, so he wants Malcolm to be happy, too.  It's sad that Malcolm couldn't put duty aside long enough to have a family.  It must have been very difficult for him to see Hoshi marry someone else.  Great job!

WarpGirl

WOW I think this was bloody brilliant! I've missed you.  

Alelou

You do a nice Malcolm -- you capture all that intense security paranoia and high-strung sense of duty, and you manage to keep it (just barely) sane.  And I could also see Trip resorting to a question like that just to provoke his friend into the truth.

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