The Eighty-Second

By E.M. Theis

Rating: PG

Genres: drama missing scene

Keywords:

This story has been read by 936 people.
This story has been read 1407 times.


Rating: PG (mild language)

Genre: Drama

Disclaimer: The characters, plot, and places of Star Trek: Enterprise are the property of CBS and Paramount. No profit was made from this story, and no infringement was intended. This work was produced solely for entertainment.

Summary: Having been rescued from Shuttlepod One, Malcolm is released from sickbay only to find that Trip has left him a gift. But the gift is more a dilemma than a comfort, and Malcolm sets out to solve the mystery and figure out who Trip Tucker really is.

Mission Date: November 12, 2151

 


The doctor hadn’t released Trip. The Commander was lying in sickbay, no doubt, resting. Feverish. Asleep. And Malcolm was in his quarters, even though he was the one who was prone to sickness. He’d been surprised that Trip had been so adversely affected by their bout with hypothermia. In sickbay, he’d attempted to stay awake for as long as possible just to ensure that Trip was only sleeping. But Tucker hadn’t woken while he’d been there, and he had only Phlox’s assurance that Trip was recovering. Somehow, that was not as much comfort as it should have been.

He sighed and leaned back in his small chair. His quarters were snug and silent, and he felt the solitude acutely. But, even though Trip was two decks away from him – a distance, which, he amended, did not account for the fact that his quarters were also located on the port side of the ship – it seemed the Commander was with him, and, in a way, he was.

He stared at his computer monitor, and Trip stared back at him. Not his face, no, but the picture was clear enough in every word. Letters that should have been little more than marks upon a static file were somehow alive. Trip was by no means an author, and he doubted that the documents would garner praise in any of the literary circles. But, all the same, the words made his heart ache.

Trip had written letters. Eighty-two letters.

He didn’t know how or when Trip had done it. But the evidence was staring him straight in the face. One letter for every member of the crew. One letter for each family. They were short, granted, but personal, as though Trip had intimately known every man and woman on the ship. How that could be possible, he didn’t know. They’d been together for less than a year – seven months perhaps – and he found that he still lost track of names and faces.

And, yet, here. Eighty-two letters for eighty-two mothers or fathers or uncles or wives or husbands. For children or grandparents or spouses-to-be. Trip knew everyone, it seemed, knew who to write and what to say. He knew names and places. He somehow remembered what was important to everyone; he remembered what was loved and cherished. He remembered the little things: the way a person smiled or laughed, pets, friends, who was shy and who wasn’t. There seemed to be no end to the depth and breadth of his knowledge.

The letter for the wife of Crewman Lewis from exobiology was no less detailed than the letter for the parents of Lieutenant Hess from engineering.

And the ugly sentences with sometimes-questionable grammar were beautiful.

He leaned back in his chair and swallowed the sudden tightness in his throat. There were too many questions, and he had no chance of answering them. He supposed he could ask, but it seemed like something that couldn’t be answered in words – something that could be answered by action alone. It was simply a matter of understanding the action.

Firstly, there was the question of when. It would have taken hours to write so much to so many people. He had read through a number of them carefully, looking into something personal against his better judgment, and he’d found that there was a form to them. The personal recollections followed a generic and comforting address. The closing words were kind and warm-hearted, and the repetition he’d found throughout the letters did nothing to hamper the genuine sympathy conveyed by the words.

They were, every line, Trip Tucker.

He decided that Trip had typed them or written them by hand with a stylus and a personal display device. While he admitted to his drunkenness, he doubted very much that he would have missed such a vast amount of oral dictation. So. While he had slept. Or after the cold and exhaustion had dragged him into unconsciousness. The former was more likely. But then the timing was an issue. After all, Trip had said his plans were to speak with the families of the Enterprise crew in person. Was Trip a liar?

Or did Trip simply say what one needed to hear?

Did that imply that people needed to hear lies?

He shook his head. He was getting ahead of himself. The first problem was chronology alone. The solution to the first problem could be derived, he believed, from the existence of the second problem.

The second problem was, of course, that there was no letter for his family; Trip had addressed it to him. And that was why he had the entire data disk worth of information. Hoshi Sato had pulled it from the shuttlepod’s databanks, and she’d given him the disk when she’d noticed that Trip had addressed the bundle of letters to him. She hadn’t read them. But he did.

The fact that the cover letter had been addressed to him led him to believe that Trip had intended to ensure he lived, no matter what the cost. The airlock moment hadn’t been a momentary lapse of reason. It had been premeditated.

There was another fact that verified that. Phlox had told him that Trip had covered him with just about every insulating material in the shuttle. So, while he had lain unconscious warmed a bit by the layers of blankets, Trip had sat in the pilot seat, freezing to death. It was no wonder, really, that the Commander was still in sickbay.

He drummed his fingers against his desk and pursed his lips in thought. Trip wanted him to live – expected him to live. He couldn’t have foreseen that Enterprise had not been destroyed. And there had been no way of knowing that they would have been rescued in such a way so that the survival of both of them would be unlikely.

So. Trip had written his letter last. Now. What did that mean?

It went back to premeditation, of course. Trip had been planning to jump into that damn airlock. But Trip could have after he had lost consciousness. No one would have stopped the fool. Problem Two-B.Thank you for the conversation. Thank you for the last sip of bourbon. Thank you for not shooting me.

He frowned suddenly, leaning forward. “Goddamn it, Trip,” he murmured, pressing a button to call up the text of the letter again. “You did write this last.”

Problem One – solved. Problem Two-B… still one hell of a problem.

The inclusion of the proposed shooting meant that Trip had, indeed, written the letter after all was said and done. So why in the world hadn’t Trip jumped back into that airlock? He’d been unconscious; it wouldn’t have made much of a bloody difference if he’d been alone. If he’d died, his last memories would have been what they were now: sitting with Trip in a weary silence.

Maybe Trip hadn’t had the energy. Maybe Trip hadn’t been able to coax his frozen fingers into opening that damn door.

Maybe Trip never went back on a promise. Even an unspoken one.

So. Problem Two-B – not quite solved. Which led him to Problem Two-C: why write the letter at all, then?

He groaned and shook his head. This was far too confusing and too complicated. He felt like Sherlock Holmes, only he lacked the evidence, and the intelligence, and the clever sidekick. Nothing about Trip Tucker was elementary. In fact, he was beginning to think that there wasn’t a social science course advanced enough to even allude to Trip’s never-ending supply of conflicting statements, jokes, and actions.

The man was all angles. He scattered sensor signals better that way. Throw Trip out into space, and he was pretty damn sure that the targeting scanners would never get an accurate lock. Maybe he could somehow use that to better their equipment.

But he’d probably wasted his only chance to shoot the bugger. That was a shame. He felt ready to shoot Trip now only he didn’t think Phlox would much appreciate it if he ran into sickbay with guns blazing. At least the damage would be contained.

He pushed aside his thoughts and Problem Two-C for the moment. He felt in his gut that that problem was related to the third issue anyway. Perhaps, thinking about Problem Three would be enlightening in some way.

Trip had written only eighty-two letters. The crew complement was eighty-three.

He’d checked it twice, of course. And then he’d checked it again just to be certain. But the answer had been the same every time. Trip had written a letter for everyone’s family or friends except for two. There was the anomalous letter to him. And then the missing letter, which should have been addressed to one of two groups of people: Trip’s parents or his parents. And he had no idea why that letter hadn’t been written.

Trip hadn’t said anything about it, and he read the eighty-second letter just to be sure:

Malcolm,

I didn’t mean to interrupt, but you could have been quieter. At least, I got the last drink of bourbon. Now you know how time flies when you’re dying.
And I wouldn’t have minded dying with you.
I’ll have to thank you for not shooting me. The uncomfortable silence of our last moments together was well worth it, though I wish you talked more often. We could talk all day. You don’t give yourself enough credit. I’d listen to you.
And I’ll make sure you’re around the next time I have something to say.

Sincerely,
Commander Charles Tucker III

No. Nothing.

No mention of letters. There wasn’t even a direct mention of their eminent death, unless one interpreted “last moments together” coupled with the past tense to mean Trip had expected to die. Then again, the previous statement totally contradicted that.

“Damn it, Trip,” he said laughingly. “It’s too hard to put a puzzle together when the picture keeps changing.”

Maybe there was something deeper hidden in the words, some code that would make sense as soon as he found the key. Literary codes. He wouldn’t have expected that from Trip “Keep yer shirt on, Loo-tenant” Tucker. But he had learned in the past two days that it was better not to assume anything about Trip. Because Trip did have a penchant for making an ass out of people – and out of himself, too.

So. What did that give him? An allusion? A metaphor? There was one thing he could check, though he didn’t know what he expected to find. Still, he brought up the powerful search engine for Enterprise’s database and typed in “something to say”.

The computer churned for long seconds before a window opened with his results. All one-thousand two-hundred thirty-three of them. He stared at the monitor. Songs, poems, literature… Speeches, quotes… Titles of paintings and pictures, historical documents. The material seemed endless.

Wise men speak when they have something to say, he thought suddenly. His lips twitched with a smile as he remembered the proverb. Fools speak because they have to say something.

Did that help? No, not in the slightest. Did Trip know Plato? He had no idea. Did it matter? Probably not.

Plato was too obvious. There was another message in this. But what was it? He didn’t really have the time to look through all the entries. Even if he did, he couldn’t make any informed decisions about how to narrow the results. It would all be guesswork. And that was not in the least bit comforting. If he was going to solve the mystery, he might as well do it correctly.

His smile turned to a frown, and he realized something strange. Trip had written the letter last. Trip had written the letter to Malcolm last. Problem Two was becoming monstrous. If Trip had written that letter last, then he had continued writing letters after the last of the bourbon. Why would he do that?

They had known that Enterprise hadn’t been destroyed. The only two people who would have needed a letter sent home to their parents had been the only two people for which Trip hadn’t written a bloody letter. What the hell did that mean? Was this some sort of joke? A prank, a little shenanigan? Was Trip going to laugh at him in the mess hall or in the corridors or the next time they randomly met?

He decided that Trip liked to tease, but he wasn’t mean. But Trip was also calculating. He was one of those master manipulators – the kind so skillful that one didn’t even know he’d been manipulated until well after the fact. How easily had Trip pulled information out of him? Trip should have been the detective. He had no doubt the engineer had missed his calling. He was the perfect “good cop”.

He needed more data. He had two options. Continue reading personal letters or do a little research out in the field. The former didn’t really sit well with him. After all, the letters weren’t really addressed to him, and he felt somewhat guilty that he had read the handful he did. So he decided not to read any further. Abusing his powers as the Chief of Security seemed a little more fun.

He rose from his desk, tugging his shirt to straighten the wrinkles before he started walking toward the door. He left his room without another thought, turning left and starting down the corridor. Trip’s quarters weren’t far from his, but he used the short walk to think. He couldn’t help but wonder what the letter to his parents would have said, and he tried to imagine it. The first paragraphs were easy. He could practically hear Trip in his head, reading it.

By the time you read this, many years may have passed since you were informed about the loss of your son. I apologize if this letter reminds you of your grief, but I hope that it will help you fondly recall him and also answer some questions that may remain.
Enterprise was destroyed in an asteroid field, leaving only one survivor other than myself, as we were using one of the small shuttlecrafts to work on a project. We were unable to determine the cause of the explosion, though we did all we could to attempt to understand the situation before dwindling supplies forced us to look for aid.

He giggled softly and then cleared his throat when he realized belatedly that he was in public, chortling at his own thoughts. Somewhere along the line, Trip had learned to write a letter of condolence. He wondered when that had happened, why that had happened. Distant, formal, just a little comforting. But it was no wonder that he could hear Trip saying the words. They didn’t quite apply to his situation. He’d lifted them straight from Trip’s letters. But he couldn’t think of what Trip would have said about him, how Trip would have described their situation.

Heck, he couldn’t even hear Trip derailing his cynicism.

He arrived outside Trip’s quarters, still mulling over the problem of what Trip would have written to his parents. He was probably being too forward, too arrogant. It was likely that Trip would have had very little to say about him anyway. He didn’t know much about the Commander. Why would the Commander know all that much about him?

He shook his head and frowned, heard Trip’s irritated tone echo from his memory. “Was Malcolm always this cynical?”

“You bet your ass I was,” he muttered darkly.

“Sir?”

He nearly jumped at the voice that broke into his thoughts, and he turned to see another one of the ship’s officers leaving his quarters. Ensign Hart looked a little uncertain, and he realized that he had spoken out loud – and that he was standing outside Trip’s door when everyone on the ship knew damn well that Tucker was still in sickbay.

“Nothing,” he said finally. “Carry on.”

Hart glanced at him strangely but he didn’t argue. He merely muttered, “Aye, Lieutenant.” Then Hart started down the corridor, though his destination was unknown. It didn’t matter, as long as Hart left his line of sight.

When the ensign was gone, he glanced both ways to make sure no one was in the hall. Then he leaned forward and quickly entered the security code that could override the door to anyone’s quarters on the whole ship – even the captain’s. It was supposed to be used in times of emergency. He figured this was close enough.

He pushed his thumb against the scanner so the lock could verify his identity. Then the door opened with a soft hiss. It was fortunate that doors didn’t care about motives. He looked again to ensure that no one was watching him, and then he stepped inside.

The door closed behind him.

Trip’s quarters weren’t really what he expected from the man. For one, they were immaculate. There wasn’t one thing out of place in the whole room. Even the PADDs were lined up on his desk with a perfect precision. The bed was carefully made, and he hadn’t seen such flawless corners since he’d seen his father dress a bed. The display put his own quarters to shame. It wasn’t something he expected from Trip, the man who had spent the last three days leaving tools and components haphazardly strewn around a shuttlepod. Where was the mess?

He frowned and stepped farther into the room, thumbing a button that would bring up the lights. It smelled nice, too. A little bit like mint and a little bit like engine coolant, regardless of how silly that seemed. He’d most certainly never paid close enough attention to see if Trip smelled like mint. He wondered what the hell made Trip’s room smell that way.

Still, he was on a mission. No time for sniffing around – in that way, anyway. He snickered at his own terrible pun. He should have been sleeping. He was getting a little nutty.

He started at the desk, though he immediately encountered a slight issue. He had no idea what he was looking for. So, he decided that he would just… look. Trip wouldn’t mind. The guy would answer anything like his life was some sort of open book, begging to be read. And he wasn’t going to snoop. Just look. If it wasn’t in plain view, then he wasn’t going to bother with it.

He pursed his lips and amended his ultimatum. If it wasn’t in plain view or if it wasn’t visible upon opening a drawer, then he wouldn’t look. Satisfied, he looked at the first of the PADDs on the desk. Engineering reports. Wonderful. Next.

Technical journals. Next.

Engineering updates. Next.

The sensor logs and analyses from the last week. He shook his head. That was absolutely no help. He left the PADDs on the desk and opened the top drawer of the furniture. He paused for a moment, disbelieving.

“Trip, for crying out loud,” he muttered. He reached into the desk drawer and picked up one of the items, as if he needed to touch it to verify that it really existed. But it was real. A sextant. Trip hadn’t been joking. In fact, it had been sitting next to the very item with which Trip had said he’d left it. He picked up the slide rule and stared at it. “Why the devil would you have these?”

The instruments were completely obsolete. There was no way doing computations on a slide rule would be as accurate or as quick as allowing the computer to work through the math. And a sextant? Trip didn’t seem to have the slightest clue about navigation. Did he even know how to use it? And what could he possibly use it for anyway? They were traveling at warp speed most of the time!

He shook his head and put the items back in the drawer. There was nothing else of great interest inside of it. He could see only a plastic container for data disks, which had been labeled in sloppy handwriting. He peered closer, thinking for a moment that he might be able to learn something about Trip from his handwriting. There was a science to that. Graphology. But Trip had written the label with printed letters, all capitals, and he had no idea what that meant. Nothing, probably.

Trip wrote like a bloody engineer, in a scrawl that would have been illegible if anyone attempted to emulate it. He never understood how someone could make letters so small look as though they had been perfectly scribbled. Trip’s handwriting was strangely deliberate, as if every sloppy line wasn’t sloppy at all. He frowned and closed the desk drawer.

“That wasn’t helpful,” he murmured. He glanced at the pictures on the desk, but most of the people in them weren’t familiar to him. He leaned in a little closer to look and determined that the pictures of the women looked too much like Trip to be anything but family, and he realized that he’d never taken the time to notice if Trip had sisters. There was also a picture of a group of three little boys, who he assumed were Trip’s nephews, though they didn’t seem to resemble either of the women. Did Trip say he had a brother? He couldn’t remember.

So he turned his attention from the pictures, rubbing his jaw as he surveyed the rest of Trip’s quarters. He could see the stars racing by the viewport, and, for the briefest of moments, he found himself jealous of Trip’s view. The Commander’s quarters were at the exact angle that would enable Trip to see ships docked at the port airlock, but that would also permit him a view that wouldn’t be entirely obscured by any ships that were docked. It was a perfect angle, and he doubted that Trip had been assigned the room by chance, seeing how the Commander had pretty much built the bloody ship.

Still, he was somewhat surprised by the fact that, if the pillows on the bed were any indication, Trip slept with his feet facing the door. His view out the window would be completely obscured by a cabinet upon which he’d set a bust of an old diving suit. That seemed somewhat peculiar considering how much Trip liked to see what was going on. Then again, he would prefer to face the door over the window – no chance of an alien boarding party forcibly entering through a viewport. Maybe he and Trip were more alike than he had thought.

He turned his gaze to the shelf above Trip’s bed, which was filled primarily by technical manuals. He saw the specifications and reference manuals for a number of Enterprise’s systems, though he noted that none of them were crucial to the security of the ship. There were a few other books that looked drier than the technical manuals. Non-fiction. And Trip said Ulysses was boring.

The rest of the items on the shelf were completely unhelpful. There was some sort of sculpture, and a motley assortment – of all things – of figurines depicting horror movie antagonists. Frankenstein and Dracula were the only two he recognized. There was also some sort of wolf-man. And an armadillo, which he assumed didn’t exactly belong to the group.

Trip certainly was a strange one.

He turned away from the shelf above the bed and stepped toward the window. The wall décor was sparse: a few pictures of fishing and a couple of boards to which specifications and notes had been pinned, written on flimsy paper. A look at the notes revealed more of Trip’s perfectly sloppy scrawl – all printed capitals again – but the content of many of them was purely technical and didn’t really mean much to him. There were also some drawings done in crayon, dedicated to “Uncle Trip” and signed with love by “Quinn”, “Chris”, and “Seth”. No doubt those were the names of the boys in the picture. Trip’s nephews. They were quite proficient at drawing starships, even though it seemed that the youngest could be no older than four. Trip had pinned them in plain view if one was sitting at his desk. He had a hard time thinking of Trip as an uncle.

He sighed and stepped closer toward the window. He was becoming frustrated. This wasn’t a useful glimpse into Trip’s mind. But he was finding that Trip’s quarters reflected exactly what Trip’s entire persona reflected. There was more to the southern engineer than met the eye. It was impossible for him, however, to understand what that was.

He sat heavily in the small lounge chair Trip’s quarters contained, grunting when he felt something hard digging into his hip. He shifted and reached between the cushions that served as the seat and the left arm of the chair. His fingers closed around something hard and leather-bound. It took a bit of elbow grease and time, but he finally succeeded in pulling the item from the depths of the chair.

It was a book.

That wasn’t true. It wasn’t just a book. The words on the cover were written in Vulcan script. He couldn’t read what it was, and he opened it slowly. The book naturally fell open to a location about eighty pages into the thick volume, and he stared at the page. It was all written in Vulcan. Trip didn’t know Vulcan.

He also immediately spied the reason the book had opened to that location, as there was another folded piece of flimsy stuck between the pages. For a moment, he just stared at it, unwilling to even look to see what Trip had written and folded into a Vulcan book.

Curiosity killed the cat. And also Malcolm Reed.

He took up the paper and slowly unfolded it. It was a letter, something that wasn’t finished by the looks of it. But he couldn’t force himself to read beyond the salutation. Dearest Natalie. It was a letter to a woman, and, from the way Trip had written in such careful penmanship, it was a letter to a significant woman.

He had to admit, however, that he knew who Natalie was – a fact which no doubt helped him deduce that the letter was important. He had heard Captain Archer mention her to Trip in the past. But that didn’t really help him understand why Trip had a Vulcan book or had never finished a letter to one of his few loves – a letter that Trip could not possibly send her anyway. And why was he using it as a bookmark in a book he couldn’t read?

“Trip,” he moaned, leaning back in the chair. “This is impossible.”

He flipped through the rest of the book lazily, hoping vainly that he’d be treated to a picture or some such. No such luck. Trip hadn’t even written in the margins. Maybe Trip hadn’t read it at all. Maybe someone had given it to him as a gift. It didn’t look as though he had read much of it, if he had read any. And who would give him such a thing?

There was only one Vulcan on the ship, and he doubted very much that T’Pol would have given the book to Trip. After all, the two of them were constantly grating on each other’s nerves, challenging each other, verbally sparring. If Vulcans could dislike someone – if Trip could dislike someone – he thought for sure that there was a match made in hell. It had been the reason he’d brought up T’Pol in the shuttlepod. It was a little test.

Trip didn’t really harbor ill will toward T’Pol. He remembered that disbelieving smile on Trip’s face clearly. Trip really did care about her, though he was fairly certain that Trip would never admit to it. He was also fairly certain that Trip had looked at T’Pol in that way and simply was not one to kiss-and-tell – not that he believed for a moment that the cool Vulcan would ever kiss Trip Tucker.

Regardless, it did not matter. Trip had interacted with a number of Vulcans in the past. There was simply no way to ascertain when he had acquired the book, if it had even been given to him, and – if so – by whom. He could ask Trip, or narrow the possibilities by asking Sub-commander T’Pol. Making that choice, however, was like trying to decide between two methods of torture. Could he ask Trip about a book about which he should have no knowledge, thereby confessing that he’d gone through the Commander’s quarters? Could he summon the courage to ask what would no doubt be seen as an illogical, frivolous, and personal question of T’Pol?

No, it was better to let the sleeping dog lie with this one. He placed the book back between the cushions in the general area in which he had found it. He doubted Trip would notice. It seemed as though the volume had been mostly forgotten anyway. Trip wasn’t one to leave a project unfinished. He’d watched Trip spend an entire night stripping the casings off some insulators for some work in the Armory, and that had only been preparatory work for swapping out a few faulty power relays with modified models. When the duty shift had ended, Trip quite simply told him that they’d finish it in the morning – and proceeded to finish the job that night by himself.

He sighed. There was some part of Trip that was a perfectionist to his core.

Unfortunately, Trip’s quarters just simply weren’t telling him anything about Trip he realized he didn’t already know. The room only proved how difficult it was to determine anything about the engineer. Trip was strangely difficult to get to know – not that he was one to talk, he supposed. But Trip somehow managed to make friendships left and right that somehow weren’t phony without being overly intimate. He, on the other hand, couldn’t even handle one friendship.

And they weren’t even close.

He had told Trip some of his deepest feelings; he’d made confessions that he’d never before uttered to man or God. And yet Trip had said nothing to him. Trip had given him nothing. Hints, insinuations, allusions… nothing. He felt like some sort of outsider again, and all the confidence he’d gained about his burgeoning friendship with Trip was fast fleeing him. Could he be a friend to a man who didn’t reciprocate his attempts at intimacy?

The thought made him suddenly sit up, a realization striking him that made him shiver in a strange sort of giddy anticipation. His confidence returned with a vengeance as his mind raced. The eighty-second letter… was it an invitation?

He shook his head, brow furrowing. No, it couldn’t be. Trip lived in a different world, and their interaction in the shuttlepod was little more than an interlude during which their two worlds had briefly overlapped. They were otherwise incompatible. They could scarcely work together for fifteen minutes without butting heads. Trip was unorthodox, simple, and just a little too capricious. He was stubborn and mulish. He too frequently visited the land of whimsy, and his humor was just too dry and too glib.

They could never be friends. Trip would never want him as a friend.

But it was an offer, all the same. A real offer. It had to be one. He remembered the words plainly, could hear them tumbling about his head, and his heart sped. It was not simply excitement that caused his pulse to race. He realized he was nervous, anxious. Would Trip even care for his company now that he wasn’t the only other human left in the galaxy with which he could interact?

The truth was that he really did feel like things were different on Enterprise. He had made a companion of Travis Mayweather and of Hoshi Sato. He had people with whom he interacted on a friendly level, with whom he felt comfortable sharing a meal or a game in the gymnasium. Did he want to take a chance? Could he take the risk and go see Trip, even if it meant he might have to sacrifice everything they’d already built between them?

He frowned and took a breath to steady himself. This was ridiculous. If it were an invitation, it would be both rude and idiotic to ignore it. If it weren’t an invitation… well, he should go see how Trip was doing, anyway. There was always the chance that the Commander wasn’t even awake.

He made his decision and stood. He was going to sickbay. He should have gone to sickbay first, but he supposed he simply needed the time to gather his courage, to learn as much as he could about his quarry before approaching him. Knowledge was important in his line of work, and he had, indeed, gathered quite a bit about the enigmatic chief engineer. However, that information didn’t help him if he couldn’t properly analyze it. And he just didn’t have the ability to do that.

But, he thought as he started toward the exit of Trip’s quarters, did Trip need to be analyzed? He pushed the button that would open the door and waited patiently while the portal hissed open. He’d tried figuring the Commander out, but he wondered if he was perhaps trying too hard. Didn’t dissecting a butterfly diminish its beauty?

He almost laughed out loud as the door closed behind him. Had he just compared Trip to a butterfly? And called him, of all things, “beautiful”? He was over-thinking this situation. Butterfly Trip definitely was not. In fact, Trip was probably afraid of butterflies. He and Travis had seen Trip jump about five feet when Phlox had snuck up on him with a jar containing a peculiar wasp-like creature from Rigel IV. And Trip was hardly beautiful. His nose was strangely shaped, his mouth a little crooked, his smile goofy. And that wasn’t counting his questionable choice of hairstyle and his myriad expressions that made it seem as though his eyebrows were Olympic gymnasts.

No, most definitely not beautiful. Probably not even handsome by most standards. Attractive? Highly doubtful. He didn’t understand what women saw in the guy, quite frankly. Trip wasn’t exactly the best company, either. If Trip wasn’t teasing someone, he was talking about the driest subjects known to man. Plasma converters, warp coils, sensor alignments… there was nothing technical that the Commander wouldn’t discuss. And warp theory? He rolled his eyes as he turned a corner in the corridor. Commander Tucker was a lost cause.

He pushed the button to call the lift, crossing his arms before his chest. Comparing Trip to a puzzle would be a better analogy. A very complicated three-dimensional puzzle with pieces that lacked symmetry as well as any familiarity of shape. Only Trip was a puzzle already solved with a picture that was already fully made.

The thought made him smile. The lift arrived, and he stepped into the empty vessel, taking a moment to push the button for his destination. There was the problem, he realized as the door closed behind him. Trip was a three-dimensional puzzle that created a picture when the project was finished. How three-dimensional shapes could form a two-dimensional image was beyond his ability to comprehend. He was certain Trip could explain it to him. The man seemed to have infinite knowledge about a great many things – especially mathematics and just about every form of engineering known to man.

The lift stopped, and he waited impatiently for the doors to open. He found himself both strangely excited and anxious. He hoped simultaneously that Trip was awake and that Trip was still sleeping. The door hissed open and he exited onto the new deck. The lift was close to sickbay, and he had to stop himself from dragging his feet and from galloping down the corridor. What resulted was a queer sort of gait that might have made others think he was limping. Thankfully, he met no one.

When he reached sickbay, his heart was pounding. He didn’t know why. He took a breath and opened the door.

Sickbay was quiet, and the lights were slightly dimmed. Phlox was nowhere in sight, but he could see the cordoned area where Trip and he had been sleeping earlier. The curtains were still drawn around one of the beds, and he made his way carefully over toward it. He expected to find Trip asleep as he slowly pulled the curtain to one side, but the engineer was very much awake. He was sitting on a chair and using his bed as something of a desk, leaning against it as he read the contents of a PADD. There was a blanket over his shoulders, and he was hunched over the bed in such a position that he couldn’t see anyone entering the small area.

He hesitated and then decided to break the silence and alert Trip to his presence. “Shouldn’t you be sleeping?” he asked.

Trip raised his head slightly at the sound of his voice, and he stepped closer in order to watch the Commander press a few buttons on his personal computer. “Probably,” Trip replied hoarsely. He turned and looked over his shoulder conspiratorially. “The doc is killing me.”

That was worth a laugh, as he couldn’t quite see Phlox torturing Trip. The engineer was one of Phlox’s favorite people on the ship; there had been many times when he’d observed the two of them talking in the mess hall or in the corridors. On the other hand, he wouldn’t want to be the Denobulan’s only patient. Phlox had some unorthodox treatments.

He stepped around the bed until he was facing Trip. This close, he could see that the Commander wasn’t quite up to par, as his face was a little pale, and there were dark circles beneath his eyes. He hadn’t shaved, either, and he was surprised at how much older Trip looked with a bit of facial hair.

“I find that hard to believe,” he said finally. He didn’t know what to say for a long moment, but Trip didn’t seem aware of his inner battle. When he spoke next, it was only to ask: “How are you?”

Trip grabbed the edge of the blanket with one hand and pulled it closer to him. “Hess gave me the damage report from that explosion. I think we’ll be able to fabricate a new launch bay door, but it’s not going to be easy to install it outside of space dock.”

It didn’t answer the question – didn’t even come close to answering the question. His look must have said it all because Trip didn’t seem interested in meeting his gaze. He wondered if he could urge the engineer to speak with silence alone, and he wasn’t sure that he’d be successful. Trip could be very quiet, and it was difficult to pressure him into anything. He wasn’t certain if that had much to do with the difference in their ranks, however. How did one, after all, pressure a superior officer?

In any case, he didn’t have to.

“I take it that Hoshi got my letters to you.” Trip licked his lips and smiled hesitantly. “Took you long enough.”

He opened his mouth to reply, trying to think of an appropriate answer. He hadn’t expected Trip to just jump to the point of his being there, or to so clearly read him. Technically, he could have been there for any number of reasons. Or perhaps he was just fooling himself.

“I was sidetracked,” he murmured finally. He clenched his teeth so he didn’t accidentally blurt out that he’d been snooping around Trip’s quarters.

Trip took the words for truth and pressed a button on the PADD he was holding to power it down. Then he set the instrument on the bed and leaned forward on his arms. His face was buried in his limbs, expression hidden from sight. “I suppose you’re going to ask ‘why’,” Trip murmured.

He grimaced a little and crossed his arms. “‘When’ was my first thought,” he remarked.

Trip laughed softly. “When I had time. You didn’t really think it would take me so long to repair the transceiver.”

“You wrote letters instead of working on the radio?”

“I wrote letters because fixing the radio seemed rather moot,” Trip corrected. “And it does get tedious, you know. I was pissed off.”

He didn’t follow the logic. He actually didn’t think that the argument had any logic in it that was worth following. Trip was angry and bored, so he wrote eighty-one letters of condolence? That made about as much sense as anything Trip did. The man was impossible. And his belief that his work on the shuttlepod was pointless… He’d been wrong about Trip – so utterly and completely wrong. The man was just a pessimist after all. He hadn’t believed for a moment that they would be rescued.

Trip seemed uncomfortable in the silence, and he shifted. “The transceiver was never going to be fixed – not with what we had on board,” he explained. “I’m not a miracle worker, you know. So I took breaks and typed up a few letters – just in case we weren’t rescued in time. I was the commanding officer, and I was obligated to have some sort of contingency plan in case we died out there. It was my responsibility to offer some sort of relief to those families.”

“But not your own,” he said dryly. He was baiting Trip, and he didn’t know when he had become so comfortable in talking to the commander as though they were equals.

“That’s not fair, Malcolm. It didn’t matter.”

“You don’t make any sense at all, Commander.”

“So I’ve been told.”

Silence descended over them, and it wasn’t as awkward as he feared it would be. Trip seemed to be thinking, but it was too hard to tell with his face hidden from view. The blanket had slipped from his shoulders a bit, and Trip shivered a little bit but made no move to correct the problem.

“You know,” Trip continued. “I did write one for your parents. I didn’t give it to you.”

He didn’t know what to say to that. He wanted to seem unconcerned, but he didn’t know how. “Why give any of them to me at all?” he countered. It was a perfectly reasonable question, a perfectly reasonable way to redirect the conversation.

Trip lifted his head and looked at him with an expression that mixed incredulity with confusion. “What do you mean?” he asked. “Who else was I supposed to give them to?”

He sighed in frustration, uncrossed his arms, and raised his hands helplessly. “No one?” he wondered out loud. “They’re worthless!”

Trip had the audacity to look hurt. “Worthless?” the engineer echoed.

“You wrote that letter to me after you knew that Enterprise hadn’t been destroyed.”

“I wrote a lot of those letters after I knew that Enterprise hadn’t been destroyed. What’s the point?”

“What was the point?” he argued. He paused, mind racing, clenching and unclenching his jaw as he thought.

“I don’t know,” Trip snapped, half-heartedly. The Commander seemed just a little angry. “Maybe finishing something I’d started?”

He frowned. “What are you trying to do? Set an example?”

“Why don’t you go a step further and ask me what I was trying to prove?” Trip muttered.

“Fine.” He rolled his eyes and dropped his hands to his sides. “What were you trying to prove?”

Trip shrugged.

He sighed. “You wanted to out-cynic the cynic?” he guessed.

That made the Commander laugh. “It wasn’t the goal, but I guess it worked,” he replied jokingly. “Actually, I just wanted you to know that I did care. I was a little afraid that you might think I was overly… flippant.”

“‘Flippant’?” he echoed. The word choice was even more amusing when he repeated it. For some reason, he had a difficult time applying that word to the Commander. Trip teased and often gave an appearance that he was trivializing things by giving jocular reassurances. But Trip took everything to heart, and he didn’t need eighty-two letters to know that. “Hardly. Though I was wondering how you planned to tell Hoshi’s parents just how crucial she was.”

Trip laughed again. “Well, I’m not that stupid. There wasn’t much hope that we’d be rescued; or, if we were, that we’d be able to: firstly, communicate with our would-be rescuers, and, secondly, get help from them instead of being blown up.”

“So why bother?”

“Why bother hoping?” Trip asked. He nodded, and the engineer shrugged. “Why not?”

He opened his mouth to respond and couldn’t think of anything to say. “What good does it do?” he finally sputtered. “You cling to a hope only to have it dashed against the bloody rocks when a particularly large wave comes rolling in!”

Trip smiled in a placating manner and shrugged. “What harm does it do? Nothing comes from nothing, Malcolm. But a great many things have sprung from hope.”

He sat in silence, digesting the information, trying to form a coherent argument. “You never told me you were a philosopher.”

“I told you,” Trip argued, a laughing tone in his voice, “I told you that Superman was laced with metaphor.”

He grimaced. “Superman never philosophized a day in his life.”

“Have you even seen a comic book in your life, Malcolm?”

He had to shake his head. He almost added that he never had a want to read a graphic novel as well, but Trip spoke again before he could so much as open his mouth.

“Then don’t prejudge.”

The statement was incredibly accurate. Don’t prejudge. What a simple piece of advice. It applied to the current situation. He’d prejudged Trip, and now he was discovering how wrong he’d been. His preconceptions had been way off the mark. Trip was most definitely not average. He wasn’t a country bumpkin. He wasn’t an ignorant southerner, who didn’t know Chaucer from Proust. Trip wasn’t a hick.

He thought back to that letter and to Plato and to every other piece of literature it could have possibly referenced. How well read was Trip? He didn’t like Ulysses, but so what? People who sought knowledge read things they didn’t like all the time. And, well, Joyce could be a little tedious. Even he had to admit that.

“I’m sorry,” he said finally. The statement seemed to catch Trip by surprise. The Commander sat up a bit and rubbed at his jaw.

“Sorry for what?” Trip genuinely wondered.

He didn’t really know what to say; the way Trip continually managed to make him the most inarticulate man in the galaxy was definitely frustrating him. “I was wrong about you,” he managed to sputter. “I never took you seriously before we were on that shuttlepod, and you were forcing that drink into my hand. You were just… well, just a joke to me. Every now and then, you were bloody brilliant, and the rest of the time you were some immature… irresponsible… aggravating… kid… who had somehow wheedled his way into a commander’s uniform. I just didn’t see that ‘every now and then’ was actually a perpetual state of brilliance.”

Trip stared at him, and then his face slowly flushed. “I have no idea if that was an insult or a compliment,” he admitted.

He laughed, thinking over what he had just said. “I have no bloody idea,” he admitted. “So what happens now?”

Trip shrugged. “That’s up to you. You’re the one that called me ‘Trip’.”

He fought a frown. “You were supposed to be sleeping.”

“I was sleeping,” he affirmed. “I have a dim recollection of hearing the Cap’n talk to some other people – I guess that was you and Phlox – and someone called me Trip. That was an educated guess, Malcolm, and you just verified that it was you.”

A spark of irritation tickled his heart, and he clung to it as a means of forcing away his sudden anxiety. The nervousness was twisting his gut, and he tried to dismiss it by focusing on anything else. “T’Pol was there, too,” he said lamely.

Trip grunted noncommittally. “Malcolm, I couldn’t even open my eyes, I felt so bad. We’re talking about me hearing a bunch of sounds and being totally unable to distinguish anything. I just remember ‘Trip’, and then I fell back asleep, which I suppose was rude if you were tryin’ to talk to me. Sorry.”

He shifted his feet nervously. Did he want Trip as his friend? Could Trip be his friend? The way the Commander was looking at him was unassuming, but he’d underestimated – misread – Tucker before. “I just wanted to know if you minded.”

Trip’s expression shifted to confusion. “Minded what?” he asked. His tone seemed to indicate that he was genuinely perplexed.

“Minded that I called you ‘Trip’.” He expected a long silence to ensue, but it didn’t. The statement made Trip smile reassuringly, somehow managing to look like an adorable, sweet little boy and a disheveled, dashing rogue all with one expression. “What the hell kinda question is that?” he asked teasingly. “Of course, I don’t mind. Why would I?”

His heart was thundering in his chest. “You’re my commanding officer!”

Trip looked at him, pressing his lips into a grim line. His gaze was thoughtful, but his response was not. “So what?”

“‘So what’?” he repeated, incredulity thick in his voice. “I’m a lieutenant! You’re a commander. We’re not supposed to fraternize.”

“Bullshit.”

He gritted his teeth. “If we’re good friends, do you think you’d be able to make an unbiased decision to put the ship’s safety before mine?”

“If we weren’t good friends, do you think I’d be able to make that same decision?” Trip countered. “You bet your ass I’d do everything in my power to save any member of this crew, and that’s not going to change whether you call me ‘Trip’, ‘Commander’, ‘Charles’, or ‘Shit-for-brains’. Is there a line when the entire crew is in danger? Sure, and when I have to find it, I’ll let you know. In the meantime, I’m going to thank my lucky stars that I haven’t had to look for it yet.”

He crossed his arms again, feeling strangely ecstatic yet somehow deflated by Trip’s words. “So, being friends with me doesn’t mean that much to you?” he found himself asking. “It doesn’t mean that I’m any more important to you now than I was two days ago.”

Trip’s response was a smile, unexpected to say the least. “Malcolm,” he said seriously. “You were always my friend, and I don’t know how the hell you missed that. The moment you walked into Engineering with that stick up your ass about the main deflector array was the moment you became my friend. I don’t think there’s anyone on this ship who cares as much about keeping this crew safe as you do – the Cap’n aside – and I respect that a helluva lot. It makes my job easier, and it makes me feel safe.

“It’s just that… you just care too damn much, sometimes, and it makes you a pain to be around. You’re so busy preparing for the worst case scenario that you keep missin’ the good things around here. You worry about a million things that are never going to happen. Sometimes, Malcolm, sometimes, it just doesn’t matter.

“You didn’t record those damn letters because it was going to make you feel better. You recorded ’em because they were going to make your family feel better. You wanted to make amends. You blame yourself for every damn thing that happens, for every damn problem you have in every damn relationship you’ve ever been in, and you know something, Malcolm? It’s not your damn fault. You’re trying too hard to apologize for things that don’t matter.”

He took the criticism solemnly. “And you’re one to talk,” he said flatly. The dullness of the statement hid his hurt.

“I know.”

He hadn’t expected Trip to agree with him. “You wrote eighty-two letters – ” “Eighty-three.”

He rolled his eyes. “Eighty-three. And not one of them was to anyone you actually know!”

“I wrote one to you.”

He almost groaned. “For crying out loud. I don’t want to argue semantics with you, Trip. Isn’t it your turn to be quiet while I tell you that you’re a pain in the ass?”

Trip smiled and then frowned and then settled on a strange marriage of the two expressions, as though he didn’t know how to react.

“I don’t understand you. I don’t get why you pretend everything is such a joke when you take the littlest things so seriously. You spent two days teasing me and pushing me and jerking me around when you didn’t think any more than I did that we were going to live. Why the hell did you do that?”

The remains of the smile disappeared. “I didn’t mean to hurt you,” Trip declared ardently. “I just wanted you to have a little hope. I didn’t want you to think you were going to die out there. And you were so damn sure.”

“So you were going to kill yourself. Do you honestly think so little of me that you believed for a minute that I’d be grateful for that?”

Trip was silent. He looked away, his blue eyes unreadable as he stared at his hands. His face was steely, purposefully blank. “I just wanted you to live, and I’m not going to apologize for that, Malcolm, so you’re barking up the wrong tree with that one.”

He sighed, irritated.

Trip was silent.

The curtain shifted, and suddenly he remembered where they were. Doctor Phlox peeked through the cloth, reminding him that they were in the middle of a public place. Phlox could have been listening for quite some time, and he didn’t know whether or not they had been speaking loudly. He couldn’t remember elevating his voice, but doing so tended to be the natural outcome of any conversation with Trip. The man was beyond frustrating. Exasperating. Infuriating.

“I believe I ordered you both to rest,” the doctor declared offhandedly. He’d forgotten about that order. Free from sickbay, provided he rested. Trading one prison for another.

He licked his lips, bottling up the remainder of his anger and hurt as he forced that stiff upper lip back into place. “I was just wondering how Trip was doing,” he explained. “I couldn’t sleep.”

“He would be doing better, if he was resting instead of reviewing reports from Lieutenant Hess,” Phlox replied in response. His tone was reminiscent of a chirping bird he’d used to hear in Malaysia.

Trip grimaced. “I’m fine,” he said. “This isn’t the first time I’ve frozen my ass off. I was stationed on Mars once, and it’s always damn cold there.”

“That’s not quite the same thing, Commander,” Phlox declared, stepping around the curtain and into the small area. “Give me that PADD and get some rest.”

Trip almost smiled. “Actually, Malcolm can take it. It has something I want him to read on it.” The Commander stood shakily and leaned over the bed to hand off the PADD. He took it numbly as Trip said solemnly, “The eighty-second.”

He glanced down at the small computer in his hand. The screen was black, but he didn’t move his fingers to the power button. He looked back up in an attempt to learn something from Trip’s piercing, blue eyes, but the engineer had already moved away from him, dragging the blanket back onto the biobed with him as he started to settle down, per Phlox’s orders.

It seemed a million questions rattled about his head, but he had no chance to utter any of them as Phlox shooed him toward the exit. He let the Denobulan usher him away, looking plaintively back only once at Trip, who was laying in such a way so his face couldn’t be seen. He didn’t even say good night, and then Phlox pulled the curtains tight, leaving him alone in the larger half of sickbay, where he stood silently and stared at the sheer white cloth.

He had already read the eighty-second letter, but he didn’t know what else Trip could have meant. He looked back down at the PADD, a letter fearful of what its contents were. He didn’t want to look

. But, all the same, he had to. There were too many unanswered questions. There were too many things he needed to know.

He turned to the door of sickbay as he pressed the power button on the small computer. The screen flickered once and then came to life, briefly sporting Starfleet’s emblem before it displayed a list of its contents. First and foremost, he noted that Trip hadn’t been lying. About forty percent of the small data disk was filled with engineering reports, which he could tell without even accessing the files as the folks in main engineering used a very distinct (and mostly unfathomable) alpha-numerical naming system for their damage, status, and upgrade reports. He didn’t think anyone outside the engineering staff knew what the hell the eight-character file names meant. He surely didn’t, and he was as close to an engineer as one could get on the ship without being directly assigned to Tucker’s department.

He took a moment to get beyond the sickbay doors before he looked at the rest of the data. There were, indeed, eighty-two entries that were not related to engineering matters. The file names followed a pattern, as well, with numbers succeeded by names, a pattern that was hauntingly familiar. Considering the first was labeled “01Archer”, it didn’t take much brainpower to determine what the list of files was.

The letters. The ones that Trip had apparently copied from this PADD to the one Hoshi had given to him. The data disk Hoshi had given him had contained this very same list. The only difference was that this list lacked the quick note Trip had addressed to him. And this was obviously the PADD that Trip had been using in the shuttlepod. The time stamps on the files were in chronological order, separated by minutes or hours, rather than the seconds that indicated a batch copying process. Trip had started with the Captain, and he’d on average completed a letter every ten minutes. That was about thirteen hours of work, spread across a few days. But the eighty-second letter was missing, unless, in this collection of letters, it shared the numerical portion of the naming scheme.

He walked slowly down the hall as he scrolled to the bottom of the list. His hands were shaking, his eyes disbelieving. He told himself that “82Reed” was just a copy of that damn irritating note. He was hopeful that it wasn’t, yet he felt angry as well. He didn’t want to play games anymore – especially when the rules kept shifting. But he wondered who had made it into a game. Trip most certainly never toyed with other people, not in this way.

Had he made it so incredibly difficult to approach him that the only thing Trip could do to break through that shell was to… well… intrigue him? He liked mystery. Was Trip just taking advantage of that, forcing him to interact by dangling the enticing carrot of the unknown? Playing the game because he liked it and playing the game on his terms.

Would he have gone to sickbay if Trip had called him on the communications system?

He felt a surge of guilt. No. Of course not. Not unless the ship’s business was somehow involved or the Commander made it an order. Otherwise, there was simply too much that required his attention than a sick, bored engineer.

Excuses.

He pressed the button and opened the eighty-second letter.

And he read.

To Mr. and Mrs. Reed:

By now you’ve no doubt learned that Malcolm died shortly after a catastrophic accident claimed the lives of the crew of the starship Enterprise. I hope, by now, you’ve also listened to his final words, which he recorded in the company of only myself as we struggled to find aid in a shuttlepod with limited supplies. Hearing his voice is probably more comforting than reading this letter, but I feel obligated to inform you that your son was not only an exemplary officer but also an exemplary friend.
I wish that Malcolm hadn’t died. The tragedy of his loss reminds me of the sporadic unfairness inherent in life. But, if his death was unfair, the day we met was providential. Cynical, at times – maybe a little too cynical for my tastes – Malcolm was also kind and curious beneath that stiff exterior. I could always count on him. The Captain jokingly said we complemented each other. If that was the case, I count myself lucky.
As I said, this letter must be little comfort to you now, and I assure you that these are not empty words. I hope it brings you peace to know that he died doing what he loved. Not for a moment did Malcolm regret joining our crew, nor did we ever regret his presence on board. He was quiet, reserved, but he cared greatly for everyone he worked with. We all loved him, though he may not have acknowledged that. The galaxy lost a great man the day it lost him.
You have my heartfelt condolences and also my deepest apologies. I couldn’t keep your son safe. I couldn’t keep my friend safe. And for that I go to my own death with nothing but regret.

Sincerely yours,

Commander Charles “Trip” Tucker III
Chief Engineer of Enterprise, OIC

He was stunned.

He had stopped walking.

His heart was thundering in his chest, beating so painfully that he was certain the organ would either explode or break through the flesh and bone of his body. He couldn’t believe it. He didn’t know what to think. For a long while, he couldn’t think.

He stared at the words on the PADD, wondering for a long moment if he had simply imagined them. But they were there. And he looked at the file, and he didn’t know what to even feel, how he should receive this letter that Trip had written to his parents, that contained within it the nicest things that anyone had ever said about him. It wasn’t that he’d never been commended for his work within Starfleet.

It was that he’d never been commended for being a friend.

He felt a warmth spread through his body. Such happiness was tangible, and he felt his lips spread in a grin that seemed wider than was humanly possible. All the irritation and anger at Trip fled him. How could he stay angry with a man like Trip? The engineer was irksome, at times, but he cared – cared more deeply than could be perceived by spats in the Armory or brief exchanges in the mess hall.

He had always had a friend. He just hadn’t seen it. He had just been too afraid to see it.

He forced his feet into motion, unable to keep a bounce from his step, unable to keep that silly grin off his face. Trip wasn’t going to reject his friendship, not even if he mustered all the cynicism in the universe. Trip didn’t think he was the bloody angel of death. He was just giving lessons in reverse psychology. The thought made him chuckle.

He glanced down at the PADD. The letter was still there, the words still perfect and heart-warming. Maybe it wouldn’t have been much comfort to his parents, but it certainly provided him with a great deal of cheer.

As he reached the turbolift, a peculiar thought struck him. The mystery, after all, hadn’t really been solved. There were still a few questions that remained. First and foremost, why hadn’t Trip written a letter for his own family?

Where was the eighty-third?

Well, the eighty-fourth, technically. If one counted the eighty-third as the letter written to him. There was also the matter of when that eighty-third, anomalous letter had been written. There was still quite a deal left to uncover surrounding this entire incident.

Yet, the questions couldn’t dampen his spirits. In fact, he almost laughed again. He would just have to do a little more work on the sleuthing front. He would simply have to gather more data about his elusive friend. About his friend. And, as he stepped into the turbolift, he also resolved to find the answer.

He would, after all, have all the time in the world to learn to understand Trip Tucker. And he was never one to leave a mystery unsolved.

-End-


Comments:

Hummingbird2

That was wonderful. I love Trip and Malcolm's friendship, thank you!:D

Mari
very nice
HopefulNebula
Dis: Someone as anal-retentive as Malcolm certainly would...
krn
Well written! It leaves us all wondering about the mystery that is Trip Tucker.
Reanok
E.M.I think this a nice look into the beginning of Trip & Malcolm's friendship.
Asso
Distracted wrote: [i]Am I off base here? Do you guys lie awake at night wondering how your drinking buddy really feels about you?[/i]Never they do, Dis. Honestly. You're right. Maybe I'm a little bit immodest but generally I have found that men are capable of describing the thoughts of the women in a better way than women are capable of doing with the men. Anyway, also if this section is distant from my usual pathway, this story is well done and good, and I'm very glad to see another skilful writer here.
Blacknblue
This is a superior character study of both men. To answer Distracted's question, we do and we don't. We worry about what our friends think about us, and we care a lot. But we don't think of it in the same terms that a woman does. I am not sure how to explain it. I have read a lot of stories written by women, as well as a lot of romance novels and relationship stories. I have also hung around a lot of women in my time, so I take leave to suspect that I have an inkling of how women regard things like this. We DO care about our male friends. We care a lot. But... it's hard to describe. There is nothing unreasonable about the feelings Malcolm was experiencing. he simply would not have agonized about them the way they were presented. The conversation however, was quite possible. Especially since this way written earlier in the series, before the characters were completely defined.
evcake
Most enjoyable. Reminds me a little of "The 'T' Key." Just in that it's a what makes Trip tick story, I guess. Nice work.
Alelou
It's a very leisurely, loving portrait of Trip as told by Malcolm. I enjoyed it very much. I had a little bit of the same reaction you did, D, though I can forgive it -- mostly because M is a loner by nature and a little paranoid too. Plus a ship is a heightened social environment and this is still early on. It's also nice to see something new in this section!
Distracted
This is a very well-written story, and as a character study of Trip it works very well. The one peeve I have with it is one that I notice frequently in male bonding stories written by women. Being a woman, I don’t pretend to understand how men think, but am I the only one who finds Malcolm sort of creepily effeminate in this story? None of the men I know would agonize this much over another man’s inner feelings. Heck, they don’t even agonize this much over their own wives’ or girlfriends’ inner feelings. What about it guys? Am I off base here? Do you guys lie awake at night wondering how your drinking buddy really feels about you?

You need to be logged in to the forum to leave a review!