Title: Tea and Cookies

Contact: kelhapam@metrocast.net

Series: ENT

Rating: PG-13

Code: R/S

Part: 1/1 NEW

Date: March 7, 2004

Summary: Coda to Hatchery. Malcolm and Hoshi share tea, cookies, and conversation late at night in the mess hall.

Disclaimer: Paramount owns all the characters, etc., I am just using the characters for a little fun and relaxation.

Note of Appreciation. Special thanks to my beta readers: Cindy, Nan.

Posting: Please notify me before you do.

Tea and Cookies

03/07/04

The lights were dim in the mess hall, but I didn't care. In fact I liked it that way -- it matched my mood. I was tired due to all the activity the previous couple of days, and I was also anxious thinking about what would likely soon befall the Starship Enterprise and its crew in their battle against the Xindi. My weariness and anxiety combined to produce one intense case of insomnia. I had tossed and turned on my bed for what seemed like several hours when I decided I hated my cabin, threw on my fluffy white bathrobe over my blue silk nightgown and headed for the ship's mess hall, not even bothering to put on my bunny slippers.

Flopsey and Mopsey would just have to stay in my room by themselves until I returned.

I was sitting at one of the tables in the mess hall, tucked away in a corner, munching on a chocolate chip cookie and sipping on a cup of decaf tea when the door slid open. One unusually disheveled Malcolm Reed walked into my sanctuary. He didn't notice me sitting in the corner and turning toward the food dispenser he leaned his head wearily against the wall above the unit and ordered a hot tea. It was then I realized we were both suffering from the same malady.

"Can't sleep?" I asked. My voice echoed through the empty room. He spun around and even in the dim light I could see the shadows under his eyes which was answer unto itself.

"Hoshi?"

"Join me," I said and for a split second, maybe two, I thought he was going to refuse. Instead he bobbed his head, grabbed his mug of tea, and walked over to me taking the seat opposite the table from where I was seated.

I pushed the bag of cookies closer to him. "Cook..er...biscuit?" I offered, remembering the English term.

He grinned at my choice of words and selecting one of the larger cookies, he took a bite.

I surveyed him over the rim of my cup as I sipped at my tea. I could tell he liked what he tasted. He should, I had made them from scratch.

"Thanks," he said after he swallowed his last bite and washed it down with a sip from his own cup. "It's very good. Did Chef get a new recipe?"

"Actually I made them."

He looked at me and seemed a little surprised.

"Remember back during our first year, I told you I liked to cook."

"Before my birthday."

He did remember.

"I just don't get the opportunity."

"But Chef wasn't around tonight to shoo you out of his fiefdom," he surmised.

"Exactly." I took one of the smaller cookies for myself and relished the taste of the warm chocolate morsels against my tongue. "Besides, if I can't sleep I might as well do something useful. I'm just glad you showed up so I didn't pig out on all of these myself."

"Having problems sleeping?" he asked, he looked concerned.

I nodded. "My mind just won't stop racing. If I'm not thinking about what happened on the ship today, I'm thinking about what will...happen to us in the future." My voice cracked and I quickly picked up my mug and gulped at the warm beverage. I didn't want to cry in front of him.

Malcolm moved his cup aside and reaching across the table, he squeezed my hand reassuringly. "I know exactly what you mean."

Surprised by his sudden touch, I instinctively pulled my hand away.

"I'm s-sorry," he murmured and started to rise from his seat.

"No, I'm the one who's sorry," I said quickly and I reached out myself and grabbing his forearm pulled him back down to the seat. "I'm just jumpy lately. I truly didn't mean to pull away from you."

"Let's forget it." he said, his mouth curled up in a lopsided smile. "We're both in need of some sleep -- and I'm sure we aren't the only ones on the ship who are combating insomnia" He paused for a moment as if lost in thought before he spoke again. " Wouldn't it be nice to be able to take a vacation from this? To get away from it all?"

Dropping my hand from him, I cradled my head in my folded arms, my face raised towards him. "A vacation would be very nice. Where would you go, back to that spa in Mexico?"

Malcolm pushed back in his seat and looked up at the ceiling, the wistful smile still played on his face.

"I'm surprised you remembered. That time in decon seemed so long ago."

I smiled slightly urging him to continue.

"Well Mexico *was* nice, but I've always fancied visiting Australia and New Zealand if I had the chance. Perhaps we....I could go there."

My hearing is excellent and I caught his slip of the tongue, but I pretended I hadn't.

"What about you, Hoshi? Where would you go?"

I imagined several different destinations in my mind, but no matter whether I thought of scaling the Austrian Alps or simply sunning myself on a remote tropical beach, Malcolm was there beside me. Fleetingly at first I was a little shocked, but then just as quickly I felt warm inside. It felt right and I wanted to just tell him I would like to go anywhere he wanted to go, but I chickened out.

"Maybe I'd just like to relax by some mountain lake. I can picture a rustic log cabin by the shore secluded among the pine trees."

"Sounds nice. Have you ever been to such a place?" He picked up another cookie and took a bite, but his eyes remained focused on me.

I shook my head and the movement released a large yawn which I covered quickly with my hand before I continued. "I've read about places like that though. I always thought it sounded restful -- taking walks in the woods, curled up beside a real wood fire and reading, or just sleeping in a hammock strung between pair of trees overlooking a lake." I sighed as I imagined the view, but like before, I wasn't alone, he was with me. In my vision Malcolm was laying with me in the hammock, his body spooned around mine, and I was blissfully content.

Malcolm mirrored my yawn with an even larger one before he spoke. "Sounds like something I could enjoy as well," he said and for a brief moment I wondered if he was clairvoyant.

I smiled at him and he returned the gesture with a beaming smile of his own, his blue eyes sparkled. Just as quickly as the smile had emerged on his face, it fell and once again he looked tired and worn.

"I was going to wait until tomorrow, but I suppose now is as good time as any. I want to tell you how sorry I am that I wasn't there when you needed me today, Hoshi. It wasn't my intention to leave you alone on the brid..."

Again his voice broke, both from emotion and, I'm sure, exhaustion. I leaned across the table and once again pulled him back down for he had started to stand.

"You didn't let me down, Malcolm. In fact, you encouraged me. I knew when you left the bridge you trusted me to be able to follow through with The Plan."

"You knew? I wasn't sure."

He sounded relieved and surprised at the same time.

"It was the way you looked at me after the Captain had dismissed you from the bridge. You didn't want to leave the bridge and you didn't want to leave Travis and me behind, but at the same time you knew you could rely on us to get the job done. Don't you know how expressive you can be with just your eyes, Malcolm?"

If it wasn't for the darkness of the Mess Hall I could have sworn the stalwart armory officer had blushed.

"I--I--" he stammered diverting his eyes from mine and examining the cup he gripped in his hands. "I knew you two could do it. I'm just not used to being unable to protect the ship and its crew when they need me. When I looked at you on the bridge though, I could see that you wouldn't let me or the ship down."

Malcolm gazed up at me again, he looked so open, so vulnerable. I guess he was just too tired to maintain his carefully built walls. I doubt if he knew that at that moment he looked even more appealing to me than any other time during our three years together. Seated before me was a Malcolm Reed I had never seen before. He had truly stripped down some of his barriers and sat across from me almost emotionally naked. "You've changed, Hoshi. You're not the same timid woman who joined the crew almost three years ago." He cleared his throat and took a sip of his tea. "To be honest, I wasn't sure in the beginning if you'd ever stick with it. I thought we'd be sending you back to Earth on a Vulcan transport ship before we even cleared our solar system. I'm glad to say I was wrong. You've become one of Enterprise's, if not Starfleet's, finest officers. I am honoured to work with you."

I think at that moment I was struck speechless -- which doesn't happen often. I didn't know what to say at first and when I did find my voice, I wasn't very eloquent -- actually, I was so overcome with emotion tears trickled down my cheeks and I sobbed. Malcolm must have been moved by my outburst, for he was quickly at my side and, what I always thought of would be uncharacteristic for him, he hugged me and let me cry against his shoulder for several minutes before he spoke. His voice was soothing.

"I think you need to go to bed, Hoshi."

Not trusting my voice, I nodded and let him pull me to my feet.

"I'll see you to your door," he said, and placed one arm around me and grabbed the bag of cookies with his free hand. "These are too good to leave lying around," he explained. I giggled softly, it felt good to laugh again-- to be honest, it felt even better to have Malcolm's arm around me.

We walked together through Enterprise's darkened corridors. I think it was a toss up who was keeping the other upright. The companionship felt good though -- not just to be with anyone, but particularly good to be with him. It was at that moment I realized Malcolm was my rock -- my port in any storm. He was someone I've always been able to rely on no matter what. I also became aware of something else. Ever since he had walked into the mess hall this evening, (or was it morning?), I had felt safe and secure. My anxiety and thoughts about the current events had been greatly diminished.

All too soon, we were standing in front of my door. I keyed it open and I could feel Malcolm start to release his hold on me and I knew that was one thing I didn't want to happen tonight. Above all else, I didn't want him to leave.

"Malcolm?" I said my voice low and pleading.

"Hmmm?"

"Do you trust me?"

"Of course I do, Hoshi." His British accent was thick and it penetrated my soul.

I gripped his hand in mine and pulled him into my cabin.

His brow furrowed and I could see he was puzzled by my actions. "Hoshi?" "I don't want you to go tonight, Malcolm. I would like you to stay. I would like you to sleep with me."

"But..."

"I would like you to hold me, Malcolm. Nothing more. I wouldn't ask this of you, if I didn't feel I could trust you completely."

"Hoshi, I..."

"Just the two of us, fully clothed on the bed. I don't want to be alone tonight, and I have to get some sleep. I'm afraid if you leave, I'll be awake all night and there's so much to be done on the ship. If I don't sleep, I'm afraid..."

I didn't realize I was rambling until I felt Malcolm place two fingers against my lips. "It's alright, luv. You don't need to convince me any further. It'll be my honour to lay beside you and keep the demons at bay."

I had always suspected this man might be my knight in shining armor.

"Would it be terribly selfish of me to admit that being with you might help me to sleep as well?"

Grasping his fingers I held them against my lips and kissed them and smiled shyly. "Are you saying the thought of being with me, puts you to sleep?" I teased as I timidly led him to my bed.

"Hardly, but as you said, the good of the ship must come first. As to what happens later, I'll leave that up to you."

Kicking off his shoes, he stretched himself down on my bed and I settled in beside him covering us both with my spare blanket.

In his arms I slept more soundly than I had in several weeks, and I dreamt. I was seated astride a silvery white horse and behind me sat my knight, Sir Malcolm Reed -- my protector, my friend, and future lover.

The End.