Summary: Trip and Malcolm have a few drinks and talk about women. Takes place in the second season.

Note: Written for the Enterprise Ficathon. The assignment was: Reed/Tucker friendship, pre-series flashback, alcohol. She'd also wanted Reed/Sato romance or friendship, so I added a bit of that, too.

Written for: settiai

Beta: SueC. Thank you!

Disclaimer: Yeah, yeah, yeah, etc. All in fun, no profit.

x-x

Malcolm stood outside Trip's door, shifting slightly as he waited for Trip to answer the chime. He moved the large, heavy box from one hand to the other, then cradled it against his body as he used his fingers to push up the sleeve to his oversized, grey jumper, which had fallen over his hand.

He heard someone walking nearby, and turned at the sound of Hoshi's voice saying, "Evening, Lieutenant," as she stopped beside him.

"Hello, Ensign."

Hoshi nodded towards the box in his hand. "Looks like a fun evening."

Malcolm laughed. "Yes, well, I figured that Trip would like these."

Hoshi chuckled. "Yeah, too bad I'm on duty tonight." She smiled and waved as she started walking again. "See you later, sir."

"Good night," Malcolm replied, turning back to the door.

The door opened in front of him, revealing a grinning Trip, still in uniform. "Hey," Trip said in greeting. "Sorry for the delay. I just got off-shift, was about to get changed." He waved the other man into his room.

Malcolm nodded as he stepped past, then turned to Trip. "I made an assumption about what you might like to drink," he said, smiling charmingly as he raised the box slightly, causing the items within it to clink against each other.

Trip raised one eyebrow, then looked down at the box. He squinted, trying to make out the text on the side. "Bríbhéir beorach chun a díola…" he read aloud, hesitantly, pronouncing each word as best he could. He turned his gaze to Malcolm. "Um, what is this?"

"It's beer," Malcolm said. "Irish, though, not American. I hope that's all right?"

Trip nodded enthusiastically. "It's fabulous. Thanks." Malcolm put the box on the floor next to Trip's desk.

"Make yourself comfortable," Trip said as he opened the drawer of his bureau and pulled out some clothes. "I just want to change," he added, nodding down at the uniform he was wearing, then disappearing into the lav. He stuck his head back out the door. "There's some chips on top of the desk there," he added, nodding towards the desk, then pulling his head back inside the small room.

Malcolm settled himself on Trip's desk chair, then heard Trip's voice calling out from the lav. "So, what's the Irish word for beer?"

"Beoir," Malcolm said.

"Not so different," Trip replied, reappearing in the doorway in jeans and a casual shirt, his feet bare. Cocking his head to the side, he asked, "How, exactly, do you know the Irish word for 'beer'?"

Malcolm looked up from his seat, pausing as he thought for a moment. "I'm not entirely sure. I might have learnt it from my grandmother."

Trip stepped into the room, grabbing a set of cards from his desk as he settled himself, cross-legged, onto the floor. He waved Malcolm down. As Malcolm moved to sit across from him on the floor, he asked, "Your grandma drink a lot of beer?"

Malcolm laughed. "Actually, yes; she could hold her own."

"A woman after my own heart," Trip said, shuffling the cards. "Have you ever been to Ireland?" he asked, beginning to deal.

Malcolm nodded, picking up his cards as Trip slid them towards him. "A few times. I have some family there."

Trip nodded as he finished dealing, picking up his own cards. Looking over their tops, he said, "I have a nephew there, but I've never been. It's supposed to be beautiful."

"It is," said Malcolm vaguely as he pondered his hand.

Trip set his cards down as he reached into the nearby box, pulling out two beers with one hand, the bottles clinking together. He slid one of the containers across the floor of his cabin, in his friend's direction. Malcolm looked up at him and nodded, opening the beer with a soft "snick" and taking a quick sip.

"Oh, sorry, cheers," Malcolm said quickly, raising his bottle.

Trip smiled. "Salud," he replied, raising his own drink.

They sat in silence for a while, the only sounds the soft snicks as they moved cards against one another. Every once in a while, Trip would say, "Rummy," and the game would begin again.

"Rummy," Trip said for the fourth time, and he laid down his cards.

"Damn," Malcolm said as his eyes flashed up to meet Trip's. He tossed his cards down gently, then looked down at them, tallying the points. He picked up another beer as he worked, the drink making a soft hiss as he opened it.

Trip watched him for a moment, then he asked, "You okay, Malcolm?" his brow furrowed in concern.

Malcolm looked up and blinked rapidly. "Yes, why?"

"Because you don't usually lose this often, or this badly," Trip replied gently. "Your mind on something else?"

Malcolm didn't reply, instead taking a slow sip, then placing the bottle on the floor beside him, next to his cards, and leaning back against Trip's bed. Finally, he smiled, although it didn't quite touch his eyes. "I'm fine, Commander. I'm just tired, I suppose."

Trip leaned forward, putting his own bottle down beside him. "Don't talk crap, Lieutenant," he replied, the concern in his expression belying the harshness of his words. In a softer voice, he continued, "What's wrong?"

Malcolm sighed, pulling his eyes away from Trip's, staring down at his bottle. He began swirling it gently in his hand, the liquid inside sloshing against the sides of the green glass. "I received a message from my sister." He lifted the bottle to his mouth, finishing off the beer. Lowering the container, he allowed his gaze to rest on Trip. "She's met someone." He smiled wanly. "Getting married."

Trip frowned. "Is that a problem?"

"No, no," Malcolm said vehemently, reaching for another beer. "It's great for her." He opened the bottle and took a deep swig, then stared down at his hands curled around the glass. "I'm happy for her." He looked up at Trip, who looked confused. "No, really, I am glad, I'm just…" he let his voice trail away.

"Just, what?"

"It's foolish."

Trip leaned forward. "I doubt that."

Malcolm shrugged. "I wonder, sometimes…" He looked down at his beer again.

When Malcolm didn't continue, Trip added, "If you'll ever find someone?" Malcolm looked up, but didn't reply. Trip asked, "Did you ever?"

Malcolm nodded. "Yes, once." He smiled at Trip. "I asked her to marry me."

Trip inhaled sharply and raised his eyebrows. After a moment, he said, "But?"

Malcolm shrugged. "But…" He took a sip. "Things changed." With another sip, he finished the bottle, placing it firmly on the floor beside him. "We broke up." He reached over and took two more bottles, handing one to Trip. Opening his own drink, he smiled. "Actually, she broke up with me. Said I was too devoted to my work."

"You?" Trip asked, with gentle sarcasm.

Malcolm nodded.

Trip leaned back, his hands against the floor behind him, his open bottle beside him. "Yeah, I think about all that too, you know? A five year mission…"

Malcolm chimed in. "The few women on Enterprise are subordinates…"

"Couldn't date 'em even if you wanted to."

Malcolm nodded. "And I don't really want to, because, well…"

"It's almost like they're your sisters," Trip finished.

"Exactly." Malcolm said with emphasis, raising his bottle. He drank.

Trip leaned forward. "Now, if they weren't your sisters…" he said slowly, drawing each word out.

Malcolm lowered his bottle slowly and stared at Trip warily. "Yes?"

"Who would you date?" Trip asked, an evil glint in his eye.

"What do you mean?"

"I mean, if you had to pick from the women on Enterprise, who would you date?"

Malcolm said, hesitantly, "Commander, I…"

"Trip, right?"

"Trip, I just don't feel comfortable…"

"It's just a game, Malcolm. But you have to pick one."

"Trip…"

"Okay, I'll go first. I'd pick Rodriguez." Trip picked up his drink and took a sip, then smiled, nodding.

"Rodriguez? Why her?"

"Well, first off, she's not an engineer." At Malcolm's look of surprise, Trip shrugged. "I'm an engineer. Engineers are boring." He smiled. "She works in the kitchen. And I love women who can cook. And B, she's attractive: dark hair, dark skin, dark eyes – just my type. And thirdly, she can dance."

"How do you know she can dance?"

"Remember that party last month? Believe me, she can dance."

"So, why didn't you go up to her and…"

Trip shook his head. "Nah. In addition to the fact that she's a subordinate…I can't dance."

Malcolm laughed.

"So…"

Malcolm pretended not to understand.

"Who would you?" Trip asked.

"Ah, yes. Who would I? I've never really thought about it; never thought about the women in that way." Malcolm pondered. After a moment, he said, "Perhaps Hoshi."

Trip choked on his drink. "Hoshi? Why?" he asked, his surprise plain on his face.

"Why the shock?" Malcolm asked, his brow furrowed. "She's a beautiful woman, talented, smart, and easy to talk to."

Trip thought for a moment, then said, "The sister factor, is all."

"No, not sisterly." Malcolm said, wagging his eyebrows faux suggestively. "Not at all."

x-x

Malcolm walked down the corridor towards his quarters, carefully placing one foot in front of the other as he moved, trailing one gentle hand down the wall as he passed. He stumbled slightly, and as he turned to look back over his shoulder at the obstacle, he bumped into someone. He stepped back quickly with an apologetic, "Sorry," as he took in Hoshi's smiling face.

"Sorry, Lieutenant," Hoshi said. Then she stepped closer to him, peering up into his eyes. "Are you all right?"

Malcolm took a hurried step backwards and nodded.

Hoshi took another step towards him. "You look a little funny."

"I'm fine," Malcolm said awkwardly, taking another step back and finding himself against the corridor wall.

Hoshi leaned in to him, quite close to his face, and took a careful sniff. "Had a few of those beers, eh?"

Malcolm's blush crept up his cheeks as he reacted to her closeness. He suddenly found himself babbling, "A bit. Not much. Only four, not many. Off-duty. Erm, Trip…"

Hoshi stepped back. "Don't worry." She patted him on the arm. "Invite me next time," she said, and then moved off with a wave and what might have been a suggestive smile.

Malcolm simply stood, dumbfounded, his back still to the wall, and watched as Hoshi rounded a corner. As she disappeared from his view, he muttered, "Damn it, Trip." He sighed and shook his head. "You and your foolish games. Look what you've done."