Warning: Some swearing. Slash.

Summary: Something from Trip's dark days comes back to haunt him.

For LtBlackFire, who'd wanted a T/R hurt/comfort story. I tried for that, but the stars did not align precisely as she directed. Still, I hope she likes it.

Disclaimer: I don't own it, I make no money from it. Not written for profit, just for fun.

x-x

"Malcolm, wait up!"

Malcolm turned in the crowded corridor. Seeing Trip jogging to catch him, he stopped just outside the mess hall doors as Trip reached his side. Unfortunately, this was a busy spot, with people swirling in and out of the mess. Each time the doors opened, they released the scent of tomato and curry, causing Malcolm's stomach to growl in hunger.

"Sorry, I wanted to catch you before I have to go on shift," Trip said. "You got a second?"

Glancing towards the mess, Malcolm nodded reluctantly.

Trip grasped Malcolm's arm at the elbow and pulled him to the side of the narrow hall, away from the general swarm of people bustling in and out of the nearby doors. "What are you doing tonight?" he asked, his hand still at Malcolm's elbow as he leaned towards the other man, the shield of his body creating a fairly private space around them.

Malcolm's brow wrinkled and he looked up at Trip. "I have no plans at present. Why?"

"Movie night," Trip said quickly, releasing his arm. "I know you don't normally go, but I picked a film special, 'War of the Worlds'. Lots of explosions. I think you'll like it." He smiled warmly. Then, suddenly looking a bit nervous, he asked, "Would you come with?"

Malcolm felt himself start to smile. "I'd like that."

Trip bit the side of his lower lip, staring down into Malcolm's eyes. "Good," he said finally. Malcolm got a whiff of his aftershave, dark and spicy, before he stepped back, his eyes twinkling. "See you there, 'round eight - sorry, twenty-hundred hours?"

Malcolm nodded, his heart thumping as he watched Trip move off. Now that was interesting, he thought. Although the conversation could be taken either way, he was fairly sure Trip had just asked him on a date.

Watching the last of the crowd enter the mess, he leant against the wall, trying hard not to smile, or laugh, or jump up and down or some other inappropriate expression of excitement. Trip's invitation had been a bit surprising, he thought, but he was certainly willing to try. After all, it would be nice to have a romantic interest, and he did have to admit, Trip was a nice looking bloke, if occasionally a bit over-enthusiastic.

Still, he was certain that he could find a way to channel that enthusiasm.

Whistling happily, Malcolm stepped into the mess.

x-x

Walking away from the armoury, Malcolm spied Trip at the other end of the corridor, coming towards him from the opposite direction. Trip smiled broadly at the sight of him, and he couldn't help but smile back. The man had an infectious grin.

As Trip reached Malcolm's side, he spun himself around theatrically, changing direction and walking beside Malcolm.

"Lieutenant," Trip said happily.

"Commander," Malcolm replied in kind.

"Still coming to the movie later?" Trip asked.

"Absolutely. I wouldn't miss it."

"Good," Trip said.

Malcolm felt Trip's fingers rest on his arm, so he paused.

"I have some stuff to do first. Hoshi tells me that I got a package. I've got mail!" Trip said with obvious eagerness.

Malcolm knew from experience that their chances to receive non-electronic mail had been few and far between, although that had certainly improved with this current docking at Jupiter Station. "Who from?" he replied.

"No idea," Trip said. He smiled. "See you at eight?"

Malcolm nodded, then watched Trip turn and head away again.

x-x

Malcolm sat, restless, in the last row of chairs in the darkened room, the film flickering on the screen to the front, an empty seat beside him. Peering over the heads of the crowd, he scanned one last time for Trip. It had been a half hour since the film began, and still no sign of the man. Trip had been known to be late before, certainly, but forty-five minutes? And after confirming the time twice? Something was wrong.

Malcolm stood and left the room, blinking against the bright lights of the corridor, then moved in the direction of Trip's quarters. Maybe he'd misunderstood, he thought, although that seemed unlikely. Or maybe something urgent had come up, and Trip hadn't had the time to contact him.

Malcolm stood outside Trip's door and rang the chime. After a few moments, the door opened, revealing Trip, still in uniform, looking tired.

"Are you all right?" Malcolm asked.

Trip leaned against the doorjamb. "Fine, Lieutenant. What can I do you for?"

Malcolm shifted uncomfortably. "We were supposed..."

"Oh, shit," Trip said quickly, suddenly standing straight and placing a hand over his mouth briefly. His eyes widened. "Oh, God. I'm sorry."

"Is everything all right?"

Trip nodded. "Other than the fact that I'm a complete idiot, yes, things are okay." He closed his eyes for a moment and shook his head.

"Are you sure you're..."

Trip waved him off with his hand. "Nah, I'm fine, just distracted. It's nothing. I'm sorry. Can we reschedule?"

"Tomorrow night? Dinner?"

Trip smiled. "That sounds great."

x-x

"What happened?" Malcolm asked from across the table. He'd just joined Hoshi and Travis for lunch, and had come in the midst of a story. He wasn't quite sure that he'd heard Travis correctly.

Travis raised an eyebrow and waved his pickle in Malcolm's direction. "Hess told me herself. She saw the solenoid lift off the shelf, hurtle through the air, and miss Trip's head by, like, a centimetre." He bit into the pickle.

"That's weird. It moved by itself?" said Hoshi.

Travis nodded, crunching happily.

Malcolm picked up his fork. "Do they know what caused it to move?" He took a bite from his salad.

"No," Travis said, shaking his head. "They thought it must have been an anomaly, but they found no trace of one afterwards."

Hoshi leaned forward across her plate. "Sounds kind of spooky."

Travis smiled. "Yup." He popped a chip into his mouth. "Bizarre," he murmured around his mouthful.

x-x

For the second time in as many days, Malcolm found himself outside Trip's quarters. This time he'd only waited twenty minutes before he gave up on the man. This was getting ridiculous.

Malcolm raised his hand to ring, then stopped, hand hovering over the chime. He stepped back and dropped his arm. Maybe Trip was just playing with him, he thought. He took a careful breath. After all, being stood up twice in two days had to be some sort of record.

Malcolm clenched his hands into fists. If Trip was trying some sort of game here...

Trip's door opened and he stepped out, head down, nearly colliding with Malcolm. "Sorry," Trip said, brushing past him without looking up.

Malcolm simply stood there, too surprised to move. Then he took several quick steps after Trip, eventually matching pace and walking beside him. "Commander," he said brusquely.

Trip's head snapped up and he froze in place, looking at Malcolm as if seeing him for the first time. "Yes?" he said.

Malcolm crossed his arms over his chest. Frowning, he asked, "Where were you?"

"Excuse me?"

Malcolm heaved an angry sigh. "Dinner, Commander?"

Trip nodded vaguely. "Oh, right. Sorry."

"That's twice in two days," Malcolm said, his anger building.

"What?" replied Trip, seeming bewildered.

Now Malcolm was confused. "The film last night, and now dinner."

"Right," Trip said, nodding slowly. "I didn't mean to blow you off, I just..." his voice trailed off and he shrugged. "Sorry."

Hurt overcoming his anger, Malcolm said more quietly, "What sort of game are you playing here, Commander?"

"There's no game, Malcolm. This doesn't involve you."

Malcolm felt his anger come roaring back. Biting off his response, he strode off, not looking back.

x-x