One again, I've borrowed the boys from Paramount/Viacom. Trip and Malcolm are a couple in this story, although they aren't doing anything they couldn't do in public. There is some swearing.

This story was written for Romanse and Sita Z. Romanse requested an h/c story featuring Malcolm and Trip. I hope this fits the bill, although dialog, particularly with a Southern accent, is not my forte. Sita Z asked for a glimpse into Malcolm's childhood. It occurred to me that for Malcolm to be as likeable as he is once one gets beneath the security training, his defenses and his natural English reserve, he must have known some happiness at some point. This is my take on why it all went wrong. I have no clue as to whether it's canon or not.

The John Masefield poem referenced in the story is Sea Fever.

Safe Harbor

Malcolm Reed stared out at the stars passing the window of the observation lounge, but he didn't see them. What he saw was a movie in his mind, scenes that had happened years and years ago but were as vivid and as painful as if they had just happened yesterday. In his mind, he was a little boy who was all of 5 years old and small for his age with a pale peaches and cream complexion; a fine, almost delicate bone structure; and large, luminous, blue-gray eyes that were alight with curiosity. He was dressed in a brand-new sailor suit and looked for all the world like a Madame Alexander doll that had come to life. Although he was little, he had been very careful not to get his new clothes dirty or wrinkled. He wore a sailor cap on his head which Mum had pinned to his thick, wavy, dark hair so it wouldn't blow off in a gust of wind. The ribbon on the cap said HMS Victorious. He was very proud of that. That was the name of Daddy's ship. Daddy had been gone for ever so long, but he was coming home today, and he could hardly wait.

He tightly held on to Mum's hand. The dock was full of people who were all waiting for family or friends who worked on Daddy's ship. It would be so easy to get lost, so easy to get pushed into the water. Daddy had warned him how dangerous it would be to fall into the water between the dock and his ship.

He loved to watch Daddy's ship come into the harbor. He stood on his tip-toes and wiggled about trying to get a good view which was hard because he was so small and everyone else was so big. He was too heavy, though, for Mum to carry on her shoulders. To his child's eyes, even though it was only a corvette, Daddy's ship seemed huge. It moved slowly, carefully, a little this way and a little that way until it was in just the right place and then the anchor dropped with a big splash and the lines were shot ashore and tied down. The ship's horn sounded. Such a noise! It almost hurt his ears, but he loved it. Sometimes, like today, there was a band. He especially liked it when they played Rule, Britannia! He watched as the crew disembarked and ran to join their loved ones. Everybody was happy and laughing. He liked how some of the men picked up some of the ladies and twirled them round and round, but then they got mushy and he lost interest. He knew he would have to wait for awhile. Daddy was always the last to leave.

The dock was almost empty now, so it was much easier for him to see. There was a tall, thin man dressed in a white summer uniform standing at the top of the gangplank. He returned the salute of the officer of the watch and descended. Daddy! He dropped Mum's hand and ran as fast as he could toward the Royal Navy captain. He held out his arms and called, "Daddy! Daddy!"

But something was wrong. Normally, Daddy would smile at him, sweep him up into his arms, give him a firm yet gentle bear hug and ask, "How's my boy?" This time, though, he ignored him except to growl, "Out of my way, boy!"

He didn't know what he'd done to make Daddy mad. He knew his face and hands were clean because he hadn't had anything to eat. He hadn't mussed up his clothes or lost his hat. He couldn't remember doing anything bad lately that Mum would have told Daddy about. He was usually on his best behavior when he knew Daddy would be home soon; that way, Mum and Daddy would let him have pineapple trifle for dessert when they went to the restaurant for dinner and maybe Daddy would give him a present.

He ran to catch up with the man who was rapidly striding away from him. He tentatively reached a small hand up and gently tugged on the hem of his daddy's uniform jacket. "Daddy?" His voice was soft, trembling and full of confusion. The only response he got was a rough shove that sent him sprawling. He ended up with skinned knees and hands. His new clothes were torn and bloodied. He'd been so proud of his sailor suit, but now it was ruined, and he was afraid that he'd be in big trouble with Mum, too. He hadn't meant to be clumsy, but Daddy was so much stronger than he was, and he still didn't know why Daddy was mad. He started to cry.

"Stop that noise, boy, or I'll give you a reason to cry! Now get a move on or I'll leave you behind."

"Mary, can't you control that boy?"

Mum was coming to get him, but it was hard for her to move very fast when she was wearing high heels. In spite of everything, he had still hoped to receive some comfort from her, but he was bitterly disappointed. "Come on, boy, you heard your father." When he didn't move fast enough, she grabbed his arm and somehow twisted it as she pulled him along.

When they reached their personal transportation vehicle, Mum carefully buckled him into his safety seat. Mum always made sure that the harness fit snugly over him, but this time it hurt because he had been manhandled, and he cried out. He was stunned when his father turned and struck him backhand across his face. "I warned you, boy!" He bit down on his lip and tried to stifle his tears. He could taste blood.

What was happening? Only this morning he'd been so happy because Daddy was coming home. Daddy loved him and cared for him. Daddy didn't yell at him and hit him. Oh, a swat on his bum now and again, but it never really hurt. He felt safe with his daddy and loved him so much. But who was this man whose face looked so mean but who otherwise looked and sounded just like Daddy? This had to be a bad dream, and he wanted to wake up. He wanted to wake up now!

He sat quietly in his safety seat and kept his eyes on his shoes. He thought Daddy said something about a beach and sounded really unhappy. He didn't understand why. The beach was fun! It sounded like Daddy would be working in an office instead of on a ship. It sounded like he would be home every night. Until a few minutes ago, he would have been overjoyed by this. Now, though, he wasn't so sure, and Daddy certainly wasn't happy about it.

They'd left him locked in the vehicle when they went into the restaurant and didn't bring him any food when they came out, not even some of the fancy little crackers Mum usually brought him when she'd been out to eat. He was hot, thirsty, hungry and tired but most of all scared and confused. When he got home, he was put to bed immediately. No dinner, no nice cold glass of water, no bedtime story and no explanation, only an application of that nasty red stuff that hurt on his scrapes. He couldn't keep the tears from forming, but at least this time he didn't make a sound.

For the next three days he spent much of his time in his room and played very quietly. He only saw Daddy at dinner, and as long as he was quiet, polite and cleaned his plate, Daddy pretty much behaved as if he wasn't there. He finally decided to take a chance and approach him. He crept into Daddy's study as quietly as a church mouse and stood silently waiting for Daddy to put his paper down. He noticed the large, half empty, cut glass tumbler on the table just within Daddy's reach. It wasn't like Daddy to drink except maybe now and again at a holiday party.

When Daddy put down his paper and saw him, he barked, "I didn't hear you knock, boy. What do you want?"

He held out his favorite book, Treasure Island, which Daddy had given him for Christmas. Before Daddy had gone to sea this last time, he had been reading a few pages to him every night as a bedtime story. He had just gotten to the good part where Jack Hawkins accidentally falls into the apple barrel and overhears Long John Silver plotting to take over the ship. "Daddy, would you read me some more please?"

Daddy snatched the book away from him and hurled it into the crackling fire in the fireplace. "I don't have time for such drivel! Don't you ever come in here again without knocking. Now get out!" He didn't move a muscle, only stared in shock as the fire consumed his prized book. "Did you hear me, boy?" Daddy made to strike him but apparently had had enough to drink that his aim was off.

"Yes, sir," he managed to squeak, and then he fled.

Be careful what you ask for Reed; you just might get it, Malcolm thought bitterly. He'd wanted it all to be a bad dream. Well, it had turned out to be a bloody waking nightmare. All those rules about what Reeds did or didn't do. He'd tried so hard to remember them all to regain his father's love, but there were just too many. The beatings increased in frequency and severity and didn't stop until he was 16 when he finally defended himself. Oh, he never actually struck his father, although he had been tempted more than once. No, he merely blocked the blow when his father tried to backhand him across his face again. His father had seemed surprised, and had never struck him again.

He'd been sent off to boarding school, a military boarding school, when he was 8. He had been both excited and apprehensive. He was leaving everything and everyone he knew, but perhaps he could make new friends and perhaps he wouldn't be hurt. He should have known better! He was the youngest and smallest student there which immediately made him the favorite target of all the older, bigger boys. He was incessantly bullied, beaten and worse, but he had survived.

He thought the nightmare would end the day he turned 18 and left his father's house for good, but once again, he should have known better, although this time, he supposed, it really was his own fault. His father had made it clear to him that he was a disappointment and that he'd washed his hands of him, but whenever he had accomplished something of which he was particularly proud, he had attempted to reopen communication with his father, had tried to regain his love and respect. Graduating with honors from Starfleet's Academy hadn't done it. Being assigned to Enterprise hadn't done it. Commendations for his work with phase pistols, phase cannons and EM fields hadn't done it. Instead of learning to expect and accept the rejection, however, he had desperately clung to hope and each failure had become more painful and more difficult to shake off than the last.

Well, Reed, no need to worry about it anymore, he thought. Your father's dead, so maybe now the nightmare will finally end, but somehow he didn't really believe it. He was so deeply immersed in his misery that he didn't hear someone enter the room, didn't hear that person call his name.

Trip was appalled, but not really surprised, when Jon played the message for him. It was addressed simply to the Weapons and Tactical Officer of the Starship Enterprise. A nondescript man, a lawyer - excuse me! - a solicitor with a droning monotone voice delivered the following impersonal message: "I regret to inform you of the death of Admiral Stuart A. E. Reed, RN (Ret.) on the 15th of last month at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, USA, where he had sought a second opinion for treatment of a rapidly progressive and ultimately fatal viral illness. In accordance with his wishes, he was buried at sea. Also in accordance with his wishes, I am prohibited from disclosing the coordinates of his burial. Lieutenant, I offer you the condolences of the firm." It hadn't escaped Jon's or Trip's notice that Malcolm had never been addressed by name, only by position and rank.

Now, Tuckers have rules just as Reeds do (only not as many), and one of them was not to think or speak ill of the dead. It wasn't sporting, seeing as how they couldn't defend themselves, but Trip was too ticked off to care. Not for the first time, he thought that Stuart Reed was a real first-class SOB. The man had known he was dying, but had he tried to patch things up with Mal? No! Had he tried to explain what had gone wrong all those years ago, even before Mal had decided to join Starfleet? No! And if it was as he suspected, would it really have killed the man to have set his son's mind at ease? Hell, no! But he'd left Mal twisting in the breeze. He'd left it to Jon to deliver the hurtful message and left it for him to help his beloved Mal pick up the pieces.

As if Jon were a mind reader, and with Trip maybe he was, he said, "Trip, take care of him. You know how he is. He said he was 'fine' when he left, but we both know he isn't. I'm really worried about him this time."

Trip was too. He and Malcolm had been a couple for some time now, and he better understood his lover's thought processes. The only good thing about that at the moment, though, was that it allowed him to narrow down just where on the ship Mal would go to ground to lick his wounds. He started with Mal's quarters. For all intents and purposes, Mal had moved in with him, but maintained his own quarters as a refuge whenever they had a spat. Mal wasn't there. Next stop was the Jeffries tubes. There was something about the cramped space containing so much of the inner workings of his beloved phase cannons that Mal found comforting, but the Armory staff assured him their boss wasn't in one of them. That left the observation lounge. Sure enough, the door was set to privacy lock. While he just might be walking into someone's romantic tryst, he was willing to take the chance. He needed to find Mal before he could act on any of his wilder ideas. Sometimes, he mused, having a better understanding of Mal's thought processes was not necessarily a good thing. He'd become convinced over time that if pushed too far, Mal could indeed become suicidal.

He used the Engineering override code to quietly enter the darkened room and was relieved to see Mal's slender silhouette outlined by the dim light from the observation port.

"Mal?" he called softly. There was no response, so he went deeper into the room, out of the shadows and into the pale semicircle of light before the window. As much as he wanted to rush up and hug Mal for all he was worth, he knew that would be a bad idea unless he wanted to spend some quality time in sickbay. Malcolm didn't react well to being startled.

"Malcolm?" he called again, a bit louder this time. He saw Malcolm start and heard his short, sharp intake of breath. Eventually, he slowly turned to face Trip, and Trip saw the light reflected on the tears in his eyes. Trip couldn't wait anymore. He held his arms out to Malcolm, rushed to him and enveloped him in a hug. "Darlin', I am so sorry, so very sorry!" He gently rubbed Malcolm's back and felt his slight frame tremble against him.

"How ya holdin' up, Mal?" Trip knew it was a stupid question, knew the answer he was likely to get, but it just popped out anyway. He wasn't good at this.

"I'm fine," Malcolm said quietly right on cue as he made to pull away slightly. Trip let his hands slide up to Malcolm's shoulders but continued to hold him lightly at arm's length. When he first took up with Malcolm, that response would have angered him. He would have figured Malcolm was playing him for a fool and lying to him, but over time he had come to realize that it was merely a preprogrammed response, rather like the question that had provoked it. Lying required at least a moment's thought.

"Course you are, darlin', but is there anything I can do to make ya - finer?"

"I shouldn't think so, but thank you for inquiring."

Trip maneuvered himself and Malcolm over to the large overstuffed sectional. Both men sat down and kicked off their shoes as they did so. Malcolm drew his legs up such that he could rest his head on his knees. He wrapped his arms so tightly about his lower legs that his knuckles were white. Trip curled his legs off to the side and slipped an arm around Malcolm's shoulders. His fingers lightly brushed Malcolm's shoulder and upper arm. Trip had learned not to question Malcolm in situations like these but to try to maintain a physical connection and let Malcolm open up in his own way, at his own pace.

"I really don't know why I should find it so upsetting. My father has always been quite forthright about his disdain for me. It certainly is no surprise." Malcolm seemed almost embarrassed.

"He was yer dad, Mal," Trip said quietly. After a slight pause, he added, "And he didn't always hurt ya."

"No, he didn't." Malcolm's voice was barely above a whisper.

"As long as he was alive, ya could always hope you'd work things out or at least get an explanation. Now ya know that ain't gonna happen. That's a pretty damn good reason to be upset."

"I wish I had had the chance to apologize for whatever it was I did. I don't mean joining Starfleet. I don't regret that. I mean whatever I did before. I've spent most of my life thinking about it, and I still don't know what it was."

"Ya know, Mal, yer probably one of the smartest people I know. Yer the best tactical officer in the fleet or ya wouldn't be here, and yer a damn fine engineer in yer area of expertise. Ya ever consider that if ya haven't figured it out yet, then maybe yer lookin' at it the wrong way?"

Malcolm rested his forehead on his knees. He didn't reply. Trip reached over and gently turned Malcolm's head so he was looking at him. With a rather lopsided grin on his face, Trip explained, "Ya need to get over yerself, Mal. Ya ain't the center of the universe. It all don't revolve 'round ya. What that means is that ya ain't responsible for every damn thing that goes wrong in it!" He kept the grin plastered on his face and stared intently at Malcolm as if by force of will he could get his lover to understand the serious point behind the jocular words.

Malcolm turned his face away, and Trip thought he'd blown it big time. This is why I ain't a tactical officer, he thought to himself. Of course, when it comes to this particular exercise, Mal ain't doin' so hot neither. When Malcolm turned to look at him again, Trip was surprised to see the ghost of a smile, although one that didn't reach his expressive blue-gray eyes. "And here I was under the impression I was the center of your universe, Mr. Tucker," Malcolm said wryly.

"Ya are, darlin', ya are!" Trip pulled him over so Malcolm's head would rest on his shoulder. "It's just that I'm one of them thar 'spatial anomalies'." Trip lightly kissed Malcolm's dark, soft hair and continued to hold him as both men watched the stars for awhile.

"I've been givin' this problem some serious thought, Mal," Trip said at last.

"That can't be good, Mr. Tucker." Malcolm looked up and again favored Trip with the slightest of smiles.

"Mal, ya think Jon is ever gonna make admiral?"

Malcolm wasn't sure what to make of the question and tried to pull away from Trip. His eyes were wide.

"Now I know ya don't like talkin' 'bout Jon behind his back, but just work with me on this for a minute, will ya?"

"Of course I think Captain Archer will be made up to admiral, if I can keep him alive long enough. Just because I might be uncomfortable using his command style, doesn't mean that it fails to work admirably for him. The crew, myself included, would follow him anywhere."

"So how'd ya think he'd feel if outta the blue he got a message from Starfleet Command to turn this tub around and hightail it back to Earth so they could kick him upstairs where he'd be commandin' a desk while somebody else would be commandin' Enterprise?"

"I daresay he wouldn't be particularly pleased."

"I daresay ya got a real talent for understatement there, Mr. Reed. And whaddaya think he'd do about it?"

Malcolm quirked an eyebrow, much like T'Pol, but answered immediately. "He'd demur."

"Now what in Sam Hill does that mean, Mal? That some fancy, po-lite, English word for 'raise hell'?"

"Essentially," Malcolm answered, his smile widening just a bit.

"Damn straight, he would. And he'd probably get away with it, too." Trip sounded triumphant.

Trip suddenly because serious. "What if yer daddy got a message like that, Mal? I'm thinkin' he liked bein' a ship's cap'n, liked bein' at sea. Hell, didn't he teach ya to handle a boat 'fore ya could ride a bike? It must have been a shock when he got - what's that old-fashioned navy word? - beached." Malcolm emitted a small gasp. Something he'd heard long ago finally made sense. Trip continued, "Now, yer daddy didn't strike me as the type who'd tell the Lords of Admiralty to take that order and put it someplace the sun don't shine - not even usin' big, proper, fancy words. I'm also thinkin' he liked the idea of bein' an admiral, so I can't really see him puttin' in his 20 years and then takin' retirement so he could start a sport fishin' business or somethin' so he'd be back on the water."

"It would be a bit difficult for 'Reed and Son, Boats for Hire' to make a go of it, considering my terror of drowning."

"Stop it, Mal!" Trip said sharply. "Don't ya go there! Don't ya even think about goin' there! That ain't what I meant and ya know it! What I'm sayin' is I think yer daddy kinda got caught 'tween a rock and a hard place. I'm bettin' he wanted to stay at sea and be an admiral like that Lord Nelson fella you're always readin' 'bout. 'Cept the Royal Navy ain't the same now as it was then. He could have one or t'other, but not both. Reeds always follow orders so he couldn't fight to keep his ship like Jon would. Reeds always do their duty, so he wouldn't give up on bein' an admiral, even if he was miserable behind a desk. He wouldn't leave the navy so he could start his own business. And that's why he wouldn't have done it even if you'd been born with gills and a dorsal fin. I think yer daddy had a dream for his life that kinda fell apart."

Even if Malcolm could see the logic in what Trip was saying, it was still hard for him to accept that he hadn't done something to provoke his father. He didn't want to accept that his father had been gratuitously vicious. "But why make me suffer for it? What did that change?"

"Common on, Mal, yer the tactical officer! Yer daddy picked on you 'cause he could. You were the soft, easy target. The First Sea Lord could kick yer daddy's ass from here to next week. No put-down, Mal, just fact. You were justa 5-year-old kid. What the hell could ya do? I bet there's a Reed rule that says Reed men don't hit women. Well, if he couldn't hit your momma or your sister, then who did that leave when he was so frustrated with life that all he wanted to do was smash somethin'? No, what he did to ya didn't change nothin', 'cept to spread the misery 'round. Yer daddy didn't know how to change what needed to be changed, so he saw to it that everybody was as miserable as he was. That was the point of the exercise. Ya didn't do a damn thing to deserve any of it, Mal! Ya were just handy is all."

"Look, Mal, I'm not trying to disrespect yer dad. I think he was in a tough spot and didn't know how to get out of it, and on top of it all, Reed rules wouldn't let him ask for help. I love ya, and I just can't stand ya blamin' yerself for what happened anymore. It's like yer caught in the same trap and he's taking ya down with him. It's gotta stop!"

"Why do you bother to say you don't hold my father in contempt? It's perfectly clear to me that if he were still alive, you wouldn't hesitate to get into a dust up with him." Malcolm's voice was cold. He'd pulled away from Trip and huddled in the corner of the sectional.

"If that means that I'd like to deck him, well, no sense lyin' to ya Mal, if he started up on ya, I'd be mighty hard pressed to stay civil."

"Look, when ya first startin' tellin' me what yer childhood had been like, I couldn't believe it." Trip saw Malcolm's eyes narrow. "No, Mal, I believed that ya were tellin' me, I just couldn't understand how yer dad could do that to ya. I had to talk it out with someone."

"You didn't! How dare you?" Malcolm was furious.

"Hold on, Mal. It wasn't who yer thinkin'. I did have enough sense not to go blabbin' to Jon. Whatever he knows, you've told him or he's worked out for himself. No, I talked to mah momma. Yeah, I admit I was callin' yer daddy some pretty choice names, but she stopped me dead in mah tracks. She asked me if I loved ya and did I think ya loved me. I asked her, 'Whatcha askin' these damn fool questions for, momma? Hell, yeah, I love him, and I'm pretty damn sure he loves me!"

"I imagine that went over well," Malcolm's voice was cold, but at least he'd calmed down.

"Now Mal, you know momma loves ya like ya was a natural born Tucker. Hell, sometimes I think she loves ya more'n me."

"I was referring to your rather colorful language, Mr. Tucker," Malcolm replied. The frost in his voice was definitely thawing. "Your mother is a lady of taste and refinement."

"'Specially since she loves ya, huh Mal?" Trip grinned. "But, yeah, as I recall momma did say somethin' 'bout sendin' some of Grandma Tucker's castile soap up and askin' Jon to wash mah mouth out with it. Ya ever taste that stuff, Mal? I'm tellin' ya, it would gag a maggot!" Trip didn't seem quite appropriately embarrassed.

"I'm afraid I haven't had the pleasure. My family used other methods as you well know." Malcolm managed to say it in a matter-of-fact manner in a neutral voice.

"Jeez, Mal, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have joked about it." Trip was truly distressed. He reached a hand out to Malcolm and was surprised when he took it.

"Momma told me that disrespectin' yer daddy was the same as disrespectin' ya. If I was gonna blame him for everything bad in yer life, I was gonna have to give him credit for at least some of the good things, too. Momma asked me just who it was I thought had taught ya how to love. She made it pretty clear I shouldn't be thinkin' it was me. If I'm honest, then I reckon 'fore things went wrong, yer daddy was the one that taught ya how to love and did a damn good job of it, too. When ya finally decide to love somebody, ya don't hold nothin' back, and I'm the one reapin' the benefit. No matter how bad a day I've had in Engineerin', bein' with ya can sure enough turn it around."

"When I think about it, I actually feel sorry for yer dad. If he'd let ya love him like I know ya wanted to, like the good son ya are, 'stead of shuttin' ya out, takin' out his frustrations on ya, and tryin' to turn ya into some kind of robot, his life would have been a helluva lot happier, even if his career didn't turn out quite the way he'd planned."

Trip slid over and joined Malcolm in the corner of the sectional. Once again, the two men sat quietly, holding hands and watching the stars pass.

"Mal, what would ya have done if you and yer daddy was gettin' along when he died and ya couldn't go back to Earth for the funeral?"

"I suppose I would have asked Captain Archer to hold a memorial service for him."

"So why don't ya do that now?"

"A bit hypocritical don't you think? We weren't getting along. In any case, his funeral and burial are long since accomplished. Why should I put the Captain to the trouble now?"

Trip sighed, "Well, Mal, Grandma Tucker always says the funeral ain't for the person in the box. It ain't like they're in a position to enjoy it now, is it? The funeral's for the people left behind. It's the last chance to say 'thank you', 'I'm sorry, please forgive me', 'I love ya', 'I miss ya', 'good-bye" - whatever needs to be said. And it ain't hypocritical for ya to want to say any of them things to the daddy you was waitin' for when you was 5 years old, the daddy you been missin' all yer life, the daddy ya still love."

"I'm sure Jon wouldn't think you was puttin' him to any trouble. I'll come with ya when ya ask him if ya want. Ya don't gotta decide right now. Just think on it some." Somewhere along the line, Trip had managed to put his arm around Malcolm's shoulders again and gave him a sort of sideways hug. Then he grinned. "But could ya think on it in the mess hall? I'm starvin'! Besides, I hear tell Chef's tryin' out some new pineapple recipe. Ya wouldn't want to put him to all that trouble for nothin' now, would ya? It ain't good to get Chef ticked off!"

"You, sir, are a shameless manipulator." For the first time that afternoon, Malcolm actually smiled a smile that made it to his eyes.

"Well, we all gotta do something well in life, but when it comes to manipulation, you ain't seen nothin' yet," Trip replied with a laugh as they retrieved their shoes and headed down to dinner.

Much later that night, Trip lay in bed beside the fitfully sleeping Malcolm. He had an arm about his waist, and his fingers lightly caressed his flank. Despite Trip's suggestive comment before dinner, all Malcolm had wanted, once they'd gone to bed, was Trip's warmth and comforting presence. As he thought about it, Trip was surprised to find that simply offering Mal comfort was as deeply satisfying as offering him a night of passion. Maybe his momma was right: He hadn't taught Mal anything about love, but Mal had certainly taught him, starting with the difference between lust and love.

Malcolm stirred beside him. "Ya all right, darlin'?" Trip asked quietly.

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to wake you, love." Nonetheless, Malcolm pushed himself up into a seated position.

"Ya didn't, but yer restless, Mal. Ya wanna talk about what's botherin' ya? Maybe you'd feel better if ya got it off yer chest. Now, I ain't gonna push ya. I know better'n that. I'm just sayin' that if ya wanna talk, then I'm willin' to listen." Trip was sitting up now as well.

"I don't wish to anger you." Malcolm's voice seemed to come from a distance.

Trip was surprised and a bit confused. "Whatever it is, Mal, we can work it out." When Malcolm didn't say anything, Trip jumped to a conclusion. "I'm sorry if I upset ya this afternoon. I was just tryin' to help. I love ya, darlin', and it hurts mah heart when ya beat yerself up."

In an anguished voice, Malcolm said, "Sometimes you - our being together - frightens me. I worry that some day, probably after a right bastard of a day when all I want to do is get off shift and be with you, I'll come here and find all my things in the corridor. The entry code will be changed, I'll have gone back to being nothing more than Lieutenant Reed to you, and I'll never know why."

"No, baby, no! I'd never do that to ya!" Trip was so distressed by the thought that he didn't realize he'd used an endearment Malcolm really disliked. He tried to fiercely hug Malcolm, but was stopped cold by what he said next.

"You already have," Malcolm said in a flat voice.

Trip was puzzled for a moment but then understood. "Ya mean the way I acted when Lizzie died? Oh, Mal, we talked 'bout that. I thought we'd worked that out. I thought ya understood." He was truly upset.

"I do now, but I didn't then. It hurt, Trip, the same way it hurt when my father turned on me. I don't know if I can handle going through that again with anyone."

"Treatin' you like that was the worst mistake I every made in mah life, Mal, but I'd like to think I learn from mah mistakes. I'm not sayin' I won't ever make a mistake again, just that I'll do mah damnedest not to make the same stupid ones. I know that whatever happens, we can work things out if we want to, if we love one another and trust one another. I know I love ya like I've never loved anyone else. I trust ya with my life. I know ya love me, Mal, so I'm askin' ya to just take it one day at a time, and I'm askin' ya to trust me. Ya want proof? Tell me what ya want, Mal, and I'll bust my ass to do it for ya."

Malcolm knew he and Trip had made a pact to fight fair and that he'd violated it. "I'm sorry, Trip. It wasn't right for me to bring up old hurts again. I don't know what possesses me sometimes. I don't know why you put up with me."

"Maybe for the same reason ya put up with me? It still amazes me that ya took me back after how I treated ya. That had to take as much bravery as anything you've ever done on an away mission, and I'm plum grateful that ya did it every day I wake up next to ya. I'll keep saying 'I'm sorry' as long as ya need to hear it, Mal, and I'll keep tellin' ya that I love ya until you believe it." Trip leaned in and gave Malcolm a tender, chaste kiss that made no demands, a kiss Malcolm returned in kind.

"We need to get some sleep, Mal, or we'll be useless when we go on duty." Malcolm nodded, and both men snuggled down together.

Trip had almost fallen asleep. With his head on Malcolm's chest, he had been lulled by his lover's steady heartbeat. "Trip, love," Malcolm said quietly, "I think I would like a memorial service for my father."

Trip smiled sleepily, "Fine, darlin', we'll tell Jon at breakfast."

As Trip had predicted, Captain Archer was more than willing to perform the ceremony. No one seemed to find Malcolm's request to be unusual in any way. Hydroponics provided flowers - red, white and blue. Travis constructed a lattice-work to hold the flowers that was bordered by intricately braided rope. Hoshi artfully arranged the flowers and provided the finely embroidered silken sash reading "In Memoriam - Captain Stuart A. E. Reed, RN." No one made a comment about that either. Malcolm dug about in the bottom of his kit until he found the cherished mementos - a faded navy blue ribbon with gold letters tarnished with age that read HMS Victorious and a business card embossed with a rendering of the ancient Greek statue of the Winged Victory and the legend "HMS Victorious, Stuart A. E. Reed, Captain, Commanding." When he returned to the cargo bay to add them to the memorial wreath, he heard Trip speaking. At first, he thought he was in conversation with Captain Archer and didn't wish to intrude, but then he realized his error and could feel the blush color his cheeks and the tears come to his eyes as he listened surreptitiously and was stunned by what he heard.

Trip had told Malcolm that a funeral was the last chance to say what needed to be said. Well, there were a couple of things he needed to say to Captain Reed. "Sir, I thought you might like to know that your son, Malcolm, the little boy who used to so anxiously await your homecoming, has grown into a fine officer who has the respect of his officers and his subordinates. It is my honor to serve with him."

"It is also my honor to call him my friend. He is a fine man who is generous, kind, fiercely loyal and forgiving. He's stood by me even when, I'm ashamed to admit, I treated him badly and didn't deserve his consideration. He's taught me a great deal. Although as chief of security it's his job to watch our backs, I want to assure you, sir, I'll do my best to watch his. You can put your mind at ease, sir. He won't be facing the dangers alone."

Trip paused and then added, his Southern accent coming out a bit now because he was remembering a Tucker rule, "There is one more thing your need to know, sir. Malcolm is right proud of his family name, and he's real careful not to do anything to shame it or shame you. He knows it's the most precious thing you could give him."

Malcolm was surprised by the number of condolence messages, either delivered personally or via the data terminal, he received from the crew and was even more amazed by how many of his shipmates turned out bright and early and in dress uniform for his father's memorial service. He'd expected the senior officers and perhaps some of his Armory staff, but it appeared that everyone not on duty was attending. T'Pol would have the bridge while Captain Archer read the service, but at breakfast, even she had offered the Vulcan mourning ritual - "I grieve with thee, Lieutenant Reed" - and her dark eyes had seemed genuinely concerned.

Captain Archer read the ancient burial service that the Royal Navy had used since at least the time of Admiral Lord Nelson. A recording was played of Amazing Grace performed by a solo piper. Another recording, this time Last Post, sounded throughout the cargo bay. Trip and Travis carefully moved the memorial wreath into the airlock. Before Malcolm triggered the airlock to vent to space, he recited the old John Masefield poem that begins:

"I must go down to the sea again, to the lonely sea and the sky,

And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by."

Malcolm remained at the observation port and watched his father's memorial wreath float away from the ship as the other mourners filed out. He reflected that while he wasn't yet ready to forgive and forget the physical and emotional abuse he'd suffered at his father's hands, and perhaps never would be, he was willing to consider that perhaps Trip was right. Perhaps his father had suffered painful professional reverses and had been at a loss as to how to handle them. He could understand and sympathize with that. He owed that much to the father who had once loved him.

"Father, please forgive any pain I may have unwittingly caused you as a child. Despite what has passed between us since, I will never cease to love the father who once loved me. I have missed - and will never cease to miss - him. Godspeed, sir. Fair winds, calm seas and safe harbor at your journey's end. Perhaps we shall meet there when my journey's done?"

Malcolm didn't realize he had whispered his plea aloud, but neither did he go into attack mode when Trip silently put his arm about his shoulders. Somehow, he had known without consciously knowing that Trip had remained near him, had continued to unobtrusively offer his support. Malcolm mused that he and Trip were so different, had had such different experiences in life, that there were bound to be heavy seas and squalls between them periodically, and not just the professional disagreements about how much power the weapons systems could draw, but Trip's unfailing patience, care and understanding in the past few days had strengthened his fragile hope that during stormy periods in his life he would indeed be able to find a safe harbor with this man he loved.

It also occurred to him that he owed Mrs. Tucker a letter. He needed to ever so gently and politely disabuse her of the notion that her son had taught him nothing about love.