The Morning After.

"Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrgggggggghhhhhhhhhhhh."

The masculine scream woke Commander Charles 'Trip' Tucker from a deep sleep. It was his lover, Lieutenant Malcolm Reed, who was screaming in the bed beside him

"Wake up, Malcolm. It's only a dream. Malcolm! Wake up! Ouch!!!"

One of Malcolm's flailing arms had caught him on the cheekbone, causing severe pain. Trip caught both Malcolm's arms and held them above his head, pressed into the pillow. Gradually, Malcolm stilled and quietened.

"That's better, darlin'," Trip whispered in an attempt to reassure his lover.

Malcolm opened his eyes and looked at Trip. "What happened? I was having a really bad dream."

Trip released Malcolm's arms after kissing him lightly on the lips. "It must have been bad. You were screaming loud enough to wake the Cap'n on E deck."

Malcolm raised himself onto his elbows. "I'm sorry, love. I've never had a nightmare like that before."

"Wanna tell me about it?" Trip rolled onto his back, and looked at Malcolm with concern.

Malcolm sat up, put his elbows on his knees and his head in his hands. "Do you really want to hear it?"

"If it helps, yes."

"I dreamt that I was accosted by a group of very nasty, ugly aliens. One of them held me by the arms from behind, while another came and stood in front of me. I had no idea what he planned to do. Suddenly he took my head in his hands and, I thought, started to kiss me. But instead he put his tongue – no, 'proboscis' is a better word – into my mouth and down my throat. It kept going down until I could feel it in my stomach. Then it carried on down through my intestines. I could feel it rasping my insides the whole way! It didn't stop! It was agonising. It went on and on, until eventually ..."

"Go on, darlin'. Eventually...?"

Malcolm's voice became a whisper. "It came out the other end."

He started to shake so much that Trip reached up, put his arms around him and pulled him down beside himself. He cuddled Malcolm gently until Malcolm was calmer.

"Gee, darlin', that was some nightmare. What happened next?"

"I could feel the proboscis around my legs. That's how I knew it had gone right through me. And that must have been when I started screaming."

"I know it's a daft question, but how was it you were able to scream, your mouth being full of proboscis, an' all?"

"No idea. It's weird. But that's the thing about dreams, isn't it?"

"Yeah. Guess so. Feelin' better now?"

"Yes, thanks. That is, as far as the nightmare's concerned. But I have an almighty headache."

"Me too. Actually, I think it's a hangover."

"I imagine that's what mine is, too." Malcolm sat up and swung his legs over the side of the bed. " Travis's party really went with a swing. But I don't recall drinking that much."

"Oh, I don't know. How many glasses of Andorian ale did you have?"

Malcolm looked up, puzzled, and shrugged. "Did we have Andorian ale?"

"Somebody produced it after the Cap'n left. Might have been Ethan."

"Well, you know, two glasses of that's quite enough for me. Three glasses and ..."

"Know whatcha mean, darlin'. Reckon I musta had more than two." Trip put his head in his hands and groaned.

"Good thing we're both on late shift today. We've got time to get over it."

"Talking about time, it's early yet. Let's go back to sleep."

"I need some painkillers first. How about you?" Malcolm got up and headed for the bathroom. Trip followed, and with bleary eyes, the pair searched for medication for their headaches. Having dosed themselves up, they both crawled back to bed, spooning together comfortably.

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The next time they woke it was mid-morning, and they both still had bad heads.

"Coffee!" stated Trip. "Gotta have some coffee."

"Let's get down to the mess hall," Malcolm suggested. "There shouldn't be too many people around at this time of day."

"Why does that matter?"

"I don't wish to appear in public with a hangover. It's not good for my image."

"Didn't know you had one," Trip giggled.

"One what?"

"Image."

"Oh, for Heaven's sake... Are you dressed?"

"Yep."

"Good, then let's go." So saying Malcolm opened the door and pulled Trip out into the corridor behind him.

They met few people on the way down to E-deck, those that did tried to ignore two hungover senior officers.

They ordered black coffee from the replicators in the deserted mess hall, and were soon seated at a table with steaming mugs set before them.

Their hopes of going undiscovered, however, were dashed when Hoshi entered the room.

She got herself a drink then came over to their table.

"Hi, you two." she greeted them in her usual bright and cheerful manner.

"Go 'way." Trip muttered. "You're too noisy."

"Oh, so the happy boys from last night have bad heads this morning. Well if you will drink so much Andorian ale, what can you expect?"

She sipped her own drink looking at them both carefully.

"I suppose you do remember about last night, don't you?"

"We went to Travis's party. What else is there to remember?" Malcolm wanted to know.

"Does this phrase mean anything to you? 'Ladies and gentlemen, for one night only, this is a never-to-be-repeated offer.' Hmm?"

Trip shrugged. "No."

"You don't remember saying it?" Hoshi persisted.

"Nope. Mean anythin' to you, Mal?"

"Can't say as it does."

"Then how about, 'Malcolm here is the best kisser ever'?"

"What?" Trip was horrified, and the look on Malcolm's face was a picture.

"You never said anything like that, did you? Tell me you didn't" From being flabbergasted, Malcolm was now getting rather angry. He turned towards Trip, his eyes blazing .

Trip backed off as far as he could. "I really don't remember, Malcolm. Sorry."

"Hoshi, it looks as if you're going to have to remind Trip of everything he said, or did."

Hoshi seemed rather embarrassed, but it was too late to back out now.

"Well, Trip announced that Malcolm was the best kisser, and invited people to find out for themselves. As I said, he made it a never-to-be-repeated offer. Malcolm tried to get out of it but Trip said he would be making him, that is Trip, renege on his word, if Malcolm didn't comply. So Malcolm kissed, or was kissed by, Liz, Phlox and Travis. Everyone else turned down the offer when asked."

Throughout Hoshi's little speech, Trip became redder and redder with embarrassment, and Malcolm with barely concealed anger.

Malcolm was about to vent his anger on Trip when Hoshi, realising what he was about to do, jumped in first.

"You didn't exactly try too hard, Malcolm. You could have put your foot down if you'd really wanted to, you know."

"Are you saying I was a willing participant?"

"I'm saying you may have been reluctant at first, but, well, you did seem to have enjoyed the experience."

Malcolm's temper subsided almost as quickly as it had arisen.

"You're telling me that I actually agreed to kiss Liz, Phlox and Travis just to prove Trip's point?"

"Yes. And all three agreed that you were very good. Probably were the best,"

"If this gets round the ship, I'll lose all credibility," Malcolm growled, giving Trip a stern look.

"Oh, I don't know," Trip mused. "Quite the opposite, I should have thought."

"Don't you ever take things seriously?"

"Of course I do. When the need arises. And this doesn't seem to be such a time."

"This doesn't...? How bad does something have to be before you stop making a joke of it?" Malcolm stood up and slammed his hand down on the table.

"I think," Hoshi suggested, "that you two need to go somewhere quiet, so that you can talk this through."

"Yeah. You're right." Trip agreed. "My quarters, Malcolm?"

"Fine." Malcolm turned and headed for the door, Trip following.

Hoshi watched them go wishing she could help, and hoping that they would come to an amicable agreement

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Malcolm sat down dejectedly on the bunk. Trip perched on the edge of the computer desk, arms crossed, looking at Malcolm in an amused sort of way.

"I can't believe that you actually persuaded me to do that," Malcolm whispered, as if afraid someone else might hear.

"According to Hoshi, you didn't need much persuasion," Trip reminded him.

"But Travis? Phlox? At least I know now where that nightmare came from." He let out a deep breath. "Liz I can sort of understand. You'd know I wasn't cheating on you with Liz."

"Don't beat yourself up about it. It was only a bit of fun, wasn't it?" Trip was gently laughing at Malcolm, who refused to look at his lover.

"You know I don't like doing things like that in public, Trip. And assuming I wouldn't let you renege on a promise was nothing less than blackmail."

"Aw, c'mon, darlin'. It was a party! We were supposed to be having fun!"

"Yes, but at my expense?"

Trip sighed and shook his head. "What can I say or do to placate you?"

"I really don't know. But I think we'd better not spend our nights together until we get this sorted out."

"You're kiddin'. Right?" Trip was aghast. He stepped forward and knelt in front of Malcolm, taking both his hands, a pleading look on his face. The last thing he wanted was for them to break up. And this sounded like the thin end of the wedge.

Malcolm looked up into Trip's eyes.

"Probably," he said quietly, "but I'm not happy."

"I know that," Trip assured him speaking just as quietly. "Look, darlin', I'm real sorry for what I said and did. I'll never do it again. Promise."

"You're such an IDIOT sometimes, Trip." Malcolm's voice was raised somewhat. "Don't you EVER think before you open your mouth?"

Trip stood up and moved back to the desk.

"Not often enough, it seems," he muttered.

Malcolm rose and took a step towards Trip.

"You know," he said putting his finger in the middle of Trip's chest, "there's a term for what you do. It's called 'dento-pedology'. Think about it!" And with each of the last three words he prodded Trip to emphasise his point..

"Dento-pedology? Teeth? Feet? Oh," he said, realising what Malcolm meant. "You mean the 'foot-in-mouth' syndrome?"

"Got it in one."

"But if I stopped to think every time, I wouldn't be me, would I? And I thought you loved me, not someone who thinks first."

Malcolm sighed deeply, fiddling with the cuff of his sleeve.

"You know, you're absolutely right. And you're infuriating. How I'm going to put up with you for the next fifty years, I really don't know."

A slow smile started to spread across Trip's face.

"Fifty years? You think we're going to be together that long?"

Malcolm shrugged. "Well, aren't we?"

Trip was now grinning from ear to ear.

"Are you asking me what I think you're asking me?"

Malcolm shrugged again. "Depends on what you think I'm asking."

"Well it sounded to me like the most unromantic proposal I've ever heard."

Malcolm sighed. "I'm sorry. I hadn't intended for it to come out that way. I wanted it to be - well - special."

"Gee, it's special all right. I'll never forget this."

"So what do you think, then?" Malcolm was still fiddling with his cuff, dreading a negative response.

From his perch on the desk, Trip crooked his finger at Malcolm and said softly, "Come here."

Malcolm turned towards Trip, who reached out, put his hands round Malcolm's neck, and kissed him gently on the lips. Malcolm in his turn, closed the gap between them, wrapped his arms around Trip and kissed him back fervently.

A little later, as they broke off the kiss, Malcolm murmured happily, "I take it that's a 'yes', then?"

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