Thanks for reading this bit of romantic fun. This is the final chapter!

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Trip primped nervously in front of his mirror. He'd showered, shaved, and donned fresh clothing, why, he wasn't entirely sure, because this was just Malcolm coming over, right? Malcolm who had come over before. That same Malcolm. And yet somehow, everything was different. What Hoshi had said about them being together, that had changed things. This was a small ship, and there was no way to keep such gossip secret. Eventually, it always got back to the people involved.

He was afraid of what Malcolm might have heard. Worse, of what Malcolm might think he'd been doing these past weeks.

He genuinely hadn't been hitting on him. Sure, the guy was attractive. In his past life, often just his type - dark hair, light eyes, those Irish good looks that always got him, and the English accent certainly helped. So it wasn't as if he was blind. He'd just been - well, he hadn't been thinking that way. Malcolm barely seemed approachable, and certainly was unattainable. The idea of Malcolm as - no, impossible. Trip had simply been trying to break through that shell. He'd wanted a friend. He'd almost found one. And now?

His chime went so he straightened up, tugging his shirt down as he approached the door. He stopped, hand hovering over the lock. Now or never. He triggered it open.

Malcolm stood there, dressed informally, six-pack of beer in hand. Trip waved him in in a manner he hoped was casual, or at least not overtly strange.

After giving him a piercing look, Malcolm settled himself in the desk chair and wordlessly held a beer bottle in his direction. Trip accepted it with a nod. He twisted off the cap as he sat down at the edge of his bed, taking a quick slug of the cold liquid. Leaning forward, he let the bottle dangle from two fingers as he locked gazes with his friend. He was unsure of how to approach the subject. Best be direct, then.

"Listen," Trip said. "I wanted to tell you this before you hear it from someone else."

Malcolm looked - Trip thought he looked amused, if he didn't know better. "About you and Hoshi?" Malcolm asked.

"What?" Trip asked in surprise, sitting up straight. "Oh, that? No." He shifted uncomfortably.

When Trip didn't continue, Malcolm said, "So..."

"So... Anyway." Trip stared down at his beer. He swirled it. "Hoshi told me there's a rumor that I'm gay. That you and I, um, well..." He looked up. "You know."

"Indeed?" Malcolm asked, one eyebrow up.

"Yeah, and I..." Trip hesitated, unsure of how to go on. He motioned with his bottle, his hands sculpting the words as he spoke. "I mean, I never, that wasn't what I was after." He looked into Malcolm's eyes, trying to read them. "Not that I wouldn't, I mean, you're a very attractive guy, and if I thought that you, anyway..." He winced. "I think I'll shut up, now." Defeated, he took a swig of beer.

Malcolm sat there for a moment. Reaching onto the desk, he pulled a bottle out of the pack and opened it, taking a slow sip before he said, "I have to admit, that's not quite what I thought you were going to say."

Trip shrugged an apology, taking another swallow from his drink.

"And I have to say, I'm sorry if our... relationship interfered with your ability to hook up with Hoshi."

Trip shook his head. "That's not what I..." He frowned. "What?"

Malcolm stood and, in one fluid motion, sat beside Trip. Arm brushing Trip's, thigh side by side with his, Malcolm looked down at the bottle in his hand. "Commander." His lip quirked as he rephrased. "Trip." He smiled. "I'm glad you find me attractive."

"Jesus, Malcolm." Trip felt the heat rising to his cheeks. "I mean oh, right. I mean..."

"Maybe we should," Malcolm said in a soft voice, still not looking at the man beside him. He lifted the bottle and drank.

"Sorry?"

"After all, the rumors are already out there." Malcolm shrugged. "No use denying, it would only make things worse."

Trip felt his heart rise into his throat. "How much of that stuff have you had to drink, anyway?"

Malcolm simply looked at him.

God, this man was impossible to read unless he wanted you to do so. Unable to think of anything else, Trip sputtered out, "What about fraternization and all that?"

"Bugger it all. The rules have been officially relaxed for this mission." Trip felt a hand on his thigh, heavy and hot, and Malcolm gave him a look that could only be interpreted as wicked. "Perhaps it's time we relaxed with them?"

Trip forced himself to exhale. "Really?"

"After all..." Malcolm said.

Trip felt Malcolm's hand travelling up his thigh, drawing a line of heat in its path.

Malcolm gave him a sly smile. "If they're going to talk anyway, shouldn't we give them something to talk about?" And with that, Malcolm kissed him.

Trip was too shocked to respond. After a moment, he got over himself enough to know a good thing when he found it, and he responded in kind, letting his eyes fall shut as he fell into the moment. Malcolm's hand on his thigh, the feel of the man's lips against his own, the taste of beer and... God, yes.

He hadn't expected this, especially not from Malcolm. Showed what he knew. Obviously, he didn't know this man at all.

About time he learned.

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