Crew Quarters, C Deck, 2120 hours, December 28, 2153

Jean came into their quarters and saw Malcolm sitting in the dark. He was on their bed, holding one arm stiffly at his side and pressing something to the side of his face. When she turned the lights on she saw that the cloth he was pressing to his cheek had some traces of blood on it. She wasn't too surprised when he turned away to hide his face and mumbled some excuse about how he had gotten hurt, but a look at his bruised knuckles made the reason seem fairly obvious.

Shaking her head, she got out the medkit from under their bed and put it on the edge of their bed, taking out antiseptic gel, cloth swabs and a scanner; her usual kit for whenever someone got into it with someone else. In this case, she had a good idea of who the someone else was.

"So, who won?"

He looked up at her as she eased the wet cloth out of his hand and started dabbing at the cuts and bruises on his face.

There had been serious tension between Malcolm and Major Hayes ever since their first mission in the Expanse. The situation required force and Captain Archer had decided to use a group of MACOs instead of a security team. Malcolm accepted the captain's decision, but ever since then he'd felt that Hayes was slowly trying to take over as head of ship's security.

It didn't help that Hayes went over Malcolm's head a couple of days ago and talked to the captain about running extra training drills for the Enterprise security teams and senior officers. A few hours before dinner there was a target practice session for the senior staff with Major Hayes running it and the MACOs in attendance.

Hayes 'volunteered' Malcolm to try out the system for everyone else to see, knowing that Malcolm probably wouldn't do well. His score had been pretty low, despite how hard he had tried to hit every target that appeared. The system was set to level two for Malcolm, but when Hayes used it, he'd put it on level four and hit every target as soon as it popped up.

Needless to say, the whole thing got Malcolm angry and embarassed him pretty badly. Not only had Hayes publically used him as a test-dummy, but Malcolm took his reputation as an excellent marksman very seriously, and the fact that the Major had decided to show him up in front of his colleagues, well, that was just adding insult to injury.

He was sore about it for a while, finally going to the gym after dinner to try and clear his head. He'd only been there for fifteen minutes or so, shadow boxing in front of a mirror, before the door opened and someone walked in. And of course it had to be Hayes. Who else could it be but the one person on board that Malcolm wanted to see the least?

They had started sparring and right away Hayes had made condescending comments whenever Malcolm threw a punch, acting for all the world like he was giving Malcolm a boxing lesson. It was infuriating because Malcolm knew precisely what Hayes was doing and he knew it was working. Hayes was trying to make him angry enough to screw up and he was hitting all the right buttons. It devolved into an out-and-out fight, eventually spilling out of the gym and into a corridor.

"The Major and I were at a standoff. We'd gone three rounds, I'd won two and we were going t... owch!" He flinched when she started disinfecting a cut on his temple.

She paused, kissing above the hurt spot. "Sorry about that, sweet. You were going to..?"

"We were just about to start circling each other again when the comm rang, ordering all senior officers to our posts. We didn't get to finish."

She fussed over him for a while in near silence, making sympathetic noises every once in a while and whenever she moved on to the next injury. He assumed that she wasn't happy about him fighting with Hayes, but since she hadn't actually said that she disapproved he wasn't sure whether he would have to endure a lecture from her about how idiotic it was. He'd be getting that speech soon enough from the captain...

"Jean..."

"Hm?" She paused while working on a cut just above his mouth.

"Do you mind that I got into a fight with Hayes?"

She put down the ointment she'd been using on the cut and sat next to him.

"I've kinda expected something like this to happen between you two, but if this fight got it out of your system, I don't mind. I have no problem with you fighting in public, Mally, as long as you win."

She smiled playfully and leaned in to kiss his cheek. After the kiss he let his eyes close while her fingers slowly ran through his hair. A sudden jolt of pain shot through his scalp when her fingers ran across a bruise near his temple. He opened his eyes to see that the smile was fading from her face to be replaced by a frown. She shook her head and gingerly kissed the sore spot. "And as long as you don't get too badly hurt."

He let out a quiet, relieved sigh as she went back to dressing his cut. "So you don't mind?"

"Isn't that what I just said?" Her smile returned, more impish now than before. "Besides, I'd call two out of three winning."

After a few more minutes she was done cleaning him up and started to put away the medical supplies. "C'mon babe, we should get you to Sickbay."

He gave her a confused, hurt look, as though she'd suggested that he offer himself up for a court martial. "Why? I thought you'd take care of everything."

She shook her head. "This scanner can't go into the detail that the ones in Sickbay can and there isn't anything I can do for your more serious injuries. Phlox has to take care of those. Besides, all injuries have to be reported to him and he has to approve all treatments."

Malcolm still seemed unwilling to go. He didn't want to risk running into Hayes in Sickbay. After fighting each other and then dealing with that alien in Engineering, and considering how sore he felt, he just didn't want to deal with the man at all until he absolutely had to.

Jean stopped at the door, closing her eyes in frustration when she saw that he was still sitting on the bed and hadn't made any move to get up.

"You have to go." She studied him briefly and then relented. "But not right now." She came back to the bed and sat down next to him, winding her arm through his and gently squeezing his sore knuckles. "D'you want me to go and see whether Hayes is there right now?"

He smiled sheepishly and nodded in answer, glad she wasn't making this hard. "I'd appreciate it."

She shook her head, smiling at him briefly and then kissing him before she stood up. "I'll never understand how guys think."

"We don't, darling" he chuckled, catching hold of her hand and then kissing it. Afterwards he looked up at her and smiled his signature grateful apology smile. "That's the whole secret."