I do not own Star Trek or any of the characters.
This is a little silly, a partially fluffy and might contain any number of mistakes. Yet I hope you'll enjoy reading it.
„What's the matter with you, Trip? I haven't seen you eat anything since we're here and that seems… well, odd. You normally don't reject a good meal and this food is delicious!" Jonathan Archer looked at his friend questioningly.
"It's all right, Jon. I'm just… I'm just not feeling so well." Trip was wiping cold sweat off his face.
"You don't look so well either. Maybe you had better return to the ship. This is a diplomatic function – a simple matter of courtesy and protocol. You don't necessarily have to be here and if you'd rather leave…"
"I'm fine. Don't bother. I'll just get something to drink." And he turned and moved towards one of the flamboyantly dressed waiters to get a glass of the juice the Elmek made out of a dark red fruit that tasted faintly of lemon and mint. Unfortunately, someone else had been watching him, too. Malcolm stepped to his side.
"Are you all right?", he asked quietly.
"No. But I'll manage. I'm just a little… dizzy."
Malcolm surveyed him closely. "Have you been drinking anything you shouldn't?"
"O, please. No, I haven't. Besides, I don't think they even serve alcohol around here. At least, I haven't seen or tasted any."
"They don't. It's their custom to only have non-alcoholic beverages at diplomatic functions. Very wise, if you ask me. Which is why I asked, if you had been drinking any. Our hosts might view that as a breach of protocol."
"Well, and I thought, you were worried about me. Silly me." Trip managed to look convincingly disappointed, although he seemed to be walking trough deep water.
Malcolm touched his arm and leant over. "Silly", he agreed in an amiable whisper, before slipping an arm around Trip to keep him from stumbling. "I am worried now. You had better return to the ship."
"Really, Malcolm, I'm…"
Trip sighed, but he had too much trouble walking to protest.
Back on the Enterprise, Dr. Phlox took one look at his patient and decided that Trip's condition was more serious than he himself thought.
"It's nothing, really", Trip complained, but no one seemed to listen to him.
"You are feeling dizzy?", the doctor inquired,
"Do you have a headache?"
„Well… my legs… they itch, as if I was allergic to something or had been stung by a mosquito."
"As far as I know, there aren't any mosquitoes down on the planet", Phlox answered seriously, "but it may well be an allergic reaction to something. Did you eat or drink anything?"
"Two glasses of the green stuff… but everyone else was drinking it too, and they don't seem to have any problems. O, and I had a piece of fruitcake, just after we arrived."
"When did it start?"
"About an hour or two after we landed on the planet."
The doctor nodded in acknowledgment. "I'll check it out. It truly sounds like an allergy."
"I've never had one", Trip protested.
"That's not the point", Malcolm told him. "I'll inform the captain." He left the room.
Trip sighed. "You could just be a little more sympathetic, couldn't you?"
Dr. Phlox grinned. "That's just Malcolm. You of all people ought to know him by now."
Trip grumbled something, but then his thoughts turned away from Malcolm completely as he was suddenly feeling violently sick. Phlox was at his side in an instant.
"There goes the fruitcake", the doctor commented cheerfully. Trip felt too ill to acknowledge the comment.
"How bad is it?" Captain Archer asked quietly.
"He's feverish. At first we thought it might be an allergy, but after the tests, I'm convinced that it is something else. A virus, to be more concrete. I've checked with the Elmek and described the symptoms to them and they seemed to have a pretty good idea of what it could be. But they are puzzled. It seems to be a rare virus and there are only a few people, who catch it per year."
"Trust Trip to get infected with something rare and dangerous", Malcolm murmured, "but there's something else, isn't there?"
"I'm afraid there is. The Elmek warned me. Apparently, there aren't too many people who survived this. But then, they are not up to our medical standards. I'm already working on it and I'd say there's a pretty good chance that I'll find a remedy quite soon." Dr. Phlox repressed the urge to pat Malcolm's shoulder, thinking that the human probably wouldn't appreciate it very much.
He looked very white and Phlox felt pity for him. He had to be scared.
"You'll keep me informed, won't you?" Captain Archer nodded to him, and then he left for the bridge, knowing that there was nothing he could do here.
Malcolm stayed and returned to Trip's bedside, taking his hand. He felt unable to speak. This was just too horrible for words.
Why on earth did you have to catch that stupid virus? Damn it, Trip, I won't watch you die of something as meaningless as this! I won't watch you die of anything!
"You've got to stay with me, do you hear me?", he whispered.
Trip squeezed his hand feebly. "I'll try, Mal, I promise. Don't leave."
He heard Trip take a deep breath, then… „I love you, Mal."
It was too much to bear. Malcolm bent forward, leaning his head against Trip's chest, which was hot with fever, and started sobbing uncontrollably.
"How is he?" It was dark all around them and the Captain looked as if he had just risen from his bed to pay a visit in sickbay.
Malcolm raised his head. "He's asleep."
"Well that's a good sign, isn't it?" Jonathan tried to sound cheerful but he didn't quite manage it. He was too worried. He noticed, however, just how bad Malcolm looked.
"Malcolm, please. Try to get some sleep too, will you? You don't need to leave him alone, I will watch with him."
Malcolm shook his head stubbornly. "I can't. I promised him not to leave."
"Malcolm… he probably doesn't even realize you're here. It doesn't matter."
"It does to me."
"Just for a few hours. You're exhausted. You'll get sick too and God knows that is the last thing we need now. Please. You've always been reasonable enough, don't you see…"
"This is different. I can't leave him. I can't… I can't lose him." His voice trembled at the last words.
Jonathan put a hand on his shoulder. "And you won't."
"How do you know? How could anybody know? All we know is that he's suffering from a deadly virus! I've seen the information they sent the doctor on the disease. They had the courtesy to add a few statistics – only about ten percent of the people who get this survive it at all."
"They're Elmek. He's human. Maybe his immune system reacts better to the virus than theirs. Besides, Phlox is doing his very best and I have great confidence in him." But seeing the desperate look on Malcolm's face, he realized that nothing he said really reached his friend.
"I never thought it would be this way", he whispered.
"What do you mean?"
Malcolm looked at him, his eyes wet with unshed tears. "I never thought I would love anyone this very much."
Jonathan's hand tightened on his shoulder. "I'm sorry, Malcolm. I can't tell you… I'm so sorry…"
"There is hope", Dr. Phlox triumphantly told them in the morning. "I think, I may have found a cure, using the information the Elmek sent me and our own technologies."
Hopeful faces watched him anxiously. He smiled back at them.
"As far as I can tell, it is working. The fever has sunken and it seems that his body is starting to get the better of the infection. He isn't well yet, and it might take him weeks to recover, but I think that he'll wake up in a few hours."
There was a chorus of delighted and relieved exclamations. Phlox moved towards the Captain. "I had to send Mr. Reed to sleep", he told him "he was hurting himself. I expect, he'll not be very happy with me, when he wakes up, but maybe seeing Mr. Tucker awake will make up for something…" His eyes were twinkling.
Captain Archer smiled. "I'm sure it will. But try to understand him – he was tormented by the thought that Trip might die. And probably also by the realization of what that would mean to him."
"Seems that our stone-cold Malcolm is discovering his emotional side at last", the doctor remarked. "I've never seen him cry before."
"Make sure not to tell anyone. He'd hate you for it."
"His secrets are safe with me. Nothing that happened down there will ever leave sickbay."
"Good. Now, let's see how your patient is doing, shall we?"
"I'm so thirsty", was the first thing that came out of Trip's mouth, once he was awake and coherent again.
Dr. Phlox chuckled warmly. "I expect you are. Here – careful..."
His patient drank greedily, then his eyes caught sight of the Captain and the ghost of a smile touched his lips. "Jon."
"The very same. Welcome back, Trip. You gave us quite a scare there, you know."
"Sorry", Trip murmured, "where's Malcolm?"
"He's… er… Dr. Phlox had to put him to sleep. He was being unreasonable."
"Malcolm? Not possible."
Jonathan grinned. "I see you are really getting better. Malcolm was very worried about you, Trip. He thought he might lose you and that just scared the hell out of him. If you need any proof he loves you – that's it."
"I just wish I wouldn't have had to get sick to find out. By the way, doctor – I can't move my legs. That's not normal, is it?"
Phlox frowned. "I don't think so, but it might be another symptom. Try it again."
Trip tried, but in vain. "I'm not feeling anything at all", he told the doctor.
"Well, you just woke up. It will definitely take you a while to recover."
Trip sighed. "Just what I feared. Will you tell Malcolm that I'm back from the dead once he's awake?"
"I'll take care of that", Jonathan promised.
"It's not getting any better", Trip complained two days later.
Dr. Phlox, who was examining his legs, had to agree with him. "But it might just be a matter of time. The Elmek told me that some of their people suffered from similar conditions after surviving the disease. The virus attacks the neural systems in the body."
"Is there a cure?" Malcolm asked sharply.
"O, probably. For now, we should just be glad that he's back with us and recovering."
"I am glad", Malcolm said softly.
Trip patted his arm. "Took you something to admit that, didn't it?"
Malcolm looked at him, and there were warmth and tenderness in his face as Trip had rarely seen them. "I thought I would go mad. I was about to lose you and there was nothing, absolutely nothing I was able to do about it. I've never felt that helpless."
"How about this: I promise you to try not to catch any more deadly viruses for the rest of my life."
"Silly." Malcolm shook his head, but he was smiling.
"It's not working, is it?" Malcolm asked Dr. Phlox in an undertone, hoping that no one else would hear them speak.
Phlox shook his head. "I'm afraid it isn't. We might have to get accustomed to the idea that he'll not be able to use his legs for quite a while."
"Does he know?"
"He's not stupid, is he? He'll have realized by now that something is wrong."
"My god." Malcolm sank into a chair. "And I thought, it couldn't get any worse."
"Now, now. He's alive. And he will be well. All he needs is time."
"And a cure."
"Which will be found in time. I have already contacted a number of my colleagues and set them on the trail. I would recommend that he should return to earth and take advantage of the medical facilities there."
"Doctor, he'll never agree to that! He loves his job and this ship."
"Which is why I'm talking to you. Try to reason with him, Malcolm. Get him to understand that I can't do any more for him here. If he values his health, he had better leave. He'll be able to return in time."
"Or maybe not."
"Don't give up hope. If you do, he will."
"I'll try", Malcolm answered doubtfully.
"It's not going to get better, is it?" Trip shook his head. "I feared as much."
Malcolm took his hands. "Don't say that. Phlox is right. It's just that his hands are tied here. But earth is full of excellent doctors and hospitals."
"Great. Just what I wanted – to return to earth to take a tour of the hospitals."
"All right, Mal. I'll do it. I don't have much choice anyway, do I? I'll talk to Jon… he's got to make arrangements, I guess…"
"Don't. It's already done. We'll leave in two days."
"Did I just hear you say we?"
Malcolm nodded fiercely. "You didn't think I would let you go alone, did you? I asked the captain for leave."
"You don't need to…"
"Yes, I do."
Trip sighed. "Well then. Thanks, Mal."
Malcolm bent forward to kiss the top of his head. "I told you, I wouldn't leave you. I meant it."