Where Is My Hero?
Rating: R (for language)
Spoilers: The Expanse
Archive: Warp 5 Complex, anyone else just let me know.
Beta: None, so all suggestions and comments welcolmed.
Summary: Trip's trying to cope with Lizzie's death, Malcolm is trying to cope with Trip.
A/N: Response to typingmonkey's Album Drabble Challenge. Not quite a proper response as these aren't really drabbles and I've used lyrics rather than song titles. The album is 'Left of the Middle', by Natalie Imbruglia and is one of my favourites. The cheesy title is also a lyric from the title track. Lyrics are used literally rather than in context with the song in most cases. I tried to write alternating between Trip and Malcolm, but I mucked it up in the middle -oops.
My mouth is dry
Forgot how to cry
What's up with that
You're hurting me
I'm running fast
Can't hide the past
What's up with that
You're pushing me - Smoke (Track 6)
They keep asking if I'm alright. What kinda dumb question is that?
'You wanna talk about it?'
'Is there anything I can do?'
'I'm here if you need anything.'
When we got close enough to Earth to be able to see the effect of the Xindi weapon I couldn't hardly look at it. All I could see was Lizzie. I could see her standing in the garden, shouting orders to me and Dad as we tried to build a tree house, complaining that we hadn't put the window in the right place. I remembered her face turning scarlet when I refused to take her along to the horror movie marathon, and how we'd ended up in the front row, gripping each other's hands like our lives depended on it. I remember how proud I was when she got into university, and how when I helped her move her stuff into the dorm she'd glared at me for calling her my baby sister in front of the other kids. And now she's gone.
They all gawp at the massive scar disfiguring my home state; they all say what a tragedy it is. They all tell me that they understand how I must feel, but how can they when I don't know how I feel. The damage done to the Earth is nothing compared to the damage done to my heart.
I wish they'd all shut the hell up. I need time to work it all out.
And my world falls down
And I'm there calling out
But it's something I can't say
Though it seems the only way - Left of the middle (Track 12)
The Earth just stops a few metres from where we're standing. I can barely see to the other side of it, and along the length of the chasm there is nothing for kilometres in either direction. All those millions of people dead and countless millions more grieving, and terrified, and all I can think about is the man stood here beside me. It's so selfish of me, and I hate myself for it.
I haven't seen him cry yet, and that disturbs me in it's own right. I thought he would when he saw it, but he seems to be managing stoic as well I as I do. The problem is that you can't kid a kidder. I know there's more going on inside him - pain, anguish, despair, fear, and a lot of anger. So much that he needs to erect every barrier he has to keep it all inside, to keep himself standing. To keep himself functioning at all.
But what about me? I want to call out to him, the buried, hurt Trip and help him, but I don't know how. If our situations were reversed, Trip would know what to do. I'm used to him coaxing me, befriending me though I never gave him any good reason to. My world is devastated now that his warming presence is gone, and I hate the Xindi as much for that as for anything.
I hope he realises that by coming here today with him I'm trying to help, that when I say "I'm so sorry" I'm really sorry I can't reach out to him and soothe away his pain.
Leave me alone (oh leave me alone)
I'm walking out of the door
I'll make it on my own - Leave me alone (Track 4)
A memorial? How in the hell is that gonna help anyone.
I've seen it now. It's real. A swath of land vaporised and Lizzie with it. Could have been anywhere, could have killed anyone. The people of Florida didn't do anything especially to piss the Xindi off, or the people of Venezuela. Could have been England just as easy. Could have been Malcolm's sister killed. Would he be happy with a few prayers, maybe a brass plaque somewhere, 'cause I know I wouldn't be. My tribute to Elizabeth will be to kill the bastards that killed her, and I don't care about anything else.
I don't care about his dumb ideas on the proper way to grieve. I don't care about funerals, memorials or wakes.
And I most certainly do not care about that little hurt look he wore when I yelled at him.
I know, I get cold
Cos I can't leave things well alone
Understand I'm accident prone - Wishing I was there (Track 5)
The other crewmembers walk on eggshells around him, scared of provoking his increasingly short temper. That's if they talk to him at all. Captain Archer appears to have retreated from his oldest friend altogether. No one will mention Trip's sister's death; no one will even mention the attack on Earth unless they have to, in case Trip breaks down. God I wish he would. I wish he would sink to his knees and sob for his little sister, weep for the bloody unfairness of it all, shake with the fear of what we are about to do.
I made a mess of talking to him. Reaching out is a new experience for me and I'm fumbling with every try. Everything I do seems to wind him tighter, at first he would shout at me, like that day in the corridor outside the Armoury, and I won't pretend his words didn't sting, but at least that was something.
These days he's so distant. Hiding so completely behind walls of anger and desperation that I'm scared the real Trip is lost forever.
So I'll hang back, waiting for him to come to me. It's all I can do; I don't want to make things worse. But I do want to be ready to catch him when he falls.
I reject you
But I can't follow through
I'd forget you
But you'd end up tappin' on my back door
Somehow I lost myself in a tunnel all in black
Somewhere, at the end, I pretend
There's a way of turning back - One more addiction (Track 2)
He's following me again. Like Porthos tracking cheese. Does he really think I don't notice? For someone so stealthy in an attack situation he's damn clumsy with his surveillance of me. But persistent, I'll give him that. I've tried pushing him away, tried shouting. Doesn't seem to work. Suppose he's not doing any harm though, at least he's stopped playing second-rate counsellor, as if he's one to tell me about emotions.
I guess it's kinda steadying though. When it all becomes so hard that I don't think I can breathe, when Lizzie interrupts my thoughts and I'm back in the charred desolation that used to be home, I catch a glimpse of him out of the corner of my eye. He won't do more than glance at me these days, but that glance locks me onto something real, drags me back to life. So, I reckon what I'm saying is it's comforting, knowing that he's there. He's keeping his distance and I'm glad because I'm not ready to open up yet, but I sure hope he never stops following me.
There's nothin' where he used to lie
My conversation has run dry
That's what's goin' on
I'm torn - Torn (Track 1)
Sometimes he'll look over at me.
I always know where he is, always have a sliver of attention trained on him, but he never seems even aware of me unless I'm actually talking to him. Well, if Lieutenant Reed is talking to Commander Tucker that is; Malcolm and Trip don't communicate anymore.
And yet, sometimes he'll look over at me and it's so fleeting that he surely can't have had time to scan the room for me. He won't come over, won't speak, just looks and looks away.
In those split seconds I think I see him. I imagine I can reach him. It always goes too soon though, and I'm back to watching the stranger in his Trip suit. He's cold eyed and hard featured; I don't recall the last time he smiled and it looked sincere. I don't know how to talk to that man. I fear I'm losing the strength to keep trying.
What more can be said when the man you love more than anything freezes you out. Should you just give up?
But I'm in crowded room
I'm sinking in quicksand tonight - Pigeons and crumbs (Track 7)
He's gone. Well, no I guess that ain't entirely true. He's still here, still aboard ship, still doing his job with his usual diligence. But he's not following me. Not hovering just inside my peripheral view. I feel like my guardian angel has flown away.
Nothing's changed so far as anyone else would see. He's sat with Travis two tables away, I'm sat with some of the engineering team, no different from last week, but he's not glancing over. He didn't get up at the same time as me to get a coffee refill just to say hi. He hasn't bothered me in Engineering, with something an Ensign could have sorted out for him, in days. I've pushed too far and he's gone. The mess hall is the same hive of activity as always, but it's so different, so lonely.
The strange thing is that weeks have turned into months and the attack on Earth is slipping out of most people's everyday thoughts as they focus on what's to come. They're forgetting to avoid me, their basket case of a Chief Engineer, and I'm trying to be calm and focused and normal in return, but with Malcolm gone it's gotten so hard. Without my anchor I'm adrift more than I ever realised I would be.
I can't remember when I started needing him so damn much, but without him I'm losing myself.
Finding it hard to break to chain
Nothing ventured nothing gained - Impressed (Track 9)
With a deep breath I press the button on the comm. panel and ring his doorbell. My palms are sweaty, my heart's thumping but if I don't talk to him now I'll regret it the rest of my life.
The couple of seconds it takes him to open the door feel like an eternity. I try to recall what I wanted to say but it's gone.
"Malcolm, can I come in?"
He looks unsure but nods and moves aside. He looks terrible in a way I've never noticed before. His jumpsuit is pressed and smart, his skin clear and hair brushed. He doesn't have the bags under his eyes that I know I do, but there's just something empty about him when he looks at me. It reminds me of the first few weeks we worked together, when he was polite and professional and completely removed from everyone else. Have I brought that back?
He waits expectantly as the door closes behind us. I try to find a way to sum up everything going on in my head. I settle on the obvious."I've been a jerk lately."
He looks mildly startled, but nods again. "Yes. You have rather."
"I miss you."
"I appreciate the apology Commander. But I'm tired. Goodnight."
He does look tired but not through sleep deprivation, just plain tired of me. There's no way I can leave things like this.
I could sting like a bee
Careful how you treat me
Baby I don't think I'll accept your sorry invitation
Close the door as you leave - Big mistake (Track 3)
So that's it. He says sorry for being a jerk, and then what? Can't he tell that this isn't working? It's basic mathematics after all; the sum of two screwed up people is one fucked up mess.
If only I didn't miss him so much. If only he hadn't already obliterated all my trusty defences over the last two years.
Why isn't he leaving?
It's too late. It's all too hard.
I don't want you.
I don't want you...
I don't want you to go.
And all I can say is
Intuition tells me how to live me day
Intuition tells me when to walk away - Intuition (Track 10)
I drag myself to attention. "Lieutenant," I know he won't start with me if he thinks it's formal, "We need to talk."
I plough forward. "Alright, maybe we don't need to talk, but I need to talk. I wanna tell you I'm sorry. Truly sorry. I've pushed and pushed ya away because I'm scared that if I don't push you you'll go anyhow. I lost Lizzie and she was just an innocent civilian. You were always nearly gettin' yourself killed even before we were at war. Now I know just how much it hurts to lose someone I love, I can't bear to lose another. I thought if I just stayed away from ya, didn't let myself care then it wouldn't hurt so bad. I'm ignoring you when I should be telling you how much I love you. It hurts so much more though, knowing I'm wasting what time I have with you. And I think it hurts you too. So I'm not leaving until we've got this sorted, okay?"
I'm breathless from the speech, but as I compose myself there's silence. He's not talking. Not moving, just looking at me like I've sprouted antlers or something.
"Malcolm? Whaddya say?"
He clears his throat, stares at me with those beautiful grey eyes and whispers:
"You love me?"
Ignore reality there's nothing you can do about it - Don't you think? - (Track 8)
We're aboard a Starship, millions of light years away from home, heading into an uncharted region of space. A region of space where if rumours are to be believed the Laws of Physics no longer apply, and crews die just from daring to be there.
We're about to fight a war against aliens we know next to nothing about except that the have already killed seven million people on Earth and have the power to destroy the rest of the planet.
We're the only vessel that has a hope of finding them.
We're the only crew that has a hope of stopping them.
We don't know what we're heading into.
We don't know if we'll ever make it home.
It's safe to say we're all terrified.
Trip Tucker loves me.
I wanna start again
I wanna start again
I wanna take it back
I wanna start again - City (Track 11)
"Maybe it woulda solved a few problems if I'd worked that out a bit sooner, huh?" I smile weakly, but he returns a genuine grin.
"Well, I suppose it's not your fault if you're a bit dense. I blame all those comic books."
"Hey!" I protest, but I really don't care. If we're trading insults it means we're okay. It's the silence I can't stand. "So, now you know how I feel... how do you feel?"
He smirks a sexy little smirk and my stomach knots with expectation. "I'll rephrase my last comment. Not a bit dense - a lot dense." He steps forward, so we're nose to nose, "I feel just the same."
I feel his lips meet mine, a warm insistent pressure. I've got no defence to his attack, my lips part and his tongue begins it's determined exploration of my mouth as his hands snake round my neck and powerful fingers brush through my hair, pulling me closer. I kiss him back with all the energy I have, needing to connect with him. I have his firm, strong body in my arms, and we fit together so perfectly. I can feel his muscles through his uniform and the pounding of his heartbeat next to mine.
He's my strength, my soul, and I know I'll never push him away again.