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Forbidding Mourning

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Two Years Ago

An auburn-haired man stood in front of the grave, an umbrella perched in his left hand, his black overcoat all buttoned up and without a single wrinkle. It was an utter downpour in the cemetery that morning. Age lined the fifty year-old man's face, and the bright blue eyes that once shined with a youthful energy were now dulled with the passage of time. In his right hand he grasped a small framed photograph. "I don't know if you can hear me... It's been six years, you know... God, I'm terrible at this." The man shuffled in his boots, a trace of embarrassment flashing across his face. "You remember that new engine you designed? The one for the Warp Seven Project?

"They finally managed to build it. It's been installed in the Starship Phoenix. NX-03. It's run quite smoothly during the flight tests- Starfleet is hoping it'll stay that way... Archer misses you. We all do... I know it shouldn't have taken me this long to visit you again, but... my Aunt Sherry passed away a few months ago. I had to go back for the funeral. I haven't returned to Malaysia since. Too many painful memories. And my father is still an ass, which doesn't help. My mother and I still keep in touch, though. She once wrote that she wished she could have had the chance to meet you.

"I hope that wherever you are... I hope that you're happy. I hope that someday all of us might be reunited again. Happy endings." The man crouched down and set the photograph in front of the tombstone. On the photograph was the senior staff of the Enterprise. "I must think happy endings." He lingered for a moment longer, his fingers brushing lightly against the lettering on the tombstone. "I love you, Charles Tucker-Reed the Third. Don't you forget it."


 Present Day

Malcolm groaned softly as he stirred awake. Training the day before had been positively brutal and had left his body feeling more broken than ever. The Brit rolled over out of habit, his hand reaching for that spot. That spot in the sheets, that spot where Trip should be curled up right next to Malcolm, snoring softly. But that spot was cold and empty. He felt a fresh pang of grief that seemed to echo throughout the hollowness of his chest. Malcolm knew by now he should have gotten used to waking up alone. But he couldn't. Eight years had passed. And he simply couldn't.

Malcolm forced himself to think about something else, something other than Trip. So he thought about figuring out what woke him up in the first place.

He sat up in the far-too-cushy mattress, the cool air hitting his bare chest and arms as the pale white bedsheet slid down to his waist. A glance at the dark window off in the corner told him that it was still late in the night. Or very early in the morning. Either way, it didn't answer the question that was still bugging his sleep-ridden mind- what woke him up?

A beep echoed from Malcolm's sitting room. Then another beep. And another. The former armoury officer slid out of bed and retrieved a black T-shirt that had been carelessly cast aside on a nearby chair. As he pulled on the shirt, Malcolm stepped into the sitting room. The indicator on his desktop computer was flashing insistently with each beep.

Malcolm sat down and answered it. The weary face of Admiral Jonathan Archer appeared. "Sir?" Malcolm blinked at the man sleepily. "Do you know what time it is?"

"Sorry, Commander, but this couldn't wait," Jonathan told him, worry lining his green eyes. "How quickly do you think you can pack your things?"

"Sir?"

"How quick can you pack?"

"It'll take an hour, maybe less," Malcolm answered in confusion, rubbing his eyes. "What's going on, sir? Where will I even be going?"

"Jupiter Two," Jonathan replied. "There's been an incident and you're needed. I'm afraid I can't say much more than that. Just get there as soon as you can."

"Yes sir." It bothered Malcolm that Jonathan wasn't saying much, but he didn't say anything of his discomfort. His younger self would have no doubt vehemently demanded to know what was going on. But age had caught up to the once vibrant Starfleet officer, leaving him as a nearly empty shell of the man he once was.

"Safe journey, Malcolm." Jonathan ended the transmission without another word, and Malcolm was left staring at a blank black screen. After a moment he stood up and turned around to survey his flat.

"Duty calls."