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Stars Align

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Malcolm didn't know long it had been since he had stopped reading the letter and begun staring out into space.

... I'm sorry that I have to be the one to tell you this, but Mary passed away in her sleep last night...

The armoury officer leaned forward in his chair and pressed his hands to his face, trying desperately to keep control of his now tumultuous emotions. He closed his eyes and tried to slow down his breathing, hoping that this would help calm him down. It didn't. Malcolm stood up from the chair and moved to the ship's comm. "Lieutenant Reed to Commander Tucker."

"Trip here," came the reply after a moment or two. "You alright Mal? Ya sound... well, not like yourself."

"Could you come to my quarters?" Malcolm asked quietly. "Or I could come to yours, if it'll be too much trouble. I know it's late and-"

"I'll come to you, Mal," Trip interrupted gently. "I wasn't really gettin' much sleep anyway." Malcolm bit his lip silently in hesitation. "Malcolm? Ya still there?"

"Yes, I'm here," Malcolm finally responded, trying to keep his voice steady. And failing miserably.

"Are ya okay, Mal?"

Malcolm hesitated. "... No, I'm not."

"'Kay, I'll be there in ten minutes," Trip replied, his voice laced with concern. "Gotta get dressed first- no way I'm walkin' 'round the ship in just my underwear 'gain." Under normal circumstances, Malcolm would have found that comment amusing (and, although he wouldn't admit it, somewhat arousing), but at the moment he just wasn't in the mood. Still, he appreciated the Commander's attempt.

"I'll see you then." Malcolm deactivated the comm and after a moment of hesitation, he moved back to sit in front of his desk. The Brit took a deep breath and read the letter over again.

Dear Malcolm,

I'm sorry that I have to be the one to tell you this, but Mary passed away in her sleep last night. There was nothing more the doctors could do and they felt that by prolonging her life that... they had to take her off life support. It was for the best... she was suffering, Malcolm. Madeline and I are currently making preparations for the funeral, which will most likely take place on April 17th. Madeline has expressed her hope that you will be there, as am I. Your father isn't doing too well either. He's become rather unstable these last few months, the poor man. Your mother's illness has taken a toll on him, as it did all of us.

With love, your Aunt Sherry

Date Sent: April 2, 2156

Date Received: April 4, 2156

Malcolm closed the window on his screen and sat there silently as he digested his aunt's words. A beep from his doorbell a few minutes later announced Trip's arrival. "It's open," he called, standing up from his chair. The door promptly slid open and Trip stepped in.

"Mal, is everythin'-" The engineer's worried quiery was cut off when Malcolm grabbed him by the shoulders and pulled him into a hug. Trip returned the gesture without hesitation, resting his head on the armoury officer's head. "Hey... it's okay, Mal. I'm here. What's wrong?"

Malcolm shook his head and pressed his face into Trip's chest, as if to hide himself from the rest of the world. "Just... stay."

"Of course," Trip replied softly, wrapping his arms even tighter around the smaller man's frame and nuzzling his hair affectionately. "Always." Malcolm closed his eyes and slowed his breathing as he relaxed slightly in the embrace.

Always.