Diversions & Digressions | fanfiction by mara

Lullaby: The Southern Comfort Remix

Lullaby: The Southern Comfort Remix

by Mara

Summary: A faint heart never true love knows.

NOTES: This fic was written for the Remix/Redux II Challenge. Thanks to akire
for writing such a lovely story to begin with 🙂 You can find her original story
at members.iinet.net.au/~thequeen/indy/lullaby.htm. The poem used in the
original story as well as my remix is Lullaby by WH Auden.

* * * * *

Trip could never pinpoint when he fell in love, although it seemed like he
should be able to. Shouldn’t there be a moment when his heart stopped, his
breath caught, his whole world turned inside out?

But there wasn’t. Malcolm became his friend, part of his life, then an essential
part. A day wasn’t complete without at least a few minutes talking to him, even
if it was just an argument about power transfer to the phase cannons.

Damn, the man could get under his skin. But he was the most fascinating mix of
erudition and machismo. And he–Trip winced–smelled so nice.

No question, he had it bad. But what to do now? How did one go a courtin’ a
brilliant, moody, cantankerous, sexy British armory officer? It was a terrifying
thought, but nothing ventured, nothing gained had always been his motto.

Sitting at his desk, late in the ship’s night, Trip contemplated the question of
what to do. Slowly, he dropped his head in his hands, staring at his desk’s
smooth surface just in front of his nose.

Desk.

Writing.

Love letter?

God, no.

Poetry?

But he was no poet.

What about…

Trip sat up, hit by a bolt of lightning. Nothing wrong with borrowing the words
of a better poet, right? Still staring blankly at the desk, the plan unfolded in
his mind like a warp engine redesign, each part fitting neatly into the others.

* * * * *

The paper and ink came from his mother, who’d always had a nostalgic streak.
Trip suspected this wasn’t exactly the purpose she’d had in mind when she gave
him the writing supplies the day before Enterprise launched. He consoled himself
with the fact that she was going to adore Malcolm.

Although perhaps he was getting ahead of himself just a bit.

The stack of thick, creamy paper and the fancy pen mocked him as he dithered. He
picked up the pen, put it down, picked it up, started to put it down, and
stopped.

God, what a wimp. Right. Time to start writing.

It took him five tries to get a clean copy, several hours of sweating and
cursing and careful looping calligraphy, just the way he remembered his mother
teaching him.

Yup, sentimental and nostalgic streak a mile wide, his momma had. And it looked
like he’d inherited it.

The finished page was folded carefully in quarters and torn, leaving one-fourth
of the poem on each piece.

Two days later, he walked down the corridor, nonchalance oozing from every pore,
nodding at a passing crewman, then pausing just long enough to tape a folded
quarter of paper to Malcolm’s door with a tiny piece of tape. On the way down to
the armory, he imagined Malcolm opening the door, finding the paper, and reading
its words.

Lay your sleeping head, my love,
Human on my faithless arm;
Time and fevers burn away
Individual beauty from
Thoughtful children, and the grave
Proves the child ephemeral:
But in my arms till break of day
Let the living creature lie,
Mortal, guilty, but to me
The entirely beautiful.

Please, if there was a God, let Malcolm understand.

* * * * *

It was easy enough to leave the second piece at Malcolm’s station in the armory.
Everyone knew to avoid the area at this time of day, leaving it free for Malcolm
to roam, inspect, and generally survey his domain.

The gray steel and black paneling made an unusual background for his missive,
and Trip paused for a moment in panic. But the first note had been delivered, it
was too late to turn back now.

Holding his breath, he placed the folded note where it couldn’t be missed.

The words waited for Malcolm to arrive.

Soul and body have no bounds:
To lovers as they live upon
Her tolerant enchanted slope
In their ordinary swoon,
Grave the vision Venus sends
Of supernatural sympathy,
Universal love and hope;
While an abstract insight wakes
Among the glaciers and the rocks
The hermit’s carnal ecstasy.

* * * * *

Trip nodded politely and ate a spoonful of chicken soup as Travis kept him
apprised of the latest gossip. The messhall was at its busiest, voices bouncing
around the small space like racquetballs and Trip’s eyes kept drifting toward
the door, worried that just this once Malcolm would leave his post early. If he
had to face him before the game was played out, who knew what embarrassing thing
he might do or say.

“Commander?”

“Hmm?” He looked back at Travis, who laughed and speared a tomato out of his
salad.

“Commander, were you listening to a word I said?”

“Uh, yeah, I’m just a little distracted. It’s so noisy and I’ve got this
manifold that’s giving us trouble. Guess my heart’s not in conversation today.”

Hoshi was probably staring at the envelope right now, wishing she could open it.
She wouldn’t do that, would she? Or what if she forgot to deliver it? He nearly
dropped his fork in panic. It didn’t matter. It was time to implement the final
phase of his plan, even if his heart did feel like it was going to explode out
of his chest in some really messy way.

“If you’re that worried about the repair, maybe you should head to engineering
now,” Travis said, staring at him with obvious concern.

“I think that’s a great idea, Travis. I’ll just, um, go back to work. You can
tell me about Ensign Hart’s date tomorrow.”

“It was Crewman Lau, sir,” Travis called after him, laughing again.

“Whatever!”

He forced himself to walk normally as he wound his way through the crew
quarters. In his mind, he didn’t see gray walls, he saw the green loops of his
own handwriting on the note he’d left that morning for Hoshi to deliver. And he
saw the words Malcolm should be receiving soon.

Certainty, fidelity
On the stroke of midnight pass
Like vibrations of a bell
And fashionable madmen raise
Their pedantic boring cry:
Every farthing of the cost,
All the dreaded cards foretell,
Shall be paid, but from this night
Not a whisper, not a thought,
Not a kiss nor look be lost.

Soon, Trip told himself. Soon he’d know. One way or the other.

* * * * *

As he typed in the engineering override on the door lock, Trip hoped he wasn’t
throwing his career and his life out an airlock. He sent a fervent prayer to the
heavens, grabbed the leatherbound folio off the shelf and sat on the edge of the
bunk.

The lights were low, but he had the words memorized anyway, so it wouldn’t
matter.

Trip listened to the sounds of the shower, the faint humid scent making him want
to take deep breaths. He concentrated on relaxing and clearing his mind.

The shower stopped after an eternity and he could hear Malcolm moving around,
then the door opened and he emerged, toweling his hair dry. Trip nearly gasped
when he realized the words Malcolm was muttering were from the poem. He watched
Malcolm stride to the bookshelf and look in vain for the book he held in his
hands.

He gathered his courage as Malcolm frantically searched the desk, then cleared
his throat.

Malcolm whirled, surprised but ready for a fight.

Trip stared down at the book, vision blurring as he focused his mind on the
words, the all-important words. He wondered if his voice sounded as hoarse as it
felt.

“Beauty, midnight, vision dies,” Trip said. He heard Malcolm shift.

“Let the winds of dawn that blow
Softly round your dreaming head
Such a day of welcome show
Eye and knocking heart may bless,
Find our mortal world enough”

His voice gave out for a second. What was he doing? Malcolm was going to kill
him, he–

Malcolm moved slowly into his peripheral vision and sat gently on the edge of
the bed. Maybe…

“Noons of dryness find you fed
By the involuntary powers,
Nights of insult let you pass.”

Swallowing, willing his stomach to settle, he finally raised his eyes in order
to recite the final line.

“Watched by every human love.” Malcolm looked a bit shell-shocked and Trip
closed the book and looked down, courage giving out all at once.

Silence fell for long enough for his heart to stop.

“Why?”

“What?” His head shot up, confused by the question.

“Why did you go to all this effort?”

“You didn’t like it?”

“Of course I did. It’s the most romantic thing anyone has ever done for me, to
be honest.”

Trip felt his face get warm. “I wanted…I didn’t know what to say.”

“I think,” Malcolm said very deliberately, “you found the right words.”

The air was still warm from Malcolm’s shower and Trip found himself fascinated
by a bead of water trailing down his neck. Then their eyes met and he wanted
nothing more than to kiss the other man.

Malcolm leaned forward a fraction and that was enough. Trip put his hands on
those gloriously damp shoulders and drew him in, lips touching, tongues darting
out.

When they drew back, Malcolm smiled. “Read to me.”

Trip laughed, feeling more alive than he had in years. He dragged the book onto
his lap and wound the other around Malcolm’s waist. “Lay your sleeping head, my
love…”

–end–

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