Title: Busted

Author: Kate Kernshaw

Author's email: k1a9t8e0@yahoo.com

Date: 10/23/02

Rating: PG

Type: Pre-slash M/M

Pairing: Archer/Reed

Length: ~3,400

Status: Complete

Summary: This story is in response to Nijijin's "Busted Down" Challenge on the EntSTSlash group list: Would love to see a fanfic where Malcolm is busted down to crewman.

Series/Sequel: No

Archive: EntSTSlash, Luminosity, WWOMB, Entslash, Archers_Enterprise

Feedback: If you wish

Disclaimer: Paramount owns the Enterprise and Star Trek universe. I do not make any money from writing fanfiction.

Spoilers: Based on the episode "Minefield"

Warnings: None

Comments: Many thanks to Cinmbria and Alcott for read-through and helpful comments, and especially to Leah and Squeakylightfoot for providing outstanding beta. Special thanks to "cheerleaders": Snorkler, Louise, and ShiShi for their continued encouragement. Any other mistakes found in this story are mine, and I won't share them, even if you ask nicely!

NOTE: // Text within // denotes dreams.

Captain Jonathan Archer and Lieutenant Reed lay on the deck of Docking Bay Two, panting, glad to be alive. "So, Malcolm, how long was it?" asked Archer, referring to the time it took for the mine to detonate after he had cut through the metal spike which had run through Reed's leg and pinned him to the hull plating.

"I counted ten seconds, Sir."

"Are you sure? It was more like twenty," Archer said as he helped Reed to sit up more comfortably.

"Sorry, Sir, it was ten."

"I'm not gonna argue with you, Malcolm. It was twenty—and that's an order."

Both men smiled, sharing a warm moment of camaraderie now that _Enterprise_ and all her crew were safe from harm. For several long moments, Archer and Reed looked into each other's eyes, both men conveying their interest in each other.

Before either man could voice his feelings, the docking bay door slid open, and Commander Trip Tucker, Sub-commander T'Pol, and Doctor Phlox rushed towards the two men. Tucker nodded at Archer and touched a hand to Reed's boot in a silent acknowledgement that he was there for his injured friend.

Phlox bent down in front of Reed and scanned the metal spike protruding through the young man's left thigh. "This may require some delicate maneuvering," he said as he prepared a hypospray. "I will need to slit the EV suit from hip to ankle, but I'm afraid the action will cause Mr. Reed serious distress."

Phlox removed a pair of surgical shears from his medkit and handed the hypospray to Archer. "If you please, Captain, inject this into Mr. Reed's neck as I begin cutting the suit."

With deep concern, Archer maintained eye contact, noting Reed's wince when Phlox touched his thigh. "Easy now, Malcolm," he whispered into Reed's ear, his lips grazing against the lobe. "I'm right here, and I won't let you go." He pressed the hypospray against Reed's neck, cradling the younger man in his arms.

// "If I were the kind of Captain you think I should be, I would bust your ass back to Crewman." Reed whirled around, confused, lost in the darkness surrounding him, as he sought the owner of the voice shouting at him. Echoing that voice came another—in a southern drawl—louder, angrier, "because if we survive, the first thing I'm gonna do is bust your ass back to Crewman Second Class." Over and over the mantra echoed, "…bust your ass back to Crewman…" fading into the sound of tearing fabric. Glancing down at himself, Reed saw with dismay that his rank insignia had been ripped from his uniform, leaving an ugly, gaping hole below his right shoulder. // "Easy now, Captain," murmured Phlox. Using the shears, he cut the EV material, ripping it from Reed's ankle straight up to just below the protruding spike. "Hold him steady."

Snipping around the wound, Phlox tried not to jostle the vicious looking spike any more than could be helped. Within minutes he removed the suit from the around Reed's left leg, then repeated the process with the protective undergarment. "Let's get him into surgery," he added, now that his medical team had arrived with a gurney to transport Reed to Sickbay.

// Before him the corridor stretched dark and gloomy, a never-ending deck covered in dust and dirt. Crewman Reed looked from the pail of water on the floor to the mop in his hand and sighed. 'It will take me a week to clean this,' he thought. 'Best get to it,' he sighed again, tiredness settling over his body like a heavy shroud.

Dipping the mop into the deep pail, Reed started the chore. Sniffing the air, he wrinkled his nose at the pungent smell that rose up to greet his nostrils. Reed wrung out the mop, the antiseptic fragrance reminding him of Sickbay, then began his unpleasant task, swashing the mop back and forth, tugging the pail along with him. With another sigh, Reed looked back at the work he had completed, frowning in consternation at having progressed a mere meter when he was certain he had toiled for well over an hour.

Behind Reed came a soft tinkle of laughter and the squeak of rubber-soled shoes on the wet floor. Ensigns Mayweather and Sato approached Crewman Reed, pointing first at the huge hole in his uniform where once sat his lieutenant's pips, then down to the grimy floor. "Excuse me," snickered Mayweather. "Looks like you missed a spot!" Peals of laughter floated back to Reed as the two ensigns continued along the corridor.

Leaning on the mop handle, Reed groaned as he spied the dirty footsteps the young officers left in their wake. Turning back to the direction from which they had come, Reed sighed in disgust at all his hard work now undone. //

Sickbay was quiet. Several members of the medical team worked at clearing up the area now that the majority of the injured were either resting in their own quarters or declared fit to be back on duty. A few of the injured remained in Sickbay, but overall everything was returning to its normal routine. Doctor Phlox made the rounds to check on his patients, especially Reed, unconscious from the drugs and anesthesia administered during surgery.

In chairs on either side of the biobed sat two of Reed's friends, Ensigns Hoshi Sato and Travis Mayweather, both anxious to do whatever they could to help the lieutenant recover from his latest injury.

"Hoshi," whispered Mayweather, as he fussed with the sheet covering Reed. "I better not get busted for stealing Malcolm's shaver from his quarters. If the captain knew—"

"Don't worry, Travis," giggled Sato. She smiled at him while shaving Reed's face. "The Captain knows how fastidious Malcolm is about his appearance." She continued shaving in a circular motion along the lower jaw. "A well groomed officer is always at his best," she quipped in her most perfect British accent.

"Excuse me," snickered Mayweather, "looks like you missed a spot!" He pointed at a small area of Reed's jaw furthest from Sato's reach. "I told you to let me shave him!" Both officers laughed, soft chuckles triggered by the shared vision of how appalled the armory officer would be if seen in public looking the slightest bit untidy and unkempt.

The unconscious Reed fretted, tossing and turning his head on the pillow. His breathing was uneven and sounded raspy.

Sato and Mayweather exchanged worried glances. "Doctor," called Mayweather. "You better come over here. Malcolm's not breathing right."

"And he feels really hot," added Sato.

Phlox hurried to Reed's bed. Checking the biomonitor, Phlox's cheerful face turned serious. "I think it would be best if you two leave now," he said. At their worried looks, he added, "I'll let you know as soon as Mr. Reed is well enough to have visitors again." Nodding at Phlox, the two ensigns exited Sickbay, turning back for one last look at their ill friend.

// The pulsating hum of the ship's engines provided ominous background music for Crewman Reed as he wrestled with the door to the heavy recycler. With a loud clang, he yanked the metal door open and hoisted the overfilled trash bin up to the recycler's large mouth. A thorough shake and the contents began spewing out of the bin. Reed winced at the reverberations as each piece of metal and shard of glass clanked and shattered on its long journey into the bowels of the massive machine. This was the last bin of this load; it was time to push the large metal cart carrying the eight, now empty, trash bins back to Engineering and collect the next lot.

Crewman Reed felt hot. His skin burned as if on fire. Within his veins the blood boiled. Reed gasped a shallow breath, his heart racing. Muscles ached and pain throbbed throughout his body. Rest was not allowed yet—he had to buck up and soldier on—'a true Reed never deserts his duty, no matter how unpleasant'—it was the Reed way, he thought. Pushing the heavy cart through the door to Engineering, Reed wound his way around the stations, switching filled bins for the empty ones. With a weary sigh, Reed pushed the weighed down cart out the door, sideswiping the man just entering.

"Hey there! What the hell do you think you're doing?" shouted Commander Tucker, dodging the trash cart. "You get back here, right now!"

Reed stared into nothingness, confused by Tucker's diatribe, then saw he was sitting alone in the dark, empty galley. //

"Good afternoon, Captain, Commander," said Phlox, as Archer and Tucker entered Sickbay and approached Reed's biobed. Phlox busied himself with the biomonitor as the captain took a seat next to the sleeping man. Reed still tossed and turned, as if fighting imaginary demons, and both officers grabbed at Reed to prevent him from harming his injured leg.

"What's wrong with him?" asked Archer. "He looks pale and his breathing sounds labored. Malcolm's going to be all right, isn't he?" Archer's worried concern for his armory officer showed in his face, etched with signs of exhaustion.

"Lieutenant Reed has a high fever at the moment," Phlox stated. "I'm not sure what's causing it, if it's an adverse reaction to the anesthesia or something else. I've run several tests on him and should have the results within an hour or two." Phlox nodded once to Tucker and patted Archer's shoulder, then motioned that he needed to move on to check the status of another patient.

// Pain. Hot. Tired. Work. Hurt. Crewman Reed heard whispers everywhere he turned, mocking and taunting him. Grimacing with the painful exertion of each straining muscle, Reed forced his overheated body to get up out of the chair and move towards the galley's large sinks. //

Tossing his feverish head on the pillow, Reed's thrashing slowed. With his eyes closed, he sat up and slid his body towards the edge of the biobed.

"Hey there! What the hell do you think you're doing?" asked Tucker. "You get back here, right now." Tucker took one of Reed's arms, guiding him back onto the biobed and helped him resettle, fluffing the pillow and straightening the sheets.

// He had more work to do; Chef wanted those dishes washed—now. He washed and scrubbed, the heat from the water causing him to sweat. Breathing hurt. His chest felt heavy. Crewman Reed scrubbed and washed all the harder. Soon the endless mound of dishes overwhelmed him, and exhaustion rolled through his body. He sank to the floor unable to stand.

"Take it easy," a calming voice echoed in the darkness. "It's all right. I'm here."

Reed lay on the galley floor, listening to the comforting sounds around him, and then closed his eyes. Hurt. Work. Tired. Hot. Pain. //

"Malcolm, take it easy," said Archer, grabbing Reed's other arm, assisting Tucker in getting Reed back onto the biobed. As Tucker worked to make Reed more comfortable, Archer soothed and calmed the ill man, "It's all right, Malcolm. I'm here." He caressed the unconscious man's arm and brushed back a few strand's of brown hair from Reed's pale brow.

Archer and Tucker looked at each other, a silent agreement passing between them that one should remain in Sickbay to assist the doctor with Reed's care. Tucker sighed, running a hand through his hair. "I think you better stay with Malcolm, Cap'n," he whispered. "I need to get back to Engineering and all the repairs, anyway." With another concerned look at Reed and an encouraging nod to Archer, Tucker left Sickbay.

// Crewman Reed entered the Captain's quarters carrying a tall stack of clean laundry. Setting the bundle on a nearby table, Reed began putting away all the clothes and linens. Opening and closing each drawer and cupboard was strenuous, and the sweat trickled down his overheated body.

With that chore completed, Reed stood confused in the center of the room, a large dust rag in his hand. Layer upon layer of thick dust covered all the wood furniture in the captain's quarters. Starting with the dresser, Reed began wiping away the dust, pressing as hard as he could, but the blasted dust refused to be dislodged. Recalling his mother's advice, "use a little elbow grease, dear," and his father's frequent admonishments, "put your back into it, boy," Reed tried harder, rubbing in small circles, but still the dust remained. With sweat saturating his uniform, he paused a moment, wondering what to do next.

Reed took another deep breath, pain filling his lungs. The dust was so thick he couldn't get enough air. Mysteriously the dust rag disappeared, replaced by the handle of a carpet sweeper. With the oppressive heat still building within him, Reed began sweeping the floor around the bed, hypnotized by the rhythmical thrum from the hand-powered apparatus. //

Archer sat in the chair next to Reed stroking his arm. Only the steady hum of the biomonitor could be heard over Reed's labored breathing. Archer wanted to do so much more to help Reed get better, but the best he could offer was the soothing comfort of his gentle touch. Concerned about Reed's high fever, which was climbing higher with no response to medical treatment, Archer called over to the doctor. "Phlox, why is Malcolm getting worse instead of better?"

Phlox returned to Reed and sat down in the other chair next to him. Taking out a small bottle and pouring some of its contents into the palms of his hands, he started rubbing a light, wood-scented medical solution of his own concoction into Reed's skin, moving his hands around the shoulders and chest in a slow circular motion.

"Captain," Phlox stated. "The test results indicate Mr. Reed suffered a severe reaction to a foreign bacteria, which had adhered itself to the metal spike that lodged in his leg. It took a few hours to isolate and analyze the bacteria. This balm should help bring down the fever and keep him comfortable. The rest, I'm afraid, is up to him." With a worried frown, Phlox finished his ministrations and then left Archer to his solitary vigil. // Black. Total blackness. A confused Crewman Reed looked around, wondering why he was wearing this heavy suit and helmet when he felt as if his body was on fire. Sharp, shooting pain shot through his left leg, and Reed looked down at the long metal spike protruding through his leg, pinning him to the hull. Someone approached him, and Reed soon realized it was his captain, Jonathan Archer.

Working together to defuse the mine, Archer insisted on chattering while he worked, saying it calmed him. He plied Reed with question after question, trying to draw his armory officer out of his shell. Slowly, Reed answered his captain, filling in a few details of how he didn't join the Royal Navy because of his aquaphobia—his fear of the water.

After several minutes, the now defused mine rearmed itself. Knowing the ship and crew were in deadly peril, and with Archer refusing to abandon him, Reed did the only thing he could think of—he took the decision out of Archer's control and pulled the oxygen hose on his suit.

Expecting the oxygen to be vented, Reed was shocked as cold, salt-laden water gushed in and filled the helmet, surrounding his head and face. Gasping for air, Reed—now freed from the spike pinning him to the hul—flailed, gagging and choking as he fought for each breath. Reed watched as a horrified Archer struggled to reach him in time, locking eyes together for one last, helpless moment. As death came to claim him, Reed's thoughts ran rampant. Love. Let go. Jon. Never. Not let go. Love Jon. Must tell. Love. //

Settling into a chair next to the sleeping man, Archer sat alone with Reed. He smoothed away more wisps of hair from Reed's forehead and murmured, "So you have to come out of this, okay, Malcolm? Because if you don't, we won't have the chance to explore where our mutual attraction could go."

Archer watched Reed's wan face, then took a deep breath and continued, "Don't try to deny it, Malcolm; I saw it all in those beautiful gray eyes. I feel the same about you. I need you—I think I even love you, Malcolm, and I want you to be with me. Please come back to me."

Reed continued to struggle on the biobed, fighting against the serious illness wracking his body. Gasping for air, he gagged and choked, fighting for each breath. Within minutes Reed's faced turned blue and he stopped breathing.

// Archer moved in close to Reed, pulling him out of the water and yanking off the helmet. Checking that there was no obstruction in the airway, Archer took one hand and tilted Reed's head backward, using his thumb and index finger to pinch Reed's nostrils.

Taking a deep breath, Archer then covered Reed's mouth with his own, sealing his lips against the lukewarm, sweaty skin of the younger man's face. He blew a quick breath into Reed and felt his chest rise, an indicator that he was receiving air into his lungs. Pulling his mouth away from Reed's, Archer waited for Reed to exhale, then repeated the procedure several times. During this procedure, Archer muttered, "You have to come out of this. I need you and I want you. Please come back to me."

Within a few minutes, Reed's breathing became normal, and Archer sat back holding the young man in his arms.

Reed blinked open his eyes. He looked up at Archer and read the tender look of love on his face. He smiled back, contented, and closed his eyes to rest. //

When Reed stopped breathing the biomonitor alarms buzzed which alerted Phlox, who was there within seconds. He pushed Archer aside and applied an oxygen-breathing mask over Reed's mouth. After scanning the biomonitor and assessing the results, Phlox prepared the correct medical dosage and pressed the hypospray to Reed's neck. For several more minutes, Phlox labored to save his patient's life.

Reed gasped a sudden breath, which turned into a ragged cough. He ceased his struggles and slipped into a restful sleep, the biomonitor reflecting his calmed state.

"Captain," said Phlox, touching Archer's shoulder. "You can relax now. Mr. Reed is out of danger, and I expect he will make a full recovery."

A few hours later, Reed woke up, his eyes looking around the room and settling on his captain's pensive face.

Archer smiled at Reed and stood up next to the biobed. "Lieutenant," he began, hesitating at Reed's puzzled look at that word. He tried to sound stern, but his joy at Reed's awakening deterred his harsh tone, and the love he felt for the young man shone in his hazel eyes. Thankful that Reed's fever had broken and he was breathing on his own again, Archer smoothed away another strand of errant hair. "Lieutenant Reed—Malcolm—you gave me…us…quite a scare."

Reed, catching Archer's use of his rank, asked, "Do you mean I'm not busted down to Crewman after all?"

Archer didn't know how to respond, wondering if this response was part of Reed's delirium. "I'm not sure I know what you mean, Lieutenant." He thought a moment and laughed, shaking his head. "I'm afraid not, Malcolm. You're still my armory officer, with all the responsibilities and headaches that go with the job."

Reed gave Archer a shy smile. "You…you saved my life," he said. At Archer's confused look, he added, "When I was drowning, you gave me the 'kiss of life' and soon had me breathing again—don't you remember?"

"Kiss of life?" Archer smiled, his eyebrows lifting in a suggestive manner.

Reed knew in that instant that Archer was as interested in him as he was in Archer. He flashed a coy half-smile and murmured, "Please, Sir, may I have some more?" With a seductive look he added, "Kisses, I mean. Lots more kisses."

Gazing again into Reed's gray eyes, Archer was certain that the younger man was cognizant of his request. Leaning in closer, he cupped Reed's face in his hands and asked, "You did say 'kisses', as in more than one?" He leaned down and claimed Reed's lips, happy to oblige.

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