Title: Wanting

Author: Kylie Lee

E-mail: kylielee1000@hotmail.com

Author's URL: http://www.geocities.com/kylielee1000/

Date: 12/08/02

Length: ~7100 words

Fandom: Star Trek: Enterprise

Pairing: Archer/Reed

Type: Slash M/M

Rating: NC-17

Status: Complete

Summary: Archer and Reed each contemplate attraction for the other during the events of "Minefield."

Feedback: On list is OK for EntSTSlash and Archers_Enterprise; anyone else, please e-mail me privately.

Series: Wanting

Next story: All Stop

Archive: Yes to EntSTSlash, Archer's_Enterprise, Tim Ruben, WWoMB, Allslash, Complete Kingdom of Slash, Luminosity, and Situation Room. Anyone else, obtain permission.

Disclaimer: Original material copyright 2002 Kylie Lee. This is not an attempt to infringe on Paramount's copyright. No money was made.

Spoilers: "Shuttlepod One," "Minefield."

Warnings: None.

Beta: The Grrrl, Kageygirl, Kim, Sarah—couldn't do it without you!

Comments: Angst, anyone? Alert readers may have noticed that the other fic that I've completed in this sequence, All Stop, was Archer/Mayweather, and this fic is not.

*** 1 REED/NOW

Lieutenant Malcolm Reed adjusted the water, making it even hotter. He was running out of shower time. The water would cut off automatically after eight minutes, for conservation purposes. Crew members were encouraged to get wet, turn off the water, lather up, and then rinse, and Reed was one of the obedient. Usually. Today, he stood under the hot spray and soaked in the warmth, drawing in lungsful of warm, wet air. Two days ago, he'd been outside, on the hull of the *Enterprise*, defusing a mine. His suit had been heated, of course, but he thought he'd never be warm again. It reminded him of the hideous shuttlepod incident, when he and Trip Tucker, the chief engineer on board *Enterprise*. They had gotten stuck without heat and had nearly died. He had been cold beyond cold then, and he still had nightmares about the experience.

This was like that. He was tooth-chatteringly cold inside. Everything had turned out all right, but he hadn't known that at the time, of course. He could have died. Captain Jonathan Archer could have died. And worst of all, they seemed to have a new enemy, one that wouldn't show his face. Reed had to appreciate the Romulan's tack: their modus operandi was frightening and intimidating. Reed had scheduled a meeting with T'Pol to discuss these Romulans, to find out what the Vulcans knew. He'd reviewed the Vulcan database, but T'Pol had implied she could find out more, and Reed had suggested she do so, now that they had made contact of sorts. His injury had taken him off duty, but he could still go to meetings and do research. He just couldn't walk very well.

There was a knot of ice at his core, and it wouldn't melt.

The shower beeped its warning, and thirty seconds later, the water went off. Reed stood nude in the steamy shower stall, arms around his chest, shivering. The thin layer of water on the shower stall floor got cold first, and he swirled it with his big toe. Finally, after several long minutes, he stepped out and grabbed a towel. He wrapped it around his shoulders and adjusted the bathroom's thermostat up even more. He toweled himself off and hung the towel around his waist as he combed his hair and brushed his teeth. He didn't bother to wipe the steam away from the mirror.

It wasn't really that late. He'd had dinner, worked out as best he could with his bad leg, showered. Working through the pain was actually tremendously tiring. Doctor Phlox had given him some drugs to dull the pain, but they made him sleepy and made his fingers and toes tingle unpleasantly, so he only used the hypospray when then pain got quite bad. It had only been two days. Surely the pain would diminish. He had begun physical therapy today, and it too was quite startlingly painful. He had had no idea how much he had taken his good health for granted.

Reed wiped a swath of steam from the mirror at eye level and surveyed his face. It was etched with pain. He looked like hell. "Right, mate," he said to himself. "Bedtime." It was too early, but he was weary to the bone, weary and cold. He turned the thermostat to its usual setting and shivered when he exited the steamy lavatory. Hands shaking with cold, he put on thick socks and pajama bottoms, grimacing at the effort it cost him to bend his leg, to reach his feet. He pulled on a long-sleeved T-shirt and crawled into bed. He huffed a sigh and dimmed the lights. He felt like he had just run a marathon.

It struck him that he hadn't set his door on Do Not Disturb. Getting up and walking the two meters across the floor to the portal computer to program it was a task beyond his capabilities. He might as well be asked to trek alone across the Sahara Desert. "Hell," he muttered, shutting his eyes. Well, most of his friends had already been by to visit today. Hoshi Sato had brought him a canister of his favorite tea, and Travis Mayweather had given him some cookies. Trip Tucker had given him a padd of information he'd downloaded: specs for some hot new weaponry, recent scholarly articles about military history, adverts for illegal hand-held weapons culled from mercenary magazines, catalogs for the latest in covert ops gear. "I figure you'll have some free time," he'd drawled. "Thought you'd get a kick out of this stuff." Reed had been touched. It had probably taken Tucker hours to get all that material. He couldn't wait to go through it—tomorrow.

"Hell," he said again. There was no way he was moving.

He shut his eyes and drifted.


"Hey, Captain, isn't he here yet?"

Jonathan Archer swung around. "Hi, Trip," he greeted Trip Tucker, his chief engineer. "No, he's not here." Archer tapped his bare wrist, as if he were wearing a watch. "Want to make a bet? He'll be here precisely at the appointed hour, Greenwich mean time, not a moment sooner or later." They were in the captain's mess. Reed was supposed to have breakfast with Archer this morning.

Tucker laughed. "Yeah, you're right. Malcolm is punctual. You got to give him that. What are you going to talk about?"

Archer sighed. "I'll make another bet with you. No matter what I talk about, he's going to talk about work."

"No bet," Tucker said promptly.

"Well, how do you do it?"

"Do what?"

"Have entire conversations with him."

Tucker thought for a second. "Well, we almost died together in that shuttlepod incident. You could try getting into a life-or-death situation with him. That ought to break the ice."

"Very funny. I'll see what I can arrange. Hell, I'll consider anything. So what is he interested in?"


"Besides that."

"Combat strategy."

"Besides that."

"Military history."


"I don't think there's anything besides that stuff."

Archer laughed. "That can't be true."

Tucker thought for a second. "Well, he reads a lot," he said at last. "You could talk about literature. You know, like James Joyce."

"I hate James Joyce." Archer shuddered. "I haven't read Joyce since I was in school, anyway. I couldn't even fake a conversation about Joyce in college, after actually reading him. Come on, give me tips. You're a friend of his."

Tucker shook his head. "I think you'd better talk about work," he said cheerfully.

Archer sighed and dropped into a chair. He ignored the soft sounds of the ensign as he puttered about, preparing the carafes of coffee and juice and clinking silverware. Archer, who had no idea what Reed preferred to eat, had requested that Chef prepare eggs Benedict, on the theory that everybody liked it. "How can I work with someone for over a year and know nothing about him?" he asked. It really bothered him, because he liked Reed and found him interesting, even though they only ever really talked about work. Reed had an intriguing point of view, and although Archer sometimes had trouble getting Reed to give an opinion, when Reed did, it was valuable and well informed. "I don't know what he likes to eat," he continued. "Remember how much trouble Hoshi went to to find out about pineapple? And now it's a cliche. I wouldn't be surprised if he swore off the stuff. I don't know whether he has any hobbies. I don't know what sports he plays. The only reason I know anything about him at all is because I've read his Starfleet file and his school transcripts. And those aren't very illuminating."

"Well, if you really want to get to know Malcolm Reed—" Tucker trailed off. He was leaning against the wall near the door, arms crossed.

"What?" Archer asked eagerly.

"Well, you'd have to resign your commission. Let someone else be captain. Me, for instance." Tucker buffed his nails on his uniform and surveyed them archly.

Archer spoke dryly. "You'd be a great captain. I'll step aside once you attain that rank." He poured himself a cup of coffee. He gestured with the carafe at Tucker, but Tucker waved his hand to indicate refusal. "So, what, Malcolm won't talk to me because I'm the captain?"

Tucker cocked a finger at Archer and shook it. "Got it in one," he said. "Malcolm has this thing for authority."

"Yeah, I'd noticed." Archer grimaced and took a sip of coffee.

"Well, good luck." Tucker pushed himself off the wall with a hip. "Wish I could be a fly on the wall. This whole thing should be pretty funny."

Archer sat back and crossed his legs, coffee mug in hand. "Thanks, Trip. Thanks a lot. Thanks for your advice. Such as it was."

Tucker waved and exited. A few minutes later, precisely on time, Malcolm Reed rang the chime, and Tucker was right. Reed only talked about work, resisted all attempts to talk about anything else, denied an interest in sports, didn't seem to know or care about the World Cup, and seemed to think that the reason he was there was to get yelled at in private. Archer, in desperation, was even ready to invoke the name of James Joyce when the meal was interrupted. As they exited the captain's mess together, Archer felt despair. Reed was so closed off, so unapproachable, so deferential. He wondered what Reed felt about the sudden end to their breakfast, but he suspected he knew: relief.

*** 3 REED/NOW

"H'm," Reed said softly, and woke up. He'd been dreaming. He'd dreamed that Jonathan Archer's arms were around him, drawing him close, that he was safe and well. He'd dreamed he was going to die, but that Captain Archer saved him.

"I'm not about to leave one of my crew behind," Archer had said as they worked together to defuse the bomb. Reed had been pinned to the hull by a leg of the mine, Phlox's drugs dulling the pain. He hadn't. He hadn't left Reed behind.

His hand had seemed to move of its own accord, pulling out his air hose, as he tried to sacrifice himself to save Captain Archer. A ship needed her captain. The captain was a fool, to put the safety and well-being of a single crew member above that of all the lives on board ship. It was only the sheerest luck that Archer had been able to pull it off. The man was a born leader, Reed had to give him that. Archer was too casual, too friendly, too—too democratic. He practically took polls before he made a decision. But Reed had seen him in action, in crises. Archer was perfectly capable of snapping out orders, making hard decisions. He was capable of leading as a leader ought to lead. It just wasn't his style.

They'd talked, on the hull, Reed focusing on the task at hand to distract himself from his situation, although the hypospray Phlox had prepared had dulled the pain. He'd talked Archer through the defusing. Archer had been brilliant. He'd followed the directions perfectly, and it had worked. Well, almost. And he'd told the captain things—things he hadn't told anyone else, things he'd never thought he'd talk to anyone about, except maybe his sister Madeline. He'd talked about his fear of drowning, for example. He'd convinced himself that for the safety of the entire ship, Archer should abandon him, release the hull plating he was pinned to, shoot him off into space, and maybe he almost believed that it was a good idea.

He'd turned the story of his great-uncle, of his great-uncle's ship, the *Clement*, into a kind of parable for Archer, to drive his point home: he'd said, "According to his lieutenant, my great-uncle sealed himself in the engine room and kept the reactor online long enough for his crew to make it to the escape pods. He went down with the ship. He did what he had to do to save his crewmates."

Archer had responded, "I appreciate what you're trying to tell me, Malcolm. But I was hoping you'd be able to save your heroics for another time."

He had been ready. He had bowed to the inevitable. "I just want you to know, sir, that I am prepared," he'd told the captain. The *Enterprise* was his ship too, and he would give his life to save her—in fact, he had sworn to do that when he accepted his commission. He had sworn to obey his superior officers, and he had sworn to protect the ship.

His hand had ripped the air hose out. And then Jonathan Archer had reinserted it, had given Reed some of his own air, thereby putting his own life in danger—to save him. Archer had thought of a way to protect them from the blast. And in Launch Bay 2, he had taken off Reed's helmet and joked with him. When Doctor Phlox had knelt by his leg and cut away the suit, fingers probing at the piece of metal still thrust through his leg, the captain had been behind him, holding him steady against his chest. And Archer had been there when Reed woke up from the surgery. He'd clasped Reed's hand in his own and said, "Good work, Lieutenant. Get better soon. We need you."

Reed adjusted his pillows. He was sleeping half-propped up because otherwise he rolled onto his side in his sleep and woke up in agony. He remembered the feel of Archer's hand against his, the pressure of Archer's chest against his back through the EV suit when he held Reed as Phlox treated him. He remembered Archer's stubbornness, his bravery.

He shut his eyes in despair. He'd deliberately treated Archer rudely, fended off Archer's attempts at intimacy, because he knew if he didn't keep protocol between them, if he forgot for a second that Jonathan Archer was his captain, he would be lost.


Archer looked at the mine in horror. It had just rearmed. God damn it. It had just rearmed. He couldn't believe it. He and Reed had spent what seemed like hours messing with it, making complex adjustments in painstakingly careful order. And it had just rearmed despite their best efforts. The subdetonator had triggered. They couldn't get to it without dismantling the entire mine.

He looked up into the black and imagined what they looked like from the Romulans' ship. Wasn't that what T'Pol had called them? The Romulan Star Empire. It sounded nice. Nice and romantic and expansive—and chilling. From the Romulans' perspective, they were tiny specks on the hull of the *Enterprise*, next to another speck: the mine itself. Unimportant. The Romulans wanted them gone, and god knew he wanted to be gone. The Romulans wanted them to blow the section of hull plating, with him and Reed on it. The mine pinned Reed to the hull. If they cut through the supporting leg that impaled Reed, it would detonate the mine. Reed couldn't get to safety, and Archer was damned if he was going to abandon Reed.

He'd given Reed a cocktail of analgesics and a stimulant to keep his heart rate up, a little something Doctor Phlox had prepared. Phlox didn't want Reed to go into shock. Reed was able to sit up, but the spike was right through his leg. The suit had sealed automatically, saving Reed's life: it kept the air in, and it had exuded some foam sealant that had hardened instantly, putting pressure on the wound. As long as they didn't remove the spike, Reed was stable. Reed seemed lucid as he talked Archer through the defusing process. Archer was absurdly pleased at Reed's positive reinforcement, his simple "Well done," perhaps because he knew that Reed wasn't the kind of person who didn't give undeserved praise. The fact that he could remember to give praise while distracted and injured spoke well of the man.

Reed puzzled him. His insistence on protocol, on sticking with business, bespoke a one-track mind, but Reed certainly seemed to have a good rapport with, for example, Tucker, Travis Mayweather, and Hoshi Sato. They got to see another side of Reed, one that Reed withheld from him, the captain. Reed was a difficult, demanding supervisor, one who tended to snap and yell and one who expected nothing but perfection, but he was basically fair and he gave praise when it was due. He didn't directly supervise more than a couple of people in the armory, and Archer hoped he'd quiet down as he got more leadership experience.

On the bridge—that was another story. On the bridge, Reed was efficient, brisk, deferential. Archer had gotten used to Reed's quiet presence on the bridge. Reed was there to watch his back, and Reed did a very, very good job—too good, sometimes. Reed disapproved of Archer's going on so many away missions, and he definitely disapproved of any mission that took Archer, T'Pol, and Tucker off the ship at the same time. He was not shy about voicing his disapproval—in private, or in writing, of course. Reed would never contradict him on the bridge, because he was the captain. Reed would, as he'd pointed out to Archer in a slightly different context, carry out Archer's orders, because that was what the crew was for.

Archer's inability to break that shell of professional distance really bothered him. He had to admit that this whole having breakfast with the crew thing had been motivated by his inability to reach Reed on a personal level. But the breakfasts were a good idea, and he'd learned a lot in the few he'd managed to schedule so far. Archer had no idea why his inability to reach Reed bugged him so much. Reed was absolutely entitled to keep a professional distance. He was probably even offending Reed by his overtures at camaraderie. He and Reed would probably never go to a football game together. But Archer just didn't see why they couldn't have a personal conversation once in a while. It wouldn't kill anybody.

There was one good thing about being stuck on the hull with Reed: they'd been able to talk, one on one, uninterrupted. Well, he'd take what he could get—personally, he'd rather do it while eating Chef's fabulous eggs Benedict, but there were advantages to having Reed literally pinned down. Reed couldn't wiggle away. It helped that they had a task to do together. It provided structure to their interaction for Reed to seize on. Archer had deliberately turned the conversation to a kind of informal performance evaluation, with Reed telling Archer what was wrong with his command style (no surprises there), and then managed to segue that into some more personal matters. Reed had even told him about his fear of water, which Archer suspected was a big, emotional issue for Reed because of his family's Royal Navy background, although Reed spoke matter-of-factly. Reed also talked about his great-uncle who sacrificed his life in the line of duty on board the *Clement*. Reed's fatalistic attitude troubled him, both personally and professionally, and he didn't bother to hide the irritation in his voice when he rebuked Reed after the story.

Archer looked over when he heard Reed's voice. "Captain, those heroics we spoke about. I think it may be time."

Damn it, Reed had convinced himself he was going to die. Well, not on his watch. Not if he could do something about it.

"You've done all you can, sir," Reed persisted. "For what it's worth, you'd make a fine armory officer."

Archer grimaced. High praise indeed. "Show me that subdetonator," he said, ignoring Reed's comment.

"I'd prefer a burial at sea if I'm not completely vaporized."

"I thought you were afraid of the water. Your scanner, Lieutenant."

"I told you, sir. There's nothing we can do."

"We'll dismantle this thing piece by piece if we have to."

"That'll take days."

What, he had tea parties to go to? A formal dance, perhaps? "My schedule's open."

"These Romulans, they don't seem like the patient types. The longer we stay in this system, the more likely they're going to attack. As much as I appreciate all your efforts, you have to detach the hull plating. It's the only option."

"I'm not about to leave one of my crew behind."

"You're putting *Enterprise* at risk."

Archer sighed in exasperation, in part because it was true. "We're wasting time. Help me figure out a way to get you off of here. That's an order." He turned back to the mine and surveyed it with the scanner Reed had handed him. He wasn't sure what he was looking for. He knew the mine pretty well now, and the casing—there—he thought he could see how it was attached. Could he remove it? When he turned back to Reed, he saw Reed's hand tugging at the air hose. Shock, red anger, and panic, in that order, flowed through him. "What the hell are you doing?" he cried. He let go of the scanner and it drifted away. Damn it, he said to himself. Stupid, self-sacrificing idiot. He needed Reed. Why couldn't Reed see that?

He went to Reed, his movements weird and slow with no gravity. He had to keep one foot on the hull at all times to make sure his shoes would stick to the hull. He reattached the air hose, fingers awkward. He checked Reed's air supply. It was in the red, dangerously low. Reed had lost air from his suit when it had been punctured, and that, on top of his pulling out the hose, had nearly depleted his air supply. He grimly manipulated his own suit, attached it to Reed's, and shared air. He gave Reed about half his supply. It would have to be enough for now. He felt a knot in his stomach: he'd been working so hard, Reed at his side, and they had accomplished so much. To have Reed answer that with a noble suicide angered him. Reed was supposed to watch Archer's back. He was tac. Damn it, he needed the man. "Great," he muttered. "If I were the kind of captain you think I should be, I'd bust your ass back to crewman."

"Begging your pardon, sir, but if you were that kind of captain, we wouldn't be having this conversation. You'd have cut me loose by now."

"I'm not going to do that, Malcolm." Archer looked down at Reed and saw Reed's drawn face through the clear faceplate. Reed looked defeated. He inhaled, the air smelling of his own sweat. The fear coalesced into a solid ball in the pit of his stomach, and he suddenly got it. Here, in a life-or-death situation, at the worst possible moment, he got it. He realized that he couldn't bear it, he couldn't possibly bear it, if Reed died. Reed's heroics, his stupid nobility, his dedication to duty—He stared down at Reed, struck dumb, because his world had just shifted. Reed's life was more important to him than his own. The thought of sitting in the captain's chair, looking over, and not seeing Reed at his station, the thought of that loss, was overwhelming.

Malcolm Reed. He wanted Malcolm Reed.

He got it now: his quiet happiness when he looked over and saw Reed working quietly at his station; his bruised feelings when Reed fended off Archer's attempts at conversation; his sadness at Reed's behavior at that stupid breakfast; his calling on Tucker to tell him about Reed because Reed wouldn't tell Archer himself. Reed, by withholding, had drawn Archer to him instead. Somehow, Reed had become important to him, and his safety and well-being were not optional.

Archer was shaken at the depth of his feelings. He hadn't been looking for affection, or love, or a partner, or any of that. He wanted to focus on his career. He had put his personal life on the back burner, and he had expected it to stay there during his tour of duty on board the *Enterprise*. He understood that he was limiting his life, but he was pretty happy, and he liked his job and his crew. He didn't feel incomplete. He hadn't felt incomplete—until now.

Reed shifted slightly, and Archer snapped back to the present. He closed his eyes for a second, focusing not on the rush of emotions that had just overtaken him but on the dire situation at hand. Something in the back of his brain moved, and Archer seized it.

"When we triggered that subdetonator, why didn't the mine explode right away? How many seconds went by before I rearmed it?" he asked. Hope dawned—a small ray, a tiny ray, but hope nonetheless.

"Sir?" Reed said, confused.

"How many seconds?"

"I don't remember. Ten, maybe twelve."

"It felt more like twenty." Ten or twelve might do it. It just might do it. But twenty would be better. An idea was forming in his mind. They had a delay before the mine would explode. This was valuable information.

"Ten, twenty, what's the difference?" Reed asked, exasperated.

"If it had exploded, how big would the yield have been?"

Reed answered readily. "Judging by the damage the first mine caused, I'd guess about a quarter of a kiloton. What are you getting at, sir?"

Archer turned to the airlock. He was going inside. He had a plan, but he needed Tucker's help. He was going to save both of them.

*** 5 REED/NOW

Safe and warm. The ice inside him had melted, leaving slow warmth, like a banked ember inside him, exuding steady heat.

Reed didn't want to be awake. He was having such nice dreams. Someone was holding him in his arms, gently stroking him, soothing him. "Malcolm," a voice whispered. He knew that voice. It was a voice that meant that everything was all right. He was content—at long last. Content. "Malcolm."

"Mmm," Reed said, turning his head on his pillow. He was hard, and the man in his bed was warm and intimate next to him. Part of Reed's brain knew he was asleep, because his bed was too small for what he was feeling—a body pressed near his, the touch of flesh against flesh as the body next to him moved slightly, brushing leg against leg.

"Malcolm," said the voice again, and Reed could distinctly feel the warmth of the body slide down against his. "Oh," Reed said when the man in his bed took Reed's cock in his mouth. And again: "Oh." The warm cavern stroked up and down lightly, then increased pressure. Reed's balls grew taut. A hand stroked up and down his hips as the mouth sucked, and then one of the hands circled the base of his cock and squeezed as the other stroked right under his belly button. A tongue swiped up and down the big vein on his cock, and teeth gently bit the spongy cap. Then the tongue circled the tip and pushed hard against the underside as the head dipped. "Oh," Reed said as the pleasure mounted. He need only lie back, and the warm man in his bed would make him come.

"Malcolm," the voice said again, and his cock was cold because the mouth had lifted off.

Reed opened his eyes, his leg throbbing a little. He recognized that voice. It was Jonathan Archer's voice. Captain Archer. He sat up abruptly, and his leg twinged. He was alone, of course. His cock was hard. He'd been dreaming, that was all. He'd dreamed Captain Archer held him safe in his arms and made love to him.

He pivoted, then carefully let himself off the bed. The bathroom lights were too bright. He looked at himself in the big mirror. He was rumpled with sleep, his hair sticking up, and his cock was jutting out. He had thought to urinate, but his cock was too hard. It wasn't going down. He was appalled at himself. He couldn't help what he dreamed, but it seemed weirdly disrespectful to dream about his commanding officer in such a way—and his commanding officer in such a subordinate sexual role, servicing Reed. His thoughts flashed to he, Reed, drawing Archer's cock in his mouth, and a wave of desire struck him.

"Oh, no," he said aloud, meeting his own eyes in the mirror. He'd been so good, sticking to business, doing his best to ignore the fact that he was attracted to Archer physically. He couldn't. He simply couldn't develop a crush on his commanding officer. It was a terrible, terrible idea. No doubt he'd dreamed of Archer soothing him because Archer had saved his life. Archer had saved his life and everything was okay. He could see the Freudian logic in that. Sometimes a cigar was just a cigar, though—hadn't Freud said that too? So dreaming about having sex with his commanding officer meant—it meant—it meant that he wanted to have sex with his commanding officer.

"Bloody hell," he said. He leaned against the sink. He was still hard. Really hard. He waited a minute or two, then tugged at his pajama bottoms and peeked in. Yes. Still hard. It didn't help that every time he let his mind wander, it wandered back to his very nice dream. There was only one thing for it. He slid his pajama bottoms down and swiped a hand underneath the tap, turning the water on. He let it run to get warm, then added a generous amount of soap. He put his soapy hand on his cock and began stroking. The pleasure sparked up through his groin and ass. His slick hand manipulated his cock expertly, but standing there, tossing off, he felt exposed. He should turn the light off. No. The controls were too far away. He leaned one arm on the sink to support himself.

He shut his eyes and imagined Jonathan Archer's mouth on his cock. In his imagination, he leaned his ass against the bathroom sink, legs spread, with Archer kneeling between them, licking and sucking, head dipping up and down. In his mind's eye, he saw himself touching Archer's head, stroking behind an ear, as he panted with excitement. Archer could take in his whole cock, kissing his balls while sucking hard. Reed gasped at the sensation, at the enveloping warmth, at the crescendo of hot excitement.

"Jon," he said aloud. "Harder. Suck harder." The dream Archer stroked his tongue along his length and sucked harder, and Reed's hand moved more quickly. "Oh, god, Jon," he said, and his eyes opened. He looked at himself in the mirror, masturbating furiously. "Jon, make me come," he said to the mirror. His face was a grimace of pleasure. He was panting. "Harder. Oh, god. I'm going to come. I'm going to come." Spurting, in his mouth. In his captain's mouth. Pushing hard, fucking hard. "Jon," he said one last time, and his foot slipped a little. He banged his bad leg against the sink. The ray of pain that shot up his leg mixed with his orgasm, pain and pleasure, and he caught his weight with one arm against the mirror and watched himself come. It was obscene: the look on his face, a grimace of pain; white come spilling in globs over his hand, stomach, and T-shirt as his hand squeezed. He was moaning at the sense of utter release, the sense of utter relief, the sense of utter despair.

He panted for a while, leaning against the mirror, head down. He cleaned himself up, and when his cock had gotten soft enough, he managed to urinate. He found the hypospray and used it, then crawled back into bed. His lower abdomen, his cock, felt suffused with warm pleasure from the strength of his orgasm, from the relief it had brought.

It wasn't just a masturbation fantasy, he realized. His dream had told him that. With the captain, he would be safe and warm. The captain had saved his life. The captain wouldn't let anything hurt him. And he wanted his captain. He wanted that mouth on him, kissing him, licking him, sucking him. He wanted to explore that magnificent body—the captain's chest, his hips, his back, his legs, his cock. He wanted to lie in Archer's arms, to let go of himself and still be safe. Oh, he wanted.

He had always been like that—wanting what he couldn't have.

"Jon," he said, staring up into the dark. "Oh, Jon."


Archer cut the rod loose. They wouldn't have much time. Cutting the rod loose would trigger the detonator. He was sure it would take more than ten seconds to rearm. It had to. The clock was ticking. He helped Reed to his feet, and Reed grabbed his shuttlepod hatch. Archer couldn't do any more for Reed. He hefted his own hatch, and they pushed off and circled. He was getting used to the weightlessness, but it was hard to control his attitude to the mine with the extra mass of the hatch. He watched the mine as he attempted to keep the door between it and him. And then his face mask blacked out for a long second in response to the explosion. It was a fraction of a second too late, and he was dazzled. He clung to his lifeline, the hatch, as the energy of the blow kicked him back, stopping his spin. He imagined radiation streaming through space and bouncing off the hatch. He thought he was moving fast, but he couldn't feel anything in space.

"T'Pol," he said, and he didn't hear anything, not even static. "Trip," he tried. He used his chin to key the frequency to the suit-to-suit communicator. "Malcolm, are you all right?" No answer. The blast had clearly fried the communication circuits. He clung to his door as his vision slowly cleared, blinking furiously. "Where's the cavalry?" he asked out loud, and then, as he spun slowly, alone in space, he saw *Enterprise*. Helpless, he watched as she hove closer, and a hatch opened. Travis Mayweather was displaying some mighty fine flying. He twisted around, but he couldn't see Reed. The thought of Reed dying made his stomach clench.

A moment later, he was inside. He recognized Launch Bay 2. The gravity in the bay pulled at him, and he realized how heavy he was with the hatch—and a good thing, too, because he had indeed been moving pretty fast with the force of the explosion, and if the velocity hadn't been scrubbed down, he would have been mush against the launch bay wall. Luckily, there was no one in the launch bay, because he couldn't control his direction. A moment later, Reed flew in. The launch bay door closed the second Reed was in. As Archer went to Reed and knelt by him, he felt the ship go into warp. They hadn't been blown up by the Romulans. They hadn't been blown up by the mine. They were safe. Reed was safe.

The light on the wall flashed green. The bay was now pressurized. His hands worked automatically, removing his own helmet, then Reed's. "Are you all right?" They were both panting from stress and exertion.

Reed managed a chuckle. "All things considered. If I may say so, sir, your style of command does have its advantages."

Archer smiled. He admired Reed's profile, his dark hair. How had he not seen it before now? He resisted the urge to caress a cheek. He took Reed's cue: stick with business. "So how long was it?" He helped Reed sit up. How many seconds had gone by between the time Archer had triggered the subdetonator and the time he had rearmed the mine?

Reed didn't give a micron. "I counted ten seconds," he said firmly.

Archer was encouraged. Reed hadn't lost his sense of humor. "Ten? It was more like twenty."

"Respectfully, sir, it was ten."

The only way to win with Reed was to pull rank. "I'm not going to argue with you, Malcolm. It was twenty. That's an order." He looked up as Tucker, T'Pol, and Phlox entered. He sat back and supported Reed against his body as Phlox began work. He didn't care what anyone thought or said. Reed was in his arms, where he belonged. Archer would stand between Reed and danger. It was his duty, his privilege, to do so, just as it was Reed's to do the same for him. He hugged Reed tighter. He had almost lost him.

Safe. Reed was safe. There was nothing else.

*** 7 REED/NOW

Reed had just finished the slow, laborious process of showering and dressing when his door chime rang. He considered injecting himself with some of the painkiller Doctor Phlox had given him, but he decided he'd wait. He struggled to the door. Instead of checking to see who it was, he just opened it. He wasn't surprised to see Captain Archer outside, tall and handsome in his uniform.

"Malcolm," Archer said. "I came by to see how you were. Is this a bad time?"

"Captain. Of course not. Do come in." Reed kept his face neutral, but his heart started thumping. He remembered his dreams last night. He flushed a little at the memory. "Do sit down. Will you have some tea?"

"No, thanks. I see you got breakfast okay." Archer indicated a tray with dirty dishes set next to the door.

"Yes, I did. Thanks for thinking of it." Archer had sent a crewman down with breakfast for Reed.

"I asked Doctor Phlox to put you on the medical list, so trays will be delivered automatically in the future," Archer said. "If you want to go to the mess, just let Chef know an hour beforehand."

"Of course, sir. It was a big relief to not have to walk down to the mess this morning," Reed said. "How did you know about the pancakes?"

Archer laughed. "I asked Trip."

"Of course. Although, sir, I'm very fond of eggs Benedict."

"I'll make a note of it." Archer indicated Reed's leg. "How are you feeling? Is the leg all right?"

"Getting better, so Doctor Phlox informs me. The doctor has been using tissue regenerators to speed up the healing process."

"But it hurts." It wasn't a question.

"Quite a lot, actually," he confessed, sitting on the bed. After a second, Captain Archer sat down next to him. That wasn't what he'd meant when he asked Archer to sit down; he thought Archer would take the chair at his console. He edged slightly away, so he could no longer feel the warmth of Archer's thigh. They weren't touching, but still, Reed felt the inappropriateness of it, along with a flicker of delight—just as inappropriate.

"I'm sorry to hear that, Malcolm," Archer said. "I came by to tell you what a great job you did out there. We make a good team."

"Yes, sir," Reed said.

Archer cleared his throat. It sounded nervous. "I need to talk to you, actually," he said.

Reed responded warily. Archer's demeanor was odd. "Yes, sir?"

"When we were together, on the hull of the ship, defusing the mine, I realized—I became aware—"

Reed's stomach knotted. He had suspected, once he didn't die, that that little selfless suicide stunt would come back to haunt him. "Became aware of what, sir?"

"Oh, hell." Archer put his head in his hands for a long moment, then sat up straight again. "It's so much harder when you keep calling me 'sir.'" To Reed's horror, Archer took one of his hands. "I realized how important you had become to me. As a person. As a—as a man."

Reed, literally speechless, looked down at their clasped hands, then up at Archer's face. He saw desire there, and fear, and longing. He remembered saying his captain's name when he came, dreaming of Archer pleasuring him, dreaming of Archer keeping him safe and warm. He had never imagined that Archer might reciprocate. But—reciprocate what, exactly? Bodily desire? Somehow he didn't think either of them wanted sex without a relationship. And certainly a more unsuitable person to fall in love with would be hard to find. Archer was his commanding officer, for god's sake, and someone whose command style was distinctly not to his taste. No sense of protocol, no sense of appropriateness. Like—like this. Like declaring affection for someone under his command.

Protocol. Rank. They had always protected him before. They would protect him now. His breath had quickened when Archer took his hand. He yearned. He wanted. It would be so easy to give in, but it would never work. He couldn't do it—give up a part of himself, an important part of himself that he needed, not even for this man. Now he schooled his response to Archer's nearness, to Archer's declaration, and gently disengaged his hand.

"I'm—I'm sensible of the honor, sir," he said, and he could have kicked himself for the Victorian formality of the phrase, because Archer's open, trusting face changed, shutting him out. "I'm sorry. I can't return your feelings."

Archer, eyes on his, nodded slowly. "I had to ask," he said. "I know this makes you uncomfortable. I won't—I won't say anything again." He didn't try to coax Reed. He didn't say anything like, "If you ever change your mind." Reed had said no, and Archer assumed he meant it. Reed was grateful for that. Archer stood up. "I should go," he said. "I'm sorry. I probably shouldn't have said anything, but I thought—" He trailed off. "I'm sorry," he finished. He looked lost, standing in the middle of Reed's quarters.

"It's quite all right, sir," Reed said automatically, but it wasn't. He struggled to his feet and walked Archer to the exit.

At the door, Archer turned to Reed. "It's just that I want you," he said. "I want you so much." He brushed Reed's face gently with a hand, a gesture of farewell, then let himself out.

The door shut behind him. Reed touched the warmth on his face where Jonathan Archer's fingers had caressed him. The warmth wasn't enough to mitigate the cold creeping up into his stomach.

He'd done the right thing, but it didn't feel like the right thing at all.

"I want you," Reed said into the silence of his room. "I want you so much."

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