Title: Having

Author: Kylie Lee

E-mail: kylielee1000@hotmail.com

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

Date: 12/20/02

Length: ~5400 words

Fandom: Star Trek: Enterprise

Pairing: Archer/Reed

Type: Slash M/M

Rating: NC-17

Status: Complete

Summary: Archer and Reed await their execution.

Feedback: Yes, of course.

Series: Wanting

Previous story: Longing

Next story: Say the Word [not slash, so not archived at this site; visit the author's URL]

Archive: Yes to EntSTSlash, Archer's Enterprise, Tim Ruben, WWoMB, Allslash, Complete Kingdom of Slash, Luminosity, ASCEML, 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: "Minefield," "The Communicator." This story takes place during the action of "The Communicator."

Beta: The Grrrl and Kim.

Comment: What have we here? Why look. More angst.

*** 1

Captain Jonathan Archer contemplated the hallway through the cross-hatched bars as the guards' backs strode away. The guards seemed to travel in pairs, and they carried weapons. The wooden door was presently unguarded, but despite the almost rustic feel of the detainment facility, it was secure and technologically up to date. They couldn't break through the door or the bars.

They had two hours. The guards had thoughtfully stopped by to inform them of General Gosis's decision. They were to be executed by hanging.

Archer pressed his forehead against a bar, its metal cool against the bruises on his face. He thought things had gone so well: an away mission with a prewarp species. Ensign Hoshi Sato, the communications officer and linguist, who had come along on a few of the away teams and who planned to write a paper about the language they spoke on this planet, had noted that the region they were in was politically unstable, with two rival governmental factions vying for power. She had been—and likely still was—monitoring their communications, but nobody had realized how politically unstable the area really was. Lieutenant Malcolm Reed, the tac officer, found the political tension and its ramifications all very interesting, and he had put in a bid to write up the report for Starfleet. They had been aboard *Enterprise* and ready to leave when Reed had noticed that his communicator was missing. Leaving this advanced technology behind was not acceptable, so Archer and Reed, still in disguise as natives, had returned to the planet and revisited the bar where Reed thought it might have fallen out of his pocket.

They were too late. Somebody associated with one of the factions had found it and turned it in, and when Archer and Reed had blundered around, looking, the natives were ready. They'd been captured, and the technology that they carried—tricorders, a phase pistol, other communicators—had been confiscated, making matters even worse. They'd been questioned and beaten. They'd been scanned and poked, and of course their alien physiology had been discovered and the camouflaging protheses removed from their faces. They'd both spun stories while being interrogated by General Gosis: the weapons were prototypes. They were genetically altered soldiers, also prototypes. They couldn't tell the truth: they were aliens with their own advanced technology, visiting the planet out of simple curiosity. Peaceful exploration. It was outside the realm of experience of these people.

Archer sighed and stepped back slightly from the bars. "What do you think, Malcolm?" he asked. There had been a long silence as they both processed the news.

"Escape," Reed said promptly. "After all, it is our duty, sir. We need to get the door open. You could feign an upset stomach, and when they come in, I'll jump them."

Archer was amused. "An upset stomach? Do you really think they'd fall for that?"

It was hard to see Reed's expression. He was under the window. The light dazzled Archer's eyes, and Reed was just a shadow. "Well, it may be an old trick where we come from, but maybe they haven't heard of it here."

Archer doubted it. "Even if we got out of the compound, we'd never make it to the shuttle—not looking like this." He gestured hopelessly at his face, prothesis removed. They looked too alien now—too human. "Genetic enhancements…very creative, Malcolm." Reed was the one who'd come up with the genetically enhanced supersoldier story, and General Gosis had been all too ready to believe it. It fueled his warrior instinct, apparently.

"Thanks. Improvisation isn't my strong suit."

"You make us sound like the Suliban." No doubt it had been where Reed got the idea.

Reed asked about the *Enterprise*, and Archer answered him automatically: it struck him that General Gosis, who seemed a reasonable man under better circumstances, would hardly believe the supersoldier story unless Gosis's rivals, members of the innocuously named Alliance, actually were known to do some work in genetic manipulation—and Archer thought that such manipulation greatly exceeded the technological wherewithal of this planet's inhabitants.

He sighed. It was no good. Waiting for General Gosis to think it through and conclude that they couldn't be who they said they were would go against Gosis's paranoid instincts, which were finely honed. An autopsy and detailed analysis would simply reveal that they were aliens, but, as he told Reed, *Enterprise*'s first officer, Subcommander T'Pol, would not permit the technology the aliens had captured—or their bodies, for that matter—to remain. She'd get it all back, somehow. There was cultural contamination to consider. Even if Sato and *Enterprise* found out about the execution, he doubted any extreme action would be taken—say, beaming them up with the transporter device, right under the noses of their captors.

And what of his crew? He was just getting to know them as people. It was a pleasure to see them blossoming in their jobs. Sato, whom he had known before *Enterprise* left on its mission, had had a rocky start, but she was settling in well. She didn't trust her instincts. Archer did. He just needed to guide her back to that self-confidence he remembered so well, the self-assuredness she had displayed when she was mistress of her domain on Earth. Commander Tucker, who'd attained his rank because of his smarts and his leadership ability, was learning more about command on a larger scale. Archer knew exactly how to handle Tucker: let him sink or swim. Tucker usually swam. T'Pol was learning to trust humans, and he guessed she was teaching him to trust Vulcans. And Travis Mayweather—he had Mayweather had gotten to spend some time together on a mission with T'Pol, and he liked the helmsman very much. Mayweather, although politely deferential, didn't seem intimidated by Archer, which Archer appreciated, and Mayweather, although a known practical joker and the kind of person who liked to have maybe too much fun, was smart and good at his job. And then there was Reed.

"We're doing the right thing, Malcolm," Archer said at last. Reed had moved to look through the bars. "I'm sorry that you won't get to write that report." He put his hand on Reed's shoulder, and Reed didn't flinch away.

"It could still happen, sir," Reed said. "I'm expecting a rescue party to come barging through that door…any moment." His tone of voice belied his hopeful words. He stepped away and sat down under the window again. After a long pause, he said, "It's better than drowning, I suppose. I don't like contemplating my own mortality."

"Yes, well, not everyone is lucky enough to know the exact time of his death."

"Still, I wish I could have planned better. Done more."

Archer sat down next to Reed on the bench. "Get all your affairs in order?" he asked ironically.

"They're already in order," Reed said. Archer smiled to himself. Of course they were. "If you knew, sir, how much I regret losing that communicator—this is all my fault."

"Stop it, Malcolm," Archer said.

"And the power structure on this planet—we've altered it irrevocably."

"Quit it, Malcolm. Do I have to make it an order?"

"No. No, sir."

"Stop 'sirring' me, Malcolm." Archer sighed. "You know, I once asked Trip for advice about what to talk with you about."

Reed looked at him, surprised. "Me, sir?" he said, not seeming to notice the automatic "sir."

"You're really hard to talk to," Archer told him. "You mostly talk about work."

"I prefer—"

"Yes, I know. To keep business and personal separate. I understand. Anyway, Trip said I should get into a life-and-death situation with you, and then we'd have plenty to talk about. And this is our second life-and-death situation. First there was the incident with the mine, and now this. And you still won't talk." Archer paused for a second. "I know you don't approve of me or my command style. But I want you to know that just as you were prepared to die on the hull of the *Enterprise*, pinned down by that mine, I'm prepared to die for the ship. For—for you. And I guess you're joining me. I'm really sorry about that. Because it's my responsibility."

"Sir—" Reed said, the cadence of his voice indicating he was going to go on, but he didn't. He looked down at his hands in his lap. "Malcolm, please." Archer gestured at the door. "We're going to die, and I don't know how to get out of it. I need to tell you."

"You don't have to say it, sir. Please don't say it." Reed's voice was low and desperate.

Archer didn't know if he could say it. Words weren't enough. He wanted Reed, body and soul, wanted him so badly right now that he was shaking. "It's all right," he said, apropos of nothing, wiping his hands up and down his legs, the cloth rough against his palms. "I know that you—you don't feel the same." During the mine incident, he had realized how important Reed was to him. And after the mine incident, he'd told Reed how he felt. Reed had turned him down. He'd kept his promise and hadn't mentioned it again. Things had just stopped being strained between them—and now this.

He didn't expect Reed's harsh explosion of breath, a kind of ironic laugh. "If you knew, sir—" Reed began. He turned and faced Archer. "Your eyes," Reed said. "Your smile. And your height. You're so very tall." Reed reached out and touched Archer's cheek, then put his hand back down. "You're so very unapproachable."

"Not unapproachable," Archer said, his heart racing at Reed's touch, at the expression in Reed's eyes. He worked hard to be approachable to his crew—to Reed. "Please. Not that."

"You're the captain."

Of course. To Reed, that would make him automatically unapproachable, untouchable. Reed was highly conscious of rank, likely the result of his family's long history of service in the Royal Navy. "Even now?"

"Especially now."

"We only have a few hours," he said. Less now. He turned to face Reed and swung his leg up on the bench, heel pressing against Reed's ass. Before Reed could move back, Archer slid a hand around Reed's neck and kissed him. He felt Reed stop breathing, but Reed didn't pull away. "Spend them with me," he whispered. "Please, Malcolm. I want you. Please. Please tell me you want me too." He put the heel of his hand against Reed's neck and wound his fingers in Reed's hair. Reed's eyes were locked with his, and Reed was breathing shallowly into his chest. Archer leaned forward and kissed Reed again, and after a long moment, Reed's mouth opened. Archer fell hard into Reed's heat, their tongues touching tentatively, then more firmly. When Archer pulled back, Reed made a small noise and opened his eyes. He looked dazed. "Please," Archer repeated, his voice steady.

There was a long pause. "Yes," Reed said at last, and this time, he leaned forward and kissed Archer, hard and desperate.

The bench was too small; so was the cot they moved to. They fumbled with clothes, and then Archer kissed his way up and down Reed's lean, muscled body, tasting, reveling in the texture and scent of Reed's skin, until Reed was panting. Then Reed pushed him back and straddled him, and it was Archer's turn as Reed stroked him. They didn't say anything, because words weren't enough. Reed was warm, eager, responsive. Reed's head dipped down and his mouth enveloped Archer, and then words didn't mean anything at all. Archer cried out when he came, and the sound meant everything: it was the celebration of his life, and his joy in having Reed.

Reed had lifted his mouth from Archer when Archer had come, drawing out Archer's seed with his hands. Now Reed spread slickness onto his own shaft and urged Archer onto his side. Archer, still panting, felt Reed's cock enter him, a heavy pressure, Reed's chest pressed against his back. A jolt of pleasure from deep inside flashed through him. He felt Reed's ragged breath in his ear, and Reed's hand, still wet and slick with Archer's come, pressed against his stomach. Reed was moaning as he worked against Archer, Reed's body slick with sweat. He shut his eyes when he heard Reed say, voice intense, "Oh, god, Jon," and then Reed bit his shoulder as he came inside Archer, hips thrusting hard. Archer never thought he would hear Reed say his name.

There was a long silence as Reed panted, his arm around Archer, gently stroking Archer's stomach. When Archer stirred, Reed pulled out, and they negotiated the narrowness of the cot as Archer turned to face him. Archer held Reed in his arms. Archer couldn't articulate his emotions: he felt an indescribable tenderness coupled with sadness. His own death meant little at the prospect of Reed's death. With Reed in his arms, he could pretend that he could protect him, save his life. He gently ran his hands along Reed's warm body, every gesture a caress, every gesture a goodbye. He still couldn't see a way out. Reed's hand touched his collarbone and chest, and he impulsively took Reed's hand in his and kissed the palm, then the knuckles. Their fingers twined together, and Reed hitched even closer. They looked steadily at each other.

"I wonder where our captors are," Reed said after a while.

"I think one of them peeked in when we were…busy," Archer said. He'd sensed rather than heard movement outside the cell, then a quick about-face and disappearing act.

"I imagine they're used to this kind of thing," Reed said philosophically. "Last few moments of life and all that."

"I imagine so." Archer released Reed's hand.

"God, you're gorgeous." Reed seemed wistful. He took the opportunity to trail a hand down Archer's chest. "American men."

"American men?"

"Tall." Reed's British accent trailed the word out. "Handsome. Tanned. Gorgeous."

"Thanks, I think." Archer's hand cupped Reed's shoulder blade. He nudged Reed's cheek with his nose, then kissed him. Reed kissed him back. "You're not so bad yourself."

"Mmm." Reed deepened the kiss. His hands wandered. "Oh, very nice."

They exchanged deep, slow kisses as they lay entwined, sated, barely speaking, drowsing, as the moments of their life ticked away, until someone banged hard on the door, giving fair warning.

They cleaned up and dressed. They had an execution to get to.

*** 2

Reed was on the alert. Archer could feel it. The armed guards, two of them, were right behind them. Reed was waiting for the opportunity: a slight stumble, a slight hesitation or pause, and Reed would seize that opportunity, would lash out. Kill or be killed. And he would count on Archer to back him up. Well, Archer was ready.

He could imagine the scenario: the guard's foot would turn on a rough spot on the floor, and Reed's would slam into the guard's neck. There would be a moment of utter confusion. Archer would throw his body weight back into the armed guard behind him, knocking him to his feet. Archer would grab the gun and, without pause, would fire as Reed kicked the other guard against the wall, grabbed the guard's weapon, and brought it up like a staff, smashing the guard's nose. The guard would drop to the ground. Reed would pull the weapon back to his shoulder and fire at close range. The guard's head would explode, the blood stark against the stone of the wall, the wrong color. Feet would pound, an alarm would blat—a response to the shots. The adrenalin would rush as they looked frantically up and down the hallway. They would wordlessly choose a direction and begin running.

Archer continued down the hallway, hyperaware of the gun at his back, the guards' stolid presence, Reed's urgent readiness. His hands were tied behind his back; he couldn't grab a gun. Please, he thought. Please. Despair and resignation, fear and powerlessness. It didn't feel real. The only reality was Reed, by his side, bound, marching manfully to his death, the guards at his back. Reed had said he wasn't afraid.

The guards urged them into a room. For some reason, Archer had thought they would be executed outside, but that was clearly an Earth custom; the room they now entered was the execution chamber. As they entered, there was a loud clanging as more guards tested the apparatus. Archer took it in: the steps they would walk up, past the guards ranged there; the nooses that would be fastened around their necks. And underneath, the pieces of flooring that dropped away beneath their feet, echoing heavily as they banged down, tolling their death.

Archer felt Reed's body relax. Before, when they walked down the hall, the death march, Reed had been all alertness. Now, surrounded by guards, enclosed in a room, there was no hope. They couldn't possibly escape. This sense of tacit defeat somehow enraged him. They had demoralized Reed. That was worse than anything. Reed had given in. Reed's capitulation galvanized Archer. They couldn't have Reed. Reed meant everything. Reed had said his name.

General Gosis stood at the foot of the stairs. Archer met his eyes directly. "He's my tactical officer," he said to his killer. Was that hopelessness in his voice? "He can tell you everything you want to know about the Alliance's troop deployments, their weapons."

Reed's voice, admonishing: "Captain."

"You don't need to kill him." You can't kill him. I can't let you kill him.

Gosis looked almost regretful, but his eyes flicked to the side as he signaled the guard. He didn't say anything.

Archer, Reed right behind, mounted the steps, steps deliberate, controlled. Death with dignity. Each took his place. A guard slipped the noose around his neck and tightened it, then did the same to Reed, quickly, with a practiced motion, one after the other. There was no hood for their heads—another Earth custom that had no meaning here. They were to look death in the eye.

Archer looked around the room—the last thing he would ever see. He was destined to die on this alien planet, executed for something he didn't do. His mind raced ahead: he imagined he could hear the clanging as the ground dropped out from under him, could feel the hard jerk against his neck, then numbness as his neck snapped. His eyes would be open, and as he swayed, his body would turn toward Reed's, and Reed's body would just be a body because Reed would be just as dead as he was, head at an obscene angle. Reed dead. He knew what he would feel, because he felt it now: sadness mingled with tenderness, despair, and failure. Regret. Then blackness would leak in, obscuring his vision, and the last thing he would see before the black turned into bright light would be Reed's body, and the last thing he would hear would be Reed's voice, saying, "Oh, god, Jon."

An indescribable sound cut through the room, but nothing was there. Archer shared a glance with Reed. The guards muttered and straightened up, alert. Something was in the room with them—something big. Archer's heart began racing. "I'm expecting a rescue party to come barging through that door…any moment," Reed had said.

Weirdly, a disembodied hand and part of an arm appeared in midair. Archer recognized the weapon: it was a phase pistol. Hope choked him, but he stood there, helpless, bound, a noose around his neck. It could still happen: a quick-thinking guard could trigger the apparatus.

The hand took aim and fired, and a guard went down spectacularly. Chaos ensued; their captors didn't realize that their comrades weren't dead, only stunned. The disembodied arm turned into Tucker as he leaped out of something—the alien Suliban ship they'd captured all those months ago, Archer realized, which Tucker must have gotten working—and T'Pol was right behind. Both were snapping off well-placed shots. T'Pol laid down covering fire as Tucker jumped up onto the gallows and cut Archer and Reed free, and they all darted off to the side. Archer breathed easier when he was no longer standing on the collapsible floor.

"Your ride is here," Tucker said.

*** 3

He heard it, as clear as if Reed were in the room with him: "Jon." The voice was slightly clipped, the vowel just a little different. British. The voice came again. "Oh, god, Jon."

Archer sat up and turned the lights on. The room was empty. "Porthos," he said sharply, and Porthos whined.

Archer exhaled and put his face in his hands. He waited a long moment before he dropped them back down to rest on his legs. He was alone. He was alone in his big bed. His skin against the bloodred sheets looked pale and wan. He adjusted the pillows and lay back again.

Malcolm Reed had opened up to him. Reed had said he was gorgeous. Reed had made love with him. Reed had called him by his first name when he came. That last fact—surely it must mean something. But everything after that—the formal stance and presumption of distance on the trip back to the ship, his reserved air once aboard. Archer had watched Reed's easy banter with Tucker. With Archer, Reed had all this emotional baggage about appropriateness and propriety and rank. With Tucker, it seemed, he could be himself.

He turned off the lights and lay back down. It was a quarter to three in the morning. "What do I want?" he asked himself aloud, and Porthos stirred, then settled with a little snuff of an exhalation.

He knew. He knew exactly what he wanted. He wanted Reed to share his bed. He wanted Reed to be his lover. He wanted Reed to call him "Jon" in contexts other than sex. He wanted Reed to smile at him and talk to him in the same easy way he did with Tucker. He wanted Reed to love him, to be proud of him, to acknowledge him, to smile at him, to tell him what he was thinking about. "Malcolm," he said, rolling onto his side. "Malcolm."

The wanting. It had become worse after the having. "Oh, god, Jon," Reed had said, and then his hips quickened and he bit Archer's shoulder as he came. Archer stroked his stomach where Reed's hand had caressed him. There could so easily be something between them, if Reed would bend. He didn't know if Reed would bend. He remembered earlier today, when Reed had stepped aside when the lift came. He had gestured Archer inside and said, "I'll take the next one, sir, if you don't mind." He didn't want to be alone in the lift with Archer.

Being alone with Reed: it was all he could think about. He had relived their lovemaking dozens, maybe hundreds, of times over the past two days, since they had returned. Each gesture, each touch had been cataloged and imbued with meaning. They had shared something important. They had celebrated their lives together. In his imagination, he had seduced Reed in his quarters, in his ready room, in the lift, in the armory, and, god help him, in the captain's chair on a deserted bridge, and in his imagination, Reed had smiled, had been responsive, had been playful. But nothing could be further from the truth. He was imagining a Reed who didn't exist, a Reed who was what Archer wanted him to be: emotionally and sexually available.

"God damn it," Archer said, and he turned on the lights again and stood up. He stripped off his pajamas and, without hesitation, he put on jeans and a long-sleeved T-shirt—most emphatically, he did not put on his uniform. Porthos perked up, expecting to be taken for a walk, and sat at Archer's feet as Archer, sitting on the bed, put on his shoes and socks. "No, Porthos," he told his beagle. "I have to run an errand. Go lie down." Porthos whined and gave him a reproachful look. Archer pointed sternly, and Porthos returned to his cushion, resigned to his fate.

Archer checked himself out in the bathroom mirror, then found a comb and ran it through his hair. That was better. As he set the comb down, he surveyed himself in the mirror. How did Reed see him? Tall and unapproachable, apparently. He angled his face from one side to the other as he studied himself critically. His face was too long, and his odd hairline only lengthened it. He was getting older and craggier. These were things he didn't like about himself, about the way he looked. But he was generally regarded as handsome, and more than one person he'd dated had remarked on his sweet nature. Handsome and sweet. Archer sighed.

The corridors were deserted at this time of night. Archer walked past Reed's door three times, then hit the chime. He hit it again after a long thirty seconds. Then Reed's voice, sleepy, said, "Yes?"

"Malcolm, we need to talk."

A moment later, the door slid open. "Come in, sir," Reed said, peering out, blinking in the light. He was wearing long pajama bottoms and a bright blue short-sleeved undershirt. He looked rumpled, messy, and infinitely desirable.

"I'm sorry to wake you up so late."

"Early, don't you think, sir?"


"It's three in the morning, sir. Early." Reed stepped aside. "Do come in. I have a chair here somewhere." Reed found it, and Archer sat down while Reed sat on the hastily made bed.

"I guess you know what I want to talk about," Archer said. "I'm sorry, but I couldn't wait. I can't sleep." He didn't say it out loud. Maybe he didn't have to: I can't sleep for thinking about you.

Reed nodded. His eyes, a kind of gray-blue, were steady. "I didn't expect to see the next morning, sir," he said matter-of-factly.

"Stop it."


"Stop calling me 'sir.' And don't tell me it's inappropriate. We're having a personal conversation, and we're not in uniform." Archer paused. "You called me Jon," he said quietly.

Reed surveyed his own hands, clasped together. "I know," he said. "I'm so sorry."

"Sorry? So you regret it?"

Reed shook his head, then met Archer's eyes. "I can't regret it," he said. "I thought I was going to die. I've always been attracted to you. I'd do it again, under those circumstances. But I can't—I can't do it again under any other circumstances."

"Malcolm, I want you." Archer let it hang for a few long seconds. It was that simple. "What are you sorry about?"

Reed paused, gathering himself. "I feel as you do," he admitted, and Archer's heart leaped with hope. "I dream about you. When we made love—you were the only thing. You were the only one. Wanting you, being with you—" He stopped. Words had failed him.

Archer waited. He didn't dare speak, break the spell of Reed talking to him—talking to him as if they were equals, as if they were lovers.

"It's a small ship," Reed went on after a pause. "I don't want a fling."

"I don't want a fling either."

Reed met his eyes. "I know. But together, we can't be what we each need."

Archer shook his head slightly, negating Reed's words.

"I could so easily fall in love with you," Reed whispered. His voice sounded tight as he fought for control.

Archer slid out of his chair and knelt at Reed's feet. He put his hands on Reed's thighs. "Fall in love with me," he said intensely. "Please, Malcolm. Fall in love with me."

Reed put his hands on top of Archer's. His hands felt dry and slightly cool. "No," he said. His fingers squeezed slightly, and he drew his hands back.

Archer rocked up to his feet and turned, his back to Reed. "I don't understand," he said, raking his hair with his fingers. He paced, then turned back to Reed. "I want you. You want me. We both want a relationship."

"It's me, sir. I can't."

"But you just said you could. Can you just turn how you feel on and off?"

"No, of course not."

Archer looked at Reed and waited. He didn't understand Reed at all. His heart hurt. He was destined, it seemed, to come to Reed to throw himself at Reed's feet, only to be rejected. To want, and to have—it was desire fulfilled. He remembered Reed's body, and he remembered Reed's hands on his body. They had touched and caressed, and the culmination of that touching had forged something between them. Archer wanted to nurture that something, to let it grow into love. Reed felt it too. Why wouldn't he permit himself the chance?

Reed rubbed his hands through his hair. Instead of messing it further, his hair smoothed out. "Captain, I can't—" He tried again. It came out bald. "I can't respect you."

It took all of Archer's willpower to say, in a normal tone of voice, almost conversational, "What do you mean?"

"Your style of command," Reed clarified. "You're too casual. You don't care about rank, about chain of command."

"No," Archer said. "I don't."

"I do." The words hung there. Reed added, a long, unintentionally insulting moment later, "Not to say that it hasn't been a privilege to have served with you."

"Of course."

"And—and of course, there's the disparity in rank."

"And if I tell you I don't care, you'll say you do."

Reed nodded. "Yes, sir. I care very much. I'm sorry. I'm not—I'm not saying this correctly."

"No, Malcolm, I think you're being very clear."

He was. Archer sat back down and surveyed his feet. He felt sick. He had felt Reed draw away after the rescue, but he had not understood how Reed felt. He realized now that all Reed's comments, from the disastrous breakfast to the conversation while they defused the mine, about his command style were actually politely worded expressions of Reed's most deeply held beliefs. Reed perceived breach of protocol as an insult. He could not respect Archer because Archer's command style fundamentally did not fit into Reed's worldview.

Archer could not win Reed over with overtures of friendship, with exhortations of "don't call me 'sir,'" with jovial conversations about things that had nothing to do with work. All these things simply reinforced Reed's belief that Archer was unprofessional. If Reed followed Archer to the ends of the universe, and Archer had no doubt at all that he would, it was because Archer was his captain and it was his duty. Reed's physical attraction to Archer could not hold up against his fundamental distaste of Archer's command style, against the deeply ingrained belief that Archer's behavior was disrespectful, perhaps dangerous. Reed respected Archer's authority, Archer's rank, but it seemed he could not reconcile that with Archer as a man. To function in his job, Reed absolutely required a presumption of professional distance, and Archer was asking him to discard that. And when all this was coupled with their disparity in rank—

"I'm sorry, Malcolm," Archer said at last. "I can't be different."

"I wouldn't ask it, sir," Reed said.

"Thanks for being so frank," Archer said. "I know it's hard."

"I respect you as captain. I respect your authority." Reed didn't say it, but it hung there anyway: he couldn't respect Archer as a companion, as a lover. And because of this, he had to say no. It cut Archer to the heart.

"I understand." Archer stood up. "How do you want to play it?"


"Pretend it never happened? Never talk about it?"

Reed stood up too. "No, of course not. It happened. But if we could keep it between the two of us—"

"Lieutenant, I never kiss and tell." Archer forced a smile. "I'm sorry I woke you up."

"That's all right, sir." Reed walked him the few steps to the door. "I'm sorry," he repeated.

"Don't be. Good night."

"Good night, sir."

The door slid shut behind him. Halfway down the hall, Archer stopped, reached out blindly, and touched the wall to steady himself. He shut his eyes, and he remembered Reed's voice saying in ecstasy, "Oh, god, Jon."

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