Title: The Truth The Dead Know

Author: MJ

Author's e-mail: mjr91@aol.com

Author's URL: http://www.geocities.com/coffeeslash/mj/

Date: 03/18/03

Pairing: Archer/Reed

Rating: PG

Summary: Post-series; Reed is forced to deal with his father as their relationship evolves.

Warning: Deathfic. Response to Louise's "Can I die now?" deathfic challenge.

Brief appearance of a lamo, challenge or not.

Archive: Yes, if posted to list, or ask.

Thanks to Red, Kyrdwyn, and Puffins.

And what of the dead? They lie without shoes
 in their stone boats. They are more like stone
than the sea would be if it stopped. They refuse
 to be blessed, throat, eye and knucklebone.

—from "The Truth the Dead Know," Anne Sexton

"Can I die now?"

"No. Absolutely not, Malcolm." Captain Jonathan Archer reached over and straightened the collar of his lover's dress uniform. "You are going to go out there. You are going to sit at that table and eat dinner as if you're not shaking like a leaf." Archer paused, then adjusted the tilt on one of Malcolm Reed's medals. "And you are going to walk up to the podium and accept that award."

"What if I faint first?"

"I'll kill you." Both men laughed, the irony not lost on them. "You'll be fine, Malcolm!" Archer leaned over to brush a kiss against Reed's cheek. "I'll be there the whole time. Besides, come on. You're an armory officer, you've been in combat, you've killed God knows how many attacking Suliban, and you can't stand up in public?"

"I have stage fright," Reed shrugged. "Lots of people do. When I'm fighting I don't have to think about what I'm doing. When there's several hundred people staring at me—" His face completed his sentence for him—the likelihood of nausea wasn't seriously in question.

"Malcolm." Archer reinforced the kiss with a hug. "Everyone out there is happy for you. You're the youngest man in Starfleet to get a distinguished service award. Do you need me to list all the reasons why they're giving it to you?" He hoped he didn't; he'd probably leave something out. The phase pistol development had started the roll. Solving the stable EM field problem had continued it. Those weren't sexy, but Starfleet had needed both desperately, and Reed had done both within his first year on Enterprise. Sexier had been Reed's handling of combat with Suliban and Klingons. Even sexier had been the brief command Reed had been given, recently, of a detachment sent out to take on a Romulan incursion. A full-scale war with the Romulans was becoming increasingly likely, and Reed's promotion to captain was inevitable if that happened. The newest Warp Seven battle cruiser being finished up in spacedock at Jupiter Station was rumored to have Reed's name on it for the command position.

"Please don't. Despite my reputation, I'd still rather read Auden than blow up a Romulan outpost for breakfast." Reed fidgeted uncomfortably; Archer held back a sympathetic chuckle. He'd suffered through the same thing only a few years before, and he was staring his own promotion in the face.

There was a knock at the door of the hotel room. "Captain? Commander?" The voice was that of an ensign who'd been assigned to help them for the evening.

Archer straightened up. "Yes?" "Visitors for Commander Reed, sir."

Archer walked over and opened the door, to acquire his own sudden bout of weak stomach. The visitors were unmistakable—a younger woman in a fashionable silk dress, with eyes that matched his lover's, and an older couple, the man in full British naval dress. "Captain Reed?"

"Captain Archer? Pleased to meet you." The Holy Terror of the Royal Navy barged into the room. "Ah, *there* he is."

All right, Malcolm could die now.


Reed was in a corner, drink in hand, laughing about something with his sister, their mother standing slightly to their side, inserting an occasional word. Stuart Reed was walking back towards Archer from the bar, two drinks in hand—Scotch for Archer, and what looked like a gin and tonic for himself. He handed Archer the Scotch, a double on the rocks, and fell into a stance only slightly more relaxed than a ramrod. Archer guessed, however, that for Stuart Reed, that *was* relaxed.

"I suppose he thinks I hate him," the elder Reed observed, nodding towards his son.

"The thought has crossed his mind," Archer acknowledged. It had crossed his as well; he had never quite fathomed what occasionally appeared to be his partner's father's animosity towards his own son.

"I've been hard on him. I don't deny it. I suppose I thought I was doing it for his own good," Reed sighed heavily. "I've always been hard on my own men—any of them would tell you. But I've been no harder on anyone else than I've been on myself in my life." He paused, watching his son. "Hmm, no, perhaps I've been a bit harder on him than on anyone else. But I did it for him, or I thought I'd done."

Archer shifted his weight uneasily. It was an awkward position to be hearing a personal confession from Captain Reed of all people. Reed had to know by now that Archer was his son's lover; once the original mission on Enterprise had ended, and Archer had no longer been Malcolm Reed's commanding officer, there had no longer been a need for discretion. Perhaps the Captain felt the comfort of speaking to another officer of the same rank, or—Archer had mused before on the gap between his age and his partner's—perhaps it was that the two of them seemed of an age, even though they weren't. If he had been Malcolm's age, he suspected, Stuart Reed likely would have been far less confidential. "Ah."

Reed took a drink and continued, apparently satisfied that his son was outside of hearing range. "Malcolm's always favored his mother's side of the family. Looks, temperament, and all. I suppose I've wanted him to be many things he isn't, and not to be a great deal of what he is. I've spent a career of beating midshipmen into shape; I suppose I thought I could do it with him." He examined the condensation on the glass. "I don't know; I suppose I always pictured my son having command of his own ship."

"He'll have that," Archer said quietly. "Unfortunately, I don't think it's the kind of ship you'd want."

"I was sent to military schools as a boy. I'd have done the same for him, but Mary's family—they were all public school. Rugby, most of them—that's where we sent him. At first, that was."

"Oh?" Malcolm had rarely been at all forthcoming about his school days.

"He'd done well, of course. I'd expected no less. But—oh, I suppose he was twelve or thirteen—he was home over the holiday and I stumbled on some poetry he was writing."

"Really?" Archer wondered if there was any more poetry, or if—and why—Stuart Reed would have beaten it out of his son.

"Mary's family—artists and writers, the lot of them. Malcolm took to writing, a bit, you could say. Always liked books. Infernal waste of time if you ask me, but no one ever does. So, as I say, poetry. To a boy named Gerald in the upper form."

Ah. There it was. No telling where Stuart Reed might go with this.

"I'd figured Malcolm for a Naval career, of course. Now, I'm not a fool, Captain Archer. I've spent the better part of my life on board ship. I have better than a slight clue about what goes on, on board ship. There are two kinds of men who have sex with other men on a ship. One kind—there's Malcolm, for you. It's—it's what they're like. The others—they do it because there aren't enough women to suit. And they do it with men like my son, they use them, and they won't speak to them on board ship any other time. I wasn't going to have that for my boy.

"So I pulled him out of Rugby and put him into a military school. Someplace he'd leave knowing how to fight, how to take care of himself—his size, his temperament, even as an officer he'd have had a problem otherwise. That was when he discovered weaponry, I suppose; that's what's made him who he is now. But he never forgave me for pulling him from Rugby, from taking him away from his, er, friend.

"He knew I had no particular love for Starfleet; I've often wondered if that was why he joined. I know he's not that fond of the water, but I know there's more than that to why he didn't stay on Earth. I suppose it did seem a bit hard on him, taking him away from school, putting him in a place where he had to come in new, and to learn to take care of himself…and then, I suppose, he might, back in school, have thought about his mother's family. Perhaps he wanted to write then, but he never told me."

"He may have thought that telling you that would have been even more of a disappointment."

Reed took another gulp of his drink. A few junior officers were now monopolizing Malcolm, who was busily introducing them to his blushing sister. He turned to nod at Archer with a slight smirk—whether of amusement at Madeleine's dilemma, or of amusement at Archer's, Archer couldn't tell.

"I was disappointed to find out that my son was a homosexual. Yes. I don't think it's anything a man's father would wish for him." Reed looked sharply at Archer. "Mind you, I don't say it makes a man unfit for command, or anything of the sort. But in the Navy at least, it's not an easy life." The glass was nearly empty; Reed examined it quickly, contemplatively. "I was disappointed that as a child he had no military orientation, that he preferred words. I was disappointed that he refused to go into the Navy." Another pause. "I was disappointed, yes, that he chose Starfleet. The organization is execrable, and it's overwhelmingly American; it's hard for anyone who's not from your country to advance in it."

Reed finished the drink and set the glass on a nearby tray. "Having said all of that, Captain Archer, you might wonder why I insisted on being here tonight. Quite frankly, it's because—you're not a father, Captain. Malcolm's disappointed me, yes, in a good many ways, but that doesn't mean I'm not proud of what he *has* done. All things considered, he's turned out quite well. Even if he does take after his mother's side of the family, he *is* a Reed."

Archer looked at his counterpart and de facto father-in-law. "Maybe you should tell him that." He drained his own glass, staring down at the remaining ice. "I'm glad that you shared that with me. It explains a great deal. But he's the one who needs to hear it."

Reed regarded Archer for a moment, then took a deep breath. "So Starfleet has one officer besides my son who's not entirely an ass. You're quite right; I should. But I have no idea how to go about telling him so at this point."

"You might try saying to him what you just said to me. And you might say it to him tonight."

Malcolm was now surrounded by a few more junior officers who were pressing for details of his time pinned under a Romulan mine. Unpleasant though the occurrence had been, it made for colorful storytelling when Malcolm felt so inclined—usually, as now, after a few drinks. Archer had his own soft spot for the event; it had signalled the beginning of his armory officer's willingness to accept Archer's attentions. Had it never occurred, they might never have become a couple.

The naval officer looked thoughtfully at Archer once again. "Malcolm's a lucky man." He strode off unceremoniously, back towards the bar. Lieutenant Commander Travis Mayweather used the moment to introduce Archer to a pretty Andorian who had come as his date. Mayweather could always be counted on to do the adventurous thing, couldn't he?

Archer blinked as Captain Reed, gin and tonic in one hand, a glass of whatever Malcolm had been drinking in the other, interrupted the cluster gathered around the evening's center of attention. "Malcolm, if everyone will excuse us, I'd like to have a word with you." He placed the drink in his son's hand and steered him over a few feet, near a planter.

Archer chuckled to himself; he was certain his lover was thinking that the world had just come to an end.


"Captain." The communications ensign's voice cut through Malcolm Reed's musing on the bridge. He had been reviewing his tactical officer's proposal for the heavily mined Romulan outpost three light years ahead, and his mind had wandered back to his first encounter with a Romulan mine. The thoughts of Jonathan Archer that had ensued had distracted him thoroughly. He needed to contact Archer later that afternoon; the admiral himself was commanding another cruiser on the other side of the sector. Did he prefer having his lover closer to him than he would have been on Earth, or having him pushing papers at a desk where he wasn't likely to get himself killed now that he didn't have Reed on his ship? Archer's tactical officer was good, but was he good enough? Reed's didn't have to be a genius; after all, Reed was there. But he preferred knowing that Archer would be in one piece when the attack was over.

"Oh—yes, Grant?"

"Starfleet, sir. Personal message."

Reed rose. "I'll take it in my ready room." He strode across the bridge, looking over at his tactical officer, Lieutenant Lamo, who was wrinkling her nose at a cannon adjustment. She reminded him of himself some years before. She'd do well, eventually, if she'd learn to be a bit more thorough.

Sliding into the desk chair in his ready room, he hit a button at the console. A picture flickered, then came in clearly. "Admiral Hale."

"Malcolm. I wish I had better news."

"What's wrong, sir? Is Maddy's husband—" He couldn't finish the sentence. His sister had married an officer herself—Reed sometimes cursed having introduced them at his party a few years before. Her husband was assigned to another battle cruiser that was currently in a sector of space near Klingon territory. He knew Maddy worried.

"No, Kowalski's fine. However, you'll be returning to Earth immediately after this action. You might pick up the Admiral and bring him back with you. Your father's been taken ill again, and he's been asking for you."

"Of course." Stuart Reed had been weakening the past few years; his heart, so Malcolm's mother reported regularly, "wasn't what it had been." The complications had taken a toll; his father had been having a series of heart attacks. No one talked about the eventuality, but the whole family knew it.

"Good luck out there tomorrow. We'll expect to see you in a week or so."


Stuart Reed lay in a hospital bed, grumbling. He liked to grumble; he fancied he did it rather well, at that. His grumbling certainly frightened the nurses, and with that he was content. "Get away from me, wench," he snarled at the aide who came in bearing pills. "I'm tired. And those sugar pills you're shoving down me don't do a thing and you know it. Can I die now, or do I have to put up with you bothering me with those infernal things another day?"

The aide retreated in terror, fleeing with the medicine. "Daddy," Madeleine Kowalski soothed, "you're not doing yourself any good with that."

"I enjoy it," Reed groused, "and that does me better than any medicine I know." He lay back, satisfied with his work.

Another nurse, braver than some others, peered into the room. "Your son's here, Captain Reed. And his friend."

"Thank you, Sister," Reed sighed. "Send him on in, please."

He turned a moment later to see Malcolm entering, fidgeting with his uniform collar, Archer two steps behind. "Malcolm, Admiral, good to see you."

"Glad we could make it," Archer told him. "We made it in from Rigel V with two Romulan scout ships on our tail."

"Sit down," Reed said, gesturing to two chairs near the bed. Malcolm headed for one chair, pausing briefly to embrace his sister, who was perching on the window ledge.

"What are the doctors saying?" Malcolm asked.

"Them? Pack of liars, all of them. They'd have me think I'll live forever. I may sound decent now, son, but I can tell you I'll be lucky to make it to dinner. And if I do, the food here will kill me anyway." Reed paused for the chuckling he'd evidently anticipated. "I've lived a long time and I'm quite ready to go. Been ready this past year, but the body wouldn't cooperate with me till now."

"Father!" Madeleine gasped. "Nonsense, Madeleine." Stuart eased himself up slightly. "I've been everywhere else I could think of—your brother here even got me on a bloody starship this past year so I've finally even been on a space station. About time I went to the one place left I've never seen." He turned to Malcolm and Archer. "I know how you feel about water, but I want to be buried at sea. That's where a sailor goes when it's all over. I want you to take care of it." He reached out, took Malcolm's wrist. "Can you do that for me?"

"Of course." Malcolm made no move to dislodge his father's hand.

"I suppose you'd want to be buried in space. Not much difference, I suppose. It's all one kind of sailing or another, isn't it." He let go of his son's wrist and folded his hands. "Thank you for coming, Malcolm. I was hoping you'd make it."

"I hoped so too, sir."

Stuart sighed weakly. "It took long enough for us to straighten things out between us, Malcolm. Do we think just once we might give up on your calling me that?"

Malcolm nodded. "Of course…father."

The captain leaned back again. "I've wondered for years how that would sound. I might have found out earlier if we had worked things out sooner. Thank you." He turned to look at Archer. "I suppose I should actually thank you, Admiral."

"Nonsense." Archer waved a hand.

"Don't give me that. You did a great deal, sir." A pause. Reed struggled slightly with a breath. "And as I spent many years doing an exceptionally poor job of looking after these two, I might ask if you would be able to do a better job of keeping an eye on things. Especially with Maddy expecting."

Archer and Malcolm both turned to Malcolm's sister to congratulate her. She leaned forward, accepting kisses from both of them.

Archer turned back to Reed. "I'll do my best, Captain Reed."

"Good man. Even if you *are* Starfleet." Reed grinned painfully. "I'm a bit tired, gentlemen. I've had a long day of terrifying the staff. If you'll excuse me, all of you, and Madeleine, if you could send your mother in here if you see her…"

"Of course, Daddy." She bent over Reed and kissed him, exiting the room before Malcolm and Archer had finished saying goodbye to Malcolm's father.


"I'm tired." Malcolm Reed pulled the wool coat firmly around his sweater and leaned against Jonathan Archer's side. The wind blowing across the ship's deck was far colder than it had been back on land.

"You should be," Archer said, draping an arm around his lover. "It's been one hell of a week and we haven't even gotten off Earth."

"I'm sorry Maddy's husband couldn't make it in for the funeral."

"At least she had you and your mother here." Archer pulled Reed closer. "Are you all right?"

"I'm fine."

"I know what that means, Malcolm." He looked at Reed more closely. The man would have said he was fine while lying on a pavement bleeding to death.

"No, really, I am." Reed shook his head. "I'm just tired, that's all. And I need to see to Maddy. Gordon's ship won't be back in for another five weeks; they'll have some horrid repairs after that battle the other day. This can't be very easy for her."

"I'll see what I can do. I might be able to have a scout ship swung around for him."

"Would you?"

"I promised your father I'd look after things, didn't I?"

"You did." Reed was staring out across the water; Archer watched him looking out into the distance. "Thank you. And have I told you I love you?"

"Not since this morning."

"I seem to be a bit behind, then. I love you."

"I know." Archer planted a quick kiss in Reed's hair, which tasted of salt from the spray blowing over the ship. "He loved you, too, you know. He never knew how to show it."

"And he did everything conceivable wrong in the process."

"He didn't know that, Malcolm. You need to forgive him for that."

Reed stood up again, jamming his fists in his pockets. "I did. Back in the hospital the first day we got in. I'd never called him anything but 'sir' in our lives." He leaned against the rail, not looking down. One hand came out of a pocket, gripping onto the rail with white knuckles. The effort obviously was costing Reed dearly. "I'm glad of it, Jon; I don't think I could have stood it now if we hadn't made peace with things."

Archer joined Reed, dangling an arm over the rail, looking out at a seagull searching for dinner. "I'm glad you did." Reed's proximity to the water worried Archer slightly; he wondered how Reed was stomaching his nearness to the thing he feared most, except for the new connection between it and Reed's father.

"Apparently I should thank you for it? I never knew that."

"All I did was listen to him once when he didn't know how to tell you he didn't hate you."

Reed grimaced, then smiled. "Nice to know I wasn't a total disappointment to him."

"Never that." Archer turned slightly. "Looks like we're coming in to port in a few minutes." He laid a hand on Reed's shoulder. "You're sure you're all right?"

"If I'm not, I will be." Reed slid an arm around Archer. "My ship sailed into port seven years ago."

"I love you, too." Archer tugged at Reed gently. "Let's find Maddy and your mother."


The water was dark, reflecting the overcast grayness that hung in the sky. It seemed nearly as black as space. Perhaps Reed's father had been right that the two had a great deal in common. Archer spared one more glance at the sea that held Stuart Reed before turning back to his lover, and then forcing his attention towards their return to duty.

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