Title: Without Change

Author: Mareel

Author's e-mail: Mareel@earthlink.net

URL: http://www.geocities.com/bdebpr

Date: 04/08/03

Archive: Permission to archive granted to EntSTCommunity, Tim Ruben, Archer's_Enterprise. Others welcome, please ask first.

Fandom: Star Trek Enterprise

Series: Without Change

Next story: Sea Stars

Category: Slash

Rating: NC-17

Status: complete

Pairing: Archer/Reed

Summary: Archer and Reed spend some quality time together on a sailboat, and confront long denied attractions. Takes place after the first Enterprise 5-year misson.

Disclaimer: Of course, Paramount owns the characters. I'm just letting them have more fun.

Author's notes: Thanks to Taryn Eve for her "Reed, sailboat, water" challenge on the reedsarmory list, where this story was originally posted.

The poem/song quoted is "An Ataireachd Ard" [The Eternal Surge of the Sea] by Domhnull Iain Ruaidh, originally in Scots Gaelic. A beautiful recording of the song is on the Capercaille CD "The Blood is Strong" sung by Karen Matheson. I highly recommend it.


The breeze is brisk, the water sparkles in patchy sunlight, we're skimming along under full sail—it's every overwrought, cliched description of sailing ever written. I'm here alone with my armoury officer, my Malcolm, on an antique sailboat somewhere between the Isle of Skye and the Outer Hebrides. It's glorious. And what a view from astern! Malcolm is at the wheel, legs braced apart against the wind, his strong arms leaning into the steering. Add the dark hair tousled by the wind. Simply breathtaking.

Satisfied that their course was set and his sail-handling responsibilities were over for the moment, Jon quietly moved to stand directly behind his friend—so close that their bodies were nearly touching. Coming to a decision, after a moment's hesitation he reached around the smaller man's shoulder and placed his own hand over Reed's on the wheel. Malcolm turned and found himself in his friend's arms. Their eyes caught, and held, as Jon gently touched his lips to Malcolm's in a kiss that asked everything and demanded nothing. The storm-grey eyes darkened, but their owner didn't draw back from the unexpected contact.

"Sssh…don't say anything, Malcolm. Just think about it—whether it feels as right to you as it does to me."

Jonathan lightly brushed Malcolm's cheek with his fingertips before turning back to tend the sails and think about how they had come to this moment.


Chapter 1: A few days earlier on Enterprise, in Earth orbit following the completion of the first 5-year mission

"Come in, Malcolm."

As soon as Lt. Commander Malcolm Reed entered the captain's ready room on Enterprise, Captain Jonathan Archer immediately noticed that his armoury officer's tension level was higher than usual. He gestured to the dark-haired Englishman to take a seat, and rose from behind the piles of padds on his desk to refill his coffee cup. "Coffee, Malcolm? Or tea?"

"No, thank you, sir," he replied, choosing to remain standing. "Pardon the intrusion, Captain, but I've just gotten some bad news from my sister Madeline. My grandmother passed away last evening, rather suddenly I'm afraid. She was elderly, but in generally good health…"

Jon set his cup down by the coffeepot and crossed the room to place a comforting hand on the younger man's shoulder. "Malcolm, I'm so sorry to hear that. I know you don't have a lot of family that you're close to. Didn't you once mention spending time at your grandmother's house when you were growing up?"

"Every summer for years. No matter where my father was stationed, Maddy and I would always spend our holiday in Scotland with her. Beside my sister, she's the only one in the family who cared much about staying in touch after I joined Starfleet." Malcolm's usually brisk voice trailed off, and he seemed lost in thought or memories.

"I'm sure you'll want to attend the funeral or memorial service," Archer said quietly. "Of course you have leave available for that, and we're not due to break orbit for another two weeks at the earliest. And if Trip doesn't get those parts he needs to finish the engine upgrade, it might be even longer than that. Take all the time you need to get things settled with your family."

"Thank you, sir. I appreciate it. There will be a small memorial service tomorrow evening, and I would like to be there. I'm sure I won't need to stay more than the weekend. There are quite a number of things I still need to see to in the armoury before the next mission…"

"Nothing that won't keep, or that your staff can't handle," Archer said, interrupting the man before he talked himself out of any leave at all. "Malcolm, we probably won't be back here for several years. Take a few extra days of shore leave; spend a little time with your sister and her family. It's rough, losing someone important to you…Will your parents be there?"

"No, sir. I don't believe so. My mother isn't well and my father didn't want her to make the trip from Malaysia."

Archer paused, then touched Malcolm's arm lightly. "If you'd like to talk about any of this, you know I'm here to listen. Anytime."

Reed nodded and took a few steps toward the door, then hesitantly turned back toward Archer. He took a breath and asked, almost shyly, "Actually…well, I wondered if you would care to accompany me, Jon."

Malcolm's use of his name took Archer by surprise. It wasn't the first time, but the occasions were rare and he wasn't very good at hiding his delight at hearing it now.

Before he could reply, Malcolm continued, "I'd be honoured if you would consider it. My sister and her husband would enjoy meeting you, and you could probably use a few days of R & R yourself, before the new mission…"

"Malcolm, the honour would be mine. I'll be glad to come with you. Funerals are hard to deal with in any circumstances, much less alone. I don't know how I would have managed to get through my dad's funeral if Trip hadn't been there to take care of things and to be a friendly shoulder to lean on…Just let me make some arrangements here, and I'll meet you in the shuttlebay in an hour."

"Thank you, Captain. I'll be there—and you might want to pack a sweater. It can be chilly on Skye on summer evenings, especially by the shore."


Jonathan's thoughts were churning as he tossed some clothing and personal items into a duffle. His relationship with Malcolm had been evolving since the day he had chosen the reserved Englishman as his armoury officer. He had been strongly attracted to the man from the start, but the lieutenant's defenses had been difficult to breach. A strict military upbringing had instilled an ironclad sense of duty and protocol, and it had taken some time for Reed to understand and come to respect Archer's more relaxed command style.

All of his attempts to take the relationship beyond that of captain and lieutenant into the realm of friendship had run up against a wall of fraternization regulations. Nor had his recent, and long overdue, promotion to lieutenant commander made any difference in the distance Malcolm seemed to need between them. He knew he had been unrelenting in his efforts to find opportunities to push Malcolm's barriers a bit, and eventually their growing body of shared experiences on Enterprise had won him Malcolm's respect. Duty had yielded to friendship, and Jon never stopped hoping that one day it could be more.

He knew he had Trip Tucker to thank for some of the changes he'd seen in Malcolm over the past five years. Never one to take no for an answer, Trip had persisted—probably by being a constant pain in the ass—until he and Malcolm had forged a friendship of their own. Trip's easy and longstanding friendship with Jon had helped Malcolm to finally see Archer as a person, not only a superior officer, at least some of the time.

He told himself that this was enough. It had to be enough. It wasn't enough. He still longed for the enigmatic dark-haired man in a way that went far beyond friendship. He awoke too many mornings with empty arms in an empty bed where he'd just dreamed—yet again—of a night of passionate lovemaking or gentle bed-banter with a Malcolm who loved him.

He needed to find a way to convince the man to finally lower the last of his defenses. They had been dancing around these feelings for way too long. He knew Malcolm had to be aware, at some level, of Archer's feelings for him. He had never deluded himself into believing that he had completely hidden them. Trip certainly knew about his interest in their friend, and surprisingly had never tried to discourage him. Sometimes, in unguarded moments, he would swear he saw a matching interest in Malcolm's eyes, but he hadn't dared to risk the hard-won friendship against the hope of more. This invitation has touched him deeply. Malcolm has actually asked to spend time with him! It had to be a good sign. Just maybe, he would find a chance to convey his feelings this time; at the very least he would be able to offer the support of a friend during a difficult time.


Chapter 2: On the north of Skye, near Staffin Bay.

"That was a good memorial service, Malcolm. I liked that it was held outdoors, on the beach, rather than in some dismal room. And I wish I'd known your grandmother—from what people were saying about her life, it sounds like she was quite a person. I hadn't imagined her as being as adventurous or fun-loving as it sounds like she was."

"You probably imagined her as being like my parents," replied Malcolm. They were walking along the strand, just down the hill from where his grandmother's house overlooked Staffin Bay. "She told me once that she didn't understand how her daughter Mary, my mother, turned out as she did—that her genes must have skipped a generation. She saw herself again in Maddy, I think."

"And maybe in you too, Malcolm," added Jon, as they paused to watch a seabird diving in the lingering twilight. "You're not exactly lacking an adventurous streak, and you choose you own way, despite any kind of pressure. And we won't even talk about how much you enjoy it when you get to blow things up!"

The strand ended at the base of a steep, rocky headland thrusting into the bay, and Malcolm led the way up the beach to a grassy patch sheltered from the wind by a lichen-covered rock face. The view across the sea to both north and east was stunning. "I used to come here often," he said, as he lowered himself to the ground, drew his knees up to his chest, and gestured to Jon to join him. "It was a good place to read, or just to get away for awhile. My grandmother came down here with me sometimes. It's a lovely place to watch seabirds—she was always keen on birding. We used to have some long chats…"

Jon settled himself against the rock wall, grateful for the chance to see Malcolm in this milieu. His defenses appeared to be down, and something about his body language seemed to be inviting closeness—or at least permitting it. As they sat in silence watching the sea, Jon slipped an arm around his friend's shoulders. To his surprise, Malcolm leaned back against him, and seemed to relax, so implicitly trusting that Jon felt himself nearly overwhelmed by tenderness for the man. Jon's arm tightened to draw him closer. The desire he always felt for Malcolm was very much present, but it was overlaid by a deep and certain love.

Afraid of ruining the moment, he nevertheless yielded eventually to the impulse to kiss the soft dark hair. There was no drawing away—he felt no stiffening at the gentle touch. Malcolm had fallen asleep. Jon drew his jacket over the sleeping man's shoulders and chest, and savoured the feeling of finally holding Malcolm in his arms. The last of the long June twilight faded slowly into moonlight over the bay. The tide was coming in, and the soft sound of the waves breaking against the rocks below them was hypnotic.

Minutes or hours later, Malcolm stirred, breaking Archer's reverie. Lifting his head, but without leaving the shelter of the arm around his shoulders, he looked toward the sea and quietly murmured a line or two of something that Jon couldn't quite catch, "…an ataireachd ard…"

"What's that, Malcolm? Is it a poem?"

"A song, actually. It's in Gaelic—do you remember the song that Maddy sang at the memorial?"

"Yes, I didn't recognize the language, but it was haunting."

"It's something I learned as a child; my grandmother would sing it to us at night. It isn't as compelling in English. The translation doesn't really capture the rise and fall of the sea in the mesmerizing way it sounds in Gaelic. Maybe Hoshi could do better with it…"

Malcolm's voice was low as he spoke the English words in the cadence of the song:

"The ceaseless surge,

Listen to the surge of the sea,

The thunder of the ocean

As I heard it when I was a child,

Without change, without pity

Breaking on the sand of the beach

The ceaseless surge;

Listen to the high surge of the sea."

Malcolm sighed deeply. "The endless surge of the sea—'without change, without pity…' It's like that isn't it? Drawing me, repelling me—the certainty of it, and the danger…It terrifies me, but I can't live without it in the end."

There was a long silence, both men absorbed in their thoughts. Jon's were of the complexity of this man he loved, and how this glimpse of him reflected so much—Malcolm's stubbornness, his tenacity, his resistance to changing ingrained beliefs. The corollary to this would be his constancy, his loyalty—the man didn't give himself easily, but when he did, it would be forever. Archer wondered if Malcolm realized that he might have just described his ambivalence about a relationship as eloquently as he had his feelings about the sea. And Archer wondered, as he had for years now, if any of the man's thoughts were of him.

"After the stars, Jon, if I ever settle down anywhere…it will be by the sea. Maybe here—on Earth, or even on Skye—maybe not, but certainly by the sea."


Chapter 3: The next morning—

"Hello, Captain. I thought I might find you here," Malcolm said, approaching the grassy niche by the headland where they had spent much of the previous evening.

"You were engrossed in family business, so I decided to take a walk. This is a nice spot in the daytime as well. I see why you always liked it."

"What's that?" he asked, nodding toward the envelope Malcolm was clutching.

"A copy of my grandmother's will. She left the house to Madeline for her great-grandson, which makes sense, but she left me the Eala Bhan. Her boat," he added, in answer to Jon's unasked question. "What the hell am I supposed to do with a bloody sailboat? She knew how I feel about sailing, and also knew I'm seldom anywhere near Earth these days."

"Well, she must have had her reasons," Jon said. "Did you ever sail it?"

"Of course—we all learned to sail on that boat. I nearly drowned learning to sail the bloody boat, but I was good at it. My grandmother liked to cruise the Hebrides, and in Irish and Cornish waters, and somehow I was always the one she wanted to crew for her—or to skipper the thing, when I was older. I haven't sailed in years though, and didn't even know she still had the boat. Apparently, she was letting the dock master hire it out for charter trips, in exchange for upkeep and moorage. Now I'll have to deal with selling it—or change the name from the 'White Swan' to the 'Bloody Albatross.'

"What about your sister? Would she want it?"

"I doubt it. Maddy's already got her hands full with that two-year old son of hers. I never realized children were so high-maintenance. I don't think she would want to bother with upkeep on a creaky wooden boat."

"A wooden sailboat?" "Yes, she's a 10 meter double ended cutter; built about 75 years ago and restored—more or less—about 15 years ago, I'd guess. Kept up well though—my grandmother saw to that. She loved that boat. Eala Bhan was built just over in Mallaig, based on some old plans—a late nineteenth century Colin Archer design."

"Colin who?"

"Colin Arch—Oh, cor! Sorry, sir." Malcolm turned away, but not before Jonathan caught a deep blush creeping up his face. "I just had a ridiculous thought that maybe my grandmother was having a last little joke with me, or maybe a last swift kick in the arse. Never mind."

Slipping his dignity back into place, he continued his lecture. "Colin Archer was a rather famous marine architect—a Scotsman, actually. His boats were well regarded in his day, and have been reproduced and adapted ever since by wooden boat aficionados. She's a lovely boat, very graceful lines, well-suited to the waters here. Easy to handle, I've even single-handed her in a pinch—though that's certainly not my preference!"

"Malcolm, let's take her out once! How about today? We could sail to one of those islands I can almost see from here. I've always imagined sailing on an old boat like that. I'm a bit rusty, but I did some sailing when I was in college, mostly along the Pacific coast. And I have a feeling your grandmother would have wanted you to sail her again, at least once—don't you think?"

"I suppose so, especially with a possible descendant of the designer on board. That is, if you really want to go sailing with me, knowing as you do about my aquaphobia," he added with a smirk.

"Sounds safe enough to me. Who better to make sure we stay afloat than a man who really doesn't want to drown! I trust you, Malcolm. Let's grab some gear and supplies and go for it."

"I'll leave a note for Maddy about our plans, so she won't think we took off without saying goodbye, or got lost, or whatever. Why don't you pack up some sweaters and rain gear, and maybe a tin of tea and some of those biscuits and sandwiches left over from the wake."


Chapter 4: Later the same day, on the Eala Bhan

"Malcolm, she's beautiful! I love the rake of that mast; it gives her a rather sexy, slightly dangerous look, don't you think? And look at the brass…and all that wood!"

"I spent enough hours polishing the bloody brass, and if you'd spent your vacation sanding and varnishing all that wood, you might not be so enamoured of it all!" replied Malcolm from somewhere below, where he was checking to make sure the comm. gear was still functional and the charts were where they'd always been stored. "It does look like she's been well kept, though. Ready to sail at a moment's notice, it would appear."

Motoring out of the protected moorage, they headed into Staffin Bay. Unfurling the sails, Malcolm set a course that would take them safely around the north end of the Isle of Skye before they would need to decide on a destination. On the lee side of the island, the breeze was light, giving them an opportunity to try a few tacks and get the feel of the boat before catching stiffer winds on the Minch once they rounded the tip of Skye.

"I believe you understated your sailing experience, Captain. You clearly know your way around a boat," Malcolm observed, scrutinizing Archer's sail-handling skills.

"I'm not 'Captain' out here, Malcolm. That's your job on this boat. I'm just Jon, okay?"

Malcolm nodded, accompanied by a look that Archer had never seen directed at him before. There was respect in that gaze, but there was also a warmth and a sparkle in the blue-grey eyes that caused a happy skip in his heart, and a familiar stirring in another part of his body. He held the gaze as long as he dared, until his body's response forced him to turn away before he embarrassed himself. He busied himself in looking over the maps and charts, considering possible destinations and routes for their sail, while he attempted to regain control of his libido.

"Malcolm, let's not go back tonight—let's head for the Outer Hebrides. We could make for Barra, but maybe put in at North Uist tonight. We could buy more supplies, then make a leisurely sail down to Castlebay tomorrow before heading back to Skye. What do you think?"

Archer had to consciously remember to breathe as he awaited Malcolm's decision. He had just realized that he didn't want this to be a quick out and back day trip. The chance to have this time alone with Malcolm was too tempting to pass up, no matter where it led.

"I don't know, Jon, we'd best check the meteorology report. I don't want to get caught out in a major storm—the Minch can be tricky sailing in a blow, and it's been some time since I've sailed these waters. Why don't you get on the comm. and get a forecast; then we can decide."

"Sounds good, Malcolm. Maybe I'll check with Trip on how things are going with the engine upgrades on Enterprise while I'm at it."

Jonathan smiled to himself as he punched up the weather report, feeling like a small child asking for a favour—"Please, sir, may we sail some more?" That would be an accurate description of how he felt—like a giddy kid in love.


"Archer to Tucker."

"Tucker here. How's it going, Cap'n? Malcolm doin' okay? I was thinking about your dad's funeral, and I'm glad Mal's got you there to be with him." "He's fine, Trip. He's the proud, if reluctant, new owner of the family sailboat, and we're taking her out for a spin in the Hebrides."

"Lemme see if I heard that right, Cap'n! You're with Malcolm on a sailboat? On the ocean ? I'm not real sure just which one of you is missin' more of his marbles. Should I get Hoshi to keep a transporter fix on the two of you? Just in case?"

"We'll be fine, Trip. The sea's calm, and he knows these waters. It's a good chance for me to spend some time with Malcolm, talk with him some…maybe…well, you know…"

"I read you, Cap'n. Well, things are all under control up here. I finally got most of those engine parts, but this upgrade is goin' kinda slow, so take your time getting back here. And, good luck, Jonny."

"Thanks, Trip. I'll stay in touch. Archer out."


He shared the update from Tucker and the good news about the weather forecast with Malcolm, who agreed to set a southwesterly course toward North Uist. They spent the rest of the afternoon crossing the Minch, enjoying the sun and shadow cast on the water by the clouds streaming by overhead. The boat wasn't the fastest, but she was steady, and Malcolm was very good at reading the wind to make the most of it. There was little conversation beyond relaying instructions, but it was a companionable silence.

During one quiet moment, it had occurred to Jon that the rear view of Malcolm at the helm was too good to ignore, and he had finally risked everything with that kiss.

"Sssh…don't say anything, Malcolm. Just think about it—whether it feels as right to you as it does to me."

The sea-grey eyes had never wavered, but had darkened—accompanied by a change in expression so subtle, so transient, that Archer almost missed it. He wasn't going to put a name aloud to that brief flicker, but it crossed his mind that this might be the beginning of an answer to his silent question.

So he busied himself with the mechanics of sailing, enjoying the wind in his hair, and waited for Malcolm's decision—one that would set the course for the rest of their lives.


Chapter 5: Evening, in the harbour at Berneray, North Uist

"Well, that should hold her." Malcolm gave a final tug on the last mooring line, securing the Eala Bhan for the night at the guest pier in Berneray, their North Uist destination. "That was a good sail—we did pretty well for our first time together."

"Thanks, we did at that. I think it's because we had a good captain, and because we trust each other…Malcolm, let's stay on board tonight—we can go up to the pub for a pint and something to eat, but let's come back to the boat rather than finding a B & B."

"I don't know—it might be a bit rough tonight. There's a front coming through. It's supposed to pass by morning, but it might not be a very peaceful night's sleep."

"Malcolm, I honestly don't think it will matter." Archer tried to guess the possible meaning of the expression that had crossed Malcolm's face at this last remark. He hoped it might be something like "understood," but couldn't be certain if it also meant "I don't plan to let you get a bloody wink of sleep tonight," which would be in line with his own intentions.

"Let's get some food, and maybe bring back some provisions for the rest of the trip," Archer continued. "I think I might like a bottle of wine tonight; I wonder if the local shop has anything drinkable."

"It's a small town," Reed replied. "But with the number of visitors they get, there must be a decent selection. I'll also need to visit the chandlery in the morning; I don't like the look of that last line we used to tie up. It will hold tonight, but we need to replace it."


"Now that was a nice evening. It's been a long time since I've had real pub food. And Guinness on tap—very nice…" Jonathan stowed their purchases, and rejoined Reed on deck. "What did you think of the pub musicians, Malcolm? I don't know much about that kind of traditional music, but the singer sounded okay to me—kind of a haunting voice."

"Well, as the locals might say, she wasna' verra good, but she was keen. I liked her well enough. The box player was good though—I liked his set, though he could have sung a bit more himself. And, as you say, the Guinness was lovely."

"You didn't eat much—there might be a sandwich left in the cooler. Do you want it?"

"No. Thank you, though. I'm just not very hungry."

There was no sign of any rain yet, so the two men made themselves comfortable on deck, enjoying the last of the purple twilight reflected on the dark water and picking out stars as they appeared, talking very little. Malcolm seemed more withdrawn than he had been the night before on the strand at Staffin Bay, and Jon was concerned that he may have pushed too hard or too quickly with his kiss that afternoon. He took a deep breath, then exhaled a sigh and turned to the man beside him.

"Malcolm, we need to talk. Don't shut me out—please don't act like it didn't happen; I can't accept that. I can't apologize for what I did this afternoon, but I can promise that I won't pressure you if you don't want this. But I've thought…sometimes…that you might feel the same way. Please tell me what you're thinking. Did that kiss offend you?"

The twilight was fading as the clouds moved in, but Archer needed to see Malcolm's face for this conversation. He picked up the cushion he'd been sitting on, and moved closer to the other man. Close enough to touch him, but he couldn't do that—not yet. The dim light etched new shadows on the familiar face, but Malcolm kept his eyes lowered.

"Offend me? No. Never that, Jon. Rather otherwise, actually…I just didn't know what to say. When I felt you pressed against me this afternoon, I stopped thinking entirely, but it started up again when you pulled away. I just can't pretend anymore that I don't know what you want from me…"

He drew his knees to his chest and wrapped his arms around them in the same posture that Jon had noticed during their conversation the night before. It made the younger man look very vulnerable, and it again stirred Archer's impulse to cherish and protect him.

Malcolm's words were quiet, almost as if he were thinking aloud, "My grandmother's song—the Gaelic song I told you about last night—I can't get it out of my head."

Jon started to say something in response, but Malcolm continued. "It's not just the sea, you know. There are other things in my life that both attract me and scare me to death—way beyond my aquaphobia. Oh, bloody hell! Here I am, your armoury officer, musing about his fears. Not terribly professional, is it?"

"Malcolm, right now, I don't give a damn about the armoury officer. He's not here. It's you—Malcolm Reed, the person, the man—that I'm in love with, not your profession or your position."

"But that's a part of who I am. I can't split it out or put it aside for the evening. Nevertheless, the fears are real, and you're one of them."

Archer waited silently for him to explain.

"You're like the sea to me, Jon—alluring, threatening, irresistible, 'without change—without pity.' You're always there—in my life, in my thoughts…and yes, damn it, you're in my heart. Yes, I'm attracted…I'm terrified…afraid of losing myself…but for some reason you accept it all—all of me. If I yield to this, am I changing who I am…or accepting who I am?"

Desperate to make some physical connection, Jon finally reached out to touch him—placing a hand lightly over Reed's hands, still clasped around his knees, and stroking lightly with his thumb. He waited until Malcolm looked up at him, hesitation clouding the grey eyes, before replying with as much gentleness as he could command. This might be the most important speech of his life; he knew he had to get it right.

"Malcolm, at first it was attraction. You were the man I longed to get to know in every sense of the word. Yes, I wanted you—I still want you so much it hurts—but I also wanted to understand you. Then, after I got to know you better, as a friend, you were the man I fell in love with…and now I know you're the man I'll love and cherish forever. I don't know if that's change or constancy, but it's the truth. You're in my soul, you're a part of who I am and how I define myself—even…even if I'm never more to you than your friend and your captain."

He felt the trembling in the clasped hands beneath his own, and moved to put his arms around this man he loved so much, sensing no resistance to the embrace.

The body in his arms was still trembling, but Malcolm's voice was steady. "Hold me, Jon, be all that to me—let me feel you around me, in me. I don't want to fight this any more." The face he lifted to Jonathan's seemed to radiate joy. Their eyes met at last, and Reed finally answered the afternoon's question with a kiss neither gentle nor ambiguous.

"I love you, Malcolm," Jon said, his voice rough with emotion. His hands had begun moving on the tight back muscles, and his fingers swept through wind-tousled dark hair to stroke the nape of the slender neck. "Let's go below; it's getting chilly and it's going to rain—and there's a bottle of wine down there calling our names."

"Wait. I need to say this, and you need to hear it. I've known this for much longer than you might guess, but it feels so good to finally tell you—I do love you, Jonathan Archer."

Jon let out a breath he hadn't known he'd been holding, and pulled back enough for Malcolm to notice that his eyes were glistening. Gentle fingertips brushed across his eyelashes, then his love drew him close again, tracing Jonathan's lips with damp fingers before kissing him again. The shared taste of tears, followed by his first taste of Malcolm's questing tongue, drew a soft moan from the older man. Neither of them moved to go below until the first raindrops splashed on the deck. The wind had come up, and the boat responded to the higher waves with a gentle roll.

"Come on, love, let's take this inside," urged Malcolm. "I don't want either of us to get distracted and roll overboard at an inconvenient moment."

"Ah, my practical Malcolm, always looking after ship's security. But what you really mean is that you don't want to have to fish me out of the drink stark naked."

"Actually, I was thinking that there might be better ways to drown."


On the small double berth under a skylight in the forward cabin of the Eala Bhan—riding at anchor on a swelling tide—Jon again drew Malcolm into his arms, finally allowing the years of his need and longing to surface. One hand slipped under the spray-dampened sweater and tee shirt to finally caress the silken skin they covered. His other hand tugged at buttons and zips, until he had freed both of them from clothing and they at last lay together, naked in one another's arms. Jon wanted to memorize—with eyes and hands and lips—every inch of the beautiful body he had waited so long to hold.

His voice was soft and low. "Malcolm—where do I start? How can I love you…what do you want? I don't want to hurt you, or push you toward anything you're not ready for." His hands moved over the lithe, tightly muscled body, from neck to chest to groin, stroking, caressing, worshipping. "You are so beautiful, my Malcolm." He gently nudged the younger man's knees apart and positioned his own body between them, giving his hands and mouth splendid access to even more Malcolm.

"Make love to me, Jon, but let me feel your body on mine. I need to see your face, and feel you touch me everywhere." Malcolm's usually clipped voice had gone husky with need, and the eyes locked on Jon's green gaze were the colour of the stormy sea beneath them. He reached up to stroke the soft hair, almost golden in the low light, and let his hand trail down the side of Jon's face and neck to his chest. When his fingertips encountered a rose-gold nipple nestled in dark chest hair, the contact drew a groan from the older man and an appreciative sigh from his lover. "Do you know how much I've wanted to touch you that way? You're so responsive; just listening to you is terribly arousing."

"I think I can do a little more in that department than just moan for you, Malcolm."

Archer paused a moment to enjoy the sight of Reed's expressive face awash in waves of pleasure as he gently cradled the man's heavy sac in his hand before beginning to stroke the 'terribly aroused' member, his thumb sliding slowly from the dark curls at the base to its glistening tip. Malcolm's soft moans went straight to his own groin. He didn't think he could get any harder until the vocalizations became louder and utterly incoherent, except for his name, as he traced the same path with his mouth. He continued licking and kissing, searching out the most sensitive spots with little swirling flicks of his tongue, before engulfing the whole length in his wet heat of his mouth.

Completely absorbed in his worship of the body spread below him, Archer was surprised by a restraining grasp on his hand from his lover. He reluctantly paused, looking up to meet Malcolm's eyes, gone dark with need.

"…want you now! Jon, I want you inside me when I come. My body has been ready for you for so long—you don't know how hard it was sometimes, not to just come to your cabin in the middle of the night and ask you to make love to me. I couldn't—not then. But now…I need to feel you—feel us joined together. Please, Jon. Just love me now, and don't stop…ever!"

"Malcolm, I need you too much. I'm so close to the edge already that I'm not going to last long this first time. But there will be more—and I promise I won't hurt you, now or ever."

Jon reached for his duffle, stowed beside the bunk—but Malcolm was quicker. He pressed a small bottle into Jon's hands with a shy smile. "Malcolm? Where did this…? I guess you really were a boy scout!"

The shy smile morphed into the little smirk that Jon remembered as one of the first signs he'd ever seen of Malcolm's sense of humour. "Just open it, Jon, or I'll do it for you—unless you'd prefer whatever flavour you brought along."




"Are you awake?"

"I am now, love."

"It feels like the storm-front has arrived—the motion of the boat has picked up a bit."

"It's okay; she's well moored…You're not getting seasick?" The smirk was back.

"No, I just had an idea. Scoot over here…I told you the first time would be too quick; let's take it slow this time, and enjoy the storm."

Archer was leaning against the bulkhead, legs stretched in front of him. Malcolm moved to straddle him, kissed his mouth hungrily, then proceeded to kiss and lick his way down Jonathan's body, detouring to suckle on both nipples, then following the trail of dark hair to the base of his straining erection. The sounds of pleasure that Malcolm's kisses had elicited from the man, combined with the sight of the lean golden body trembling in its response to his touch brought the Englishman to his own state of high arousal. But instead of letting him continue the ministrations of those skilled hands and lips, Archer handed him the bottle of lube. "Spread it on me," he urged, "then turn yourself around."

The image of Malcolm crouched on elbows and knees, offering himself, trusting completely, was nearly too much. This was every erotic dream from which he'd ever awakened hard and alone. Now Malcolm was offering him the dream in the flesh. Caressing the pale mounds of that perfect arse, he slid a finger along the crack, and felt Reed lean into his touch. After gently preparing the younger man, Jonathan entered him slowly, steadily—pausing to make sure his lover was comfortable, and to regain his own control. "Oh my god, Malcolm, you are so amazing…"

The boat was rocking steadily as Jon sat back and pulled the smaller man with him onto his lap—his throbbing cock buried deeply within the beautiful body he had dreamed so often of loving.

"Don't move, Mal—let the boat do the moving," he murmured. And it did, rolling gently as both men felt the sensual rocking motion though their joined bodies. Malcolm leaned back against Jon's solid chest, savouring the strength and warmth of the man holding him safe as they let the surge of the sea guide their lovemaking.

As their urgency grew, Malcolm began stroking his own cock to the same rhythm. In a gesture reminiscent of his advances earlier in the day at the wheel of the Eala Bhan, Jon reached around his lover's waist to place his hand over Malcolm's. "Let me, love…" he whispered, "let me touch you everywhere."

"Yes, always!"

The world was reduced to only two lovers, now moving as one, and the movement of the sea. All coherent words and thoughts vanished in the climax that rocked them both, and left them awed, sated, and soon asleep in one another's arms—still cradled by the sea-swell.


Chapter 6: On Enterprise, a few weeks later



"Are you awake?"

"I am now. Are you ever going to let me have a night's sleep?" "Probably not anytime soon."

"What is it, love?"

"When we were talking aboard the Eala Bhan, you said you'd been tempted sometimes to come to my cabin in the middle of the night, but you couldn't do it. Why not, Malcolm?"

"I wanted you. I was fairly certain you wanted me. But I was afraid of losing myself in a relationship that I assumed would be purely about sex and need. Our difference in rank wasn't going to change, and I couldn't change myself to accommodate your relaxed view of these things. So I told myself I couldn't let it happen, even after I realized that what I felt for you went far beyond lust and need. Even after I admitted to myself that I loved you."

Archer's hand rubbed gentle circles on his lover's back, as he tried to erase the memory of anguish and doubt that was evident in the low voice. "Oh, Malcolm, I wish I could have made it easier for you somehow. But I didn't want you to see me as behaving inappropriately; I couldn't bear to lose your respect. I was so afraid of being rejected, and not even having our friendship left of you…So what changed?"

Now it was Reed who heard pain in his lover's voice. He gathered the other man close, Jon's head resting on his shoulder as they lay in each other's arms. Malcolm replied softly, his voice now filled with wonder, "I never imagined that you would love me. That changed everything, but it took me a long time to accept it."

"When did you realize all this?"

"I don't know, it just started to feel right and necessary. That evening by Staffin Bay after my grandmother's funeral…when you held me it seemed like you wanted to tell me how you felt, but something was making you hold back. I knew I could trust you completely, and I was so tired of hiding how much you meant to me. I would have admitted it then if you had asked me."

"Malcolm, that night I just wanted to make sure you felt safe and loved and not alone. I wanted you to know you'd never need to be alone ever again. Your trust that evening was a gift—when you fell asleep in my arms, when you shared your hopes and fears. I think it gave me the courage to finally tell you I loved you."

"When you suggested that we go out on the Eala Bhan, there was a part of me that was screaming to refuse. But I wanted you to know I would face my fears—all of them—and trust you to help me through it."

Jonathan pulled his lover close for a long tender kiss. "Malcolm, I don't know what I've done to deserve you, to earn that kind of trust and love."

"You were always there. You never changed, never gave up—I watched for it, I almost waited for it, knowing it was inevitable. But it never happened; you loved me and you waited."

"I hope you know now that my love isn't going to change…You said something that night by the sea that I can't get out of my mind. Neither of us can know what's going to happen to either of us tomorrow, much less next month or next year. But I'm certain of one thing. After the stars, Malcolm, whenever I settle down—it will be with you. Maybe on Earth, maybe not, but certainly with you."

"I'll hold you to that. I love you, Jonathan Archer. You are like the sea to me; you're necessary to me in the same way. Without change…endless…an ataireachd ard."




"Are you awake?"

"Absolutely not."

"I think you should keep the boat. We might want to ride out a few more storms, someday."

"Already done. Goodnight, love."

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