Title: Intact and Breathing

Author: Pretzelduck

Author's e-mail: pretzelduck@yahoo.com

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

Date: 09/28/03

Archive: Permission to archive granted to Archer's Enterprise

Rating: PG

Status: Complete

Pairing: Archer/Reed

Summary: Malcolm's journey finally leads him home.

Warnings: none

Series: none

Sequel to: none

Spoilers: Silent Enemy

Disclaimer: Guess what? I don't own the Star Trek franchise. Paramount does. I also don't make any money from writing this. The only thing I make money on is my ability to roll pretzels and work a cash register.

Author's Notes: The fic was inspired by and the title comes from the lyrics of "Surrendering" by Alanis Morrisette. "…and so you fell and you're intact, so you dove in and you're still breathing, so you jumped and you're still flying…"

As I walk hesitantly toward the edge, I suppose my father would say something like: "How the mighty have fallen."

He would have the look in his eyes that I became rather accustomed to during the years I spent living under his roof. It would be a withering glance, one that stated he knew just how weak I truly was. In his opinion, anyway.

When I thought there was still the chance of showing him my point-of-view, I would try and talk to him…reason with him…make him understand why I was leaving.

Leaving. That's what it all came down to. During one row, our last, to be exact, I received an unusual response to my reiteration of my intention to serve in Starfleet. According to my father, it wasn't the fact that I was failing to become a Royal Navy officer like generations before me that infuriated him. Instead, it was that I was turning my back on everything I had been taught, the values he had tried to instill in me. I was leaving behind what it meant to be a Reed.

I countered his argument by saying that despite the fact that was joining a different branch of service, those values were part of who I was. Who I would always be. That would not change. Starfleet wouldn't change me.

And I was right. Starfleet did not alter those values of duty above all else and the strict upholding of regulations.

He did.

I've wondered on occasion what my father thinks of Jonathan Archer. He probably viewed him as an ill-mannered, too-forward American. Honestly, I hope they never do meet face-to-face. I rather like the fact that my life on Enterprise is hundreds of thousands of kilometers away from my parents. One cannot truly criticize what one does not know firsthand.

My father and my captain do have one thing in common. Stubbornness. Neither is ever willing to give a centimeter. While my father's…and my inflexibility, I suppose, caused no end of family 'discussions,' I find Jonathan's persistence rather charming.

That is where it began, I guess. The discovery that I thought my commanding officer was charming.

If that's how it started, then I am positive about how it continued. That persistence turned into a crusade. It was like I became his personal mission. Like his duties were to command the ship, take care of his dog, and chip away at the distance that separated his armory officer from life. It didn't seem to matter that I refused to acknowledge his work. Or him.

Jonathan found me. And hesitantly or not, I began to walk in a new direction.

I had long since recognized that I found him attractive and charming. But it was only when I started to watch his eyes that I realized something else. I wasn't the only one that was attracted. All of his concern wasn't merely because he wanted to draw me out from behind my wall but because he wanted to be let into my life.

It was then I noticed the little things. The self-conscious smiles that were occasionally sent my way. The fact that when we spoke off-duty he addressed me as Malcolm rather than my rank. And then there were the times in sickbay.

My chosen profession carries with it the risk of being injured in the line of duty. It is a risk that all Starfleet personnel must deal with but none more so than tactical officers. Late at night, when I was wounded and recovering in sickbay, Jonathan would always visit me. Supposedly sleeping, I could sense his presence. He would place his hand upon my forearm and stand watch over me for what seemed like hours.

I never let him know that I knew he was there. Or that his gentle touch was unwanted. Because it wasn't. I drew strength not only from the warmth of his fingers but from his compassionate, constant soul. I understood how much I needed him in my life.

Jonathan rescued me. And all he wanted as a reward was me.

So now I'm at the edge of an abyss. A choice to make. My toes are curled over the side but instead of looking down into blackness, I look up…into a captivating shade of green. Every bone in my body yearns to fall into those welcoming pools of color. I think he'll catch me.

I bring one of my hands up and rest it shyly on the side of his face. A hint of stubble tickles my fingers. I can feel myself smiling at this new sensation. He's always touching me, a hand on my shoulder or back. But I've never done the same. Until now.

Jonathan's arms tighten their hold on me, as if he needs the reassurance that I'm still here. I keep my gaze locked on his. Too easy for my courage to falter if I look away from those eyes. I can see anticipation and joy fill them as I tilt my head upwards and pull myself closer until our lips are aligned.

And I jump.

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