Title: Past Perfection

Author: Lady Ithilrien

Author's e-mail: lady_ithilrien@yahoo.co.uk

Author's Web site: http://www.geocities.com/lady_ithilrien/somethingreal.htm


Archer's Enterprise

Fandom: Enterprise

Category: Slash

Archive: EntSTCommunity and BLTS, everyone else has to ask.

Rating: PG

Status: Complete

Pairing: Tucker/Reed, Reed/other

Summary: It's better to have loved and lost that never to have loved at all.

Warning(s): AU, Other.

Sequel to: Future Imperfection

Beta: Mareel, whose contribution to this fic is irreplaceable.

Spoilers: None

Notes: People asked sequel, so here it is. And I managed *not* to make it a deathfic. The graphic I made for this fic is dedicated to Mareel. She knows why once she sees it. You can see the graphic here: http://www.geocities.com/lady_ithilrien/pastperfection.jpg

Escaping from the future's grasp wouldn't be easy. If he should choose to stay in this timeline it was more than likely that Timefleet would send someone after him. Breaking the Temporal Prime Directive was unacceptable; Malcolm knew that people had been sentenced to lifetime imprisonment, or even death, for doing so.

He had sworn to protect the Temporal Prime Directive and this timeline. The guideline had been his life. Nothing and no one, not even his wife, was more important.

Now he desperately wanted to find a way to break it. Everything he had believed, everything he had known, had disappeared when he fell for the forbidden fruit—for that one thing he could not have. And he had fallen hard. Like a deviated star crashing from the skies. Time had lost its meaning the first time Trip moaned his name during their passionate lovemaking. It hadn't been his real name, of course, but it was the name of a man who would be an important foundation stone for the Federation. Or would have been if he were still alive.

Malcolm James Reed, only son of Stuart Michael and Mary Johanna Reed, brother of Madeline Ann Reed, had been killed during his survival training in New Mexico. A Suliban soldier had ambushed him when he was alone, so that there had been no one to hear his final pleas for mercy before the alien had tightened his hold on the young man's neck and broken it. Only the stars of the night sky had witnessed his brutal and painful end.

And now the man who bore a certain superficial resemblance to Malcolm Reed, the man who had learned to act and speak like Malcolm Reed, had become Malcolm Reed. His life in the future now seemed only a distant echo of something to come, filled with shadows of memories that no longer held any meaning for him.

He had once told his wife that he would come back. It was a promise that he'd made just moments before leaving his true timeline and entering this one. Now, over two years later, Malcolm couldn't help but wonder if he had lied to her?

Resting his head in his hand, Malcolm sighed and gazed at his sleeping lover. The blond man's bare chest rose and fell in steady rhythm. Gently laying his other hand on that strong chest, he felt Trip's slow steady heartbeat. It had been this heart that captured him. This heart and the soul behind it were the very essence of Trip Tucker. It had seemed to shine more brightly that any of the stars he'd ever watched. He had once believed that he was in love, deeply enough in love to have bound himself to a woman who became his wife. If that love was real, how it was possible that what he felt for Trip was so much stronger, so much more real?

Malcolm swallowed as the wave of guilt washed over him. He hadn't decided yet whether to stay or to go. If he decided to leave, he could easily wipe all of Trip's memories of their love from his mind. It wouldn't be hard; Trip was sleeping and would not feel anything. When morning came he would simply not remember any of this. Gone would be the memories of their first kiss after an intense fight during shore leave on Risa. Gone would be all recollection of the nights they'd spent together—sometimes just talking and holding each other. And gone would be all memory of those precious moments when they'd made love to one another.

Never in his life had Malcolm Reed felt himself so…perfect and complete. Trip made him feel like that; no one else could ever displace that feeling. Trip loved him. But that was part of the temporal paradox: Trip loved Malcolm Reed, but Malcolm Reed was dead. He no longer existed; there was only the illusory Malcolm that he had created. If Trip loved an illusion, what about the man who created that illusion—the man who loved Trip in return? The love was real; did that make the lover real as well, no matter what he called himself in this time? Perhaps 'Malcolm' was as good a name as any for the man he had become, the man Trip loved. For he was no longer the man he was when he'd assumed that identity, the man who'd promised to return to a beloved wife waiting in the future.

When this mission had begun, the Councillors at Timefleet had told him that he might experience some difficulty in adjusting to living someone else's life. But becoming Malcolm Reed had been the easiest part of his mission. Malcolm Reed was not an easy person to be, he admitted that much, but they had some personal similarities that eased the transformation. No, the hardest part of his mission was not becoming and being Malcolm Reed. The hardest part was letting go of his life as Malcolm to return to his real identity. That's why he hadn't done it yet. Because of love, he had risked everything to come to this time to help preserve his own timeline. And now, again because of love, he was ready to risk everything to stay.

He was pulled away from his morose thoughts when Trip's eyes fluttered open without warning. Malcolm found himself drowning to those brilliant blue eyes as a gentle and sleepy smile appeared on his lover's lips.

"Still awake, darlin'? Don't ya think that after what we did earlier you'd be sleepin' like a baby by now?"

Malcolm couldn't help but smile at his lover's sly, playful tone of voice. He placed a soft kiss to those lips that he was sure he knew better than his own. Trip closed his eyes and fell back to sleep, a blissful smile on his face.

"Love ya, Mal," he murmured.

"I love you too," Malcolm whispered. "I'll always love you."

Malcolm waited until he was sure that Trip was fully asleep before he allowed the tears to finally break free. Those tears had been a long time coming, and expressed everything—every emotion that he was feeling now. His deep and certain love for Trip and his desperate raw need to be with him. His love for his wife who deserved better than anything he could offer. The regret he knew he would carry for the rest of his life because of what he was about to do, and the knowledge that he alone would carry the burden of that regret. He mourned for the unfairness and cruelty of life. The painful sobs silently wracked his body and forced his lungs to fight for every breath. Malcolm felt as if he was drowning, and he knew now what death must be like. The hardest decision of his life had been made.

As the tears subsided, Malcolm took a deep breath to steady himself. It was time. He couldn't postpone it any longer.

Malcolm rose from the bed and resolutely put on his uniform. Quietly, so as not to disturb his lover, he cleaned up the room to ensure that all evidence of him ever having been here would be gone when Trip awoke. For a long moment, he stood next to Trip's bed and gazed at the peacefully sleeping man lying there. It would be the last time he saw Trip's—his lover's—face. Placing his fingers on other man's temple, he entered into his lover's mind. With his powerful—but still gentle—probe into that bright mind, Trip's memories of their love started fading until nothing was left. It was as if their love had never existed. Maybe it never had.

With one last longing look, Malcolm left Trip's quarters, though a part of himself never followed. He slipped his hand into his pocket and touched his wedding ring, the one thing he'd been permitted to bring with him from the future. Now the man who had been Malcolm Reed was leaving only one thing behind as he returned to that future.

His heart.

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