Title: The Heart Mender

Author: Weebob

E-mail: weebob@fsmail.net


Fandom: Enterprise

Pairing: Tucker/Reed

Rating: PG13-ish

Category: Slash

Feedback: Aids the learning process!

Archive: EntSTCommunity, Reed's Armory, BLTS, MEGA, WWOMB, Archer's Enterprise—if you want it—any others, please ask first.

Spoilers: Nothing in particular. A hotch-potch of canon and fanon!

Warning: AU

Summary: Trip and Malcolm first-timer, set in a pretend Whitby & Robin Hood's Bay on a pretend Yorkshire coast!

DISCLAIMER: I don't own or have any rights to the Star Trek universe, "Enterprise", or any of its characters—they belong to UPN/Paramount. I am making no money from this story.

Author's note: A/T'P and M/S provide background support! Dedicated to Zoe Ride for her birthday (and featuring one of her ancestors?). Its not historical fiction—more like hysterical fiction—as I haven't verified or researched anything. But I felt like a change of setting for the boys and thought the sea air would do them good! (If you ever get the chance to visit the REAL Yorkshire coast, jump at it! It's much more beautiful than my AU version and has a fascinating history.)

Many years ago, in the county of Yorkshire, in England, there lived a wealthy nobleman, Lord Leicester, who, along with his family, stayed in a grand mansion, situated on the coast, just outside the town of Whitby. For Lord Leicester, a retired Naval hero, loved the sea.

Lord Leicester was well known to all in Whitby, for he owned a very successful boat building business there, but he was not well-liked, as he was a mean and harsh employer.

The couple had a beautiful daughter, whose hand in marriage was much sought after by every eligible young man in the county. With her sky blue eyes, cornfield gold hair and tinkling laugh, she was lovely to behold and the apple of her father's eye—particularly as she shared his love of all things maritime. Unfortunately, she was also a spoiled and selfish young woman, whose only desire was to marry a man who could bring her riches and status.

One day, Lord Leicester learned of a young American who had recently come to public notice, in his own land and beyond, as a brilliant engineer. Charles Tucker III was skilled at inventing and building compact but very powerful engines. It seemed to Lord Leicester that these engines, if installed in his ships so that they were no longer dependent on wind power, could be a means of expanding his business and his income enormously. Therefore, he made haste to invite Mr Tucker to come to England and discuss a partnership with him - although not necessarily an equal one.

The process of developing his engines had left Tucker virtually impoverished—so the possibility of a partnership in such an established business was a godsend. Only just scraping together enough money to pay his passage from America, he duly arrived and was met on the Whitby quayside by Lord Leicester, his wife and daughter who, Lady Leicester was quick to note, instantly took a fancy for the newcomer. She, therefore, ensured that the girl was seated beside Mr Tucker in the carriage home and at every meal thereafter—for a man of such ability, appropriately guided by her husband, of course, was sure to go far.

On a night later that week, after the ladies had retired to bed and Lord Leicester was closeted in his study, going over his business accounts, Tucker decided to take up his lordship's offer of the use of one of his fine geldings and go for a ride down into the town.

The nobleman was offering him a tempting partnership arrangement and hinting that his daughter's hand would also be Tucker's, should he agree to throw in his lot with the boat builder. Everything seemed to be going his way yet, beautiful though the girl was, he was not attracted to her—nor was he comfortable with the thought of taking her as his bride.

Unlike his own family, she and her parents lacked warmth and openness. They seemed to live a life bound by tradition and expectations, Lord Leicester's seafaring heritage being a source of great pride to all of them. He couldn't see himself as part of it and needed time and space to consider his future.

The stable was dimly lit with a single lantern when he arrived—but he could easily see the two, dappled grey, beasts in their stalls, shifting and snorting a little as he approached. Suddenly, a soft voice emanating from the darkness made him jump. "May I assist you sir? Are you here just to see the horses or will you be wishing to ride out tonight?"

The owner of the voice came forward, lighting a second lantern, and Tucker saw him for the first time. A man of around his own age, he stood a few inches shorter and looked somewhat undernourished. Although clean and neatly presented, his clothes were ragged and his boots down at heel. He seemed friendly enough, though, and the American smiled: "You startled me. Are you Lord Leicester's groom?"

The other man shyly dropped his gaze. "He would like to think so."

A little puzzled by the answer but keen to get on with his ride, Tucker nodded. "Very well,…um…I don't know your name."

"Malcolm, sir."

"Very well, Malcolm, I'd like you to saddle up this fellow here."

The groom frowned. "Sir, may I respectfully suggest you take the other beast? He's not quite so pretty but his nature is sweeter."

Tucker's pride got the better of him: "Does your master know of your impudence? I've been riding since childhood and a spirited animal holds no fear for me. Saddle him."

Even in the dim light, it was clear to see the little smile that played around Malcolm's full lips: "I'm sorry sir, I didn't mean to infer such a thing. I'll fetch his tack."

Within moments, the horse had been made ready and was led out to the stable yard. Tucker took the reins. "Will you be here to tend him when I return?"

More visible now in the full, late summer, moonlight, the groom nodded up at the engineer. "I sleep in the hayloft above the stable so yes, I will be here whenever you need me."

His eyes looked pale and were framed by long lashes and shapely brows, as black as his short, unruly hair, but it was his smile that made Tucker's breath catch in his throat. Wide and warm, it gave the definite impression that it would be Malcolm's pleasure to await his return and do his bidding.

A strange heat coursed through Tucker's body and he quickly put his boot into the stirrup, anxious to escape this beguiling creature who lived so humbly in the shadows and awakened such unsettling feelings.

Malcolm waited in the hayloft, burrowed into the bales for warmth, until he heard the ringing of hooves on the cobbles of the stable yard. Scrambling down to ground level, he saw the handsome American struggle to draw the horse to a stuttering halt then swing down from the saddle, landing lightly beside his prancing mount.

Taking the reins from him, Malcolm tried hard to be appropriately deferential: "I hadn't expected you back so soon sir. Did you enjoy your ride?"

Tucker saw that his eyes were dancing with amusement and knew that lying was a waste of time. "As you very well know, Malcolm, I didn't get beyond the end of the drive, let alone to the town. This devil will not be mastered and threw me twice before I managed to turn him for home. He's impossible to ride."

Reaching up to caress the horse's neck, the groom bashfully averted his gaze from Tucker's. "I can ride him. Would you like me to take you to the town? It would please me to serve you thus."

It was late, and the engineer knew he should go back to the mansion soon, but he could not tear himself away. "Yes, Malcolm. I believe I'd like that very much."

Soon, they were galloping along at a terrifying pace. Tucker was both exhilarated and scared witless as he clung to the groom's lean body in front of him. The big gelding's whole personality had changed when Malcolm had sprung onto its back: it had become biddable and docile as he petted its mane and scratched its ears, talking softly to it all the while. Now, it seemed, their mount was delighting in its freedom, not in the least perturbed by the weight of two men on its back.

They returned home by another route, taking their time and enjoying the sights and smells of the clear, starry night. Malcolm was interested in Tucker's work and surprisingly knowledgeable about both engineering and Lord Leicester's business. They found much to discuss on the way and enjoyed each other's company immensely.

By the time they were dismounting in the stable yard, dawn was breaking and Tucker knew he had to rush to get into the house before he was missed—but there was something he had to do first.

"Malcolm, thank you. May I come to you again tonight?"

The groom flushed and nodded, suddenly shy, as if the light of day was not his natural element. "If it pleases you sir. I will be waiting."

Tucker could see now that his eyes were actually a soft, misty grey - and really quite beautiful. "Please, Malcolm, tonight we rode as friends. Do not call me "sir". My given name is Charles Tucker III - but I'd be pleased if you'd call me Trip, as do my family." At that, he turned and raced towards the mansion, leaving Malcolm staring after him for a long time.

It was a fine summer and the moonlit rides became Charles Tucker's salvation as he felt the net cast by the nobleman tightening around him. He had not the faintest idea how to avoid betrothal to his daughter and yet retain the offer of a partnership in the family business, thus ensuring his much needed financial security. It increasingly appeared that the man had a controlling nature and no plans to let him leave without binding him inextricably to the Leicester family.

Malcolm was a good listener and trustworthy confidante, never forcing his opinion on his new friend but giving advice when asked. However Tucker was aghast when, on one such occasion, he suggested it might be best to walk away from the partnership with Lord Leicester.

"What? Malcolm, I've slaved for years for a chance such as this. I can't turn my back on it!"

Those moonstone pale eyes gazed sadly up at him "We all have to decide what's most important, Trip, what we are or what others would have us be."

Their ride that night took them to the beach, where their high- spirited mount was pleased to trot through the waves breaking on the shore. The mildness of the air and the beauty of the moonlight reflecting on the water raised Tucker's spirits and he slid off the horse and waded happily, knee-deep, in the foaming shallows. "Come and join me, Malcolm. Let's have a midnight swim!"

Reaching up, he tugged the groom down beside him and was startled when, the moment he hit the water, Malcolm jerked away. "Malcolm, what is it? What's wrong?"

The servant was scrambling back onto the horse, "Its alright, Trip. Its just that I think we should go home now. I had planned to take you by a different way and it may be a touch longer. You mustn't be late back."

Not entirely convinced, Tucker shrugged and got back up behind him, slipping his arms once more around the narrow waist. "Malcolm, you're trembling. Are you certain all is well with you?"

The groom laughed lightly "Of course! Now hold on tightly while I give this nag a gallop."

They were back in record time, albeit by a different route, and - having two hours yet before he needed to return to the house—the engineer watched as the horse was tended and returned to its stall. "Malcolm, why don't you tell me the truth? What happened on the shore? It was as if you'd seen a ghost."

Malcolm shot a nervous smile over his shoulder as he tethered the gelding: "You must have imagined it, Trip. I'm really quite fine." Nevertheless, his hands shook as he tied the knot.

Tucker grabbed him by the arm and spun him round to face him. "Don't lie to me. In the six nights we've ridden out together, I've never seen you so much as anxious—but on the beach you were terrified. Was it me? What did I do?"

Wrenching himself away, the groom ran for the stairway to the hayloft. "Goodnight Trip. I'm going to get some sleep and I suggest you do likewise."

Malcolm had just reached the top of the steps when he was propelled forward into the bales of fodder then, while still dazed, he was rolled on his back and his hands were pinned above his head. Tucker sat astride his hips and glared at him "I thought we were friends, Malcolm. Friends don't lie to each other."

Below him, the groom tried, unsuccessfully, to wriggle free of the larger man. "Get OFF me, you great lump! I have nothing to…mmph!"

He was abruptly silenced as the engineer kissed him soundly on the lips.

Blinking up, startled and a little breathless, Malcolm suddenly realised he liked the feel of the warm, solid body touching his own. From the moment he'd met the American, he'd known there was a chemistry of sorts between them—and the attraction had been growing apace ever since. Now, the very air around them seemed to crackle with desire.

Tucker moved a little and, involuntarily, Malcolm moaned as his body responded. "Oh Trip, you are my dear friend, but we must not do this. Should we be found out…"

The engineer laughed and slid off him, flopping down at his side but allowing his hand to rest on the groom's thigh. "Then we must not be found out!"

Slowly, he undid Malcolm's shirt and slipped it off, keeping his gaze locked with the groom's all the time. He unbuckled his friend's belt and eased his trousers and undergarments down over his hips, admiring the lean body that was gradually being revealed to him.

Suddenly fearful that he was forcing himself upon the smaller man, he sat back on his heels and tried to control his ardour. "Malcolm, please may I continue?"

Swallowing nervously, Malcolm nodded, worried that he was acting wantonly but aching now to be touched. Tucker finished stripping him then removed his own clothing. "Don't be afraid, Malcolm. I shall do nothing that you forbid. I have grown to love you and would rather die than do you harm"

Smiling, the groom reached up and stroked his face. "I love you too, Trip. Do what you will and I will gladly receive you."

At that, the engineer slipped his hand gently between Malcolm's legs and began to caress him. The smaller man gasped and threw his head back, eyes squeezed shut, parting his thighs further to give easier access to the American. Tucker sighed appreciatively: "Oh Malcolm, your trust is such a beautiful gift and I shall cherish it always."

Tucker was gentle, taking time and trouble with his lover and ensuring that he was comfortable and in no pain. The soft cries and moans Malcolm was making, though, convinced him that his ministrations were more than acceptable and, afterwards, they lay together in the hay, still joined for a time, and whispering words of mutual love.

When, at last, they parted, Malcolm kissed Trip goodbye at the stable door and his heart was warmed. As he set off towards the house, he heard his name and turned back to gaze at his lover "Trip! The water. I'm afraid of drowning."

Two nights later, they were returning from their moonlit excursion via a wooded lane leading to the mansion. Without warning, their mount reared up, almost throwing his riders. Tucker swore rather coarsely but Malcolm hushed him and dismounted to calm the horse, listening intently as he did so.

Suddenly, five ruffians burst out of the undergrowth, brandishing sticks and knives, and addressed Tucker. "Hand over your valuables, stranger! A man on a fine beast like this, riding pillion with his groom and bound for the lair of that viper, Leicester, must be worth a few gold coins!"

Tucker held out his hands. "My apologies, friend. I ride only by the charity of my patron. I myself have nothing of value."

One of the men stepped forward and swung at the engineer with his stick, catching him off balance and knocking him from his mount. "Liar!

As the gang closed in, Malcolm sprang to defend him, fighting bravely, giving Tucker time to right himself and join in the fray.

When the gang had been beaten back sufficiently to let them re-mount, Malcolm rode them away at speed, leaving their attackers dazed and confused.

It was well past daybreak when they arrived home and Tucker took his leave of his beloved with haste, quickly thanking him for his valour then sprinting towards the mansion to arrive before his absence was discovered.

The day passed, like those before it, with the engineer snatching a nap here and there and being courted by his host and hostess, who forced him into the company of their daughter, Madeline, as often as propriety would allow. He smiled and made polite conversation but Malcolm's words haunted him at every turn: "We all have to decide what's most important, sir. What we are or what others would have us be."

Early in the evening, Tucker excused himself, pleading a headache, and made his way to the stable yard, troubled in mind and much in need of a sympathetic listener. Both horses were in their stalls, recently fed and watered, but Malcolm was nowhere to be seen. He waited for a time—then an icy chill of foreboding enveloped him as his eyes caught a fresh stain on the floor and recognised it as blood. "Malcolm! Malcolm where are you?"

There was no reply, but a movement above him in the hayloft had him swiftly climbing the wooden stairs to the upper floor. Curled amid the bales of fodder lay the groom, his face deathly pale and glossy with sweat and a large, dark stain clearly visible on the front of his white linen shirt.

He blinked up at Tucker then, recognising him, tried to rise "No! Be still, Malcolm. Let me look at you."

Tucker dropped to his knees and opened the shirt to reveal a makeshift bandage covering a deep gash in his friend's side "Oh, dear God! You were hurt in the brawl and I never even thought…We must get you to the house and call for a physician. Here, hold on to me."

Immediately, Malcolm began to struggle "No! No, you mustn't. I am not welcome there and to be seen with me would damage your own reputation."

Tucker swept on regardless. "Hang my reputation! Come on!"

The maid was coming out of the kitchen as the two men stumbled into the house. Tucker called to her: "Annie! My friend is hurt and needs help. Does the master have his own physician?"

The girl blanched as she saw Malcolm, barely conscious and being supported by the American visitor. "Yes sir, but Dr Phlox has gone to confer with colleagues at the university in York and shan't return for over a week."

Malcolm gave a soft moan and Tucker hoisted him in his arms,—just as the drawing room door opened and Lord Leicester walked out, followed by his wife and daughter. They froze as they saw their guest's companion, then the older man's face turned scarlet with rage. "How dare you abuse my hospitality by bringing this worthless creature into my house? Get him out of here at once—and you, girl. Don't you have work to do?"

Bobbing a demure curtsey, Annie took to her heels and scurried off in the direction of the kitchen.

The engineer was aware that his mouth was hanging open and he took a moment to compose himself before speaking "Sir, I apologise if I have offended you. However, my friend here is badly hurt and I…"

His lordship's daughter, who had remained silent until then, looked aghast and turned to him. "Father! Did you hear him? They are not merely strangers but friends! I cannot contemplate marrying a man who would consort with a coward who tarnishes your good name. We must be rid of him. Now!"

Furious, her mother stepped forward: "Well said, my girl! It would be best if you left right away, Mr Tucker. I'll have your belongings, such as they are, sent on to you when you find new accommodation."

Malcolm was aware enough to realise what was happening and struggled free of his lover's grasp, swaying as he took a few wobbly steps towards the indignant noblewoman. "No! You must not cast Mr Tucker aside because of me. His only desire was to seek help for my injury, finding me bleeding in the stable. He does not deserve your condemnation!"

The words had barely left him when Malcolm's knees buckled and Tucker darted forward to prevent him from falling. "Malcolm, my love! Oh, dear God, help us!"

Lord Leicester needed no further encouragement and stormed to the front door, throwing it wide on its hinges. "Get out, both of you! You, Mr Tucker, are a disgrace and I would rather die than dignify you with my patronage. It would be best if you returned to your homeland, for I will see to it that you never find work in this county!"

Stunned, the engineer scooped the now unconscious Malcolm into his arms and stumbled out into the dusk, the heavy oak door slamming behind him. He was just entering the leafy cover of the driveway when a soft voice issued from the bushes "Sir! Sir, its me, Annie. Come aside, if you will."

Stepping towards her, Tucker was surprised to see that she stood with a tall, gangly youth who was leading a large plough horse on a rein. "Sir, this is Joss—my intended—who works on the estate's home farm. His father's brother is a monk at the abbey over the river and he believes the order will take you in and tend to Master Malcolm. Maggie here will carry you both with ease and Joss will bring her home when you are safe."

The American nodded dumbly at the girl then, with Joss' help, lifted Malcolm onto the mare's back and got up behind him. "Annie, why are you both doing this? If Lord Leicester finds out, he may dismiss you from his service."

The girl was walking beside them as Joss led his beast through the trees and out onto the lane where it was hidden from the house. "Master Malcolm has suffered much over many years but he always was kind to Joss and me when we came here as children. He taught Joss how to work with carriage horses and drive them, so that he will be able to get a job elsewhere and we may leave here soon and be married. Lord Leicester did not approve of our betrothal."

Tucker snorted. "It seems that Lord Leicester does not approve of much. We are deeply in your debt, Annie, and yours, Joss. May God bless your marriage. You deserve it."


The porter at the abbey gatehouse welcomed them then ran to fetch Brother Benedict, who was responsible for running the monks' infirmary. Malcolm was given a bed in a quiet guest room, adjacent to the main ward, and the brother busied himself with cleaning and binding his wound as best he could.

When he was finished, he led the American aside for a moment. "His wound is deep and infected and I have no means of drawing out the poison. The brother who made our medicaments was old and died this past winter. We have been unable to replace him and find ourselves wanting for medicines. However, there is a herb-wife in the town who has skill in making remedies for many ills and is also gifted with a healing touch. It is even rumoured that she can help mend broken hearts! I will send a messenger to fetch her but I fear she may come too late."

Devastated, Tucker settled himself on the floor, so that his face was level with his lover's. "Dearest Malcolm, my brave defender, don't give up. Stay with me, for my sake if not your own, for I love you and will be a lost man if you should leave."

Opening eyes bright with fever, Malcolm gazed anxiously at Tucker. "Oh Trip, forgive me for ruining your life and the future you thought awaited you here."

Tucker shook his head "My life will never be ruined if I have you at my side. Lord Leicester will soon forget us and we will make a new life for ourselves elsewhere."

Malcolm looked increasingly distressed. "He will never forget! The moment you allied yourself with me you drank from a poisoned chalice. Oh God, how could I have been so selfish as to fall in love with you! It will be better for you if I die, then perhaps he will let go of his hatred."

Gently, the engineer smoothed back his lover's hair. "Hush Malcolm, you speak as a sick man! You must not talk of dying. How can you know what he will do?"

The groom reached up a trembling hand and, smiling, gently caressed the engineer's face "I know, my love, because he is my father."

Running footsteps on the cobbles below the window heralded the return of the messenger, closely followed by those of Mistress Ride, the healer.

Mistress Ride was a woman who turned heads wherever she went. She was fair of face, her head haloed with tumbling yellow curls, and had a figure well blessed with curves that earned her many admiring glances. Unlike most women of her day, she was self-assured in the company of the opposite sex and saw through their fawning flattery. She was the town's unofficial apothecary, though those who were superstitious also believed her to be capable of using magic to cure her patients ills, and a source of wise counsel to those in need.

Eyes decorously lowered, Brother Benedict ushered the woman into the room then, at her request, hurried off to fetch hot water, leaving her alone with the two men.

Still stunned from Malcolm's revelation, Tucker watched as she opened a cloth bundle she had been carrying and laid an assortment of small implements, jars and bottles on the table by the window. In another bundle, within the first, was a large roll of clean linen. She stole a quick glance at her patient then studied Tucker's worried frown before addressing him: "I will need you to help, sir. Please remove his shirt then hold him still while I work."

Doing as she asked, Tucker then knelt by the bed and slipped his arm under Malcolm's shoulders, grasping him firmly and settling the injured man's face next to his own. "Be strong, Malcolm. I am unchanged in my feelings and will love you forever, no matter what the future holds."

Mistress Ride worked quickly and efficiently, cleaning the wound before coating a linen pad with a pungent paste of some sort, which she had first warmed in a bowl over boiling water, and binding it firmly in place with a bandage. Finally, she poured a measure of thick, clear liquid into a glass and gently held it to her patient's lips. "Drink this, Master Malcolm. It will ease your pain and help you to rest. I have poulticed your wound, and will do so again tomorrow, but you should sleep now, to aid your healing."

Her potion was effective within moments and, as the groom's grey eyes began to close, she turned her attention to Tucker—kneeling by his lover's bedside and watching him drift off to sleep. "Sir, you too should rest. I will watch over him and wake you, should he falter in the night."

Tucker got to his feet and began to pace. "Madam, you are very kind but I cannot rest while his life is in danger."

Mistress Ride smiled approvingly and settled herself on a stool near the bed, tucking her skirts demurely around her. "He is fortunate now to be so loved, after a lifetime of being despised by his family."

The engineer stopped in his tracks. "How…how do you know this?"

In his sleep, Malcolm murmured something unintelligible and the woman reached forward to wipe his face with a cool, damp cloth. "You speak openly to him of your love and his past is no secret. Most of the townsfolk are employed by his father in some capacity, and have been for many years. They knew Master Malcolm as a child and heard of his banishment when Admiral Reed—or Lord Leicester, as he became - learned of his fear of the sea and realised his boy would never follow him into the Royal Navy.

"He was sent, by his father, to study in the Abbey school and learn to master his feelings, but the fear was too strong to overcome. He was shy, and small for his age, and the older boys treated him harshly, so he sought to learn how to defend himself. He became interested in how others fought too, reading of historical battles and weapons until the gentle brothers despaired!

"His tutors discovered, to their dismay, that he has a quick mind and an aptitude for inventing and building various devices with warlike applications. It was thought that he might yet satisfy the Admiral by finding work supplying Naval ordnance, without actually joining the service. His father would not hear of it though, and was dismissive of his skill, continuing to berate him for failing to uphold his family's seafaring tradition.

"At the Abbey, it became apparent that he has some rapport with horses—so Father Abbot persuaded Lord Leicester to give him work as a groom, hoping that the rift between them might eventually be mended. His father is stubborn, though, and will not yield up his anger, so Master Malcolm has long slaved for a pittance and lived, forgotten, in a stable because he is unable to do his will."

His pacing temporarily stilled by his curiosity, the American drew up a stool and sat opposite the herb-wife. "Why did he stay? Surely he could have found employment beyond Whitby?"

The woman shook her head and fair curls tumbled forward onto her face. "Oh no, Sir. Lord Leicester's reach is long and his hatred travels far. In addition, Master Malcolm still yearns for his approval, condemning himself rather than denouncing his lordship as the tyrant he undoubtedly is. He holds the key to his own prison."

Throughout that night, Malcolm's fever worsened as Mistress Ride's medicine fought the infection in his blood. He cried out in his delirium, seeing monsters and devils from his imagination take on flesh and pursue him. Tucker sat on the bed, holding him in his arms and trying to reassure him. "Fear not, Malcolm, my beloved. The things you see are but imaginings and will fade. I am here and will let no harm come to you."

In a brief moment of lucidity, the sick man glanced around the room and his gaze fell upon the herb-wife. She smiled at him and offered a cup of water. "Here, Master Malcolm. You must drink to replace your sweat or all my work will be for nought."

Tucker took the cup and helped him to drain it, noticing that the feverish grey eyes were still fixed upon Mistress Ride. "What's wrong, my love? This good woman is here to help you."

To his surprise, Malcolm reached out a trembling hand towards her and she moved forward to take it. When he spoke, his voice was breathy, barely audible, and strained: "Mistress Ride, you do me great kindness by tending me, a Reed, after all you and yours have suffered at my father's hand. I regret I have nothing to offer you in recompense or payment but my heartfelt sorrow and thanks."

The woman cradled his hand in both of hers: "No payment is needed, nor is any guilt for your father's wrongdoings. We were children together, and playmates until he sent you to the Abbey. I know you for an innocent, kindly soul, Malcolm Reed, and a man of integrity and truth."

Malcolm smiled and closed his eyes, relieved by her absolution, then his hand slipped from hers as delirium re-claimed him.

The fever broke with the dawn and Tucker helped Mistress Ride to wash Malcolm's sweat-drenched body, re-dress his wound and attire him in a linen nightshirt provided by the monks. He sat in a chair, the now- sleeping groom cradled in his lap, while Brother Benedict and the herb wife changed his bedding, then he gently replaced him on the bed and drew the covers over him.

When he turned, only Mistress Ride remained in the room: "Sir, I must be going now. My children are still young, and my husband is away seeking work, so I left them with a neighbour. I will return this evening, to see how Malcolm does, but you must send for me immediately if anything seems amiss."

Tucker frowned "Your husband has no living?"

Halfway out of the door, she turned back and smiled. "He was a boat builder and dared to cross Lord Leicester when he dismissed one of the other workers for requesting more pay when his second child was born. Now neither of them can get work in the county. They are both in Northumberland at present, hoping to get a few months labour on a farm so they can send home some money."

The American was horrified "But how do you survive?"

"Rich man and poor man alike require my potions. One need pay me, the other need not. It's a meagre existence, but better times will come. I have seen it in my dreams."

The following night, Annie and Joss crept down from the mansion, bringing with them Tucker's sparse luggage and the few belongings Malcolm had hidden in the hayloft. Nobody had seen fit to enlighten Lord and Lady Leicester of their son's whereabouts, lest it should bring ill to those who harboured him, but nor had the couple enquired after his well-being.

Joss was his usual taciturn self, sitting by the bed and watching Malcolm's painful breathing as if afraid it might suddenly stop, but Annie tried to distract the sick man with local gossip: "Oh Malcolm, if only you'd been there to see the excitement this evening! The American ship berthed at the quayside as usual but, this time, one of the voyagers was a man as dark as night and SO handsome that I almost swooned!"

Her story seemed to rouse Joss to speech: "Aye, dark he was but nowt like as handsome as our own Whitby lads. His travelling companion was worth a glance though: a grand lady, of great beauty, wearing rich robes and a cowl of golden cloth."

Annie shot him a sour look before continuing: "And her tirewoman seemed like she'd stepped out of one of those oriental paintings in your father's drawing room—so delicate looking that I was feared she'd break. Another man disembarked a good while after them, but they met up on the quayside then rode away together in a carriage. The townsfolk are beside themselves with curiosity!"

Joss grinned at Annie "Aye, and that's the pot calling the kettle black! Come on with you, lass. Malcolm's suffered us long enough and Cook will be looking for you to set the fire for the morrow." He stood and took her hand as she said her own farewells. "Goodnight to you both. God be with you."

Just after 10 o'clock the morning after next, Mistress Ride arrived as usual—but not alone. The engineer, still completely focused on Malcolm, did not notice the man following a few steps behind her until he spoke. "Well, well, Trip Tucker. You're a hard man to find. How did you manage to so grossly offend His Lordship in so short a time in England?"

Tucker's head shot up: "Jonathan! What are YOU doing here?"

His countryman laughed and hugged him. "I'm looking for you. The Lord and Lady said you were no longer with them and that they wanted no more to do with you. It seems you made quite an impression on them! Their little maid wasn't quite so hostile, however, and gladly told me where I should look. How fares your friend?"

The engineer gazed fondly at Malcolm, who was still sleeping deeply - thanks to another hefty doze of Mistress Ride's medicine. "Better than I dared hope, thanks to this good woman." His voice suddenly caught in his throat: "For a time, I thought I should lose him. But he's stronger than he looks and has a will of iron."

Mistress Ride had finished unpacking her supplies and politely interrupted: "Mr Tucker, forgive me, but I need you to hold him upright again while I tend him."

Tucker smiled at her "Why yes, of course. Jonathan, would you wait outside for a spell, while we see to him? He is a private soul and somewhat shy."

As Mistress Ride was leaving, she cheerfully ushered the man back into the room. Malcolm was awake and sitting up, supported by his lover and wrapped in a woollen shawl, kindly provided by the healer's mother. It was obvious from the way Tucker cradled and watched over the convalescent that he was extremely precious to him and the man's dark head rested on his shoulder in a way that spoke of trust and intimacy.

The engineer beamed up at his friend "Jonathan, I'm happy to introduce you to Malcolm Reed, my cherished friend and lover, who saved my life at risk to his own. Malcolm, this is Jonathan Archer, a dear friend for over nine years, whose father taught me all I know about engines."

A little shakily, Malcolm reached up and shook Archer's offered hand. "Its my pleasure to meet you Jonathan. Please sit down and be easy. Trip says you came over the ocean looking especially for him. That's friendship indeed!"

Archer laughed. "Ah, but I have an ulterior motive! Trip, since you and I last saw each other, I've been attempting to fulfil my lifelong dream of exploring strange new worlds. Alas, relying on other, not so adventurous, people to convey me to my destinations has prevented me from fully achieving that end. I am wealthy as a result of my discoveries but no nearer to becoming the pioneering explorer I long to be.

"My father also had a dream, and that was to build me a ship which would enable me to go boldly where no man has gone before—speedily and without being reliant only on the wind for power. He designed an engine specifically for this purpose but, sadly, he died before it could be built and tested."

He turned to Tucker: "You were his apprentice, Trip, and there's nobody else I'd trust to build his engine and help to make me the ship I desire. I sought you out to ask if you would do this thing for me and for my father's memory. I will pay you well, so that you and Malcolm may live out your lives as rich men, by the time the job is done. What do you say? Will you do it?"

Tucker's eyes were wide in disbelief that his response could be in any doubt! "Do it? Yes! A thousand times yes!" He turned to his lover and kissed him on the lips. "Oh Malcolm, you can have the comfort you have been denied all of your life and need never again do a thankless task for anyone. Isn't that wonderful?"

Malcolm was smiling up at him but, when he spoke, it was to Archer. "Jonathan, your offer will save us great hardship but may I ask you something on behalf of others who have not been so fortunate? Will you build the ship locally and give work to the people of Whitby? Lord Leicester has a shipyard here and is known for the foul treatment of his labourers. If you set up a rival yard, they would have an alternative to his employment and, when you are done here, they could run the yard on your behalf—Mistress Ride could spread the word and find you a workforce in no time! I am certain it would flourish, because your ships will have engines, whilst his lordship's will not."

Trip was gazing at him adoringly now. "Malcolm! What a fine notion! Jonathan—will you agree to this? Pay me only enough to keep Malcolm and myself fed, housed and clothed and use the rest to build up a business. It would be a fitting memorial to your father."

Laughing at their enthusiasm, Archer stood and strode to the window, from where he could view the rugged coastline, pounded by the relentless waves. "I agree! Mr Tucker, Mr Reed, we have a deal. I will give alms to the brothers for your keep then take you both with me to our accommodation at the inn at Robin Hood's Bay. There you may meet my wife, T'pol, and her maid Hoshi—both of whom I met on my journeys—and Hoshi's husband, Travis Mayweather, a talented young helmsman and navigator who has accompanied me on many a voyage. I will send a carriage each day to fetch the redoubtable Mistress Ride, so that she may continue to tend Malcolm and also do some plotting with us!"

Archer was as good as his word. Initial plans were made around Malcolm's bed: Mistress Ride mounted a one-woman recruitment campaign, Trip and Jonathan interviewed skilled shipbuilders and Travis signed up those who wished to provide unskilled labour.

A shipyard was set up, not far from Robin Hood's Bay, with manufacturing workshops a little way down the coast, and, before long, Lord Leicester's workforce had defected en masse to the much better conditions of Jonathan Archer's employ.

Trip, Archer and Malcolm—once he was well enough—worked together on building Henry Archer's engine, Tucker making improvements and modifications along the way. T'Pol, Travis and Hoshi saw to the administration of the mammoth project, sourcing supplies and paying the workers.

Even Joss and Annie resigned from their jobs at the mansion and threw in their lot with Archer—Joss transporting both goods and men between yard and workshops and Annie being apprenticed to Mistress Ride, who concentrated her efforts on producing the large quantity of medicines that would need to be available for the crew on the ship's long voyage of discovery and teaching the girl the rudiments of caring for the sick and injured.

Jonathan Archer was extremely impressed at the way Malcolm worked with Trip, increasing his engineering knowledge as he went along and patiently finding solutions to problems that had Tucker fuming and ranting! He was a good influence on the hotheaded engineer and also contributed an eminently sensible plan to install weaponry that would allow the ship to defend herself, should the need arise.

Archer was particularly taken with Malcolm's quiet concern for the people of Whitby and saw to it that legal documentation was drawn up and finalised so that, when he and his entourage had moved on, the business would be gifted to, and run by and for the benefit of, the townsfolk themselves.

Lord Leicester was forced to close his own shipyard, unable to find employees locally and unwilling to pay well enough to attract some from further afield. He had to sell his mansion to pay off creditors, and eventually, he and his family were left living in a small villa in the town, without servants or transport, having to content themselves with watching their nemesis from afar and wishing him ill.

At last, the great day arrived. The ship, now christened "Spirit of Enterprise" was ready to go and her crew, including the newly married Annie and Joss, were mostly aboard. The quayside was packed with well wishers, including Mistress Ride, with her husband and children beside her.

The day was fine, but the ship would surely not need to hoist her sails—as there was nary a breeze and the sea was flat calm.

"Calm", however, would not have described Malcolm that morning. Since the previous night, he had been sick and shaking with nerves until Tucker despaired. "My love, don't take on so. Jonathan knows how you feel and is agreeable to acting as engineer himself if need be. I'll go down make sure that all is well with the engine and cannons then return here to you. Have I not promised that, no matter where you are, there I will be too?"

Prowling their living room like a caged animal, Malcolm turned wide and frightened eyes upon his lover. "No! I can do this. I WILL do this, if you are with me. Quickly, let us leave before my resolve deserts me."

Arriving at the quayside, Malcolm froze, suddenly recognising his parents and sister among the crowd. "Trip! Oh, Trip, he's come to see me make a fool of myself. He knows I've never been able to set foot on a ship!"

Trip continued walking and put a comforting arm around his waist "Malcolm. He is nothing to you now. Come, let us venture."

Malcolm, however, seemed to have turned to stone. He had glimpsed between the slats of wood on the gangplank and now stood rigid and ashen at its base, staring into the deep darkness of the water between the ship and the quay.

At the top of the gangplank, Travis appeared then ran down towards them "Trip! Jonathan's found a problem in the engine room. Can you go to him quickly? We must make haste or we'll miss the tide."

Tucker turned to his lover, not even sure if he was hearing him. "Wait here, dearest Malcolm. I'll be back for you in a few minutes".

Malcolm remained motionless as the engineer hoisted their baggage and hurried after the helmsman, only snapping out of his reverie when his father spoke sharply at his side. "Well, boy, here you are at the foot of the gangplank. Isn't this when you run away and hide? What makes you think a snivelling wreck like you can be an explorer when you couldn't even be an ordinary seaman? Why try to fool yourself? You've never been good for anything except mucking out the stables!"

On board the ship, Malcolm could see crewmembers rushing around, making ready for departure. Bells were ringing and orders were being shouted but, although the engine was now throbbing steadily, there was still no sign of Trip.

Madeline and Lady Leicester were approaching him too now, and he struggled to convince himself that he was in control of his rising fear. Madeline saw it though, and sneered at him as she recognised the telltale signs of panic etched on his face. "Well, brother, some things cannot be changed, and it seems your vulgar American has deserted you now, as he did me beforehand."

She was looking over his shoulder and he turned to follow her gaze, horror-stricken to see the gangplank being stowed aboard ship and the mooring ropes being untied as the vessel began to manoeuvre away from the quay, accompanied by the applause of the crowd.

Malcolm's legs turned to jelly beneath him but a gentle arm steadied him, just as he saw Trip appear on deck, shouting his name and trying to get someone to realise that Malcolm had been left behind.

He heard Mistress Ride's voice in his ear: "Listen to me, Malcolm. Fix your eyes on your beloved and concentrate on my words."

She began reciting what almost seemed like poetry but was in a language completely unknown to Malcolm. He frowned, wondering how he might concentrate on what he could not understand, but the cadence of her voice was soothing and suddenly, as he focused on Trip, he felt a rush of power and certainty course through his very being. He turned to her and saw she was smiling "Go now, Malcolm. His heart for you is true and love conquers all."

He glanced into the black depths of the sea, realising that one of the mooring ropes was still to be hauled aboard, then turned back to Mistress Ride. "Farewell and God bless you, Madam. I will remember you always." With that, he kissed her soundly then—to the astonishment of his family and the cheers of the crowd—launched himself into the water and grasped the rope.

Breathless with fear for his lover, Tucker somehow managed to get to the other end and start pulling for all he was worth. Joss and Annie had seen his predicament and were soon at his side to help as he hauled a spluttering, shivering Malcolm aboard and enveloped him in a bone-crushing embrace. "Oh Malcolm. My love, I thought I had lost you forever! You were magnificent! I'm so proud of you!"

Malcolm looked up at Trip for a moment, then smiled—that same warm, wide, engaging smile which had so enchanted Tucker at their first meeting. "It was Mistress Ride! She spoke of your love and cast a spell on me—I know it! When I saw you waiting for me, I suddenly felt invincible!" He stole a quick peek over the side of the ship and shuddered. "Just don't let me think too much about where I am right now!"

Both men peered back at the waving, excited crowds on the receding quayside and finally picked out the healer, with her halo of yellow curls, and waved back at her, shouting their thanks and blessings until she, and the land, faded from their sight.

They were far out to sea as darkness fell that night and Malcolm stood with Trip at the bow of the ship, looking ahead into their future. He sighed contentedly, leaning back against his lover's warmth and feeling his arms enfolding him. "These are the voyages of the 'Spirit of Enterprise'. Her ongoing mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilisations. To boldly go where no-one has gone before…"

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