Title: Water, Ice, Snow

Author: Kylie Lee

Author's E-mail: kylielee1000@hotmail.com

Author's URL: http://www.geocities.com/kylielee1000/


Length: ~7100 words

Fandom: Star Trek Enterprise

Pairing: Archer/Reed

Type: M/M slash

Rating: NC-17. Because I write nothing else.

Status: Complete

Feedback: Yes

Series/sequel: No

Archive: Where posted (Allslash, Archer's Enterprise, ASC*, Complete Kingdom of Slash, EntSTSlash, ReedsArcheryRange, ReedsArmory), and BLTS, Tim Ruben, and Luminosity.

Disclaimer: Original material copyright 2003 Kylie Lee. This is not an attempt to infringe on Paramount's copyright. No money was made.

Spoilers: General season 3 Xindi-ness

Warning: Deathfic

Summary: Sacrifice. Submission.

Beta: TheGrrrl and Sarah, rockin' in their beta-y goodness

Comment: My offering for Drown Malcolm Reed month. Just under the wire, as usual. In memoriam Kellie Waymire. I live in the northeast United States. The ice breaks and flips over in big chunks. People make bets about the day of the "ice out." Allusions to Kageygirl's wonderful "Breathe" (http://www.kageygirl.com/entfic/breathe.shtml) are strictly intentional.

The alien had eyes like a cat: they reflected light behind the iris, green and flashing before resolving to amber.

"Insectoid Xindi," she said. She had horn-tipped fingers, sharp and hard. They were painted bloodred.

"Insectoid?" Archer asked doubtfully. "We haven't seen them before."

The alien nodded, a quick tilt of the head to the side. "They are the worst, in my opinion," she said. Her UT stuttered and hissed as it translated the quick, liquid syllables. "They have no feeling. They are artisans of devices of destruction. It will be a pleasure to take you to them."

Reed leaned forward. It was hard to hear over the sound of the crowded bar. "What do you want?"

The alien smiled. One of her claws gently caressed the pommel of a knife in its holster, strapped to her forearm. She wore one on each arm. They looked ceremonial. "What have you got?"

Reed shrugged and looked at Tucker. He could feel Archer's body next to his, tense, eager. So close. So close.

"Do you want art or tech?" Tucker asked. "We've got plays, literature, music." They'd discovered that some races valued things that were easy for them to give away: Bach, for instance, or heavily rhyming poetry.

"Tech." The UT clacked.

Tucker was all business. "Plasma."

"No. Replicator tech."

Reed cut in. "We don't have replicator tech. The closest thing we have transporter tech, but it's insufficiently tested with living matter. Nonliving cargo only."

The aliens eyes flipped green, then back to amber as her eyes focused on him. "A unit?"

Archer leaned forward. "Specs. We only have one unit, and it's damaged." Reed had to admire Archer: he was lying through his teeth, and he even sounded regretful. "It works well enough to arrange a short-range demonstration."

"If the demonstration is acceptable, specs. It's a pending deal."

Archer stood up. "Come to the ship now. If we make a deal, we set out tonight." He leaned close to Reed. "Assign a bug expert to the away team." Archer clapped a hand on Tucker's shoulder as the alien stood. "Let's go."


"Bugger." Reed pulled the blanket over his head and blew on his hands. He had fashioned mittens for both of them out of one of the blankets using a small cauterizing torch he'd found in what appeared to be a first aid kit, but of course he couldn't wear them to repair the pod because he needed the use of his fingers.


Reed peeked out of the blanket. "I feel we're very lucky to be so well equipped, sir," he said. "Food, water, blankets, tools, first aid kit." He viciously kicked the pod. "Very lucky indeed."

"We should go inside and get warm."

Reed shook his head. "We won't want to come back out, plus it won't stay warm for long without the power."

Archer peered up at the sky. "It doesn't seem to be getting dark," he said. "I guess that's good. It won't get any colder." He tugged at the fabric around his neck: Archer had cut a hole in the middle of a blanket and was wearing it like a poncho.

"I think we're very far north," Reed said. "The land of perpetual summer. We're in the North Pole." He sighed. "All right, then." He flexed his slightly warmed fingers and grabbed the tool he'd been using. "I think this is the connection to the power supply," he said, gesturing, as Archer came close to see what he was doing. "See, here? This line has ruptured."

"I'm surprised a species this advanced uses liquid fuel," Archer mused.

"It seems a very energy-efficient liquid fuel," Reed said. His face was numb; he could barely talk. His hands shook as he applied the tool to the breach, trying to fill in the rupture without backfilling the channel used to run the fuel. "Bugger!" he said again, jerking back abruptly as he lost control. A rain of sparks flew from the tool and skittered against the side of the pod, and more bounced on the ground.

"Malcolm!" Archer yelled.

"Whoops," Reed said as the sparks danced, and a second later, Archer tackled him.

They rolled on the ground as the fuel that had spilled in the crash ignited with a dull foom. Reed felt the force of the heat like a blow across his back.

"The pod," he yelled into the snow. Archer lay across him, shielding him.

"God damn it," Archer swore. Reed felt Archer shift. "It hasn't spread to the other side yet. I'm going in to get supplies. I'll toss them outside. You stay out here and grab them. We'll have to make for those caves."

Before Reed could accept or reject the plan, Archer was gone. Reed rolled to his knees and pushed himself up. Archer had already disappeared from sight.

"Bugger," Reed said again, but his heart wasn't in it.


"You wanted to see me?"

Reed looked around as Elizabeth Cutler entered the armory. "Yes, Crewman, thank you," he said, setting down his scanner. "Did you see the alien on her way to the cargo bay?"

Cutler nodded. "Yes, sir," she confirmed. "Kind of scary-looking, isn't she? With those teeth and claws."

"She's viewing the transporter device. We're trading its specs. She's going to take us to insectoid Xindi."

"Insectoid?" Cutler sounded surprised.

"That's where you come in," Reed said. "The captain and I are going with the alien to check it out. The captain asked that I assign an expert in insects to the away team, and that would be you."

"Well, sir, I have to say, I'm intrigued the by the idea of an intelligent insect species," Cutler said. "I'm getting curious about the Xindi, though. How many species are there?"

Reed shrugged. "I think they were engineered to live in various ecological niches," he said. "I asked Doctor Phlox about it, and he said it's very unlikely that a single planet could generate that many kinds of intelligent life."

"What do you need me to do?" Cutler asked.

"We leave tonight, assuming the trade works out. Pack light. Your knowledge of insects is the important thing on this mission. You will probably have helpful insights into their behavior, their life cycle—things like that."

"Yes, sir." Cutler's eyes met his, level and competent.

Reed nodded. She would do. "I'll page you when we're ready to leave," he said. "Dismissed."


"We're stopping," Archer said.

Reed stopped walking. His legs still felt as if he continued on, never stopping. The sun was still overhead, where it always was. It foreshortened the shadows and made it seem like they never moved. They had walked for hours and hours and hours and hadn't moved. He knew if he turned around, the pod would be right there, and a kilometer or so off would be the small mound of the grave. So he didn't turn around.

"You were an Eagle Scout," Archer continued. "Did you ever do winter survival?"

"Yes," Reed said wearily. "We don't have a tent."

"We have blankets." Archer shrugged of his pack and then helped Reed's off. He clumsily unfastened the large tabs that held it closed. They were made with something like Velcro meant to be easily ripped open with the flick of a powerful claw. Human fingers had to pull hard to release the tabs. Archer unwrapped several blankets. He spread two on the ground and lay down. "Come here, Malcolm," he ordered. "Get a ration bar for each of us. We'll tuck in and eat, and then we'll sleep."

"Right," Reed said. He knew they had to keep warm. It would be better to lie without clothes on, but they weren't going to risk taking their clothes off without shelter. He handed Archer two ration bars as Archer ripped open some more packages of blankets. Before he lay down next to Archer, he excused himself and urinated a meter or so away from their campsite, making it as fast as he could. When he returned, he ran a line through the straps of the backpacks and tied the free end to his ankle, fingers clumsy. The terrain had leveled off from the crash site, flat and smooth as far as the eye could see. The mountains in the distance didn't look much closer. Reed still had the homing device in his pocket, and they both had their communicators. They just had to give *Enterprise* a chance to figure out something was wrong. That could take a few days.

Archer flung a double layer of blanket over them, and they lay close together, face to face, the blanket over them barely cutting the sun overhead, nibbling at the ration bars and sharing little sips from the canteen. The ice and snow on the planet were clean, so they wouldn't die of thirst, but without even discussing it, they were rationing the food. Reed had to breathe through his mouth because of the stench of the blood on their clothes. It perfectly complemented the hideous taste of the ration bars. As he lay there, his sweat dried and he tried hard not to shiver. Feeling slowly returned to his legs. His feet got cold, and he wiggled his toes, trying to warm them.

"Ready?" Archer asked when Reed had stowed their wrappers.

"Ready," Reed said.

He was prepared for it, but his heart still raced a little when Archer took him in his arms. They made themselves comfortable, their knees bumping together. Archer tucked the blanket in firmly underneath their bodies, sealing them in. Reed rested his head on Archer's arm.

"Relax, Lieutenant," Archer said after a minute.

"Yes, sir," Reed said, making a conscious effort to do so. He knew Archer had called him "lieutenant" to create a distance between them, and he appreciated it. Survival, he told himself.

"That's better," Archer said drowsily. "Good night."

"Good night, sir."


Sudden wariness in Elizabeth Cutler's voice made Reed turn. Her eyes met his before they flicked down to meet the alien's.

"The coordinates," Cutler repeated, more sharply.

"I assure you," the alien said. The UT trailed off into clacks. She jerked her head sharply to one side. "We have a deal. Let me tell you about the art of the deal."

"I think we deserve an explanation," Archer said. "We're not following the flight plan you gave us."

*Enterprise* had the flight plan logged. *Enterprise* was their backup. Reed felt a prickle of uneasiness. He touched his phase-pistol.

"A simple change in route. The final destination remains the same."

"I don't think that's the case," Cutler said.

"No," Reed said, rising. "The art of the deal." He pointed. A ship, its configuration unfamiliar to Reed, headed toward them. "Call it the art of the double-cross."

"Double-cross," the alien repeated. "The insectoid Xindi build a weapon. They wish a human. The body data they acquired from scans were insufficient." The UT popped. "They offer replicator tech." She slammed her hand down on a red convex panel in front of her. Reed felt his stomach plummet as they dropped out of warp. "We're here. Insectoid Xindi will take you now."

"No!" Cutler yelled as the alien reached for the com. "God damn it! No!"


He woke up, wonderfully warm. His lips curved in a smile when he saw the captain, deeply asleep, mouth open. The air was oppressive and close, and it seemed dark in a way it hadn't been when they had fallen asleep. Maybe they weren't really far north. Maybe the days were just really long, and dusk had finally fallen. He touched the blanket, and it seemed heavy. It had snowed on top of them. That's why they were so warm. It was insulating them.

He sighed, a soft exhalation of breath. He could smell the captain: he smelled of blood, sweat, and breath, with a scent of burned plastic just underneath, from his brief foray into the pod after it had caught fire. His body stirred. He knew part of his reaction was likely lack of oxygen—he really should poke at the blanket and let in a little bit of fresh air—but most of it was simply the result of the captain himself, so near.

Reed studied the captain in the half-light: the fan of his eyelashes against his cheeks; his faint stubble; the line of his jaw; the way his hair swept back from his high forehead. He looked gentler in sleep than he did awake. His lips were a little chapped from the exposure to the cold, although they had both put on some clear gel they'd found in the first aid kit before they'd set out yesterday. Reed reached out and gently touched the captain's lips. The skin felt slightly papery.

"Mmm," Archer murmured. His eyes opened. He looked at Reed, and Reed felt the warmth solidify in his abdomen.

"Shh," Reed whispered. He put his face close to the captain's. "Shh," he breathed. The warmth in his stomach spread to his groin as he gently touched his lips to the captain's. "Oh," he said in surprise, because it was excruciatingly sweet. His mouth touched the captain's again, and the captain's mouth opened a little. Reed tasted him, tongue against tongue. His hand slid around and came to rest in the tender hollow just behind Archer's ear. Time seemed to stop in the little space they'd created for themselves, the warmth riding up Reed's body, from his groin to his fingertips to his toes to the top of his head, languorous warmth that emanated from his mouth as he teased the captain's mouth with his own.

"No," Archer whispered when Reed looked at him. He brushed the backs of his fingers against Reed's face. His eyes were dark. "Don't stop. Malcolm."

"Jonathan," Reed said, kissing him again, kissing him forever. He pulled back only when they either had to stop or they had to increase the intensity.

Archer pulled him close and put one leg over both of Reed's. Reed could feel the heat of Archer's erection as if it were his own, hot between them. They'd conjured fire between them.

"Sleep," Archer said.

"Sleep," Reed agreed, giving him one last kiss, and he took Archer's hand in his and intertwined their fingers.

He exhaled, warm through, and fell asleep.


"Crewman!" Archer yelled.

Fast. It happened fast. The alien struck Cutler, and as Cutler fell back, she unsheathed the knife in the alien's shoulder holster. "No," Cutler repeated. "No." Before Reed could act, Cutler launched herself at the alien and plunged the knife into the alien's stomach. Cutler's body flung back like a doll under the force of the blow that followed. The horn-tipped hands left great gashes behind. Reed smelled the heavy iron scent of blood. Cutler's eyes stared, open and unseeing. She lay on the floor, mouth open. Her neck was partially severed.

There was a faint crackle as Archer shot her with his phase-pistol. It had no effect. "Back!" the alien yelled. The UT clacked. The alien's hands were bloodred, red with Cutler's blood. Her eyes glowed flat and green as she turned to look at Reed. One of her hands curled around the knife, but she did not attempt to draw it out. Her other hand reached toward the com.

"The art of the deal," Reed said bitterly as her eyes followed him.

"Jesus Christ," Archer said. He was across the small cabin in an instant. He knocked her hand away, then hit her in the face. Reed leaned down and grabbed the knife out of her stomach. It went in harder than he thought. He grunted as he pushed through tendons in her neck, gasping at the foul smell of the alien's blood. Her eyes flickered green, staring and open.

He finished what Cutler had started.


"Just there. Just ahead."

"I wish we had goggles."

"We don't."

"I can't tell the distance."

Reed bent his head. One foot stepped in front of the other, and he did it again, and again, a little amazed that he was still moving. He didn't notice the cold anymore. The beacon bumped against his knee, a leaden weight in his pocket. He kept his communicator in his mitten, in case Sato called. He had lost his sense of time long ago. There was absolutely no wind. The sun was still overhead. Everything was still, as if they were suspended in time and space.


Reed stumbled and stopped. He half-turned to Archer.


Puzzled, Reed tried to hear over the pounding of his own heart. There it was: a low groaning sound, gaining in intensity.

"What is it?" Reed asked. "Where is it coming from?"

"It's coming from everywhere." Archer turned in a little circle. "All around us."

A sound like a gunshot cracked through the air. Reed looked around frantically. "Have the Xindi found us?" he yelled over the groaning. "Are they shooting at us?"

"No." Archer pointed. "I think we're in trouble."

Reed saw it then: a crack in the landscape, moving toward them. "We're not on land," he said in sudden realization. "We're on water." Another crack sounded. "That's why it's so smooth."

"Run!" Archer yelled. "The caves! Run! We're almost there!"

Archer turned and started off at a shambling trot. Reed looked around stupidly. Water welled up from the fissures in the ice, slopping over the snow, hard and slick.


Archer grabbed the back of the alien's garment and pulled her carcass out of the pilot's chair. Her head was a meter away, where Reed had thrown it when he finished severing it. Blood gushed everywhere as the body hit the ground heavily. Archer gagged, bent over double, and vomited. "Oh, shit," Archer said, spitting. "Shit. Shit."

"Captain. Look." Reed pointed. The other ship had also dropped out of warp. It canted in front of them, adjusting its position. Behind the ship, Reed could see a planet and a large moon. They were very close. "It's preparing to dock."

Archer nodded, head down. He wiped his mouth with his sleeve. "Weapons. They won't expect an attack."

Reed turned away from the sight of Cutler's staring eyes. "Right," he said, trying to focus. There was a lot of blood on the panel. "Weapons."

The com buzzed into life. Eerily, the dead alien's UT translated the incomprehensible syllables. Reed jerked around when he heard the alien's synthesized voice. "Ready the humans," it said. "Confirm." The ship shuddered as the Xindi ship docked on the aft side.


"I can't find it!" Reed exploded. He scrubbed his hands frantically in the blood, wiping it aside, to clear the panel. "I wasn't paying enough attention to her," he said. "I know this is nav. This is com. This is plasma to the engines. I can't read this language."

"They can't get us. They can't get our bodies."

"I know! I know that!" Reed yelled. "Is there an escape pod? A smaller ship or something?"

"Confirm," the UT clacked.

Reed resisted the urge to smash the com. He found what he thought was the control for warp.

"Yes, there's an escape pod," Archer said from somewhere behind him. "It'll fit all three of us."

Reed ignored the com as the Xindi ship hailed them again. "Get Crewman Cutler's body in there. If I engage the plasma and we're not in warp, it should blow the ship."

The ship lurched, and there was a heavy, hollow booming noise. Reed spared a glance for Archer as he dragged Cutler's body into the escape pod. The com finally fell silent. Another boom sounded.

"I think that's the airlock," Reed said.

"Just a second." Reed heard scraping noises, but he didn't turn around to look. "Come on, Malcolm!" Archer said a few seconds later. "There'll be a minute before the plasma ignites."

"Get ready," Reed said. The force of the ignition should take out both ships. It might also take out the escape pod. "Now!"


He skidded sideways and barely caught his balance. His feet stamped hard, and the ice shivered, then calved. The water was gun-metal gray under the ice. Another gunshot sounded. Water flowed across the ice, and he felt the ice move. He fell to his knees as the ice began to rise under his feet. He understood now: he was on an ice floe, broken free from the sheet of ice that covered the body of water he was standing on, and it was going to turn over.

"Malcolm!" he heard the captain yell.

He couldn't get to his feet. He started sliding toward the water. His feet scrabbled. The light blanket he'd been using to shield himself from the cold was clutched in one hand. He clutched it like a lifeline, as though it could save him.

"No!" he yelled as his feet touched the water. He flung his body back, but the floe continued tipping, edging him inexorably to the water. "God damn it! No!"


He released the plasma and turned. He slipped in the alien's blood and fell hard onto one knee. "Malcolm!" he heard Archer yell, and Reed lunged forward. Archer grabbed his arms and hauled him in. Behind him, he could hear warning sounds. "This is not the time to sacrifice yourself," Archer said. The warning sounds cut off abruptly as the door closed. Archer slapped the release.

"Don't I know it," Reed said. He grabbed onto a handhold as they fell away from the ship, and suddenly there was no gravity. Archer turned to look at him. Cutler's body rose into the air, blood forming perfectly round droplets around her face. "There have been quite enough sacrifices today, thank you. Plus—I have this."

Archer took in the device in Reed's outstretched hand.

"What is it?"

"Subspace homing beacon. Ensign Sato has the frequency."

"We were off the planned coordinates."

The pod lurched to the side. Reed could feel them accelerate. Cutler's arms raised gracefully as she drifted against a wall. "I think the ship just blew," Reed said. "Don't you think that should attract some attention?"

"So—we wait?"

"I suppose so."

Archer nodded. He was covered in blood. Reed supposed he didn't look much better. He looked at Elizabeth Cutler, and he felt sick.


The water was literally breathtakingly cold. His body, shocked, went inert. He automatically held his breath. Everything was black under water. He thought he was looking up. He thought he could see the break in the ice that he had come through, a gray gash in the utter blackness. He knew he would be swept underneath the ice, and the captain would never find him. If *Enterprise* came fast, if *Enterprise* came now, they could probably save him, even if he were underwater for a few minutes, because of the cold. He tugged at the heavy backpack and managed to slide it off. Immediately he felt lighter.

When his body stopped rushing downward, he kicked. He felt the motion of the water against his legs. He knew he should let go of the blanket, but he couldn't bring himself to do it. He was beyond terror. The absolute lack of air, of light, of warmth—everything about being alive was gone. He had thought he was cold when he was trapped aboard the shuttlepod. Now he knew that he had never known cold.

His chest tightened. He wanted to inhale. He wasn't ready to die. He especially wasn't ready to die when it was so senseless. Elizabeth Cutler had given her life to save all of them from the Xindi. Her death was awful, but it had meaning. She had given her life for him and the captain—and for all of humanity, really, because the stakes were that high—and he could not repay her sacrifice by dying now.

He kicked again, and the gray above him lightened. He waved his arms, trying to swim, and the blanket arced over his head, eerily waving in the half-light. He felt his heartbeat, sluggish and slow. A faint current tugged at him, trying to sweep him under the ice, but he worked against it, trying not to struggle too hard, or he'd give up all his strength.

No, he thought. God damn it. No. Not yet.


"No, I'm fine, sir. I'm fine."


"It was just—a little jarring. Nothing broken, I assure you."

Archer nodded and stepped back. "I think we've landed," he said.

"I saw a planet with a moon while we were in space," Reed offered. "We're probably at one or the other."

Archer nodded absently. He took his tricorder out of a pocket and used it to scan. "We've got breathable atmosphere out there. But it's cold."

"How cold?"

Archer pocketed the tricorder. "Cold," he said briefly. He knelt by Cutler. "I think we should take Crewman Cutler outside and—well, we probably can't bury her because we won't be able to dig, but we can maybe put rocks over her body, to keep any animals out. We can make the pod our base of operations. It's warm, and there's enough food."

Reed nodded. "The only thing that concerns me is that we landed hard, and now I don't hear the air circulating any more," he said. "I think the impact may have damaged the unit."

Archer paused and cocked his head, listening intently. "You're right," he admitted. He rose to his feet. "Let's find something to keep warm with—jackets or blankets or something."

"I saw blankets," Reed said, flipping open a seat. "Here." He tossed a plastic-wrapped package to Archer and opened one himself.

"I never really talked to her," Archer said. His back was to Reed. He filled his pockets with the ration bars they had already discovered: they tasted awful, but they were edible. "She was close to Doctor Phlox. She thought about being a doctor before she went to graduate school in entomology, so she took first-response emergency medical training."

"I didn't know that," Reed said.

"Doctor Phlox told me when he found out she was going on this mission."

"She seemed absolutely fine about the mission," Reed remembered. "In retrospect, I think she was nervous about it, but she didn't say anything like that when I spoke with her. She was very professional."

"I guess we'd better get her outside," Archer said after a pause.

"Yes, sir," Reed said, and they both looked at her.


He held on, the blanket his lifeline, the blanket his security. It had stood between him and the cold. Now it stood between him and death like a banner.

He frantically scrubbed at the blood on the panel in the alien's ship, trying to make sense out of what he saw, trying, oh god, trying to understand as the ship shuddered, and there was no time, no time at all.

"No!" Cutler cried. "God damn it! No!"

He saw the snow across Cutler's grave face, icy crystals that did not melt.

He saw the sparks dancing against the pod, hopping on the ground as if they were alive, the sudden heat as the sparks ignited the fuel that soaked the snowy ground.

He felt the languorous warmth in Jonathan Archer's arms as they kissed, the warmth of his body as it responded to Archer's nearness, the snow on top of the blankets keeping them warm, keeping them alive.

He didn't want to die. He didn't want to drown. He hated the water, and now it held him prisoner, wanted to tug him under the ice. He looked up at the plume of the blanket, and suddenly he felt it pull. It almost wrenched out of his hand, and he tried to tighten his fingers, but he couldn't feel them. He seemed separate from his body, a mind apart. He knew he must hold on, but it was hard.

"No," he said. God damn it. No. No. No.

The word came out of his mouth in a bubble of air. He accidentally got a little water in his mouth. It wasn't salt, but it tasted brackish. He couldn't cough. He absolutely could not cough.

He felt a heavy tug in his arm socket, and he knew. It had caught on something and he was working against the current—or the captain had grabbed it.

White sparks flickered in front of his eyes, exploding like fireworks. Oxygen. He had to breathe. He opened his mouth.

With the last of his strength, he put his other hand on the blanket and held on.


She lay in the snow, her face like an angel's. Archer had washed her face with the snow that spread as far as the eye could see. The blood came off unwillingly. Nothing could disguise the gash in her neck, so they had wrapped her in one of the many blankets they had found, like a shroud, concealing it. Reed had tenderly carried her body away from the pod. Her limbs had stiffened. He understood what people meant now when they said "a dead weight." Living people had a vitality to them, even when they were unconscious. But the dead—like Cutler—were completely still, absolutely inert.

Reed brushed her fine brown hair back. Her skin was the same temperature as the outside: numbingly cold. He had her tricorder, but they left her communicator in her pocket. They figured that if *Enterprise* came and she got buried in the snow, they would be able to trace the signal so they could take her body and bury her properly, in the cold of space. Only now that the Xindi wanted specimens, they would probably have to start burning bodies, rather than releasing the dead in ceremonial pods.

"Would you like to say something?" he asked Archer.

Archer shook his head. "I'll say something on board ship, when we get back," he said firmly. "I think Doctor Phlox should deliver the eulogy. You?"

Reed hesitated. "Not really," he said. "She died well. She died for us all."

He remembered her last words: "No," she had said, but it wasn't a cry of negation or disbelief. It was a cry that said she was going to do something about it. It was a fierce "no" of action, not inaction.

And the bloodred claws. And the claws red with Cutler's blood.

It would not be in vain, Reed swore. They would live. They would get through this. *Enterprise* would come. And what remained of Elizabeth Cutler would go home with them.

He bent and dug at the lightly packed snow, scattering it over Cutler's body. Snow spangled across her peaceful face. It didn't melt. She was cold, after all. After a minute, Archer joined him. They buried her in the snow because they couldn't pry enough rocks loose to build a cairn for her.

They walked the twenty minutes back to the pod together, leaving behind a mound of snow.



—the plume of the blanket swirling above him the last thing he remembers, his body numb, beyond cold, beyond thought, only the bitterness of regret that Elizabeth Cutler should die for him and he repaid her by dying himself—


—the metallic taste of blood in the back of his throat, and in front of his eyes, the memory of sparks merging into the memory of whiteness—

"I order you to breathe. Breathe!"

—she had looked at him, and he thought yes, she would do, she would do very well, and indeed, she did, with her fierce *no, no, god damn it*—

"Jesus, Malcolm. Breathe."

—and the blow, the blow struck him between the shoulder blades, a heavy pounding that shook his bones, and someone hauled him up onto his knees and the fist in his stomach and the water, the water—

"God damn it! No!"

—hacking coughs, explosive vomiting, gouts of water coming out of his mouth, oh, god, he couldn't catch his breath, he had drowned, he had always been afraid of the water and now he was going to drown, the plume of the blanket swirling above him, ironically jaunty—

"Oh, Jesus. Jesus. Jesus, Malcolm. Please. Please."

—and he can see his hands, bloodless and white in the snow, and he had lost his blanket, and a meter or so away was black water, lapping against the broken ice, and he heard the creaking, and he was alive.

"Don't leave me behind in the snow like we did her," he whispered. He rolled onto his side and panted, the air cutting his lungs like knives. The snow would fall across his face and would not melt. "I would never do that, Malcolm," Archer said. "I would never leave you behind."


When he woke up, it was dark and he was warm. He sighed and stretched, his fingers curling. He felt like he had been beaten; his arms ached in their sockets. He ran a hand through his hair. It was dry. He rolled onto his back. He was alone. He didn't know where he was. He was wrapped in a blanket, with another one wadded up as a pillow. He realized he was nude. Even his feet were bare. His bladder was heavy. "You're awake."

Reed turned his head. Archer, barefoot and wrapped in a blanket, had appeared in the half-light. "Just," Reed said. "I have to piss."

"Let me help you."

Reed rolled onto his side. He was as weak as a kitten. Archer reached around and helped him to his feet. "How long?" he gasped as they started off.

"I don't know. Two days, maybe." Archer lost his grip on the blanket he was holding, and Reed saw an expanse of chest. He suddenly realized what Archer had done: he had stripped Reed and then stripped himself, and he had lain with him, body against body, to keep them warm. Archer saw him looking. "I can't get the blood off the uniforms," he said apologetically. "I wanted to keep you warm. You, um, haven't made a lot of sense lately."

"Did you pull me up by the blanket?" Reed asked.


"I think I lost the homing device," Reed said. "I think it fell out of my pocket when I was in the water."

"I know. Here."

Archer propped him up against the wall and stepped back to give him some privacy. The area smelled strongly of urine and feces. Reed aimed and released his bladder. He shut his eyes. It felt exquisite.

"All right," he said when he was done, and Archer helped him back. Reed noticed the first-aid kit near his makeshift pillow. "I seem to have all my fingers and toes," he said as he lay back down on the pallet. "And I smell much better. Thank you."

"You're welcome."

Reed nodded at the circle of stones a meter or so away. "Fire?"

"No," Archer said. "Nothing to burn, and we're in the caves—not enough ventilation. I used my phase-pistol on a pile of rocks. It radiates heat for a few hours."

"Very smart," Reed said approvingly. He found the wadded-up blanket and put it under his head.

"That's why they made me captain," Archer said. "Plus, you know—Eagle Scout."

Reed shut his eyes as he felt Archer slide up behind him, lifting the blanket. He felt momentary cold against his bare skin. Then Archer's warm, hairy body settled against his. Archer's arm wrapped around him. Archer nuzzled him, then kissed the crook of his neck, his beard scraping Reed's skin.

"You didn't move for a long time," Archer whispered. "I held you and tried to keep you warm, and I listened for your heartbeat."

"I'm afraid of the water," Reed said. "I'm afraid of drowning."

"I know."

Reed gently stroked Archer's arm. "I dream about Elizabeth Cutler," he confessed.

"I do too."

"Thank you for saving my life. Again."

Archer kissed him. He was trembling. "I can't lose you," he said. "You know it's you. Whatever you want. Please."

Reed lifted Archer's arm so he could lie on his back. He stared into Archer's face. Archer touched his chest tentatively.

"Whatever you want," Archer repeated.

Reed smiled. "You," he said. "Just you."

"With my body," Archer said. "With my life."

Reed understood. He had made a similar oath, under different circumstances, to Archer himself, as captain—to protect him.

He fell asleep with Archer's hand gently stroking him.


He bounced rhythmically. When he opened his eyes, he could see woven plastic, its fibers glinting in the noon light overhead. He could see white beyond that, flat white, and legs and feet. He was being carried over someone's shoulder. It must be the captain, he thought stupidly.

His stomach roiled with the motion. His mouth tasted bad. He felt incredibly ill. Shutting his eyes helped. He couldn't feel the pressure of his body against Archer's.

The movement stopped. He felt a heavy thud, and his head spun. Archer had set him down. Immediately, he turned onto all fours and vomited. When he was done, he felt a little better. He used his mittened hand to grab a handful of snow, and he put it in his mouth and chewed it. It made his teeth hurt. He spat and did it again, cleaning out his mouth. He would never be clean again. The blood on his uniform, the awful water that had closed around him, the taste of the ration bars.

"Almost there," Archer said grimly.

Reed collapsed onto his stomach. His uniform crackled with ice. He wasn't aware of it when Archer hauled him up and threw him over a shoulder.


He woke up again, much later, and was able to eat, drink, and urinate on his own. Archer lay on the pallet, deeply asleep. Reed could only imagine what Archer had been through: first pulling Reed out of the water, then carrying him across the calving ice to the caves, then treating him so he wouldn't get frostbite. They had a good stock of food, water was everywhere, and they were out of the outdoors. Archer could probably jury-rig a long-distance communicator out of the medical equipment in the first-aid kit—he'd been an Eagle Scout, hadn't he? They only had to dig in and wait for *Enterprise*. They had left a trail of bread crumbs, after all: the ruins of the alien's ship, the blackened pod, Cutler's body, the locator device at the bottom of the water.

Reed pushed back the blanket and took in Archer's body. He hadn't been thinking when he'd kissed Archer. He had done it simply because he wanted it, had wanted it a long time. Cutler had died and it had made everything different, and he wasn't able to convince himself any longer that distance was professional. And Archer had submitted to him—first with the kiss, and then with his words.

Now Reed reached out and touched Archer. He gently stroked his collarbone. Archer's chest hair felt crisp under his hands as he circled a breast and ran his fingernails gently over the small nub of nipple. Archer was warm, alive, under his hands.

Archer's voice sounded drowsy. "Malcolm."

"Jonathan." Reed bent and kissed him. "Jonathan."

This time, he took Archer in his arms instead of the other way around. He remembered the gentleness and sweetness of kissing Archer in their snow cocoon. Now he pressed himself against Archer, insistent instead of gentle, and Archer caught his mood. He opened his mouth, kissing Reed hard, wrapping his hands in Reed's hair as they crushed each other close. Reed felt the tension in Archer's neck, felt Archer's teeth, felt the coiling power he could unleash with a touch.

"Here," Reed said, putting Archer's hand on his penis, and "Yes," Archer said, lowering his mouth to Reed's body, and "Please," Reed said as Archer pushed him onto his back.

Unable to catch his breath, unable to inhale, unable to resist. Body hot against his, mouth a warm cavern against his chest, fingers like iron against his arms, holding him down. He couldn't resist. He couldn't resist because he wanted it, like earth, fire, air, water. The mouth descended, and its heat took in Reed's heat. It burned. Reed burned. The sweet fire licked at his body, and he was only so much tinder, ready to ignite.

Archer's mouth spread dancing sparks, and his fingers stroked at the pucker of his opening. Reed opened himself to the touch, and the finger pushed in, then withdrew, then did it again, and again, until Reed said, "Yes." Another finger joined the first one, and this time, they did not withdraw. Reed's fingers twined in Archer's hair as Archer sucked, holding Archer's head down. The sparks cascaded; they gathered in Reed's cock, building up until they could not be contained, and just as they had ignited the fuel, they ignited Reed. He shattered like glass, like calving ice, held to life, to existence, by the strong fingers at his core.

His hips raised off the ground with the force of his orgasm, and he gave everything of himself to Archer. Archer took it in his mouth, a gift of life. Dazed, panting, flushed with the force of his pleasure, Reed watched Archer withdraw his hand from Reed's body. Archer pressed himself against Reed, moaning, and Reed held him close, his breath harsh on Reed's face. Archer's cock burned. Reed felt Archer fumble with his own penis, and a moment later, wet heat poured across his stomach as Archer's breath caught. He said Reed's name, voice amazed. It was a celebration.

Reed wrapped his legs around Archer. "Jonathan," he said.

Archer collapsed over Reed, and his mouth found Reed's. Reed tasted himself in Archer's frantic kisses. He stroked Archer's broad back as Archer's plundering mouth gentled, becoming quiet and soothing.

"You're alive," Archer said after a long time.

"Yes," Reed whispered.

He remembered the curling plume of the blanket. He remembered a fierce Elizabeth Cutler and a knife. How beautiful, he thought. How beautiful.

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