Title: Love, Death, and the Changing of the Seasons

Author: MJ

Author's email: mjr91@aol.com

Author's URL: http://www.geocities.com/coffeeslash/mj/

Date: March 4, 2004

Pairing: Archer/Reed, perceived Reed/Hayes

Rating: PG-13


Archive: if posted to your list, you have permission [Archers_Enterprise]

Summary: Jealousy is an ugly thing

Spoilers: Minefield, Communicator, Season 3

Betas: Mareel, Kalita

Author's notes: NOT A DEATHFIC. Title's from a poetry cycle by my favorite modern poet, Marilyn Hacker, about a woman who's fallen out of love with her partner and is having an affair with another woman.

I'm losing him.

I don't know when that started. Or maybe I do. That day, by the airlock, when he tried to stop me from suffocating that pirate. The look he gave me—I should have known, but I was too busy saving the earth to worry about details.

He started getting more distant then. I'm sure it was then, wasn't it?

Not that he can't be distant to begin with. It took me forever, and an aborted, and slightly uncomfortable, breakfast for him to even admit that he realized I was interested in him. If we hadn't wound up in a jail cell together, nearly about to die, it's probable nothing would have happened between us at all. He doesn't warm to people easily. He's friends with my best friend, Trip,

and even that might not have happened if they hadn't nearly died together on a shuttlepod. But once he warms up—well, that's another story, and it's not what I'm talking about.

Or—I don't know; maybe it is relevant. It seems to take something extreme for Malcolm to get close to someone. I guess that incident in the ship's gym… and in the corridor… was pretty extreme. Malcolm didn't warm up quickly to Trip, or to me, but he was an iceberg since day one to Major Hayes. I guess he saw the MACOs as poaching on his territory. They weren't intended to do that, but I could see why he felt that way. And Hayes—well, he may mean well, but he really *is* a hard-assed jerk. He knew—hell, I knew—that he should never have gone behind Malcolm's back about that hand-to-hand training for the officers.

But it was definitely somewhere after that fight—and damn if I haven't wanted to wipe the floor with Hayes' ass a few times myself—that I started hearing the comments about Malcolm giving Hayes the once-over more than one time.

He and I had been pretty discreet, I thought. I didn't think anyone on board really knew about us besides Trip, Mayweather, and Hoshi, though I'm sure a few people suspected something. So I was shocked when Malcolm explained to me just why it was he'd dusted the corridor with the Major's body.

"I had him down on the gym mat—had him pretty well pinned, actually—and the smug git just looked up at me and hissed, 'Look, Reed, you think I'm after your job? Would you even have one if you weren't screwing the captain?' That rather put me over the edge." First he's beating Hayes into a pulp for rubbing our relationship in his face that way, then he's cruising the man? If that's what's going on, then something has to have been my fault. I'm sure of it.

Okay, I was a jerk about the airlock business. I haven't been myself for months. This whole business in the Expanse—the Xindi, the weapon—it's… it's a lot. Even Porthos thinks I'm a problem sometimes now. But…

What did it? You know, I know what did it. When I think about it… I know.

The damn bugs—that's what Trip calls them. He and Malcolm had a few drinks the other night, and Malcolm must have been talking to him, because Trip talked to me then. The Xindi eggs. If it hadn't been for them…

Look, when I relieved T'Pol of duty, when I came after Malcolm for doing what would have to have been the right thing with the Xindi who fired on us, when I nearly relieved Trip and Phlox from duty… I wasn't myself. I mean, I haven't been myself anyway, but the damn egg sacs poisoned me or something. I had my entire neural system rewired by that stuff. Everyone knew there was something wrong with me except—naturally—me.

If I'd been in my right mind, I'd never have done that to Malcolm, even if we weren't seeing each other. Even if I'd had to do it for some unfathomable reason—never in public on the bridge. I couldn't do that to my worst enemy—I know the protocol. Putting Hayes in charge of ship's security? Putting him on the bridge? I *know* the man's a ground action expert, not a space tactician, I *know* the man doesn't know the ship's systems that well, and I *know* he's not in the frigging command chain unless I'd relieved Travis of duty as well. I *had* to be crazy.

But it seems to have been the last straw. That's what Trip says. And I know why. Because it had to have hurt Malcolm's pride like hell, and I know he's had times in his life where his pride was the only thing he's had.

I ought to apologize. I'm sure I should. But Malcolm—Malcolm should know better, too, shouldn't he? And the airlock business, and that business—it's work, it's the job; it's what happens. It's not about us. I know it's not about us; he should know it, too.

But when Hayes came to see me in Sickbay, he and Malcolm were there together. They've been having lunch almost every day—we're talking about Malcolm, the man who forgets to eat when he's busy. And I'm hearing those comments about

the way Malcolm looks at him… from people who have no clue that they're gossiping in front of Malcolm's lover…

… and I haven't seen Malcolm in a week now, when we haven't been working or training with Hayes. He's busy, he tells me. That's how he used to blow me off, back when… before… before we were us. Before we were together.

I wonder if there's an "us" any more. I wonder if there's a "together" any more.

Maybe Hayes didn't come here to replace Malcolm. Maybe he's replacing me.

What's that saying? "You want a friend? Get a dog." They don't have a line like that about lovers.

Come on, Porthos. Let's go for a walk—maybe a walk around Malcolm's deck. Before I'm the one who takes Hayes onto a gym mat and rubs his face in it.

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