Title: Chasing After the Rain

Author: The Moonmoth

Author's Contact: moonmoth47@hotmail.com

Archive: Yes to Archers_Enterprise and EntSTCommunity. Others please ask.

Rating: G

Status: Complete

Series: Little Earthquakes

Next Story: Precious Things

Pairing: Archer/Reed (friendship)

Type: POV (Archer), conversation and rumination.

Warnings: None

Spoilers: None

Disclaimer: Paramount owns the characters, I just play with them. I did it for love, not money.

Beta: None

Summary: Captain Archer comes across his armory officer in the mess hall late one night. Early season one, pre Terra Nova.

Author's Notes: This story was kind of inspired by the 'Little Earthquakes' album by Tory Amos. I say 'kind of' because the end product here isn't initially what I set out to write. The stories that will - hopefully - eventually follow are more directly related to it. This 'un just kicks it all off.

Feedback: Yes, please please please! All constructive criticism is welcome. Be as detailed as you like. This is my first attempt at this fandom so let me know how I'm doing…

It's late, just gone midnight, and I'm beat. My body's ready for me to hit the hay but I know I won't sleep yet, my mind still running in circles, still on duty. I grab a cup of chamomile tea - T'Pol's got me drinking it - and cast my eyes around the mess. It's all but deserted - all but for one solitary figure. He's there, sitting by a window with his back to me, not seeming to realize there's someone else in the room.

I take a couple of steps in his direction, thinking to join him, then hesitate. It's late. Like me, he's probably trying to unwind before bed - my joining him will only put him back on duty, back on alert. And yet, I've had so little opportunity to study this enigma of a man, to really talk to him. In fact, I think I can count on one hand the number of non-work-related conversations we've shared. But he doesn't strike me as a man comfortable fraternizing with his superior officers - something I plan to change, but I don't want to force it on him right now.

'Won't you join me, Captain?'

I start at his soft words - the man hasn't even turned round - then continue to his table and sit down opposite him. He stands stiffly as I join him, but doesn't look too unhappy at my company. Good. Problem solved. There's a small, wry smile barely touching one corner of his mouth, as if too shy to show itself properly, as he glances at me.

'I was starting to feel like one of the doctor's creatures under the microscope.'

I notice the smile has reached his eyes and relax a couple of muscles I didn't realize I'd been holding taught. 'How did you…?'

'Your reflection, sir.' He nods to the window.

'Ah.' I wonder just how long I was standing there. Moreover, how long Malcolm was watching me.

He returns his attention to the padd in his hands, and I try to massage one of my shoulders, working out the ache that's been accumulating there since early this evening.

'Couldn't sleep?' I finally ask when the silence gets too much.

He looks up inquisitively and I nod at the padd he's working on. 'Unfortunately, inspiration struck before sleep,' he replies, that small smile playing on his mouth again. 'I was in the shower - it's always the way, sir.'

I chuckle softly in sympathy. 'Isn't it just. What was the big idea?'

'I thought of a way to improve the power conversion efficiency of our torpedoes. I'll take a closer look at them tomorrow, but if I'm right we could increase our explosive yield by up to fifty percent.'

I smile at the way his eyes light up as he talks about his torpedoes. 'Excellent work, Lieutenant. Just… make sure you get some sleep at some point.'

'I'm just adding some finishing touches to the specs, sir. Nearly done now.'

I lift my cup of tea to my lips, blowing gently on the hot liquid a couple of times then venturing a sip. It's still too hot to drink but the musky-sweet scent is having the desired calming effect on me and I close my eyes, trying to empty my mind. After a while I realise the steady beeping of Malcolm working on his padd has stopped and, curious, I open my eyes again. He's staring out the window, an odd expression on his face. He looks… lost, somewhere out there among the stars.

Sipping my tea, I watch him, fascinated by this almost physical change in his persona. There's a trace of tension in his face but I don't think it's anything to do with my presence. He's leaning on the table, arms crossed - defensive body language, though he looks more relaxed than I've ever seen him. Even subconsciously, he seems to be ready for anything. His expression is so unguarded, though, like a dreamy kid stuck in class on a summer's afternoon, and in the low, after-hours lighting of the mess hall I can almost see that little boy in the outline of Malcolm's face. He looks like a different person.

'Something on your mind, Malcolm?' I ask as gently as I can, watching him intently. It's… unusual to see my armory officer so off guard and it touches something inside of me, so that I want to reach out, to make a connection.

Coming back to himself he clears his throat, embarrassed. 'Sir?'

'You looked a thousand lightyears away.' I watch in interest as his eyes, a translucent silver-grey, seem slowly to darken, like storm clouds rolling in.

'It's been a long day,' he sighs, rubbing his face tiredly. Then quietly, 'I've a lot on my mind.' He looks away again, this time to the tabletop where his padd lies discarded, as if unsure how it got there.

'Anything in particular?' I prod, feeling the beginnings of concern at this sudden change in his mood. If something's bothering one of my crew I want to know about it.

'Torpedoes mostly, Captain.'


'Yes, sir, mostly,' he replies impassively. I take another sip of my tea, considering his words. I don't know the man well, but he's seemed reserved, almost shy, on the few occasions I've seen him off-duty. I sense he likes to be in control of a situation, whether it's first contact or a conversation, but he's let his guard down just now. Just for a few moments. It's enough to have me intrigued.

'I'm sorry, Malcolm. I didn't mean to pry.' He's drifted off again to his celestial vigil, but at my words he turns to face me and our eyes lock. He's not embarrassed at being caught this time, or at least doesn't show it, but deep in his eyes I can still see something of the stars and the space beyond the window, and I know he isn't entirely with me in this room.

'It's ironic, I suppose,' he finally says, voice quiet but perfectly clear in the deserted mess, 'to feel so… at sea.' I'm looking hard into his eyes, trying to glean some understanding of what he might mean. Something that could be humor ghosts across his face and he shakes his head as he catches my expression. 'As I said, Captain, it's been a long day.' The man I now see across from me, possibly for the first time, is the man behind the officer. I know that. But I haven't a clue what he's talking about. I'm too tired to think about it much, instead continuing to probe his eyes wondering if the answer might be there. But I can't make anything out and all too soon our gaze is broken. I feel a slight twinge of loss, but the moment has passed.

He picks up the padd again, scrolls through it briefly then stands, straightening his uniform, all professionalism once more. 'I think I'm done for the night, sir,' he says, but doesn't make to leave, waiting to be dismissed.

I search his face for one last hint of the other Malcolm Reed I just glimpsed. But he's gone, like clouds in the wind. And I'll let him go, for now. ''Night, Malcolm.'

'Goodnight, sir.'

I'm sitting in silence, finishing up my tea, as a thought strikes me. Getting to know Malcolm could be like chipping away at a mountain with a spoon, but there's undoubtedly something precious beneath the surface.

It'll be like chasing after the rain to reform the clouds.

But I've always enjoyed a challenge.


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