Title: Left Unsaid

Author: MJ

Author's email: mjr91@aol.com

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

Pairing: A/R

Rating: PG

Archive: Your list—your archive, EntST, others ask

Summary: The days after.

Warning: Deathfic (see epigraph)

Beta: The amazing Elf, and thanks and a tip of the hat to KayJay as well.

Sweet is true love tho' given in vain, in vain;
And sweet is death who puts an end to pain.
—from Idylls of the King: Lancelot and Elaine, Tennyson

The buzzer sounded at the door of Captain Jonathan Archer's quarters. It didn't matter; there was only one person it could be. "Come in, Trip."

Trip Tucker entered, carrying a few PADDs, a forlorn expression plastered on his face. "Hi, Cap'n." He bent over to scratch Porthos, the only one of the three in the room not looking as if the world had come to an end. "I was just goin' through his things. We'll have to box it all—not that there's that much—see if his folks want it, or what." Tucker waved one of the PADDs. "Glad I checked, though. He did like most of us, made out a will. Space is dangerous, most of us have some kinda thing stored in our Starfleet files. He'd updated his pretty recently, I figure, from looking at it."

The engineer paused, then settled himself on the edge of Archer's desk, looking at the PADD. "A couple of souvenirs he picked up along the way, he left to Hoshi." Tucker sighed. "Some tools he'd brought along—couple 'a real nice pieces, I gotta say—left 'em to me. I'd borrowed his miniaturized set a couple 'a times, guess he figured I could use 'em." Another pause. "Left me his copy of Ulysses, too. He musta figured I needed the culture."

Archer sat on the edge of his bed, chuckling sadly. "I wish that was funny, Trip. If all of this wasn't going on—"

"Yeah," Tucker agreed, taking the opportunity to stare at his feet. "Cap'n…he wanted you to have his hardback book copy of Sun Tzu's 'The Art of War'. And a Xindi knife he picked up somewhere along the way—didn't even know he'd gotten his hands on one." Tucker swallowed, then reached for another of the PADDs he'd brought. "And, uh, he wanted you to have this PADD." He handed the device to the man across from him. "You don't hafta read it now. Some of his tactical log entries I guess he thought you'd want saved for your own logs, some personal logs of his he wanted you to have, that kind of thing. I copied 'em over from his logs for ya.

Archer took the PADD and began turning it over in his hands. "The tactical officer's logs…I can see why he might have thought I'd want records of those if anything happened to him…but personal?"

Tucker began shifting uncomfortably. "Look, Jon, you're my best friend. Ever. But Malcolm was a friend of mine too. He used to sit and talk with me a lot, after we kinda got to know each other. He told me some stuff, stuff he made me promise I wasn't gonna tell you. I guess he wanted you to hear it at some point, just not when he was around."

Curious now, Archer stared at his Chief Engineer. "I don't follow."

The younger man swallowed. "Uh…Malcolm…um…" He swallowed again, a fine sweat breaking out near his brow. "Look, Jon. A while back, Malcolm told me he, uh…was kinda interested in you. I don't mean friends. He made me promise I'd never tell you. He didn't think it was appropriate that he was even thinking about it…and, well, he figured you wouldn't find it any more appropriate than he did, especially you not bein' interested in guys and all."

Archer raised an eyebrow. "Malcolm was—what? With all the grief he gave me about being unprofessional? Being too close to my crew? That's some kind of way to be interested," he sighed.

Tucker squirmed. "I think it was because he didn't want you to catch on. He respected you a lot, Cap'n. But he didn't want you to have any idea what he was thinkin' so he kinda bent over backwards to do the opposite. People sorta overcompensate when they don't want people to know how they feel."

The PADD went on the bed at Archer's side. "I wish he'd felt he could tell me. That he had told me. It might have made a difference. Somehow."

"How? You weren't gonna start dating him, were you? I know you, Jon. That'd be the day. And it wasn't gonna keep him from getting killed—not while he was leading that boarding party to get those Osaarian pirates off of that Vulcan ship on Thursday."

Archer shook his head. "I don't know, Trip. I—"

"Look, what were you gonna do if he told you? Turn him down politely but firmly? 'Sorry, Malcolm, I appreciate the thought, but I'm not into guys?' He didn't wanna get rejected, Jon. He wouldn't have wanted you to feel sorry for him. He thought he was better off with you thinking he hated your command style than that he wanted to go out with you. And I gotta say, I think he was right. It's hard as hell to work with or for someone when you know they've gotta be pitying you and where you're at. Malcolm Reed wouldn't have wanted to get sympathy from you for having a bad crush. He never asked for sympathy from anyone. Never wanted it for any reason." Tucker rose. "It's getting late. I need to get to Engineering—I'll come on back when my shift's over." He headed for the door, looking over his shoulder. "I know you, Jon. I know how you get, and I know how Malcolm was. It wouldn't have worked out on board for him if he'd told you. Both of you were better off, you not knowing."

The door slid open, then shut quickly behind him.

Archer picked up the PADD, turning it in his hands once more, as he watched Tucker leave and the door close.

"Maybe you don't know me, Trip." He put the PADD back on the bed, blinking back unshed tears.


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