Title: Caught

Author: The Moonmoth

Author's Contact: moonmoth47@hotmail.com

Archive: Yes to Archers_Enterprise, EntSTCommunity and ReedsArcheryRange. Others are welcome but please ask first.

Rating: PG-13, just to be safe (some mild implications)

Status: Complete

Series: Little Earthquakes

Sequel to: Precious Things

Next story: Thin Ice

Pairing: Archer/Reed

Type: POV (Reed)

Warnings: None

Spoilers: Silent Enemy

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

Beta: The Completely Fabulous Mareel

Summary: Lieutenant Reed's perspective on the events of 'Precious Things', set during Silent Enemy.

Author's Notes: This series was inspired by the Little Earthquakes album by Tori Amos. All hail. Thanks go to Mareel for her insights into Malcolm's character, and Elf for being a sounding board when Mal was being a snotty b@stard and wouldn't talk to me…

Feedback: Yes, please. It'll really make my day, and maybe it'll make me write a bit quicker… All constructive criticism is welcome.

"So I ran faster, but it caught me here."—Tori Amos, 'Precious Things'


I'm lying on my bunk flat on my back in the not-so-early hours of the morning, fully clothed, unshowered and unshaven. I haven't felt this bone-weary since survival training, and yet sleep evades me. The room is dark except for the light filtering in from the static stars beyond, and it's easy to re-run the events of this too-long day in my mind, the whole sorry affair playing out in front of my eyes like a bad dream.

I should have just gone to bed after dinner. I was exhausted—hadn't left the armoury since 0700. If I was lucky, I thought, I'd be tired enough to sleep through my alarm and completely miss the next day—today.

God, what a bloody awful twenty-four hours it's been. Not only did I completely and utterly embarrassed myself in front of Hoshi, but my disagreement with Commander Tucker led to *more* work for me and my crew. I was looking forward to just getting through the rest of my dinner without incident and then collapsing into bed. It seems, however, that the universe was conspiring against me: the aliens attacked again, and there I was, back in the armoury as the chronometer crept towards midnight and then beyond. In some cosmic master plan it all makes sense—it is my birthday, after all. I can't remember the last time things went well on my birthday, why should this year be any different?


The armoury was a mess. It seemed as though half the engineering staff were in there, despite the commander's leaving in a huff earlier on. I still couldn't believe his reaction to my modifications. It was bad enough that the captain didn't have enough confidence in us to get it done; I really could have done without the censure of another superior officer. Captain Archer chose me for this assignment because of my specific expertise—you'd think the people I serve with might show a little more faith in me! I was just trying to protect the damn ship.

The barely ordered chaos was getting to me—I could feel my irritation growing and ended up taking it out on my team. I don't think there was anyone in there that didn't feel the sharp end of my tongue tonight. The rational part of me knew that their work deserved nothing but praise, but I seemed to be possessed by some unnatural anger, and I had to fight to contain myself. In the end it was too much, the disappointment, the noise and disarray, and I retreated to the port forward cannon. I told myself it was as much for the good of my team as it was for me.

It was quiet in there—a little too quiet without the steady thrum of the warp drive—and as I unpacked my tools I tried to get some control over myself, clear my head. I knew it was no good, though. I knew the only way to regain my equilibrium was to either sweat it out in the gym or smash something very hard and heavy. But such indulgences weren't an option right then, so I settled for tunnel-vision focus on the task at hand, hoping that this inexplicable anger would just burn itself out by the time I'd finished.

It wasn't that I disagreed with the captain's decision. It's hardly my place to question his orders and generally I'm all for caution. But it did hurt that he didn't trust us to do the job properly. And that was just it—why should it hurt? I knew I'd taken the whole thing far too personally—I can at least recognise that in myself—but I didn't dare dwell on why.

For the most part I had to agree with the captain's prudence, and he'd hardly been unreasonable to Commander Tucker and me. It's just… I couldn't shake the feeling of injustice.

For the next hour or so I managed to put all the frustrations of the day behind me and simply focus on keeping my hand steady. I wasn't feeling any more relaxed, I was simply blocking out everything else. It's an old trick and I do it well. A little too well in this case, as the painful little lump on the back of my head will attest to. I still can't understand how the hell Captain Archer managed to sneak up on me like that without my hearing him first.

And then, I shouted at the captain. The captain! Of all the people to lose my composure in front of! I cringe to think of it even now. How could I have been so stupid? But I was so angry—it was like being on a rollercoaster, and I couldn't get off mid-ride. And why didn't he reprimand me? I certainly deserved it. But instead he simply looked at me with an expression I can only describe as something between astonishment and hurt, and then in a low, soft voice said my name. *Malcolm…*. The disappointment I heard in that one word was enough to bring me crashing back to earth, replete with painful landing. I was mortified.

I tried to apologise, but it was too late, and now, worse than any dressing down, I'd allowed him to see right through me. He saw right to the source of my anger and frustration, and reached inside and calmed it. *My decision to return to Earth has nothing to do with my confidence in you… you've done a good job here, Malcolm.*

I care about the captain's opinion of my work. That's a given, and would explain adequately my behaviour tonight. But if I'm really honest and drop all pretence with myself, I know that I also care about his opinion of me as a man. And it scares me that his opinion holds such weight with me. I was angry with him for not believing in me, I was frustrated with myself for letting him down, and I let my control slip.

An errant thought creeps into my mind, that it was actually quite nice to have someone understand me so perfectly; he knew why I was angry and said exactly the right thing to appease me. I've always tried to keep a little sanctuary inside myself, somewhere I can retreat to when things start to get… difficult. I very rarely open it up to others but I let the captain get a glimpse today and instead of being burned I was soothed. Shaking my head I quickly banish that train of thought. My professionalism and my control have been the foundation of my career as a Starfleet officer. I was simply over-tired.

But it won't happen again. I won't let it. Now that I understand what went wrong, I can correct the problem and the system will be safe from further breakdown. Feeling morbidly satisfied I roll onto my side, sliding my right hand under the pillow. Immediately I regret it, feeling a sting of pain as one of the blisters on my burned fingers pops. Sighing deeply I inspect it as best I can in the low light, trying to decide if I can be bothered to get out of bed to clean it properly. Suddenly it all comes flooding back and I'm filled with a deep and abiding sense of confusion.


I'd tried to hide my hand from Captain Archer—the last thing I needed right then was to be sent to sickbay—but it was too late, he'd already seen it and took it from behind my back. He was holding my hand gently, careful not to hurt me, but still I felt myself becoming rigid, on high alert.

'Captain, I am rather busy. Is there something I can help you with?' He just stared at me, no doubt taken aback by my confrontational tone. But there was no response. And he still had my hand in his. I don't like situations where I don't know what the hell is going on, and this certainly qualified. I could feel my face starting to burn as my pulse quickened, pounding in my ears. And still he had my hand in his.

I locked my eyes onto his, trying to channel my fierce emotions into my gaze, hoping that the full force of them would push him away, make him leave. A small frown slowly appeared on his face and then he glanced down to where he was still gently holding my hand. Suddenly, he dropped it as if it was him, and not me, that had been burned, and turned away from me, leaning one hand on the bulkhead. For a moment I was distracted by the cool sensation on the back of my hand, where his hand had been. Then over the roaring in my ears I heard his voice, low and restrained, telling me to get some rest. He used my rank, finally acknowledging my insubordination, and I forced myself to step down, to wall up my intensity.


Lying on my bunk in the not-so-early hours of the morning, fully clothed, unshowered, unshaven, and so exhausted I'm falling asleep in spite of myself, I find myself wondering, what does he want from me?

And then, inexplicably, what do I want from him? In the borderline between wakefulness and dreams the answer comes to me in the pictures behind my eyelids—the captain, holding my hand in that access shaft by the port forward cannon, reaching up with his other hand to touch my face, and I give myself to him.


Reluctantly inching my eyes open I try to focus blurrily on my bedside chronometer. It tells me that the time is 0932—my alarm won't go off for another half an hour. I relax back into my pillow and try to go back to sleep. But I can't. Now that I'm awake I feel restless, and turn over onto my other side, noting disinterestedly that the other blister on my hand has also now popped.

Staring blankly at the bulkhead before me I try to let my mind go blank and slowly I can feel myself drifting back off to sleep. And then suddenly my eyes fly open, wide with surprise, as I remember the dreams I had during the last few hours. For a while I just stare at the bulkhead in disbelief, and then, as realisation dawns, I whisper.

'Oh no…'


I stare at my face in the mirror. A pale man with pale blue eyes stares back. I stare at my own emotionless features even as a storm of turmoil whirls through me.

I dreamt about my captain. And me. Several times. The level of impropriety is beyond my facility to put into words. I'm disgusted with myself, at how I let this happen. I've always prided myself on my ability to self-analyse—if I know what's going on in my own head then not only can I control myself very effectively, I can more easily predict what's going on in the heads of others—and I've been aware for a while now that I find him physically attractive. But I've never *dreamt* about him before! The situation is completely out of hand. How could I have been so weak? Because that's surely what this is—weakness. The combination of a handsome man and one moment of understanding, and I'm dreaming about a physical relationship with him. Ridiculous!

But I can't shake the feeling of rightness at being in his arms. Oh, God… Has this always been there? Has it just been a time bomb, waiting all along to explode in my face? I think back, and with this new perspective so many things suddenly start to take on a new meaning. My behaviour earlier this morning… my heart sinks as I finally manage to pinpoint the exact source of my anger. Frustrated affection. Damn.

I remember a night a few months ago, right at the start of our mission, when I invited Captain Archer to join me in the mess hall. I couldn't really avoid it as we were alone and simple politeness dictated I not ignore him. But the truth is, I didn't mind at all. I felt something rare—a desire to not be alone. I was holding open the door to my inner self and he sort of stumbled through. At the time everything was new, I was fourth in command of the flagship of the fleet, and somehow it didn't feel entirely inappropriate to enter into a slightly more intimate relationship with my captain. I should have been more careful.

Looking back, was that where it all began? With an invitation to join me in the mess? I knew I was being cryptic… is there a possibility I was trying, no matter how subconsciously, to engender his interest in me? I suddenly feel an overwhelming urge to apologise to the man. Damn it, I *have* to be more careful.

Once more, I wonder how the hell Captain Archer managed to sneak up on me like this. The parallel brings a sardonic twist to my mouth. Bending over the sink I splash my face with cold water, wishing not for the first time that I could control my emotions as effectively as T'Pol does. But I'm only human, despite my best efforts.

Turning for the towel, I catch a glance of the chronometer—1025. Bloody hell. It's either a shower and a shave, or breakfast. At this thought my stomach rumbles loudly and I settle for the latter. I can tidy myself up when this is all over. With a vague attempt at straightening up my hair and my uniform, I roll up my sleeves and head back out into battle.


I'm alone in a deserted armoury, replaying the tactical readouts of the cannons' performance during our final confrontation. I'm wondering if there's a way to maintain the higher power output without damaging the ship in any way, but I quickly lose my train of thought, finding it hard to concentrate now that the adrenaline has left my system. I've finally managed to freshen up, though, so at least I'm feeling more human.

In the light of day, I do rather think I overreacted earlier. Things are never so clear that close to sleep, and I've had so little of it in the last forty-eight hours. And in the end, what did I really uncover? That I'm attracted to Jonathan Archer, that I have a certain fondness for him. That's not so different to my situation before. I can handle that. You never know, it might be good for me—a character building experience, as my father might say. I smile slightly at that, picturing the expression on the old admiral's face if I ever told him.

And just because I now know something about myself that I didn't before, doesn't mean I have to act on it. Doesn't mean I have to do anything at all. Except admire Captain Archer from a distance and try to remember my dreams in the morning. I smile slightly again, at myself, at my audacity. Despite everything I'm in a good mood.

Just then, the armoury doors swish open, admitting the object of my musings. He hasn't spotted me yet, up in the second level, and I take a moment to find my composure. I'm fairly certain that my face is now neutral, but something inside me is still smiling and I'm not entirely sure I can hide that.

I slide down the stairs to greet him and only when I've reached the ground do I notice that he's brought something with him.

'Is that… *beer*?' I ask raising my eyebrows, more than a little surprised.

The captain laughs in that laid back manner of his, eyes alight with a hint of mischief. 'Yes, Lieutenant, I suppose it is.' At this moment, right now, I would like nothing more than to sit back and enjoy a beer with this man, as if we were friends, as if we did it all the time. This man who is so alive with mirth and beauty and the joy of being alive. Leading him to a seat on the torpedo launching platform I think, it is my birthday; it's about bloody time I got to enjoy it.

And then, I falter. My conscience gives me a sharp kick as the memory of shouting at him in rage and frustration flies through my mind, and our conversation dries up. Throughout the day, since we beat off our aggressors, I've periodically been checking my personal file for signs of the formal reprimand I've been expecting. But it never came, and now I suspect it won't ever. Extraordinary, really, for a captain to be so relaxed about such things. I've never given him reason to discipline me in the past and I hope that that will remain so in the time to come, but I really feel I deserved it in this case. The thought perturbs me, and I once again try to understand how I got away with it. The least I can do, I decide, is to try to apologise once more and just hope I'm slightly more articulate about it this time.

I stand at ease before Captain Archer and force myself to relax. 'Captain, I…' Finding my heart to be pounding, I glance away from his expectant face, trying to collect my racing thoughts into something coherent. 'I want to apologize again for my outburst last night. It was completely unacceptable. It won't happen again, sir.'

He holds up his hand, smiling merrily. 'That isn't necessary, Lieutenant. You're only human.'

A wry smile tugs at my mouth as I remember my earlier thoughts on this issue. 'All the same, I wanted to say it.' I wonder vaguely if he hasn't been reading my mind.

Trip finally arrives, saving me from such flights of fancy. I watch the captain as he pours the beer and we drink to our mysterious friends. I'm enjoying the sense of camaraderie in the room and being comfortable around the captain. I find myself just looking at him, taking pleasure in the lines that form around his eyes as he smiles, the sparkle in those eyes. Relaxing back onto my torpedo I allow the warmth I feel radiating from him to blow over me like a soft breeze. Hoshi joins us, but I don't let that distract me. While the others crowd around the workbench I simply look at Jon and think that, for possibly the first time, I'm happy on my birthday.

When they turn back around, the first thing I see is the captain beaming at me and I'm momentarily dazzled, but then I realise what he's holding up and I get to my feet, my heart suddenly in my mouth. It hadn't occurred to me that anyone actually knew it was my birthday today; I'm so used to spending it alone. One thought keeps running through my mind—I don't deserve this. What can I possibly have done to deserve this?

Completely and utterly speechless, I take the proffered cake-slice and with Jon's hand on my shoulder, cut a small piece out of the corner. I hold it up to my face for inspection, thinking to make some comment about uneven icing or an inferior choice of flavouring—shallow witticisms are about all I can muster right now—but what I see is nothing short of perfection.

'Pineapple!' I blurt out in surprise. 'That's my fav-' Turning to Jon I wonder once more if he hasn't been reading my mind. 'How on earth did you know?'

He looks to Hoshi and she grins a little shyly at me. 'We have our sources.' Something clicks into place about our exchange the previous evening and I smile, partly in relief that I haven't precluded our friendship by my idiotic behaviour, but mostly in sheer, unadulterated pleasure. Taking a bite I can't help but sigh. The sponge is soft and moist, the pineapple fresh. ''Sgood,' I say around a mouthful. Laughing, Jon claps me on the back and starts cutting a slice for himself and the others.

As he does so, he glances at me sideways and says with sincerity, 'I'm glad you like it, Malcolm.' I hold his gaze for a moment, then grin at him and happily take another bite. Halfway through chewing I stop dead. Since when has Captain Archer been 'Jon' to me? Since when have I had the right…?

I've done it again, let my control slip and left the door swinging wide open to him. Jon… Captain Archer. Twice in twenty-four hours. So very foolish. I'm no coward, but sometimes running away is the most tactically sound decision. And that's what I need to do right now. I need to go away somewhere by myself, hide away and be alone.

I'll just finish this mouthful, and then I'll go. This won't happen again. I can learn from my mistakes. Well, I'd better finish the whole slice. No sense letting a good cake go to waste. Not to mention the pineapple. This won't happen again… from tomorrow.


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