Title: Byrne

Author: MJ

Author's e-mail: mjr91@aol.com

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

Date: 06/05/02

Fandom: Enterprise

Pairing: Archer/Reed.

Rating: PG-13 for language

Archive: Archer's Enterprise

Summary: Archer POV about Malcolm.

Series/sequel: This fic has a companion piece, Imperceptibly Stript Back

Note: "Byrnies" are coats of chain mail.

Thus for each blunt-faced ignorant one
The great grey rigid uniform combined
Safety with virtue of the sun.
Thus concepts linked like chainmail in the mind.

—from "The Byrnies," by Thom Gunn

I remember my Starfleet training, much of it learned by observing the captains of the ships on which I served as a junior officer. I particularly remember the lack of any personal life, at least any I could observe, among any of them, even the ones who were married and had children. The lesson was clear—a ship's captain's life is the ship and its crew; all else is irrelevant.

As I rose in the ranks, I began to grow closer to the other senior officers and to the captains with whom I served, and I learned a new truth. The captain might indeed have a personal life, but he'd be damned if anyone knew anything about it.

Of course, none of the officers who trained me ever prepared me for this—five years under the same roof with a small group of men and women, all of whom I personally interviewed, if I hadn't already known them or who they were before they came on board Enterprise. I know all of them. All of them know me. And we have lived together, and will live together, in a small space in which we have had, and will have, little or no privacy.

I know all of the Starfleet regulations, all of the rules of command, both official and written, and those unofficial and unstated. Most of them are useless, not written for the circumstances my crew and I live in. Social fraternization between officers and enlisted, generally an unstated taboo, is of necessity an everyday occurrence on Enterprise. Sexual fraternization—between officers and enlisted, I think I would still have a problem with that. Far too easy to create a shift in power dynamics that is under the best circumstances unsuitable and in worse circumstances anything from harassment to blackmail material.

But to enforce the full set of rules regarding fraternization, a set of rules constructed by military lawyers with a fine understanding of lawsuits and little or no understanding of human nature—and no understanding whatsoever of the kind of life we have on this ship—that would be humanly impossible for me, and more than intolerable for this crew, officers and enlisted alike.

I refuse to count the number of grades apart two officers on this ship are if they're dating. I have no interest in any of the ensigns, and without thinking about it more than I care to, I don't even think that any officer on Enterprise besides myself even has the "too many degrees of rank apart" problem in the first place. And unless someone complains, I am not going to touch the "direct chain of command" problem. There are too many people on this ship living out of each other's pockets and working in more than one capacity, in different departments, to begin sorting out exactly who is in whose direct supervisory chain at what time. Any other approach results in my telling officers that they either won't have any relationships for five years, or limiting them to casual sex on the occasional shore leave. Neither of which I am willing to do.

Admiral Forrest has spoken to me about what he perceives as a too-relaxed approach to shipboard discipline. I have, respectfully of course, disagreed with him entirely. The rules were never written for eighty-plus people living in these conditions for this long. The boomers I've spoken to can't understand the regulations at all; they've lived on ships their entire lives without the boxes Starfleet has created for us, and most of them have never encountered any of the problems Starfleet so patently fears will occur.

Which leaves me with some hope that I may yet be able to have a relationship of some sort on this ship. Besides my dog and my best friend, that is.

It's not that I came onto Enterprise actively looking for a relationship. I certainly didn't screen officers with an eye to availability and interest. But you work with someone long enough, every day, and then one day you look at them and you think, "when did *this* happen?" And no matter how hard you try, you realize you can't quite tell when you weren't fascinated by his hands, watching his fingers moving delicately through precision work, and you're not sure when you noticed that his eyes were that incredible shade of blue—at least, they're more blue than gray…and I haven't got the foggiest notion of when I first wanted to get my hands in his hair.

God help me, I'm in love with him.

I think…I think he feels the same way. I've felt his eyes on me when I'm on the Bridge, and I know it's not merely that he's waiting for orders. I saw how he looked at me when I came back for him after the Novan incident. I know how he reacted when I had the surprise birthday cake done for him. I've been afraid that I may have been a bit obvious there myself, although no one, even Hoshi, has bothered to point out to me that I haven't gone that far to try to please anyone else. We've touched, briefly, a few times, mostly in Sickbay, and from my end, the contact has always been just a little too close, just a little too long. He must have noticed that by now, surely. A man always notices that from another man; whether he's interested or repelled, he notices.

The way his eyes burn into the back of my neck when he's at his station, the way he looks at me when we're discussing the weapons systems…he's not repelled. I don't have to be a Vulcan telepath to know that.

Which reminds me: I wonder if T'Pol has noticed—not that I care.

His defenses—they're so damned strong. He might as well be wearing armor sometimes; he wears his stubbornness as a shield to prevent anything getting through to him.

After talking to his parents…make that "after trying to talk to his parents"…I'm not really surprised, just saddened.

I want…I want to crack through the armor. I want him to feel; I want to be the one that makes him feel. Every so often, there's a small crack, and he lets something slip. I want to widen those cracks until I can peel that armor off of him, until he's able to have a feeling, an actual emotion, in front of me without thinking he'll have to apologize for it.

I want his body. I want to peel off that uniform, then peel off that blue uniform undershirt, and see the muscles that support the weight of all of the armor he carries on his shoulders. He's small, but he's strong—spare, wiry, not a wasted ounce on him. I've seen him in the gym; what I've seen of his body is beautiful, and I want to see the rest of it. I want to see his body beside mine on my bunk; I want to see it under mine, with his legs around me. I want to see his face when he comes; I want to hear him moan, and know I'm the reason why he's doing it.

I want…I want someone to tell me how to do this. To tell me how to go over to him and let him know. Lord, I haven't had this kind of problem in years; I haven't had doubts about my technique, sweaty palms, a bad case of nerves about suggesting a date since…oh, God, not since I was in high school. Trip…I should tell Trip about this, let him get a good laugh at my expense. A goddamned starship captain, flummoxed about asking someone if they might possibly want to have dinner.

Possibly? See, there I go. I'm even expecting to get shot down in flames, despite knowing that he's apparently every bit as interested as I am. What's the difficulty? Is it that he's a subordinate? Maybe; I've never risked this kind of thing before, leaving myself open for a complaint to be lodged, even though every look in my direction tells me he'd never complain. Is it that I haven't wanted anyone this badly in years? That could be it; the fact certainly gives me some degree of anxiety, at any rate. Or is it that this is the first time in my life I've met someone I think really might be "the one" I'd started to believe wasn't out there for me? That I'm terrified of losing him even before I try to get hold of him?

I should know better than this; I should know so much better than to allow myself to be alone on the Bridge with him. Watching his fingers move across dials the way I want to have them move over my body, seeing that smile of deep personal satisfaction at a cannon adjustment that makes me want him to look at me like that, knowing that he knows I'm entirely his…eye contact with me that doesn't look as if it has a damned thing to do with this phase cannon test, and that seriously taxes my chances of standing up without embarrassing myself. Speaking of my callow youth, as I think I did a moment ago, I haven't had this kind of problem with an unneeded public erection since then, either.

He's standing up now at the console; I have nothing else in particular to look at, but I feel conspicuous in watching him anyway, probably because I am so aware of my own motives. Another adjustment, those slender, elegant fingers moving along the console just out of my sight, and he looks over at me again. He's done, I gather; what blood isn't fueling this erection is pounding in my head loudly enough to keep me from hearing him clearly. He'll leave the Bridge, and I'll at least be able to allow myself the luxury of watching the way his ass moves in that uniform, which he won't be able to see me doing, so I won't have to worry about the inevitable drool.

Um, the exit's the other way, isn't it, so why is he…

…leaning over my chair with an arm hanging over my shoulder and his head near my ear?

"Captain? It's my professional assessment that there seems to be one more cannon waiting to fire…" And the nip on my earlobe, that's going straight down to my groin too, the same way that hand playing across my chest is, and damn, I was right about those fingers, even through my uniform, and anything I was thinking is draining from my head, because thinking is suddenly the worst thing I can imagine. "Did you want me to investigate the situation further?"

I have few, if any, wits left about me after the way he's playing me, but I can vaguely grasp onto one flicker of an idea. "No."

"No?" He looks crestfallen, close to alarmed, perhaps afraid he's misjudged me.

My hand closes around his wrist. "Not here. My cabin."


"I'd like to have our first time in a slightly less awkward place…" And a slightly less public one, at that. Nothing kills passion like the sudden emergence of a live audience.

He's smoldering at me. The gray in those eyes might be smoke, judging by the slow burn I'm seeing there. The thought that he wants this as badly as I do is intoxicating. "First time?"

"Believe me, Lieutenant, if we'd done this before, I'd never have forgotten it."

"Oh, I know we've never…but…you were planning a repeat engagement?"

My turn to smolder back. I may not look as if there's smoke in my eyes, but I can generate some steam. "I was thinking along the lines of a long-term booking."

He's smiling at me. He's devastating when he smiles. Have I mentioned how badly I want him?

"Were you? Hmm, I think that could easily be arranged…" His lips are on mine, and nothing else in the galaxy matters any more. Not now, possibly not ever.

I rise, pulling him up with me. "My cabin. Now."

He grins, the cocky bastard. "Is that an order, Sir?"

I didn't know I had this kind of growl in me. "It is, Lieutenant."

Oh, it's an order, all right.

But I wonder if he knows it's love.

If you enjoyed this story, please send feedback to the author.

Star Trek and Enterprise are copyrighted by Paramount. We don't own 'em—we just play with them. No money was made.
Please do not repost material without requesting permission directly from the author.
Archer's Enterprise is maintained by the Webmistress.