Title: The Message
Written for: bev_crusher1971
Length: Approximately 5600 words
Summary: Some things are not better left unsaid.
Author's notes: Written for entficathon, Spring 2005. Bev requested Archer/Reed, lots of love, LHEA, first time, maybe set in the future... her second choice had the word 'angst' in it... so... TWO FOR ONE! (XD) Some spoilers for "Minefield," "Affliction," "Divergence," and "Demons." This was a near-future fic until my deadline caught up with me, so I incorporated (handily) a few things from "Demons"... otherwise it fits the bill. I had originally thought it would be an all-Jon POV, but Malcolm insisted on taking over the second part, so I suppose now I have a budding MalcolmMuse, and I thank the ficathon for that. This is also my very first bona fide stand-alone slash fic complete with, erm, more than kissing (no spoilers!), although I've been writing slash for almost two years now at treksoap. Graduation time! *smiles* Hope you enjoy it, Bev!
Special thanks: Deepest appreciation to beta-max mareel for general hand-holding when I needed someone to tell me it wasn't crap. And to cedara for a last minute once over and encouragement.
Feedback: Always appreciated.
* * *
The moon's a fingernail and slowly sinking
Another day begins and now I'm thinking
That this indifference was my invention
When everything I did sought your attention
You were my compass star, you were my measure
You were a pirate's map, a buried treasure
If this was all correct, the last thing I'd expect
The prosecution rests, it's time that I confess:
I must have loved you
~ Ghost Story – Sting ~
* * *
Jonathan Archer shoved his heel in the sand as he sat in the dark on the low windswept log, and suddenly realized he didn't know if the tide was coming in or going out. Which, when he thought about it, pretty much summed up most of the last year of his life.
The ocean inlet seethed and foamed just meters away, outside the circle of firelight which cocooned around him, leaving behind an illuminated shifting boundary between two worlds, that of land and that of sea. Moonlight struck both earth and water from an angle, broken apart into a million photons and scattering in all directions. Blue and pale in the cool night air, it outlined the ties on his shoes and the trim on his jacket in an eerie white, lending a supernatural edge to the natural surroundings.
Any other time, any other moment and the beauty would have lingered in his mind and soothed his soul.
Instead it echoed a portrait of his heart, holding it out for him to see without doubt. Cold, faint, unable to be taken in hand, yet shining on an undeniably clear path before him. Rather than offering comfort, the course left him feeling adrift because this wasn't a path to be traveled alone.
And that choice wasn't his to make in the end, which complicated things more and made the wait even harder.
Waiting for what, though? Jon was no more sure of that than he was of what he'd finally done the day before. Taking an action and foreseeing all of its consequences were often two different things. God knows Malcolm Reed had learned that lesson, and he knew what he was doing. He had to have known; there was no mistaking the distress in his eyes or his voice, weeks ago, as he had blatantly lied to his captain.
As he had lied to Jon.
His jaw tightened, and his gaze fell to the smooth line of water-logged sand, following the outlines of his earlier footsteps remaining there as shadowy craters. The trail wound back along the shore and around the rough crescent to the distant rocks at the base of a bluff. There Jon had spent the better part of the afternoon perched among the rocks as if on a lookout. His vigil had turned up nothing but nervously pacing wire-legged birds trying to make up their minds to stay or go, to get their feet wet or stay safely in their comfort zone above the surf. Their little dance always felt like such a waste of energy even if it was instinct, but he supposed it served a purpose -- the damned birds did live to run another day. Whether there was joy to be found in such a life, well... only the birds knew the answer and they weren't talking.
So he sat with arms hugging around bended knees, alone in the dark and silence save for the din of endless waves and the dry staccato of the fire as it turned everything it touched to heat and ash. He reasoned that he should really go inside, make a late meal of leftover dim sum, wash the day's grit of salt and sand from his body, let the drone of the local news lull him to an empty sleep between tightly-woven luxurious egyptian cotton sheets. Everything could wait, after all. Everything could start again tomorrow. In the morning only the stars would be gone, an illusion revealed every time Jon opened his eyes to begin another day on Enterprise. He had learned there were indeed constants in the universe, whether or not one was aware of them.
Instead he relaxed and jealously guarded the indulgence of a few stolen moments on leave with no need to think or make a command decision. The senior staff wasn't due at the coalition conference until the end of the week, and thankfully was the furthest thing from his mind. He could remain on the beach all night if he so chose -– again -- and simply drift. At times... at times, that felt like all he wanted to do.
Lost in thought, he didn't hear the soft shuffle of feet in the sand behind him at first. He simply knew someone was there when they stopped a meter away. Well... not just "someone." He almost smiled but thought better of it just before the raw panic over what he'd done overtook the moment and shocked through him. It left him with no better response than simply playing with the edge of his jacket cuff, silent.
Jon had already waited years. Another few seconds wouldn't change anything.
The numbing rhythm of the waves in front of him dissolved in the moment he saw Malcolm, from the corner of his eye and without turning his head. His presence was unmistakable, even on an empty California beach on a January night. Only now, it didn't feel quite so empty to Jon.
"Do you have any idea," Malcolm said, solemnly breaking the silence, "how bloody difficult it is to trace a communication sent from a public kiosk in a shopping mall?"
Now Jon smiled. "I do indeed." The words broke free, stunning Jon for a moment as if he'd been a mute until then. “I had faith in you, though.”
"'Faith'. Hm. Two inquiries to mall security, one complete runaround with the secretary in the admin office, some chap named 'Mike' in central tech knows me by my voice, and I actually had to field a call-back not once but twice to confirm that yes, indeed, it was THE Malcolm Reed from THE NX-01 Enterprise wanting to review the kiosk records. Embarrassing, the lot of them."
Malcolm sniffed and rounded the driftwood log Jon was sitting on but remained standing, kicking the sand absently, hands shoved into the pockets of his windbreaker. "And then, once I did indeed confirm who sent it... combing the rental records of towns within driving distance of San Francisco took another half-day. It wouldn't hurt if Trip actually knew where you'd gone off to, exactly. Nor would using your entire real name. Not terribly efficient for locating the captain of a starship should there be an emergency."
Jon shook his head, turning only partway toward Malcolm, keeping any eye contact indirect. This was hard for him, he knew -- nor had it been an easy call for Jon. But Malcolm's standing not two meters away confirmed he had made the right move.
"That's why I granted a little leave, Malcolm. Everyone needs to get away for a little while, including me. From anyone and everyone I don't want to seek me out. Sometimes that includes friends." Jon raised his eyebrows. "It always includes the media. I figured using 'Henry Archer' would be enough of a clue to anyone who really wanted to find me."
Malcolm looked away, his eyes scanning the horizon for longer than it took to actually see anything worth noting, even in the moonlight. When he fell quiet, Jon kicked himself. More words about something other than work had just voluntarily passed over Malcolm's lips than Jon thought he'd ever heard in one sitting. But Jon hadn't said anything that wasn't true –- the evidence stood in Malcolm's shoes, speaking volumes.
"At any rate, Admiral Gardiner knew where I was," Jon continued, glancing over his shoulder at the bungalow behind them, windows glowing warmly like eyes on the house's porch-face. "It's his sister's beach house... I mentioned I was looking for someplace secluded; he offered."
The waves tumbled just a little louder in the following silence, and Malcolm took a few steps toward the water, placing the dancing fire between them. A study in contrasting light fell over him, outlining his form in hues of warm orange on one side, cool blues on the other as Jon finally watched him, watched his back, wondering what in the hell to say next. Or whether to say anything at all, an idle temptation. They were here, now. Malcolm was here, by invitation even. Neither one would be going anywhere.
No, talking was inevitable. They'd both made it so.
"You've been found, then."
Jon marveled that Malcolm had spoken first again -– it was rare enough that he'd ever done so even once with Jon, let alone twice. He hoped it was a good sign.
The breeze whipped past them suddenly, raising lightning-bug sparks effortlessly out of the firepit and twirling them into the sky. Jon stood, his eyes following them, up, up, their glow disappearing at a certain height as if bumping into an invisible ceiling. A definite chill invaded his bones, as the evening temperature dropped closer to the dewpoint.
Taking a few steps, he paused briefly by Malcolm and touched his arm. "Come inside," he said, turning away toward the house.
With the wind now at his back, Jon was almost grateful for the slow-going in the sand, taking time to pull his thoughts together while crossing the distance to the porch. There was no wondering if his guest was following. He knew better. Malcolm had always followed him, yet another constant in Jon's life and one that had become a comfort somewhere along the way.
The rush of the surf faded then almost vanished as he heard Malcolm close the heavy wooden front door, with Jon already halfway through the living room tugging at his own jacket and laying it aside on the back of the couch. A yawn greeted him from the cushion next to the fireplace, with Porthos stretching at his master's return. Jon smiled, giving the beagle a loving thump on the side before going to the kitchen.
"We've got company, boy," he said, as Porthos' ears pricked up and a low rumble began in his throat at the sound of another set of shoes in the entry. Jon felt pleasantly relieved when it became a welcoming whine and the dog took off, tail wagging, to greet the visitor.
"Well, hullo there, Porthos," he heard Malcolm say in the other room. "I'm surprised your master didn't have you outside, as nice an evening as it was."
"You want something to drink? I've got a local microbrew, some orange juice...." Jon visually rattled through the rest of the sparse contents of the refrigerator. "There are some soft drinks running around here somewhere, I didn't stick any in to cool off though." He glanced back as Malcolm settled on a stool at the counter. "Place comes equipped. I only had to pick up a few perishables and I'm good for a week."
"A beer, I suppose. As good a time as any to try the local flavor."
Jon grabbed two bottles from the door, the chilled glass clinking together in his hand. He rummaged around in a drawer and popped the caps with a bottle-opener, then handed one to Malcolm. He nodded a thanks, avoiding Jon's eyes for the most part and looking down as the dog pawed his leg.
"I thought I wanted some alone time out there tonight," Jon said, half-answering Malcolm's query from a moment ago. "Porthos knows how to keep to himself... life on a starship kind of does that to you."
Malcolm hesitated. "I didn't mean to intrude."
"You haven't." Jon took a drink from the bottle, then passed Malcolm on the way to the fireplace. "You are the one person who is always welcome, at any time."
He sensed eyes watching his back while he crouched down and felt for the switch, and found himself wondering how many times he may have missed feeling the same on Enterprise. Now that he thought about it, Malcolm did seem to have just two focal points on the bridge: his weapons console, and Jon. He couldn't recall ever seeing him looking anywhere else whenever Jon glanced over.
He adjusted the gas flame as it leaped to life behind the logs, hissing and giving out a soft, warming glow. Smiling, he stood, not surprised to see Malcolm still sitting, solitary, on that damned stool across the room. Jon sighed; no more busy work to keep them occupied, and small talk would only carry things so far before they would have to discuss... everything.
He gestured to the couch, crossing to it himself. "It'll start to warm up in here now. Please, make yourself at home." Jon felt relieved as Malcolm consented, removing his jacket as he moved closer and sat, or rather perched slightly, on the chair nearest the fireplace. Following, Porthos sighed contentedly and settled at his feet.
Well, it was a start.
Malcolm's eyes wandered around the room, studying the straight-line woodwork scattered throughout the house and that framed the cream-plaster walls. He continued to hold his beer, leaving it untouched. "Quite the place here. Reminiscent of Wright's architecture, I'd say, rather old-school." He frowned. "And they leave it to be let out?"
Jon leaned forward -- if Malcolm wasn't going to actually relax, at least Jon would try to set the example. "I think they're in Europe. Her husband is a contractor, or dabbles in real estate, or something. Gardiner said this was the off-season, they'd appreciate it being occupied, even if just for a week," he said, smiling at Malcolm, who now stared at the bottle in his hand.
He cleared his throat. "Maybe he wouldn't want me here, then."
"I do," Jon replied without hesitation, softening his voice. "The Gardiner clan isn't here. I am."
He watched Malcolm fidget, a struggle passing clearly over his face -- his eyes searching the air in front of him, brow drawing in, lips tightening -- then suddenly he relaxed as if a breach had occurred somewhere. His hand ran quickly through dark hair and he turned his head away, finding a focus in the firelight beside him, staying there for long moments.
When he turned back, it was with a single word on his lips.
Malcolm had never used his first name. Ever. Jon felt a bit giddy, and it was all he could do to keep from reacting, from spilling out everything he'd ever thought, imagined, felt, and dreamed about Malcolm Reed. But he held it all back as Malcolm continued.
"... I'm sorry, I'm having difficulty understanding something... why now?"
His voice held steady, not a trace of the cautious apprehension Jon had expected to dominate any conversation between them. An openness prevailed instead, feeling effortless in its contrast to his tactical officer's usual approach to anything remotely personal. And this was about as personal as anything could get.
"Why, after working together for four years, with everything we've been through as crewmates, as officers, as human beings... why does everything change? So suddenly? You take personal leave and run off to this 'Fantasy Island'... I'm minding my self just fine on the ship, still holding together all the little things from my -– indiscretion -– that potentially could have upended my department. After all, it isn't every day that the head of security gets tossed into his own brig over a muck up. One that I can't explain to anyone, no less--"
"-- and then, after three days, that shows up in my personal mail and my entire life is simply... turned on its ear." He set the bottle aside and ran an unsteady hand over his mouth and back on his cheek, as if feeling for the embarrassed blush now shining over his face.
Jon broke eye contact as Malcolm stood abruptly in the small cottage's living room. He hadn't meant to make him uncomfortable, but knew how absurd that was in light of their conversation. Malcolm couldn't be anything but uncomfortable; he'd nearly bolted from the captain's mess years ago over the simple question of hobbies. And this was far more personal than discussing sports or family issues.
They'd come so far since that day, each one learning the point and counterpoint to their professional relationship -- captain to lieutenant, leader to protector. Jon had been pleased that at least a cautious outward friendship had developed between them, but there had never been the expectation of more. Instead, it simply became a given that Malcolm would be by Jon's side to win the day, to draw the fire, to put himself in harm's way. Technically Malcolm was simply doing his job. Jon always felt there was more to it, even though he knew all along there were lines not to be crossed. Now he wondered if he'd found the tipping point and pushed too far, even though he felt he had no choice.
The overstuffed, intricately-patterned furniture awkwardly blocked a smooth path for Malcolm's worry, and the more he tried to pace, the more things closed in on Jon. He thought perhaps he'd heard the final words from him, that the younger man would simply retreat back behind his shields with armor in place, thoroughly mortified at having come here at all, let alone having been the one to broach the subject.
Much to Jon's surprise, however, Malcolm was far from finished and he picked up right where he'd left off, standing in place this time and almost staring Jon down.
"As we discussed before, you are still well within your rights to toss me off your ship--"
"As you discussed." Jon corrected him quietly, but Malcolm didn't even pause.
"--A ship's tactical officer requires a particular level of understanding and trust between his position and the ship's captain. That working relationship -- our working relationship aboard Enterprise evolved over years of professional give-and-take, and I rely on that constant to do my job and do it well." A shadow passed over his face, and Jon saw doubt in his eyes as he took an uncertain step back. "I'm my own worst enemy, especially this time, and I can't change what I've done to undermine your confidence in me."
Shaking his head, Jon rose slowly from the couch, trying yet again to reassure the younger man. "I have no doubts in your ability or desire to protect the ship, Malcolm. Nothing has changed for you professionally."
"And that's where we differ, Jon. Our recent interactions aboard ship have been strictly duty-related, but this tension -- a very personal and private tension -- it's always present, always an undercurrent to be dealt with, to the point where it conducting ship's business alone with you feels almost forced and it is affecting my duty." Malcolm paused, swallowing. "The last time we had anything remotely close to this conversation, I asked you point blank how you could possibly continue to trust me, to allow me to remain, because I don't understand why I am still aboard your ship."
"That's my decision to make."
"But that's the point. My decision to trust Harris over you was enough of a professional mistake that a transfer, or a demotion... or even just a black mark in my file was very much in order and you simply looked at me when I brought it up, you didn't even give me the courtesy of an answer."
"Because I didn't have one at that point."
Malcolm's eyes narrowed and his shoulders squared. "Oh, but you did yesterday, didn't you."
Jon took a deep breath and prepared, knowing that tone in his voice and matching body language meant it wouldn't be pretty. But at least Malcolm was still here.
"Out of the blue, bloody miracle, angels and music and all that, is that what it was? Is that how it happened? Just standing around one moment, trolling about in the surf and then suddenly you realize... 'Eureka? I've got to tell him?'"
Jon turned aside for lack of a better reaction, eyes down, searching absently for a focal point to keep from bursting out into nervous laughter. Malcolm had no idea how close he actually was to the truth -– but no way in hell could Jon ever admit to that. If he did, he'd never live it down; if he did it now, it could ruin everything.
"Did you think you were being cute?" Malcolm stepped closer to him, becoming increasingly agitated. "Sending something of that import from an anonymous public terminal? Did you think it would be fun to watch me drag myself all over the California coastline, and for what?" He raised his voice as Jon looked away. "What the hell is this all about, really, Jon?"
"I wasn't being 'cute' – I was being honest." Jon turned his eyes back, seeking reassurance with the admission. "I know it's not a game, Malcolm. If I came across in any way like it was, I'm sorry--"
"DON'T be sorry, for god's sake!" The edge in Malcolm's voice struck Jon as bordering on hysterics, his gestures becoming almost erratic. "I don't want you to be sorry, I want you to... flail me. Punish me. I lied to you, Jon! I lied to my captain, and I lied to you. I didn't know what it really meant to me to do that, not then, but I certainly know now. I took the past four years, the trust we'd built between us, the way I knew what you were thinking just as you knew beyond a doubt that I'd be there and I trampled on it. Tore it up and threw it away because of my bloody misguided sense of duty. Threw away any chance-–"
Jon interrupted Malcolm's stream of emotion-filled words, swiftly grabbing his wrist without thinking, pulling him in close, matching the moment to the one between them weeks ago. Only this time there was no pause, no holding back, not even a whisper.
This time, Jon completed the kiss.
For a moment, neither moved or breathed. What felt like an eternity to Jon passed with Malcolm lingering beneath Jon's lips, warm, tense, and obviously surprised. Jon wondered briefly if he'd made the biggest mistake of his life, at the same time knowing the larger sin would have been to make no move at all, to let him continue confessing his guilt until he convinced himself to run, not for his own sake but for Jon's. For all of Jon's knowing exactly what he had interrupted and why... Malcolm was not responding.
Then Jon felt him melt, releasing everything into the kiss in a trickle, then a torrent, as Malcolm's mouth moved and breathed life against him. Hands were next, hands that wandered tentatively as did his own in return, skimming Jon's chest, clasping gingerly around his neck and pulling him in closer. The final piece of the puzzle slipped into place as Jon wrapped one arm around the other man's back, closing the remaining distance between them without resistance.
It had been the right thing to do all along, all of it.
He broke the kiss but barely, hovering close, their lips remaining in contact as if leaving it behind would break the spell between them. Jon was the first to breathe, his nose brushing against Malcolm's quite intimately. The voice Jon heard was his own, soft, ragged, and husky.
"You have been by my side, there for me...for four years...in everything I've done, everything I've considered, you were the one I turned to first, sometimes for advice, often simply to see you there, to know."
Jon's hand finally released Malcolm's wrist, making its way down over his hand, fingers threading together. His hand was warm and inviting, just the way his kiss had become, once Malcolm had dropped his shields and let Jon in completely.
"Four years, Malcolm, no easy feat. Not with the way it all began, the naivete, the mistakes, the 'command style'. You could have transferred off then and not have been the first to question whether I was the right man for the job."
Malcolm's head had dropped between them, his eyes riveted on their joined hands; a safe enough place to focus, Jon thought. He was careful not to move a finger, though every emotion in his body burned for Malcolm. Jon watched him swallow, not a nervous movement, but one that struck Jon as a shoring up, a way to find words that sought expression.
"No." Malcolm shook his head. "That never crossed my mind."
"Of course it did, it must have--"
"No," Malcolm reiterated, raising his eyes to Jon's, his gaze piercing and serious. "You've always been the right man for this job, Jon. It just took time for me to admit it."
It was Jon's turn to swallow hard, the warm knot in his stomach tumbling as he felt Malcolm's fingers curl tighter in Jon's grasp. For a long moment Jon though he was looking into the depths of the sea beyond the cottage door, the surf he'd come to know so intimately while waiting, waiting for this man, for a response to Jon's message.
"'Nixon and China'... that kind of 'right man'...?"
Malcolm pressed closer until Jon was sure he could sense his heart beating, even over his own. His soft words washed over Jon like an unexpected surge in the tide.
"Just... the right man...." Malcolm leaned in to close the distance between them.
* * *
The sudden echoed grunts between them as they turned and sank into the pillows again did nothing to break the pace of either of their bodies. Malcolm both arched and curled his back, almost overcome yet again by the tensive strength of the man beneath him. Another unexpected moan escaped his throat, raw and passionate, as Jon's cock slid even deeper into him with the change in position.
"Oh god, Jon..."
He laid his body down atop Jon, tugged eagerly into his embrace even as Malcolm almost straddled his waist, Jon's knees now bent behind Malcolm to gain more leverage for his thrusts. The rhythm of their fuck continued to build, and Malcolm dropped hungry kisses along Jon's jaw until his mouth sought Malcolm's with equal fervor. Neither could hold any kiss for long, their breaths taken in short bursts to match everything else they were doing. Nor could they seem stay away from more. Malcolm latched on, seeking every affirmation he could find that this was real, that it was happening, even as Jon pounded the point into him.
Jon quickened, a smile on his lips that Malcolm could feel even through their open mouths, and for a moment his balance was compromised as his entire body was pushed forward bit by bit over Jon. Malcolm felt Jon's firm grasp anchor his hips and the movement stopped. He reached out first one hand, then another, shakily, fixing a grip on the headboard to steady himself and he bore down, the fullness inside him from Jon's thick cock making him feel close to bursting. Cries of pleasure sounded in his ears, mixing with the roaring rush of blood, and it took a moment to register that it wasn't just Jon's voice he was hearing.
His head dropped, lips barely grazing Jon's forehead, tasting the salty heated skin beneath as Jon raked his tongue and teeth over Malcolm's neck. Another cry, and again, incoherent, tense, Jon's strokes hitting exactly. It wouldn't be long.
The bed creaked in protest, a formerly silent third partner in their coupling and the only witness to their passion. Jon tightened the hold around his back even as Malcolm felt him slip a strong hand between their bodies, everything heightening, beginning to burn. Jon's fingers deftly sought and found Malcolm's cock, surrounding it firmly before echoing the tempo of his hips. Malcolm could hardly stand more, mouth open, lips becoming dry, tightness and tingling rising in his belly and groin, a tiny deep-seated sound accompanying every exhale. Then Jon began to speak, his voice raw and urgent.
"Come... oh god, Malcolm... come, I wantyoutocomewithme--"
The guttural words were broken off in an emotional choke. A moment later, he felt Jon arch his back and thrust his cock into Malcolm, hard and deep, with a swallow and a gasp. His pulls on Malcolm's cock froze for a split second, then began again erratically. Between the change in rhythm and the pulsing from Jon's cock deep inside, Malcolm was thrown over the edge, spilling hot and wet into Jon's hand and onto his stomach. He bucked, more keenly aware of Jon's presence under and within as the shivers of orgasm passed over and through his body, with only Jon's name repeated on his lips.
Malcolm's arms gave out first, letting himself collapse completely onto Jon's chest, into his arms, nearly cocooned by his lover as they both continued to come down.
His lover. Malcolm could scarcely hold onto any thought at all and yet clung to that one for dear life, as he continued to cling to Jon.
His hands dug between the pillows and Jon's neck, grasping into his hair, Malcolm breathing heavily against his throat, inhaling sweat and scent and everything to do with Jon. He wanted to crawl into him, be held, lay tightly against him, as he'd wanted to do so many times to reassure himself after yet another dance with the devil, with Jon barely escaping with his life, sometimes even coming back from death itself. Each new incident had brought Malcolm that much closer to losing out, not only failing to protect his captain but running out of time to ever sort through how complex their relationship had truly become.
He had run the gamut during his four years of service with this man... from being perplexed by yet drawn to a superior so different from what Malcolm had been brought up to expect, to the growing admiration and unfailing loyalty that developed as he watched both the man and the officer mature in the role. He'd finally realized that Jonathan Archer had set a new measure by which Malcolm now judged others who followed in their footsteps. Or those who darkly shadowed from his own past, like Harris.
The mere thought of what he'd almost traded, and for what, caused a shiver to run down Malcolm's spine.
Jon stirred, breathing easier as he whispered. "Cold, Malcolm?" He was already reaching for the duvet, which had bunched to one side of them in all their activity.
"Mmm... no. Just a momentary spirit."
He let the older man draw the cover over his back and shoulders anyway, shutting out the rest of the world even more, which was fine with Malcolm. When his body shifted in Jon's hold enough that his cock finally slipped away, Malcolm surprised himself with a small disappointed sigh -- to be so vocal and open so quickly with Jon felt strangely natural, but he still wasn't used to it. He had grown accustomed to Jon's reactions over the years, the constant touches, the little glances, even the way he leaned closely over him at the tactical station, but his internal armour had kept anything more at bay. Or to be honest, it had kept Malcolm's reactions in check.
His body eased alongside Jon's as he gingerly stretched his legs, twinging a little at the hip while each entwined with the other, feet and knees almost tangled. Jon held fast around Malcolm's back; he smiled as he felt Jon's hand drift down to almost cup his ass.
"Spirit... ghost?" Jon sighed. "You should be thinking only good things, unless I've fallen down on the job..."
"I've no complaints on that count, love." Malcolm closed his eyes as he burrowed into Jon's chest, fingers drifting into the slightly matted hair, the muscle beneath solid and well-defined. He vaguely noted the damp spot on the bedding underneath his hip, a reminder of their first round of lovemaking, when Jon had taken him slowly from above, face to face, tender and nearly Tantric.
Jon paused, ducking his head closer, running his fingertips along the hair on Malcolm's brow, the sensation hypnotic.
"Then what, hm?"
Malcolm grew quiet, his eyes blinking open again and studying the near-darkness of the room. The last of the moonlight cast its shadows along the wall behind them. If he listened carefully he could sense the constant presence of the sea beyond the window; even without seeing, he knew it was there.
He raised his head, balancing his chin on Jon's chest, over his heart. The strong beat below coaxed an answer from him.
"Of all the enemies I've battled and fights I've won... my successes in keeping you safe, no matter how small or large my role... I can't believe, sometimes, that I nearly lost you... to myself."
Jon's whisper soothed Malcolm, and he could hear the smile within his words.
"I thought we already had this conversation. In fact, that's how we ended up here."
"Ah, no... I believe this part all started yesterday."
"It began a long time ago, Malcolm. For both of us."
Malcolm had never been happier for Jon to be right about something. He sighed, hugging more into Jon.
"I told you, love... nothing but ghosts."
"Then exorcise them." He felt Jon shift underneath him, and was drawn slowly into a warm kiss, Jon's tongue seeking entrance and Malcolm eagerly opening to him. A small moan escaped Malcolm's throat as they deepened the kiss, and the thought occurred to him that not only could he imagine staying like this forever, but now it could very well happen.
The kiss broke gently as Malcolm cupped Jon's face in his hand.
"You never answered me, you know. Why now, why... after all these years."
Jon's cheek quirked under Malcolm's fingers as he smiled again. "You know, I'm not entirely sure myself. It just felt like time."
Malcolm pushed up on Jon's chest, hovering close over his mouth, a smirk flowing over his face.
"It's all right, Jon, it's not really important... I'm pretty certain I got the message...."
"Perhaps I should repeat it back. Just to be sure that I got it right."
"Maybe you sh--"
And Malcolm slid into another kiss with Jon.