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FIC: The Condensation of the Universe [R] - Enterprise Ficathon

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September 2nd, 2005


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kibosh
05:38 pm - FIC: The Condensation of the Universe [R]
Moderator posting for RoaringMice.

Title: The Condensation of the Universe
Author: RoaringMice
Author's Email: roaringmice@yahoo.com
Rating: R
Warning: Slash, Smut
Written for: kayjayuu
Word Count: 7000
Archive: Permission granted to archive at EntSTCommunity.
Summary: Malcolm’s world is reduced to one single focal point.
Disclaimer: I don’t own it, I make no money from it. Not written for profit, simply for pleasure.

*****

Written as part of the Enterprise Ficathon: http://www.livejournal.com/community/entficathon/

The challenge was for kayjayuu, who wanted either of the following stories:

Story 1 - Archer/Reed, angsty, a breakup because one or both don't think the relationship is proper, but then they realize they can't stay apart either. Happy ending, please, 'cause otherwise... why bother.
Story 2 - Archer fic, exploring family ties. Not necessarily shippy but if so, A/R please…we never really got that much on Jon's parents, let alone anyone else in the family.

My response: I tried hard to write a story for Kay just as she requested. But A/R are very, very difficult for me to write. I’ve done a couple of scenes in the past, based in challenges, but never an entire story.

I began and scrapped several approaches. In the end, instead of writing either story, I somehow wrote a story with a bit of both - a nod to Archer's background, A/R getting together...in a way...but not as I think Kay would prefer they get together.

In exchange for not quite meeting her request, I've included some A/R smut. I’m sure it’s tame by most standards, but I’m a wicked prude, and this is really the first time I’ve been so smutty.

As for happy endings? It’s not unhappy – bittersweet, I think.

I hope that she likes this result.

*****



Despite the long day, Malcolm found himself surprisingly energetic as he and Captain Archer left their meeting and stepped out into the bustling New York City streets. They’d been on Earth, in the city, for just the day, visiting with one of Starfleet’s contractors. They’d been reviewing the proposed changes to the weapons systems for the hoped-for next generation of starship.

Although it was important work, Malcolm had found himself increasingly distracted as the day passed. It had been a long time since he’d set foot on Earth, and he’d been eager to get outside, feel the summer air on his face. And now that he was out in it, the humidity – he’d somehow forgotten about that – hit him immediately as they began to move on the crowded pavement.

Malcolm had been in New York once before, and now, walking alongside the captain, he was suddenly reminded of one of the many differences he’d noted between this and other cities - the place seemed to have a unique smell, especially in summer’s heat – a mix of the exhaust from vehicles, rubbish, old milk and, incongruously, flowers. He smiled as Archer, popping a candy of some type into his mouth, began talking about the meeting they'd just left.

They strode past an old, brick building, well maintained, and Archer stopped just under its awning. “I used to date a girl who lived there,” he said, staring up towards the top of the eight-storey building, pointing at a window in the corner.

“Hmm…,” Malcolm said, half paying attention as he enjoyed the day around him – the sun warming him through his uniform, the scents in the air, the breeze ruffling his hair. He missed those things, being on a ship. Actually, he only missed those things once he was actually planet-side; whilst on Enterprise, he was usually too busy to remember…

“…A long time ago,” Archer said from beside him, catching his attention. The captain was still looking up at the apartment window. “Lifetimes ago,” he said, a hint of sadness in his tone. Archer shook his head, then turned to him, mischief in his eyes. “We’re not going back to Enterprise until tomorrow morning. Do you have plans for the rest of the day?”

“No, sir,” Malcolm replied.

“I have family near here, upstate a bit, and was planning to stop in. Would you be willing to join me?”

Travelling upstate to visit Archer’s family? Malcolm wasn’t sure that sounded like a promising evening.

At Malcolm’s doubtful expression, Archer went on. “I can promise you pizza and beer, or barbecue, or Italian cookies…any of several uniquely American delights.”

Malcolm still wasn’t convinced. Apparently, it showed on his face, because Archer, with a slightly uncomfortable expression, said, “They’re kind of distant relatives, who I haven’t seen in a while. I’d like to visit, but it will be easier if I bring someone - otherwise, it might be kind of overwhelming.”

At that, Malcolm finally smiled. “How can I refuse?”

“One favour, though?” Archer asked.

“Sir?”

“Drop the ‘sir’ for the rest of the day, will you?” He smiled at Malcolm. “‘Jon’ would be fine. I don’t think I can handle you calling me ‘sir’ in front of my cousins.”

“Or at the deli,” Malcolm said, deadpan.

“Deli?” Archer asked.

“If you’re schlepping me all over New York, I want deli,” Malcolm replied in his best New York accent. “Jon,” he added with a wry smile.

***

Malcolm sat across the small café table from the capt…er, right - make that “Jon”, he thought, smiling at the man over his cappuccino. He inhaled deeply, enjoying its mellow scent.

As Jon had promised, they’d stopped at one of his hometown’s Italian delis on their walk from the station, and had split one of the huge sandwiches that made New York deli such an experience. Now they were idling over cookies and coffee in the small, crowded café.

As Jon took a sip of his espresso, Malcolm took the opportunity to gaze out the nearby window at the passers-by. Jon’s hometown was small by Malcolm’s standards, nestled in some mountains…probably the Catskills, Malcolm thought, spying one hill looming over the low, brick buildings across the street. The place was certainly a lot smaller and more country-like than Manhattan had been, despite its proximity to the city.

As he stared out the window, sipping his coffee, he listened to the people around them, some at the tiny tables along the window where they were seated, others lined up at the nearby counter placing orders with the bustling deli workers. He could hear several languages spoken: English, of course, but also Spanish, and he thought…maybe Polish. Definitely some sort of Slavic language.

He placed his cup on the metal tabletop and looked at Jon. “Fairly cosmopolitan for such a rural area,” he said.

Jon smiled. “Yeah, it’s been like this forever.” Jon glanced around him at the crowd. “At times like this, it could be today, could be a hundred years ago.”

Malcolm heard a burst of Yiddish as the door opened, admitting a Hassidic couple in dark, heavy, old-fashioned clothing.

Jon looked from them, to him again. “Or two hundred,” he whispered. Then, louder, he said, “I used to come back here for most summers…nice place to grow up, actually. Close enough to the city for all that, but far enough away to have a real childhood.”

Malcolm smiled, and listened to the deli workers shout from behind the counter, their vowels so broadly rounded compared to his own - even compared to Jon’s. And Jon pronounced his “Rs”, unlike Malcolm, or even this lot.

“You don’t have the accent,” he said, raising an eyebrow in query. Jon gave him a puzzled expression, so Malcolm continued. “The deli workers, others here have a distinct accent, quite New York, but you don’t.”

Jon nodded. “I only lived here summers, grew up mostly around San Francisco.” He took a sip from his drink.

“You don’t sound Californian, either.”

Jon looked thoughtful. “I was born near here, but I moved to Houston with my dad, then to San Francisco when he started really working on the engine, so it might be that. My accent probably changed over time, with all the moves.” He smiled.

“My accent has changed since I’ve lived in the States, and on Enterprise.”

“Really?”

Malcolm nodded. “Especially once I entered Starfleet. And I quickly realised that there are certain terms I couldn’t use, as I wouldn’t necessarily be understood.”

“Such as?”

“Well, I don’t say ‘bollocks’ quite as often as I used to,” Malcolm said, blushing slightly.

Jon laughed. The clock on the wall gave a gentle chime, and Jon glanced in its direction. “Hey,” he said. “We should get going. They’re expecting us.” He slid a compact box from his pocket, opened it and slipped something into his mouth. He seemed to savour the flavour, then glanced to Malcolm. “Want one?” he asked, holding the box in Malcolm’s direction. “They’re some mints I picked up on that last planet we’d visited.”

Malcolm nodded, took one, and slid it into his mouth. He blinked in surprise: the flavours moved from cinnamon, or something quite like it, to something approaching anisette, and he could feel a gentle warmth on his tongue and his cheeks. “Nice,” he said in surprise, and they stood to leave for the short walk to Jon’s nephew’s house.

***

Malcolm lay on his back on the narrow bed, staring at the ceiling of Jon’s nephew’s guest room. As the dawn light came through the blinds, he turned onto his side, pulling the blankets with him, and stared at Jon where he slept on the other side of the room.

The man snored. Was still snoring, actually, and it had caused Malcolm to sleep only fitfully throughout the night. He contemplated throwing his pillow at Jon, but instead rolled over again, now facing the wall, and pulled the covers up over his head.

Despite the lack of sleep, it had been a worthwhile trip. Last night, Jon’s family had been surprisingly welcoming of a stranger in their midst, and he’d had an unexpectedly pleasant evening. He could understand how Jon might have felt overwhelmed – there had been so many people there: nephews, cousins, nieces. Malcolm smiled, closing his eyes. He remembered Jon’s teenage cousin flirting with him last night, which led to his and Jon’s pre-sleep conversation about relationships. Malcolm had found it odd to be discussing such personal matters with his commanding officer, but Jon’s style was so casual and accepting. Being away from the ship, too, had made Malcolm feel freer, and he had found himself opening up a bit, talking about past girlfriends, and how he would like to settle down in some not-too-distant future.

He heard a muffled “Hrumph,” then nothing. At last the snoring stops, he thought, snuggling deeper into his pillow. He sighed, allowing himself to drift.

“Morning, sunshine.”

Light, blindingly bright; and Malcolm groaned, pulling the blankets up over his head.

“Malcolm?” The captain’s voice, from quite nearby. But it couldn’t be – it was certainly too early.

“Lieutenant?”

“Yeah?” Malcolm murmured, still half-asleep. Surely it couldn’t be time already? “Time’s it?” he managed to get out.

“Transport leaves in an hour, Lieutenant.”

Malcolm rolled over, pushing back the covers and blinking up at Archer.

Jon stood there, already dressed in jeans and a T-shirt, his hair damp, mugs in both hands. He seemed like he’d been up for some time, although he looked tired. He smiled beatifically, his body haloed by the sunlight streaming through the window behind him, curls of steam rising from both mugs. “Sleep okay?”

“Fine, sir,” Malcolm replied, trying to seem sincere. Smelling the coffee, he sat up, pushing the blankets aside.

Jon looked at him askance. “You seem pretty tired.”

Malcolm shrugged. “Nothing that a bit of caffeine won’t cure.”

“I’m feeling a little bleary myself,” Jon replied. “I brought coffee if you’d like some.”

“Thank you,” Malcolm replied, holding out his hand and accepting a mug with gratitude. He watched as Jon returned to his own bed, sitting on its edge and taking slow, careful sips of his hot beverage whilst staring off at nothing.

“Are you all right?” Malcolm said after some time.

“What?” Jon replied, seeming to shake off his lethargy. He looked at Malcolm. “Sorry, yeah. Just tired.” He glanced at his watch. “Come on. We need to leave soon.”

Malcolm nodded and stood, heading for the shower, mug in hand.

***

Malcolm looked in the mirror while he ran his fingers through his hair, then checked his appearance to be sure his uniform was in order. The whole transport process had taken less time than usual – since they were coming from Earth, they were able to skip decon. If he was lucky, he might just be on time for his regular shift, and not have to work late tonight.

Unable to stifle it, he yawned, covering his mouth with a hand, then he rubbed that hand across his weary eyes. He was knackered, probably due to lack of sleep last night. He stared at himself in the mirror, and raised an eyebrow, acknowledging his tired appearance. He’d have to stop by the mess before he went on duty, as some tea was definitely in order.

Hearing his door chime, he left the bathroom and went to it, triggering it open. Jon stood there, still in the civilian clothing he’d been wearing that morning.

“Can I come in?” Jon asked, his eyes sleepy beneath the warmth of his expression.

“Certainly, sir,” Malcolm replied, standing aside to let the captain pass. As the door closed behind him, Malcolm turned to find Jon mere inches away.

“I enjoyed our time together on Earth,” Jon said, stepping even closer to Malcolm. He reached out a hand and placed it on Malcolm’s arm.

Malcolm stared down at Jon’s hand, then up to Jon’s face, taken aback. He was unsure…it seemed as if…but it couldn’t be…

Jon slid his hand up Malcolm’s arm to his shoulder, and smiled. “I wondered, if you aren’t doing anything later on, if you’d…”

Malcolm took a quick step back. If he didn’t know better, he’d swear that the captain was asking him out. “Sir –” he got out as his back hit the door.

Archer cut across him. “I know that we haven’t always gotten along, but…” Jon stepped closer to Malcolm, placing a gentle hand, palm flat, on his chest. “You must realise that you’re a very attractive man.”

Malcolm simply stood there, frozen. First, at the fact that Jon, his captain, was hitting on a subordinate – it didn’t seem in character for the man. Second, Malcolm was fairly sure, based on past observations and conversations with Hoshi and Trip, that the man was straight.

“Erm, sorry,” Malcolm said awkwardly. “I’m not gay.”

Jon took a step back. “You sure?”

Malcolm nodded, unable to say more.

“Too bad.” Jon placed his hand on Malcolm’s arm again, and Malcolm did his level best not to slide away. “There are no regulations against dating subordinates, or superiors,” Jon said with a smile. “At least, not anymore.”

“I realise that, sir,” Malcolm said. “But still, I’m not interested in men.”

“I understand,” Jon said, dropping his hand and stepping away. He smiled sadly, and then reached over Malcolm’s shoulder and triggered the door. Malcolm stumbled a bit as the door at his back opened, and Jon left without a word.

The door shut and Malcolm slumped against it, staring out into his room. “Good Lord,” he said, exhaling loudly.

***

Throughout his afternoon shift in the armoury, Malcolm found his thoughts continually drawn back to what had happened earlier. He wasn’t sure how it had happened – after all, the night before, they’d been discussing girlfriends - he’d had no hint that Jon was gay, or that Jon thought of him in that way. He shook his head and started tinkering with the device he had in pieces on the table before him. Thank goodness he wasn’t due on the bridge, he thought. He couldn’t possibly face the man.

Deliberately, he tried to put the circumstances aside, but his mind kept wandering back. He was distracted - understandably, he thought. He stared at the device in front of him, then shook his head again. He felt a bit funny, actually. He paused for a moment, trying to refocus on the work at hand, then he picked up one of the pieces.

It was nice, actually, being noticed in that way.

He stopped in surprise, his hand in mid-move.

No, he thought forcefully. He was straight. Always had been. Never, ever before had he even considered…

“Too old for a change now,” he said aloud, laughing nervously. Then he glanced around him to be sure no one was nearby. Grimacing, he set back to work.

***

Malcolm sat in his chair, staring off into the distance. This shift had been a struggle. He’d been able to finish his work on the device only through great effort, as his thoughts had kept going back to Jon. What Jon had said, what he’d proposed - it wasn’t right, and it wasn’t like him. Malcolm certainly wasn’t interested, and yet…

And yet…

The more he thought about it – not that he could actually stop thinking about it – the more he realised that…

No, he thought forcefully. Absolutely not.

It would be so nice, though…

He sighed in frustration. All afternoon, he’d been unable to get the man out of his head: Jon’s sad, tired eyes, the feel of Jon’s hand against his chest.

Bloody hell, he thought, enough of this. He stood and left the armoury in a rush, heading for his cabin. He was hungry, but he was too distracted…he felt odd, disconnected. Anyway, he couldn’t possibly bear the busyness of the mess. He’d try to get some sleep first, then see about some dinner.

Standing at his room’s entrance, he triggered the door. It chirped, but didn’t open. He frowned and tried again. Then a rush of realisation – these weren’t his quarters. He’d somehow…how had he ended up here?

The door opened in front of him.

“Jon,” he said, his heart pounding as the captain stood in the doorway.

A slow smile spread over Jon’s face. “Malcolm,” he responded.

Before Malcolm could stop himself – not even sure he wanted to – he reached out his hand towards Jon, and Jon clasped it. Fingers entwined with his, Jon pulled him into the room, and the door swished shut behind him.

Standing so close that he could feel the heat coming from the other man’s body, Malcolm looked up onto Jon’s eyes, amazed, entranced, enchanted. “I’m straight,” Malcolm said breathlessly.

“I am, too,” Jon whispered as he reached down and nuzzled Malcolm’s neck with his lips.

Malcolm leaned his head to the side, allowing Jon better access. As Jon began tracing his tongue along the skin of his neck, leaving a trail of fire and ice, Malcolm closed his eyes, his breath coming faster. “So why are we doing this?” he asked in a soft voice.

“No idea,” Jon said. “I just know that I want you.”

“Why?” Malcolm asked, struggling to come to himself before he became completely lost in the moment, and in the man.

Jon didn’t respond, but he did pull away slightly, and smiled gently. His lips were so close, so…Malcolm forced himself to step back, and pushed Jon away. “Why?” he asked. “Why are we feeling like this?” He took another step back, then another. The parting was almost painful. “This isn’t like me,” he said, trembling slightly with the effort of maintaining the separation. “I shouldn’t be involved with my commanding officer, male or female.”

Jon stepped forward, reaching for him.

“It isn’t like you either, approaching a subordinate in this way,” Malcolm said. “Something’s wrong.”

Jon touched him, palm flat against his chest, and there was flame where Jon’s hand rested. Jon began tracing his fingers across Malcolm’s chest, his shoulder, his arm, trailing fire as he went. Malcolm shook his head, trying to clear it. “Something’s wrong,” he whispered just as Jon pulled him close, and they kissed.

Malcolm melted into the kiss, his eyes closing as he sank against Jon’s body. It was…it was unbelievable, he thought, raising his hands and running them along Jon’s back. Malcolm felt Jon’s fingers in his hair, and Jon’s tongue touched his, feather-soft. His breath caught. It was so good, it felt so right…His eyes flashed open, and he pushed Jon away with restrained force. “No,” he said, turning away so that he couldn’t see the man. “This is wrong,” he said, panting slightly.

He heard a muffled thump and turned quickly. Jon had collapsed facedown on the floor. With a sudden intake of breath, he slapped the comm. beside the door, saying, “Medical emergency, Captain’s quarters.” He knelt beside Jon, rolling him over with shaky hands. He checked Jon’s breathing - even and steady - then he turned Jon over gently and sat behind him, cradling Jon’s head on his lap, combing his fingers through Jon’s hair.

He knew Phlox would be here soon, and probably Trip as well, since the engineer had been working on some of the medical scanners in sickbay. But what could he do? He ran a gentle finger along Jon’s cheekbone. Please, he thought. Please, let him be all right. He stared down at Jon’s face, unable to take his eyes off the man, and waited.

Malcolm looked up as the door opened and Phlox arrived in a rush, Trip in tow. Trip cast an odd look in Malcolm’s direction while Phlox knelt beside Jon and asked what had happened.

“He collapsed,” Malcolm said. He glanced at Trip, then away. He couldn’t tell the rest, especially not with Trip there.

Malcolm moved aside, but stayed close as Phlox began working, Trip helping. He kept catching himself, his hand moving, unbidden, reaching out to Jon as he lay on the floor.

He watched, holding his breath, as Phlox first checked Jon’s condition, then turned to Trip and asked for the stretcher. God, he was shaking. Jon – he needed Jon to be all right.

Unable to help himself, Malcolm reached out and took Jon’s hand.

***

Malcolm waited anxiously on the bench in sickbay. It had only been moments since they’d arrived, yet he kept glancing across the room to where Jon was.

He'd held Jon's hand the entire way to sickbay, and now, without its warmth, his own hand felt cold and numb. He drummed his fingers on the seat, trying to work off some of that feeling – like part of him was missing, like he’d lost something he was anxious to get back. He wanted – no, he had to be near Jon.

Phlox had drawn the curtain, and Malcolm could just hear his voice and that of his assistant as they examined Jon. Trip was still in there, too, having helped bring Jon in.

This was maddening, Malcolm thought. It was killing him, not knowing what was going on with Jon, not being near him. Worse, he couldn’t talk to Phlox, especially not with Trip there. And something was definitely wrong.

He looked away from the curtain, trying to focus on something else, on anything other than the captain. He thought of how tired he was, but that didn’t work – it made him think of how tired Jon had seemed earlier. So he thought about the odd flavour of the mint Jon had given him last night, but that didn’t work – again, his mind went to Jon. He started to count the seams in the plating below his feet, hoping that would distract him.

As his eyes roamed over the twelfth ridge, two boots came into view before him. His head shot up.

Trip stood there, his arms akimbo. “What’s going on?”

“What do you mean?”

“Is something going on between you and the captain?” Trip asked, his voice pitched low enough that Phlox wouldn’t hear.

“What?” Malcolm asked, his heart racing.

“The way you were acting back there,” Trip said. “It seemed more than just a lieutenant concerned about his captain.” Trip leaned towards him. “I saw you holding his hand.”

Malcolm stood, a bit unsteady on his feet. He was unsure what to say. He didn’t want to lie, but he certainly didn’t want to answer Trip’s questions. Even if he did, he wasn’t sure how to answer. Instead, he redirected the questions back to Trip. “Are you upset?”

Trip’s eyes flashed. “Well, I just found out that my two best friends are in a relationship…with each other. Which neither of them bothered to tell me about.”

“It’s not like that,” Malcolm said. He knew that he was blushing, but he couldn’t control it.

“It seems pretty much like that,” Trip said. “Y’all kept some things from me, hmm? Seeing each other.” He looked away for a moment, and Malcolm couldn’t see his face. When he turned back to Malcolm, he was clearly distressed. “And Jon, gay?” he said, his voice plaintive, his expression one of deep hurt. “I don’t get it. We’ve been friends for years, and he never said a word.” His voice dropped to a near-whisper. “I thought I knew him.” Trip shook his head sadly. Then he looked to Malcolm. “And you, always on about the women you’ve dated. Never even told me you liked guys.”

“I don’t,” Malcolm said, looking straight into Trip’s gaze.

Trip looked at him in disbelief. “Excuse me?”

“I don’t,” Malcolm said softly. “Nor does he.” He waved towards the curtain, then he shook his head and sank onto the bench. Looking up at Trip, unable to keep up the front any longer, knowing that his fright was coming through, he said, “I don’t know what’s happening to me.”

Trip blinked. “You mean, before this, you’ve never…”

Malcolm simply shook his head, looking away, unable to bear Trip’s gaze.

He felt Trip sit beside him. “Listen, I’m sorry,” Trip said, his voice gentle. “I know, it must be hard, if this is your first same sex relationship, and with people finding out like this...”

Malcolm’s head snapped up. “No, no. You don’t understand. I’m straight. I just…” He let his voice trail away, trying to find a way to explain. “Yesterday, earlier today, I was straight – I wasn’t attracted to men. I wasn’t attracted to Jon.”

Trip looked at him doubtfully, but Malcolm ploughed on, trying to control the shaking in his voice. “We returned to Enterprise, and at lunch, Jon propositioned me. Still, there was nothing.” He touched his own chest, over his heart. “I turned him down, more surprised than anything that he liked men, and that he’d be willing to date a subordinate. It seemed unlike him.”

Trip nodded.

“Then, later today, it was as if I’d been…” Malcolm hesitated, struggling to find the right words. “Transformed. I had to see him, had to…” He felt the panic building, his heart beating madly. “I don’t know what’s wrong. It doesn’t seem right, and yet…” He closed his eyes. “God, I want him so badly, it hurts.”

He felt a hand on his arm, and his eyes flew open.

Trip was watching him thoughtfully. “You should tell Phlox.”

“No, I…”

“You have to. If it happened like you said, if something really is wrong, then it could have something to do with the captain collapsing.” Trip smiled gently. “No matter the circumstances, you know that Phlox doesn’t tend to pass judgement.”

Malcolm sat there, unsure of what to say. He hadn’t even figured out what was going on himself, and now Trip knows, he thought. Then Phlox will know. By tomorrow, it would be all over the ship.

Trip interrupted his thoughts. “I’ll bet Phlox has already guessed.”

“Oh,” Malcolm said in surprise. Trip was probably right – if Trip had picked up on it, Phlox probably had.

The curtain around Jon’s bed rustled, then Phlox stepped out, followed by his assistant. They held a short conversation before the doctor approached them on the bench. Smiling broadly, he said, “The captain is stable.”

Malcolm felt the relief come over him in a rush. He exhaled loudly and Phlox cast a pointed look in his direction.

“What happened?” Trip asked, standing.

“He collapsed due to high blood pressure,” Phlox answered. “What’s odd is that he’s never had problems with his BP before. He’s sleeping now, although he should wake soon.” Phlox turned to Malcolm. “If you would, Lieutenant, I’d like to check you over as well.”

Phlox led Malcolm to a biobed near Jon’s, drawing a curtain and cutting off Trip’s view. With Phlox’s help, Malcolm sat on the bed – he still felt a bit unsteady, and most definitely distracted. As the doctor began the examination, Malcolm stared past him to Jon’s curtain. He wished he could see the man. He really needed to see him, touch him. He felt his hands shaking, so he clenched them around the edge of the bed, trying to steady them. He really needed to see Jon.

“Were you and the captain in close contact over the past day or so?”

“Sorry?” Malcolm replied, startled out of his reverie.

Phlox stopped moving and smiled gently. “Were you and the captain in close contact recently?”

Malcolm hesitated, then nodded.

Phlox continued his examination. “In what ways?” he asked.

Uncomfortable, Malcolm shifted on the bed. “We were at the meeting together. Travelled on the same transport. Slept in the same room at his nephew’s house.”

“Any closer contact than that?” Phlox asked as he flashed a light into Malcolm’s eyes. “Anything that would have caused the exchange of bodily fluids?”

Malcolm looked away, his hands clenched firmly around the edge of the bed, his arms rigid. “We kissed,” he said hesitantly.

“And did you share any food or drink?” the doctor asked, his tone matter-of-fact.

Malcolm stared at Phlox as the doctor continued the examination. The comment about the kiss hadn’t even fazed him, and Malcolm realised that there would be no judgement here. He unclenched his hands, and began to run through their days on Earth: what they’d drunk, the sandwich they’d shared. When he got to the mint, Phlox seemed interested.

“These mints,” he asked, stepping back from Malcolm and pocketing his padd. “Do you still have them?”

Malcolm nodded. “Jon had them just this morning.”

“I’ll be back in a moment,” Phlox said, and stepped through the curtain. Malcolm heard him speaking with his assistant, and he slid off the bed and stepped over to Jon’s curtain. Quietly, he slid the fabric aside, revealing Jon on his back on the bed with the blanket tucked up under his arms, eyes closed, breathing soft and even. Malcolm stood by his side and, reaching out, traced a finger along his arm, down to his hand, grasping it.

Jon’s eyes opened. “Hey,” he said, smiling gently.

“Sorry,” Malcolm replied. “I didn’t mean to wake you.”

“Sickbay?” Jon asked, looking around.

“Yes. You fainted.”

“Why?”

“Phlox isn’t sure yet. Although I think it may have something to do with this,” Malcolm said, holding up their intertwined hands.

“Nah,” Jon said. “This feels too good to be part of an illness.” He tried to sit, and Malcolm pressed a button with his free hand, raising the head of the bed. Jon let go for a moment as he shifted into a comfortable seat, pushing the blanket aside, then he took Malcolm’s hand again with a smile. “Although it does make sense,” he said. Then his eyes flashed wide. “No offense, Malcolm. Um, it’s not you, it’s just…” He shrugged, and squeezed Malcolm’s hand. “It’s not like me, all this.” At Malcolm’s answering nod, he said, “So, Phlox will cure us, and this will all go away?”

“Probably,” Malcolm said.

Jon smiled softly, his eyes flashing. “In a way, it’s too bad.”

Malcolm tried to act properly, although his words rang false in his ears. “It is inappropriate,” he said. “And unlike us.”

Jon nodded. “Probably.” He reached out a hand and, with a finger, traced the outline of Malcolm’s jaw. Malcolm closed his eyes, enjoying the sensation. “Feels good though,” Jon said quietly.

Malcolm felt a hand at the back of his head, fingers through his hair. Jon pulled him forward gently and their lips brushed, so soft. He knew that he should resist, that he’d probably regret this later, but instead, he closed his eyes and leaned in, intensifying the kiss, putting a hand down on the bed beside Jon for support.

There was a clearing of throat behind him, and Malcolm found that he couldn’t care less. He could feel Jon’s soft breath on his face, and as their tongues touched, he trembled, and he could feel Jon smile against his lips.

Then there was Phlox’s voice, “Excuse me, gentlemen,” and they broke apart. Cheeks hot, Malcolm turned to face Phlox and saw Trip just behind him, looking surprised. He froze, then felt Jon’s hand cover his own on the bed.

Jon looked at Phlox, not letting go of Malcolm’s hand. “We think that this may be part of the illness,” he said, raising their clasped hands.

“I have some additional questions for the two of you.” Phlox turned to Trip. “Commander, if you wouldn’t mind?” he said, shooing Trip away from the area. He drew the curtain around them. “Have you been experiencing any tiredness?”

Malcolm nodded.

“Disorientation, difficulty concentrating?”

“Yes,” said Jon.

“And this attraction – when did that begin?”

Jon turned to Malcolm and smiled. “Today, this morning.” He squeezed Malcolm’s hand gently.

“For me, not until this afternoon,” Malcolm said, unable to wrench his gaze from Jon’s.

Phlox said, “I may have found something…”

Malcolm was amazed that he’d never noticed Jon’s eyes before. They were green, and they reflected whatever emotion the man was feeling. And right now…Malcolm reached out a hand and caressed Jon’s face, and Jon closed his eyes. It was only once Jon’s eyes were closed that Malcolm realised Phlox was still speaking, and he turned back to him.

“…could be causing the tiredness, the distraction and disorientation as well.”

Jon seemed to have been paying more attention to the doctor than he’d been, because Jon spoke next.

“Could this affect other crew members, or my family back at home?”

“Perhaps, if you shared the mints with any of them,” Phlox said. “I’ll need a list.”

“And the attraction?” Malcolm asked hesitantly. “Is that part of it?”

“I believe so,” Phlox replied. “The chemicals in the mint heightened your sensitivity to others. And I believe that your close proximity back on Earth, both having had the mints, drove you together.”

“Is there a cure?” Malcolm asked.

“I believe I’ll have something ready within the hour,” Phlox said with a smile. “I’d like it if you’d both stay in sickbay for the time being.” He opened the curtain, then waved towards Malcolm’s bed. “If you would, Lieutenant.”

Malcolm glanced at Jon, then back to Phlox. “Is it all right if I wait here?”

Phlox smiled gently. “Certainly.” He turned away and pulled the privacy curtain shut behind him. Malcolm could hear his voice fading as he walked away. “Mr. Tucker, there’s no need for you to remain here. I’ll call you once…”

Malcolm felt a tug at his hand, and he turned to see Jon smiling. “We don’t have much time,” Jon said, shifting himself on the mattress so that Malcolm would have a place to sit.

Malcolm joined him on the bed. “Or much privacy,” he said, turning to face Jon.

“Just as well,” Jon said with a wry smile.

Malcolm raised an eyebrow.

“I want to be able to face you in the morning,” Jon answered with a little laugh.

Malcolm nodded seriously. “When all this is gone,” he said, reaching for Jon. He touched the other man’s lip with his index finger, then moved his hand away quickly, regretfully.

Jon grabbed his hand, stilling it. “You going to be okay with all this?” Jon asked.

Malcolm thought a moment. He wasn’t sure.

When he didn’t answer, Jon frowned. “Do you want this?”

Right here, right now, he’d never wanted anything more in his life, Malcolm thought. And wasn’t that enough? “Indeed,” he said as he leaned in, claiming Jon’s mouth in a kiss.

There wasn’t much room on the bed - Jon was sitting, his back against the raised head of the bed, and Malcolm was crammed into the small space left next to him, so Malcolm broke away with what he knew was his most fetching, yet evil smile. He shifted, lifting one leg, and sat astride Jon’s lap, facing him. Then he gave a suggestive grind, and repeated what Jon had said. “Are you going to be okay with all this?”

“Oh, God, yes,” Jon said, eyes blazing. He reached up and pulled Malcolm’s head to his, and their lips met.

Malcolm closed his eyes and felt Jon shifting beneath him, and he responded. He fell into the sensations – Jon’s body pressed up against his; Jon’s lips, hands, the feel of his stubble scraping his lower lip as they kissed; the heat, the pressure as he moved against Jon. He stopped kissing Jon, his face tucked against the side of Jon's neck as his breath came in raspy gasps, and focused on the sensations coming from below him. He knew it would be so easy to tumble over the edge. He wanted to so badly. He hesitated slightly. It was a very bad idea. Then he started moving again. But God, it felt so bleedin’ good.

“We should stop,” Jon’s soft voice whispered in his ear.

Malcolm nodded, not ceasing in his movements. “We should…” He opened his eyes and looked at Jon, coming to a sudden realisation, a flash of insight. In a voice slightly higher pitched than normal, he said, “I don’t want to. Is it all right if I don’t want to stop?”

Jon placed one hand on each of Malcolm’s arms, and Malcolm stopped moving. Jon was flushed, flustered, breathing heavily, and quite obviously aroused. In a husky voice, Jon said, “There’s nothing I’d like better right now, but…what about later?”

Malcolm took a deep, shaky breath. Then he came to a decision, and he smiled. Leaning towards Jon, he whispered, “I am straight. I’m sure I’ll go back to being straight. But I will *not* regret this, I promise you that.”

“So, just for now,” Jon said softly.

“Just for now. And tomorrow…”

“We’ll be okay?”

“We’ll be okay,” Malcolm said, his voice firm.

Jon smiled and closed his eyes. “Good, because I really want –”

Malcolm smothered Jon’s lips with his own and began to move, sliding, the friction of fabric between them, and Jon underneath, so hard, and God, and he was everything, the man underneath him was everything, and he couldn’t catch his breath, and the heat - fire, he was on fire, and he heard a low groan from below him, and Jon trembled, and pushed, and God, and God, and…

“Jon!” he gasped, his back arching.

He fell forward against Jon’s chest and lay there, breathing in time with the man below him.

Malcolm felt fingers carding through his hair, a body shifting beneath his, and he stirred.

“You okay?” Jon whispered next to his ear.

Malcolm simply nodded, his eyes closed, and he sank back into oblivion.

Malcolm dreamt voices. Jon, and maybe someone else.

“Malcolm?” Jon’s voice, from quite close by. Malcolm shifted, feeling a warm body beneath his. The voice came again, “Malcolm?”

Malcolm blinked his eyes open, and pushed himself away slightly, taking in Jon’s smiling eyes. “Sorry. How long was I sleeping?”

“Just a few minutes, really. I think Phlox is ready for us.”

Malcolm nodded and made to get up, but Jon grabbed his arm before he could move away. Leaning forward, Jon feathered a soft, gentle kiss on his lips, then pulled away. “No regrets,” Jon said in a whisper, his voice firm.

Malcolm nodded. “None,” he answered. Then he slid away, stood shakily, and sat in the chair next to the bed.

“Doctor?” Jon called out.

Phlox pulled aside the curtain, smiling as if nothing was amiss. “I’ve found a remedy,” he said, inoculating them both. “It should take effect within next few minutes.”

Malcolm reached up and grabbed Jon’s hand.

The doctor continued, “It may make you a bit dizzy…”

Malcolm felt his head spin, a sudden rush. Letting go of Jon’s hand, he bent over his knees, head down on crossed arms, breathing carefully.

The feeling was gone as fast as it had come, and he looked up into Phlox’s smiling face.

“How are you feeling, Lieutenant?”

He turned to Jon and stared into his eyes. He felt...

Empty.

Bereft.

It was gone, that…attraction, or whatever it had been, was gone.

Jon smiled at him, and Malcolm could see the sadness in his eyes. Malcolm tried to smile back, then turned back to Phlox. “Better, thank you, Doctor.”

Malcolm listened as Phlox asked the same question of Jon…Malcolm shook his head and corrected himself. The captain, he thought. Captain Archer. Not Jon.

He sat there, numb, while Phlox bustled around them both. He stared down at the floor, not wanting to face the captain, or to see his own emptiness reflected back at him in the other man’s eyes.

Archer’s voice punctured his reverie. “Doctor, could you give us a moment?” He heard Phlox move away, then the captain’s voice again. “You okay?”

Malcolm braced himself, then stood and faced Archer. “Fine.” At Archer’s frank look, Malcolm shrugged.

Archer nodded. “Me, too. It’s too bad, in a way…”

Malcolm nodded. “Yes,” he said in a quiet voice, then looked away.

“Regrets about what we did?”

Malcolm’s eyes flashed back to Archer’s. “No,” he said firmly, and he meant it. “None.”

Archer smiled. “Me, neither. So, we’re good?”

“Yes, sir.”

Archer raised an eyebrow. “After all…um…that, I think you can drop the ‘sir’, at least when we’re alone.”

Malcolm hesitated, not wanting to hurt the man. Finally, he said, “Not right now.” Seeing a flash of pain in Archer's eyes, he added, "Later, I think. Just, not right now."

Archer gave him a look of understanding, then a nod. “Good night, Malcolm.”

“Good night…” He hesitated a second. “Captain,” he finished.


*****

(7 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:roaringmice
Date:September 2nd, 2005 11:50 pm (UTC)

Beta

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I somehow erased my "beta" line at the start of my story. I'm so sorry!

My beta was Kathy Rose, to whom I owe undying gratitude.
[User Picture]
From:forlornhope1865
Date:September 3rd, 2005 12:06 am (UTC)
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Oooh. Good. Interesting.
But NY in the summer? Burnt pretzels.
[User Picture]
From:roaringmice
Date:September 5th, 2005 06:46 pm (UTC)
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Burnt pretzels? Hmm...perhaps I haven't been to that neighborhood. Up where I used to live, it was sour milk, for the most part, but if I walked over to the park, it was that plus flowers. Down by my school, at Lincoln Center, it was burnt honey roasted peanuts and car exhaust.

I'm glad you enjoyed this story. It was fun to write.
[User Picture]
From:kayjayuu
Date:September 3rd, 2005 08:20 am (UTC)
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*applauds*

I liked this, very much. Happy endings preferred but... as an angst-whore, bittersweet works for me, in small amounts.

Liek... I can't read another one like this for a long long time. ;-)

Being in NY, you've painted a picture of a place I don't know except through the media... and I can place myself there. I like the very casual, easy-going tone you set throughout the entire piece, the first half really felt like Jon and Malcolm could be friends after a fashion. It's funny, I've read so much slash now, and see so much subtext, that when Malcolm declared himself straight it almost pulled me out of the story in shock. "What?? WTF?" LOL! But to write a slash story without blatant slashiness is something that's hard to pull off and something you rarely see anymore.

Smut was well-done 'smut', very mild and yet no purple prose, it felt warmer than most 'prude-written' sex... which just goes to prove that you can write hot sexxors without even taking off the clothes or touching body parts! Again, hats off to you for keeping true to your style and your writing experience, yet stretching yourself in a direction you don't usually go.

And the ending... I keep trying to read into it that there's hope! So... yay! Subtext!

Very nicely written, I enjoyed it, and I thank you. Even if you were sneaky and asked to read my stuff earlier.

::big grin::
[User Picture]
From:roaringmice
Date:September 4th, 2005 01:54 am (UTC)
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Ah, yes, I was sneaky. [grins]

I'm so glad that you liked it. And I'm glad that the "smut" came off hot. It was tricky, trying to write scenes so...well, so nasty (nasty in the good sense), without either being too blatent or taking things too far, and thus making myself uncomfortable; too literal, thus losing the steaminess; or too euphamistic, thus making myself giggle.
[User Picture]
From:probodie
Date:September 3rd, 2005 09:40 am (UTC)
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This was lovely, a very nice build up, but I was so sad when it ended, the fic AND the 'relationship'.
[User Picture]
From:roaringmice
Date:September 5th, 2005 06:43 pm (UTC)
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Thank you. Actually, the ending made me sad, too, but it felt right.

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