Each Second of Fear, by The Moonmoth
I wish I could tear the sky apart,
Because it reminds me of his eyes.
And then I wouldn't touch the sand,
Reminding me of his hot silky skin.
The night... why does it always come
To remind me of his hair?
Fleet Admiral Archer is sitting at his desk when he hears the news. He nods and thanks the young ensign with the red piping, wishing that it could have been a familiar face. Hoshi is just across the concourse at the new academy, he knows, and he wonders if she was told in the same awkward, anonymous manner. He thinks he should go check on her, see that she's okay, but when it comes to moving his body, nothing happens.
So he sits at his desk, the one he always swore he'd die before accepting, because dying out among the stars he has always loved is the proper way of things. But it seems fate has run out of romance for Jonathan Archer. Old Zephram did it right, he thinks. Captain Reed has done it right.
He sits at his desk and he can't move for the weight of memory, and he fights the denial he can feel creeping up on him, insidious. The voice inside that whispers, he isn't gone -- how can he be when you can recall each line around his eyes, each mole on the smooth planes of his back, each tone in his laugh so perfectly?
He remembers; their actions in the face of a seemingly limitless future so frivolous from this strange new perspective. So distant and untouchable, the consequences so profound. He has always thought, there'll be time, one day.
Jonathan's bluff has been called. Time's up.
After the waiting, the dreadful anticipation, the horror of what he finally saw on the view screen was beyond anything he had had the capacity to imagine. A deep gouge ran across the planet -- Earth, home -- like pressing your thumb into a ripe peach, like squashing ants underfoot in the summer.
His first thought, though, was not for the tremendous loss of life, nor the personal tragedies of his crew, of Trip by his side whose sister was still missing. Captain Archer's first soul-wrenching reaction was the absolute certainty that it was all over, the life he had known up to that point -- the joy of exploration, the naive muddling-through, the feeling he had been fostering deep in his belly when Malcolm kissed him.
Everything he had known was swept away before his eyes, and he let it go with mixed feelings of futility and a rapidly solidifying rage.
He didn't meet Malcolm's eyes, though he could feel them burning into him from across the bridge.
He regrets that, now -- he should have looked up. Malcolm deserved to understand, and Jon isn't sure that he ever really did. But there was time for all that after the coming madness. The future still existed then.
Admiral Archer is still at his desk, hours or years later, when Commander Sato knocks on the door and lets herself in. He's often wondered why she bothers knocking, because she never waits for a response, not since she was a lieutenant on Enterprise. But then, he's never called her on it. He likes the familiarity.
He doesn't look up; he can't move. The thick air will shatter if he moves, shower him with the keen shards of everything that's been lost today. So he doesn't look up at her, but he knows how pale she looks, how fragile and lost. He can feel it; he can remember the way she looked at Trip's funeral, as though by breathing too deeply she would break.
'Admiral?' she says, voice low and hoarse against unshed tears. The room aches with the silence. He can see her, in his mind's eye, standing before the desk he never wanted, waiting for him. To do what?
'Jonathan?' She whispers, and he can hear that she's crying now.
It surprises him, as she slides shaking into his arms, that he didn't need to think about standing up and walking around the desk, didn't have to concentrate on each fine motor function of his limbs. Breathing continues to happen by itself, his heart pumps blood through his veins.
But still the voice tells him (and it's beginning to sound oddly like Malcolm) that this is all a ridiculous charade. How can it be true, when he can still feel the heat of the body he wrapped himself around those too few nights, still catch the scent of his hair, tickling his face as he gently fell asleep?
Malcolm kept his eyes open as he fucked Jon in Jon's bed, silent except for his harsh breathing and the sound of their bodies moving against each other. Jon couldn't see him clearly in the dim starlight filtering in, just the outline of his body slick with sweat, and his eyes shining brightly, reflecting the stars.
'Kiss me,' he said, and then gasped as Malcolm tightened his hold on Jon's cock, arching into the pleasure. 'Oh God... please, Malcolm.'
Eyes never leaving Jon's, Malcolm leaned down until their faces were just inches apart and Jon could feel his hot breath as he panted in time with their movements. A hand slid up his body to cup his cheek, and Jon turned his face into the unexpectedly tender gesture, kissing the thumb. As he looked back up into Malcolm's eyes, a sensation both familiar and new flickered through his stomach -- surprise, anticipation, something else.
'Jon,' Malcolm whispered, closing the last little bit of distance between them, trembling into the kiss as he came. Wrapping his arms tightly around his lover, Jon buried his face in his neck, thrusting his cock into Malcolm's stomach as the pressure built, then moaned as it released, breath hitching, throat oddly tight.
The day was unremarkable, except for that.
Bodies softening, cooling, they continued to kiss until Malcolm eventually fell asleep some time later. Held close in his arms, Jon watched him and wondered.
He has continued to wonder, these twelve years, haunted by the look in Malcolm's eyes.
'He died protecting others,' Hoshi says. 'That's the way he would've wanted it.'
'The explosion must have been something else,' Jon agrees, and laughs, but it's a thin, humorless sound. Hoshi smiles slightly, sipping her coffee, and Jon turns to stare sightlessly out of her kitchen window, the sun beginning to sink beneath the San Francisco cityscape.
He tries to picture the scene: a smoke-filled bridge, claxons blaring as the ship shakes itself to pieces, Captain Reed at the centre of it all, implacable, waiting for the crew to finish evacuating before...
He probably argued with Travis. Mayweather would've wanted to stay in his captain's place, or at least help him, make sure everything went to plan. He can almost hear him (What if something happens to you, Sir? What if you're injured or overcome, or-) and Reed's calm response (You have your orders, Commander). Mayweather would have protested, of course, but Reed's a stubborn bastard... Reed *was* a stubborn bastard.
...before blowing himself and his ship to hell.
Goddamn it, Malcolm.
The door is chiming and Hoshi rises to answer it. There are voices, a muffled conversation, and Aki runs into the kitchen
'Uncle Jon?' He stops short. 'Why are *you* here?'
'Not to see rude little boys like you, that's for sure,' Hoshi says, following him in. 'Don't even think about it, buster. Hang your coat up first.' Aki reluctantly steps away from the fridge and stomps out of the room. Hoshi reseats herself at the small, square table across from Jon. She looks terrible, he thinks, her big brown eyes rimmed with red, standing out garishly in her pale face. He wonders whether it's a good thing that her son is probably too young to notice such things.
Aki returns and pours himself a glass of orange juice. Without preamble, he places it on the table and climbs into Jon's lap (with a little help, because he's an enthusiastic kid and his bony knees dig painfully into Jon's bad thigh). He settles himself comfortably and sits facing Hoshi, small hands crossed neatly on the table.
'Did you have a good day at work today, mommy?'
Jon wants to laugh at the serious little grown-up sitting on him like a piece of furniture, but it doesn't come out right. Hoshi looks up, concerned, and he tries to smile -- everything's okay -- but it twists and it hurts and the not-right laugh slips out again, because Hoshi's son makes him think of things he once wanted.
'Aki, go upstairs and play,' his mom orders.
Jon turns away from the confused little face peering up at him, hides his face with a hand.
'Now please, Aki.'
The boy slides from his lap as his body begins to shake spasmodically. Unable to catch his breath, he continues to hide his face as Hoshi crouches by his side, resting a small hand on his arm. Then she, too, leaves.
Admiral Archer is calmly sitting at the table when she returns a few minutes later, her own eyes puffy and raw again. She makes fresh coffee and sits down beside him. She rests her hand on his, curling her fingers around his own, and they stay like that until the sun has set and it's dark outside.
'It's hot toddy, Captain. Whisky, honey and lemon. My grandmother's recipe. I thought you might-' Archer sneezed explosively, '-appreciate it.'
Jon thought he had probably wanted it for several months, but it was Malcolm who made the first move in the end, the day after he'd broken Archer out of Rura Penthe. He came to his quarters in the evening, holding the little thermal flask.
Jon smiled warmly and beckoned Malcolm in. 'Can't drink on my own, now, can I?'
That night they sat about with the whisky and talked and laughed for several hours, Jon telling him all about his tenure in the icy prison. When Malcolm finally got up to leave, cheeks flushed from the drink and the laughter, Jon stood too, moving to open the door for his officer. Somehow he was too close, Malcolm hadn't moved out of the way, personal spaces all tangled up, and then no space at all as Malcolm leaned in and pressed his lips gently to Jon's.
He felt his breath catch, heart thudding impossibly hard, but then it was over and Malcolm was saying, 'Goodnight, Jon,' grinning a little hesitantly, turning to go.
'Wait.' He reached out a hand to the other man's forearm. Their eyes locked for a moment and a sharp rush of arousal spiked through Jon's body at the unrestrained hunger he saw staring back at him. And then he was held between the bulkhead and a man he had only tentatively called friend until recently, moaning into his mouth as their tongues came into contact for the first time.
He knew they were probably moving too fast. He knew he should be more concerned about what had brought on this change in his rule-abiding, reticent lieutenant. He knew there were a hundred things they needed to talk about before jumping into this. He also knew, as he worked a hand under Malcolm's uniform to the smooth, hot skin beneath, as Malcolm gripped his ass bringing their erections together, that he couldn't stop, not now.
Jon has often looked back on those first two months as the most contented, most uncomplicated of his life. Unfortunately, he's never been able to separate them in his mind from the months that followed.
'Mommy said you lost your friend.' Jon looks into the grave young face for a moment, then nods. 'Can't you find him again?'
Jon clears his throat, testing whether or not he trusts himself to speak. 'No,' he says softly. 'He died, Aki.'
The sound of the boy's thoughtful scribbling fills the room as colorful, indistinct shapes fill the page. 'Mommy said I knew him.'
'You met him once, but it was a couple years ago. He was the one who gave you your model Warhawk.'
Aki looks up, nodding sagely. 'The one with the funny beard.' Putting down his pencil he makes an 'O' with his forefinger and thumb and puts it around his mouth, jutting his chin out to demonstrate. Jon smiles fondly, aching, remembering the first time he'd seen Malcolm with the goatee.
'He said he had a real Warhawk and he'd show it me when I'm bigger.'
'I'm sure he would have done.' They had been due back to Earth for dry-dock refits in less than six months.
'Is the ship gone too?'
'It exploded.' Aki looks truly sorry for that.
'There was an accident. We don't know exactly what happened.'
'Was it the... the Romanans?'
'Romulans,' Jon corrects, with some measure of distaste. He fought in the war, after all. That's how he got his desk. 'No, Aki. It was just a... meaningless accident.' He tries not to struggle over the words.
Hoshi sticks her head around the door to the playroom where they're sitting cross-legged on the carpet. 'Jon?'
Out in the hall, she pushes the door to and leads him into the study. 'I managed to get hold of Dan, at last. He's coming home the day after tomorrow.'
'Also, Commander Grosbenoit called? Head office received a gold-level communiqué from Andoria, addressed to you. He's forwarded it to your personal inbox.'
'Thanks, Hoshi.' Jon gestures to the unit on the desk. 'May I?'
'Of course. I'll be in the playroom if you need me.'
Captain Archer stared in horror as the hose Reed had just pulled out of his EVA suit hemorrhaged oxygen, the gas freezing instantly into tiny, gleaming crystals, tumbling away into the night.
'What the hell are you doing?' He yelled, voice laced with the panic that was making his pulse pound in his ears, and he let go of Reed's custom-made scanner without a second thought as he moved in painful slow motion around the Romulan mine to where Malcolm had been pinned to the hull.
Maybe that's where it all begins, out there on the hull, with one man risking his ship and crew for the life of another, because he simply can't fathom his death.
Part 0 | Part 2