His faltering steps echoed through the corridor as he walked to his quarters. It was dark and quiet, too quiet. But like everything else that had been off during the last few days he knew it was mostly his own impression.
Porthos greeted him the moment he stepped into the room, eager for his attention. Malcolm bent down and took the beagle's head between his hands, rubbing his ears. He was rewarded with a pitiful whimpering and a wet tongue licking his cheek. "I know, Porthos. I miss him, too."
"He likes you, Malcolm, believe me!" Jonathan picked up the growling beagle and carried Porthos over to him. "He's just not used to someone else spending time with me. He's a little jealous."
Malcolm looked into Jon's smiling face and then bent down a little to be on eye-level with the puppy. "I hope you can share him with me, Porthos. I'm not planning on taking him from you, you know?"
He straightened up again, placing one hand on Jon's arm and petting the dog's head with the other. The beagle licked his fingers and yelped disappointedly as Jon set him down again.
"He can be very demanding ... but so can I," he said and hungrily kissed Malcolm's mouth.
Looking into the big puppy eyes would have broken Malcolm's heart had it not already been torn to pieces. He took a slice of cheese out of his pocket and fed it to the dog before standing up and walking over to his desk, sinking onto the chair.
His eyes were drawn to the only picture on the table. Malcolm picked it up, running a thumb over the silver frame. Jonathan was looking back at him from the photograph, his sandy hair combed into the side-parting that gave him such a stern, severe look that was betrayed by the boyish glow in his incredible green eyes.
Holding up the camera Trip motioned for them to move a little closer together. Malcolm smiled shyly as he stepped next to the captain. Their shoulders touched and he felt Jonathan's hand on his back.
"Say 'cheese'!" Trip ordered and took a few pictures of Jon and Malcolm and when he finally lowered the camera he handed each of them a glass of Scotch and toasted them. "To the conquerors of the Romulan minefield!" The engineer winked and they all drained their glasses.
"Well, gotta go and fix some of that damage you caused!" Trip said with a mischievous grin on his lips as he left the captain's mess. Malcolm walked over to the window, gazing at the stars outside. He heard the door closing and felt a hand on his shoulder, squeezing it slightly.
"Are you okay, Malcolm?" He just nodded but didn't turn around to look at Jonathan. A shiver ran down his spine as the hand on his shoulder slowly slid up to his neck, gently caressing the short hair.
"I wouldn't have been able to go on if you had left me," he heard Jon whispering. Malcolm's heart skipped a beat. "Life is way too short to shut people out. I can't imagine what it would have been like to lose you and not have told you that ..."
Malcolm turned around. "You don't have to tell me. Everything you did out there ... you couldn't have shown me any better. Haven't you noticed me telling you that?"
Jonathan's face lit up with a radiant smile. "Oh, yes, Malcolm, I have."
Their mouths met in a tender kiss, their tongues initiating a sweet and lingering dance, exploring each other, and even though it was their first kiss it already felt very comfortable and familiar.
Malcolm put the picture back down, carefully wiping the glass with his sleeve. He stood up and headed over to the bed, kicked off his boots and tried to make himself comfortable. He took a book from his nightstand and started reading but he wasn't able to concentrate.
Sighing he rested his head against the wall and as he turned his gaze towards the window to look at the passing stars his eyes were drawn to the yellow water polo ball lying on one of the shelves.
He rolled over and picked it up, cradling it to his chest as he lay back down on the bed. He slowly traced the narrow black lines encircling it with his fingers.
"Yeah! Go, Stanford, go!" Jonathan punched a fist into the air, hooting loudly.
Malcolm couldn't stop grinning. Jon was totally absorbed in the match on the screen. He was sitting on his bed, wearing nothing but a pair of sweat pants, turning his yellow water polo ball around and around in his hands, Porthos lying at his naked feet. He looked just like a little boy.
"How often have you watched that game, love?"
Jonathan blushed. "Uhm ... five, maybe six times?" Malcolm raised his eyebrows. "Okay, twelve times!" Jon scowled.
Malcolm rolled his eyes, pouted and sighed theatrically. "Which means that you have seen more of that game than of me lately."
The water polo ball playfully hit his right shoulder and Jonathan jumped off the bed, wrapping his arms around him. "Don't be silly, silly!" he chided and placed a number of kisses all over Malcolm's smiling face.
With all his power Malcolm threw the ball against the wall. Porthos jumped up from his pillow, barking apprehensively.
He walked into the bathroom and took off his uniform, getting ready for the night. As he unbuttoned the dark gray shirt he looked at his reflection in the mirror and his fingers wandered to the silver chain around his throat, gently caressing the pendants, two silver rings.
He had worked on the rings in his spare time, as a present for Jonathan, as a token of his love. They had been meant to be engagement rings, the inscription on the inside of one of them was 'without your love ...' while the other read '... heaven would be out of reach'.
"Well, Lieutenant, and how do you feel about marriage?" The captain looked him straight in the eyes, waiting for an answer.
Malcolm blushed. He had known that he would most likely ask him something like this. Trip had entertained them with a story about Ruby, the waitress at the 602 Club in San Francisco and how she had decided to marry the first man who could guess the names she had already picked out for her children. T'Pol had told them about the Vulcan tradition of prearranged marriages and how she had only met her husband-to-be once or twice. And now it was his turn.
He frantically tried to think of a way to avoid the question or something remotely funny to say. But then he answered seriously, surprising everyone, especially himself.
"If I could find the one person who would complete me, who could look past everything else and see the real me, who would not hesitate to stand by me, no matter what ... yes, in that case I would love to get married."
They all fell silent, looking at him. Jonathan's eyes sparkled. It was the first ray of hope for Malcolm that the feelings he had for Jon were not as unrequited as he had thought.
Malcolm sighed, closing his fist around the silvery bands. He had wanted to give them to Jon once they were home again, once the Xindi mission was over. He should have known better. He should have acted the minute Jon came back from Azati Prime, when he had thought he had lost his lover forever and then been given a second chance. But he hadn't, everything had been helter-skelter and there just had not been the time to celebrate their love.
And now he had lost him again. He had walked away from him, he had left him behind and he had returned to the ship without him, with the burden of having to tell the others their captain would not be coming back, knowing that he had lost his only real reason for living. He should have known that fate would not allow him this kind of happiness.
He stepped under the shower and turned on the hot water, trying to wash away the pain, the dread, the tears. Sobbing he leaned against the wall and slid down to the ground, burying his face in his hands, the water engulfing him.
"Love, if we go on like this we will never make it to movie night." A tongue slithered into his ear and lips sucked at his earlobe. "Come on, Mal, like you ever wanted to see another one of those 'Frankenstein' movies," Jonathan whispered, his voice husky and seductive.
"Trip is going to kill us," Malcolm tried again but his determination wavered when he felt Jonathan nibbling at his throat and his fingers stroking his flanks. He took a step towards him, closing the gap between them, rubbing his wet chest against Jon's. "But this is worth dying for, I guess."
Jonathan grinned lasciviously and placing his hands on Malcolm's shoulders he ran them down his chest, slowly and tantalizingly, the sensation being intensified by the warm water running down their bodies. He stopped at his nipples, encircling them with his thumbs, applying gentle pressure until they stood hard and erect. He pinched them and Malcolm threw back his head, moaning quietly. "Yes, definitely worth dying for!"
Malcolm slid his own hands around to Jonathan's back and moved them down, cupping his firm cheeks and then let them wander further south, caressing the inside of his thighs, while his lips place open-mouthed kissed on Jon's neck, licking the hot water off him.
"Do you have a permit for those hands of yours? Because if you don't I might have to throw you in the brig for illegitimate possession of a weapon!" Jonathan growled and closed his eyes, concentrating solely on the sensory stimuli Malcolm's fingers sent through his body.
Malcolm turned off the water, shivering in spite of the warmth inside the bathroom. He wrapped a towel around himself, staggered back into the main room and curled up on the bed, clutching one of Jon's old shirts against his chest.
He raised it up to his face and inhaled deeply. It still smelled of his lover, a musky scent that had been so unique and that had become as important as the air Malcolm was breathing.
He kissed him hungrily and his hands gripped the hem of Jon's shirt, pulling it up to gain access to his lover's chest. Jonathan chuckled, the sound muffled by Malcolm's mouth.
He pulled back a bit, licking his lips and Jon grinned at him. "Careful there, love, that's my favorite shirt."
Malcolm smirked and cast him his best lop-sided grin. "It's my favorite shirt, too ... but only when it's on that pile of clothes down on the ground." He finally pulled the shirt over Jonathan's head and tossed it onto the floor behind him.
A tear ran down Malcolm's cheek, wetting the shirt, mingling Malcolm's scent with Jon's and he slowly drifted off into sleep, tossing and turning, his hands unconsciously reaching for someone who wasn't there.
He had had no idea that a tongue could cause so much pleasure. He looked down and the sight of Jon's head between his legs, licking and sucking his cock, was almost enough to make him come.
Malcolm gripped the satiny sheets, desperate to keep his hips from bucking. He wanted to savor every single second of their first love-making, he had been waiting too long for this for it to be over before it really started.
"Jon," he whispered, his voice husky. He closed his eyes again as Jonathan let go of his cock and slid up Malcolm's body, leaving a trail of open-mouthed kisses, his teasing tongue drawing warm wet lines on his chest. Jon's skin felt hot and sweaty against his own.
One of Jonathan's legs slipped between Malcolm's and he pushed his arousal against his lover's groin. They moved slowly, their hips dancing to a steady rhythm, tantalizingly, teasingly, while their hands caressed each other's faces, finally able to feel and touch and smell and taste.
"You are so beautiful, Malcolm." To Malcolm Jonathan's words were almost more enticing than the feeling of his body on top of him. He blushed and took Jon's face between his hands. "It's your love that makes me glow from within, darling."
His tongue slipped into Jon's mouth as he moved, turning them onto their sides, wrapping one leg possessively over Jon's hip, pulling him closer. Their dance stopped for a moment until they found a new rhythm, faster, more demanding.
Malcolm let his fingers slide down Jonathan's side, not really touching, merely leaving the hint of a caress and watched as thousand of little goose bumps formed on his lover's skin.
He moved his arm between them, taking first Jon's and then his own cock into his hand, stroking them both, causing an electrifying friction, making them both breathe faster and faster.
Their eyes locked, their mouths only inches away from each other, wanting to take in every reaction, every sentiment visible on the other's face.
Malcolm could feel a wave running through him, cumulating in his middle, waiting to drown him. When he came he did it whispering Jon's name over and over and it felt better than anything he had ever experienced. He continued stroking Jonathan's cock, the ecstasy of his own orgasm slowly ebbing down.
Jon's already handsome features seemed enhanced by the desire in his eyes and Malcolm was enthralled by the look on his face when he pushed him over the edge, spilling everything he had, mixing his cum with Malcolm's.
Hearing his own name on Jon's lips at the peak of his lover's passion brought tears to Malcolm's eyes.
Malcolm awoke with a start. It was morning and he got out of bed knowing that he had to face another day without his love. The dream left him feeling even lonelier than he had before.
"I'm picking up another signal." Malcolm looked up from his console to see Hoshi's eyes start to gleam. "It's faint," she almost whispered.
T'Pol nodded at her, telling her to put it on the speakers and a faint noise was audible, merely a little disturbance of the white noise that they had all gotten used to while spending time in the Expanse. Suddenly words could be heard and Malcolm couldn't believe what his ears were trying to tell him.
After what seemed like an eternity T'Pol asked what was going through all of their minds: "Captain?"
Malcolm gripped the console in front of him, hearing how the incorporeal voice confirmed their suspicion and how T'Pol gave the command to beam the captain aboard. His hands were shaking. The urge to run down to the transporter to see with his own eyes how Jonathan materialized was almost overwhelming.
When the door to the bridge finally slid away and Hoshi ran up to Jon to tackle him Malcolm's legs almost gave way. There he was, his love, looking bruised and fatigued but it was the most beautiful sight Malcolm had ever seen.
He got up to greet him, trying not to wrap him up in a deep embrace, not to kiss every inch of his face. It could wait. Jonathan stood close to him, his gaze lingering, roaming his face. The smile on his lips and in his eyes said more than a thousand words.
Then the moment passed and Jonathan turned to T'Pol, the captain inside of him taking over. Malcolm returned to his station, his eyes following Jon's every movement until he left the bridge to change back into his uniform.
Minutes passed and Malcolm fidgeted around on his chair, unable to concentrate, the screens at his station merely a blurry mess. He stood up, asking T'Pol's permission to be dismissed for a moment and as soon as the Vulcan complied he stormed into the turbo lift.
With a spring in his step he hurried to Jonathan's quarters and he stepped inside without ringing the bell. The sight his eyes took in made his heart beat faster. Jon was toweling his hair, he had pulled his uniform up to his waist and the dark gray shirt was still unbuttoned.
As soon as he noticed Malcolm he dropped the towel and closed the gap between them with two quick strides. He took Malcolm's face in his hands and sighed. "God, I thought I'd never be able to do this again," he breathed, his thumbs caressing Malcolm's lips, his cheeks, his jaw line.
With a wide smile Malcolm placed his hands over Jonathan's, pulled them down, turned the palms upwards and kissed them. "I know, love, I know!" he whispered between kisses.
Jonathan looked down at him until he finally pulled back his hands and burrowed his face against Malcolm's neck, inhaling deeply. He hesitated for a moment and leaned back, touching Malcolm's throat, tugging at the silver chain. "What's this? I never noticed these before," he said while pulling the pendants out from underneath the dark gray shirt, shooting Malcolm a quizzical glance. "Rings?"
Malcolm felt himself blushing and quickly took the rings away from Jonathan. "Uhm ... yes." He unfastened the chain and put the silver circles into the pocket of his uniform.
He cleared his throat and tried to change the subject. "We all thought ..."
But Jonathan wouldn't let him. He stooped down a bit to look up into Malcolm's eyes, his head cocked to one side. "What are they for?"
Malcolm frowned, remembering what he had vowed to do if he ever got the chance. He took out the rings again, placed them in his palm and stretched his hand out to Jonathan, looking at him from under lowered eyelashes. "These are our rings. If you want them."
Jonathan's eyes widened. "Does this mean what I think it means?" he said, taking the rings from Malcolm, reading the inscriptions. "Without your love ... heaven would be out of reach." Smiling fondly he bent down to kiss Malcolm who leaned back, out of his reach, claiming the rings for himself again.
"Jon, I know this is bad timing. I wanted this to be special and romantic. I had a little speech prepared with all the reasons why I want to marry you. I thought it would be peaceful. We'd be back on Earth. It would be at a wonderful restaurant. We'd be all dressed up and drinking champagne and ..."
A finger on his lips stopped his babbling. "I do."
Malcolm frowned. "You do what?"
Jonathan grinned and pulled him into a tight embrace. "I wanna marry you!" he said firmly, unwaveringly looking into Malcolm's eyes.
The handsome face lit up with a smile as Malcolm slowly realized what Jonathan had just told him. He took one of the rings and put it on Jonathan's finger, feeling a little foolish but the feeling vanished as he felt strong arms gently pulling him close and full, warm lips kissing him passionately.