Reed's Armory -- A Malcolm Reed Fanfiction Archive
Title: Beacons in Darkness
Author's e-mail: [email protected]
Author's Web site: http://www.geocities.com/bdebpr
Summary: After the escape from Rura Penthe, Jon and Malcolm discuss rescues and freedom and reasons to live.
Spoilers: Judgement, The Communicator, Desert Crossing
Comments: Author's Notes: This story assumes familiarity with the characters and events of the 2nd season episode "Judgment". This is for Helyn who wanted a "Judgment" fic, and for Kalita in thanks for the inspiration of her "Rescue You" video. And because of the image burned into my mind of the look shared by Jon and Malcolm when they saw each other on Rura Penthe.
Archived to Reed's Armory on 10/09/2003.
Armoury Officer's Log: Lieutenant Malcolm Reed
I have to give T'Pol a great deal of credit. To be honest, I wasn't entirely sure her Vulcan ethics would permit her to negotiate with the kind of people she had to deal with in order to arrange this rescue operation. This was not an occasion for high-level Vulcan diplomacy. This was, to be blunt, horse-trading and serious bribery. I don't know what kind of favours she had to call in, or how she even had the kind of connections in the first place that would have put these people in her debt, but she played her cards with a cool head and revealed as little of her hand as possible. I don't believe I'd care to play poker with her.
But I am certainly glad to be getting underway. The waiting was tedious at best, and very frustrating. I would have preferred to formulate my own strategy. Every hour we waited was another hour with the captain's life on the line. From what T'Pol has told me in briefings, this Rura Penthe mining operation sounds like a bloody frozen hellhole. And that's before you consider that it's run as a penal camp by the Klingons and populated by all manner of desperate prisoners of various species. I fear for the captain's safety there and consider it my responsibility to ensure that his incarceration is as brief as possible. We are leaving shortly for Rura Penthe in a decrepit excuse for a freighter whose captain T'Pol must have paid very well for the passage.
Personal Log: Malcolm Reed
The waiting was killing me. I was marking time, doing make-work while T'Pol negotiated with her contacts in the Klingon Empire. I'm not sure I want to know exactly who she negotiated with--I got the impression that these might not be Vulcan High Command approved contacts. Personally I can't be arsed to care whether the VHC or Starfleet itself approves of her contacts--she's all that stands between life and death for Jonathan Archer.
I noted in my official log that I consider it my professional responsibility to ensure Captain Archer's swift rescue from Rura Penthe. I am not recording any official logs during this trip. If we are captured, I want nothing incriminating among our possession. I don't entirely trust this freighter captain, or the guard that T'Pol assures me she has also bribed. She explained that Klingons value honour above all else, and to renege on his given word would dishonour the guard, with that dishonour extending to his entire family. I hope to God this is true, but I've also ensured that my disguise provides ample opportunity to conceal a fully charged phase pistol and a few other small items that might prove useful if it comes to that.
What I didn't mention in the official log is that I also consider it my personal responsibility to get Jonathan Archer back to Enterprise safely. I owe him my own life more times than I care to remember. He's saved my life at extreme risk to his own and even offered to sacrifice himself if it would spare my life when we were both condemned to death as enemy spies. This could have been simply a very selfless captain protecting his officer, but somehow it felt like more than that. Jonathan Archer made those occasions very personal
He touches me. Of course, he touches everyone. He hugs Trip all the time. But Trip is his friend; they've been friends for over eight years now. I know that many people--normal people--hug their friends...when they greet them, when they're sharing a joke. I've never been able to do that. I don't know if it's because I've never had a friendship like that, or if it's just my nature not to touch or be touched. But Jonathan Archer never seems to notice or heed my aloofness. He touches me. And what's worse is that I can recall each occasion--as if each touch was burned into my mind.
I seriously doubt that Commander Tucker remembers whether or not the captain rested a hand on his shoulder the last time he was down in Engineering, or whether they celebrated some water polo victory with a sloppy hug over cold beers. But I remember each touch, and know that all of the casualness was a deception. He was trying to tell me something...something I didn't want to understand.
But I've given up that pretence of naivete. I do want to understand why he touches me so deeply. And I want to believe that I'm not mistaking the man's tactile friendliness for something more, something personal. It still seems bloody arrogant of me to think that a man like Jonathan Archer would harbour any personal feelings for a wanker like me. But I believe that he does. And I'm afraid it's mutual.
Of course, I always ignored it, pushing him away with clipped words, quoting regulations by rote. But the man's a stubborn arse; he never seemed to give up. I'm certain he could have anyone he fancied, probably even Trip, if he didn't mind the occasional dalliance with a female alien. I don't know why he's persisted in his interest in me. But, for my part, I've come to realize that every time he puts himself in danger, or is captured by the Suliban or the Klingons, and whenever he comes back injured, something in me dies a little. I've tried to cover this with anger at both of us over insufficient security precautions, but behind it all is my fear that each time will be the last. And that would leave me with only the memory of all those times he touched me.
This latest episode with the Klingons has made me face all of that fear again...and I can't do it anymore. If we can get Jonathan Archer out of Rura Penthe alive, I need to stop fighting myself and be honest with him. If he still wants me, somehow I'll know...and we can see where it leads.
After the escape from Rura Penthe:
They'd had no real opportunity to talk as they returned to Enterprise. Jon had tried to stay alert as he listened to the details of his rescue--of how T'Pol had called in a few favours and bribed a corrections officer and a freighter captain--but he lost the battle somewhere along the way, falling into an exhausted sleep. Malcolm stayed by his side as he slept, in case he became disoriented on waking suddenly aboard a strange ship, but his sleep was mostly undisturbed.
Only once had he roused, and then only enough to raise his head and sweep the cabin with his gaze, as though he were looking for something or someone. Malcolm laid a hand on his to reassure him that he was safe and among friends, and Archer gripped it tightly before relaxing once more into sleep. Telling himself that Jonathan might seek that reassurance again, Malcolm allowed their hands to remain in contact until his own arm started to ache from the immobility. He was surprised at how empty his hand felt as he withdrew it from the sleeping man's loose clasp.
As he watched Archer sleep, Malcolm realized that he had initiated that touch, perhaps for the first time, and that it had been done without thought, without hesitation. He had simply reached out to the other man, offering, giving--touching.
When they reached Enterprise, he woke Archer and helped his captain make his way to sickbay, where Dr. Phlox awaited them.
"It's good to see you back here in my sickbay, Captain. I prefer not to have to make house calls to Klingon holding cells. A most unpleasant experience, though probably more so for you, hmmm?" The Denobulan smiled and began his examination, pausing now and then to mumble something under his breath about Klingon hospitality.
"Actually, Doctor, your visit was the high point of my stay with the Klingons. That is, until I caught sight of Malcolm's face under that black hood he was wearing to sneak into Rura Penthe. You'll forgive me if I say that the moment his eyes met mine in that frozen hellhole was the happiest moment of my life."
"Quite understandably, Captain. From what I've heard of the conditions there, your life might have been a rather brief and violent one had the Subcommander not arranged for Lieutenant Reed to get you out of there with reasonable dispatch. Hmmm, you seem to have suffered minimal damage beyond these undoubtedly painful cuts, bruises, and muscle strains, aside from exhaustion and the nutritional deficiencies your body chemistry is showing. All easily remedied, Captain. Consider yourself a lucky man."
"I'm very well aware of that," Archer replied, responding to Phlox's comment, but catching Malcolm's eyes and holding them as he continued. "And I'm grateful for all everyone did to get me out of there."
Seemingly unaware of the little byplay between the two men, Dr. Phlox turned to Archer and beckoned to Reed to join them. "I'm releasing you to your quarters, Captain, but I don't want you on bridge duty for another day or so. And I want you to check in with me tomorrow--any time is fine, I imagine you'll want to catch up on some sleep. Lieutenant, would you see the captain to his quarters and make sure he gets something nutritious to eat?"
"Gladly, Doctor," Malcolm replied, deftly reaching out a hand to Archer's elbow to steady him as he stood up a little too quickly. "Let's get you the rest of the way home, Captain."
"Lead on, Malcolm."
"I'll comm Chef with an order for a light meal, Captain. If the steward has gone off duty, I'll retrieve it myself and bring it down here. In the meantime, I'm sure you'll want to clean up a bit. Are you too tired for a shower? I'll try to find you some clean..."
"Malcolm, wait." Archer touched the other man's arm lightly to stop his bustling about the cabin. "You don't have to wait on me hand and foot. Phlox wanted to make sure I came here rather than going to the bridge, but he didn't say anything about what I had to do when I got here. Yes, a bite of dinner would be nice, eventually. And yes, I do need a shower rather desperately. But most of all, I need to talk to you."
He had been exerting a light pull on Malcolm's arm until the two of them were standing close enough for him to see the frantic pulse beating in the younger man's neck. His own heart was in his throat. It had to be now, just as he promised himself on those long sleepless nights on Rura Penthe. But now that it came to it, he didn't know how to say it. He was certain Malcolm felt the same attraction; he knew he hadn't misread the joy on his face, the light in those grey eyes when they met his, the silent promise they had seemed to hold.
Malcolm stood silently, but raised his eyes to Jon's, his lips curving into the trace of a smile--and it was all there again. Something broke free in Jonathan and he put his hands on Malcolm's shoulders, savouring the strength he felt in the smaller man.
"God, Malcolm, when I recognized you in that damned hellhole, I wanted to grab hold of you, throw you against the nearest rock face and kiss you senseless."
"I'm glad you settled for grinning like an idiot, Jon. That really wasn't the time or place. Though I was rather pleased to see you too."
"What about now, Malcolm? Is this the time and place?" The teasing dropped from his voice as he searched the grey-blue eyes, the eyes that had been such a beacon in the bleakness that was Rura Penthe. Jon's hands were moving on Malcolm's back now, one slipping up to cradle the back of his head and draw it to him, the other dropping lower to pull their bodies tightly together. His eye caught the smallest nod of the dark head, and a soft sigh escaped Malcolm's lips just before Jon's closed over them. The rest of Malcolm's response was completely nonverbal, but Jon felt it through his whole body, at every point of contact with the man in his arms. It felt as if it were both a yielding and a claim.
"This isn't just because you're glad to be alive and grateful for the rescue?" Malcolm teased as they lay together across Jon's bed, still half-clothed. Jon had managed to get Malcolm's uniform off his shoulders, but his feet were still entangled in it together with the boxers that Jon had frantically eased down over his eager cock. Jon's clothing littered the floor, a trail leading to the bed, laid down as Malcolm had tugged urgently at both the man and the uniform. There had been little tenderness and no finesse in their first encounter. It had been pure need on both of their parts. Their release had come all too quickly, and as they both lay catching their breath, Jon resolved to make the next time more memorable.
"You know better than that, Malcolm," Jon replied, pressing a kiss to his new lover's chest as he finally relieved him of his tee-shirt. "I've wanted this for a very long time, but was afraid you wouldn't be able to accept what I wanted to offer. Then on Qo'noS, alone and half-certain that I was going to die without having at least offered, I resolved that if I ever saw you again, I wasn't going to debate with myself any more. It was the thought of you--your face, your hands, your eyes--that kept me going, Malcolm. I knew you'd be trying to mount a rescue and I owed it to you to stay alive for it, no matter what it took."
Malcolm's gaze became more focussed and intense. "And what are you offering, exactly? I'm not good at this, Jon, and need to understand."
"Myself. And a chance to learn to know each other, Malcolm. A chance to find out if what we feel is something that we could build a life around. I'm not good at relationships either, and the last thing I want to do is anything that would hurt you. What we have between us...it's worth taking time with, letting it grow. Damn it, Malcolm, I'm tripping all over the words trying to explain, beating around the bush again. I'm sorry...let me..."
Malcolm laid his fingers lightly across Jon's lips, then replaced them with his own mouth in a gentle kiss. "Sssh, Jon, you don't have to say it. I can see what you're feeling, and hear what you're trying so hard not to say."
Jon pulled back and looked at Malcolm as though he'd been given an unexpected gift. "Malcolm, why would you believe me if I told you I loved you? We've barely spent any time alone together, we've..."
The beautiful lips were back on his mouth, this time accompanied by hands caressing his jaw and cheek, entangling themselves in his hair. "Because all the time I was waiting impatiently for T'Pol to make the rescue arrangements, I was thinking about all of the time we have spent together. And I realized that you've been telling me you cared about me for quite some time now. Never in words, but with things you've done, ways you've reacted, and in all the ways you've touched me.
I resolved during the trip to Rura Penthe that when I found you alive, I wasn't going to deny or hide how I felt about you any longer. Life is too short. We didn't die together on that gallows; I didn't die in Shuttlepod One; you didn't die at Rura Penthe. I don't want to wait for the next time. When you smiled at me there, with your heart in your eyes, I was completely sure. I love you, Jonathan. Believe it or not, as you choose; I've admitted it to both of us now. And take all the time you need, Jon. I'm not going anywhere."
"I'm such an ass, Malcolm. Here I am, talking all around it, while the most reserved man I've ever known can find the courage to tell me he loves me. I don't deserve you. But I do love you, Malcolm."
"I know. Now, what if I order some dinner, and join you in the shower shortly? We both need one now, love."
"Dinner will be here in an hour or so. It could have been here faster, but I thought perhaps it might take you awhile to get cleaned up."
Jon laughed at the smirk on his lover's face as he gathered the younger man close for a kiss. He had just finished shaving, and Malcolm caressed his smooth jaw appreciatively.
"Not that the scruffy look wasn't sexy, but you feel wonderful like this, love!"
"C'mon, let's get rid of the rest of the scruffiness, then. Aaahh...Hot water! God, that is the second best thing I've felt since I was last on Enterprise! I'll say one thing about Klingons; they don't waste water on frivolities like bathing. It's good to be home."
Malcolm's hands had been busy, gently sponging the worst of Jon's scrapes and bruises. "This one looks like it hurts!" he said, noting one particularly livid bruise on Jon's hip. "How did you get bruised that badly through all those layers of furs?"
He dropped the washcloth he'd been using and began running his hands over the bruised areas, so lightly that Jon closed his eyes and sighed, "Malcolm, I won't break. I need you to touch me without worrying about hurting me, without hesitation. Hell, Malcolm, I just need you, period." His body echoed the sentiment as he turned the smaller man in his arms, pressing his erection against the backside of the water-slick body that moulded itself so perfectly against him.
"You are so beautiful...and there's so much strength here," he murmured, caressing Malcolm's shoulders and back.
"And here," he continued, slipping a hand around the slender hips to stroke the rigid member and cup the heavy sacs.
"And here," he added, his hand coming to rest on Malcolm's chest, over his heart. "I love you so much, for so many reasons."
Malcolm turned his head enough to offer his mouth to Jon's kiss, his back pressed tightly against Jon's chest, held tightly in the circle of his arms. When the bruised lips moved to kiss and nibble his neck, Malcolm shivered involuntarily and Jon tightened his arms around him.
With a quick twist, Malcolm slipped from the embrace. "I'd love to continue this right here, but would you humour me this once and let's take it to the bed. I don't want to be responsible for explaining to Phlox how the captain acquired a few new bruises from slipping in the shower. It might not hurt when I touch you, but you have some strained muscles and I don't want them collapsing on you at an inconvenient moment." Jon allowed himself to be towelled off gently for a few moments before he pulled the towel from the other man's hands and growled "Okay, Malcolm--bed! Now!"
This encounter was all that their first coupling hadn't been--it was exploration and teasing touches, deep kisses and hands everywhere. Malcolm's tentativeness vanished as he saw that Jon really seemed not to be in any pain, and he ardently responded to his lover's attentions...
"Now let me make love to you, Jon. I've wanted you so much." Malcolm was resting his weight on his elbows, his body positioned between Jonathan's open legs, his mouth busy learning the kisses and touches that stirred his lover most deeply. He had explored the broad chest, nibbled and suckled on the rosy nipples until Jon was moaning and slowly turning his head from side to side with impatient pleasure. Then he continued to kiss and lick his way down the flat belly, following the trail of dark hair toward his goal.
Malcolm suddenly sat back on his knees, freeing his hands. Jon moaned softly when the exploring lips broke contact with his skin, but they were replaced by the most amazing pair of hands he'd ever felt touching him, and he shivered in pleasure.
"Malcolm, don't stop. I know I'm going to be jealous of your console every time I see your hands play across it when we're on the bridge."
"I'll be sure to catch your eyes then, love, just so you'll know I'm thinking of you," Malcolm replied softly.
"Just make sure I'm not in a situation where I'd have to stand up quickly, Malcolm! I might embarrass myself."
"I'll try to keep that in mind, sir. Now where was I?" Malcolm whispered as he wrapped both hands around the proudly erect member and began a series of manoeuvres that put an end to Jon's side of the playful banter by destroying his ability to speak coherently. But Malcolm had apparently noticed that Jon was growing even more aroused by the sound of his voice and playful use of rank, and kept up a suggestive monologue.
"Aaah, lovely! I do appreciate the feel of a torpedo under my hands. Especially when it's armed as well as this one, love. And it appears to be just the right calibre. I know I can make excellent use of this, Captain."
His hands continued to stroke and caress, occasionally circling the glistening head to smooth the natural lubricant over the surface. Occasionally he would reach lower to cup the heavy balls and squeeze gently, drawing more gasps and moans from Jon.
"But any fine weapon needs a bit of maintenance to stay in prime condition. A little lubrication now and then is generally helpful, don't you agree?"
Without further warning, Malcolm dipped his head and began to lick, holding Jon's eyes with his own as his tongue made long lazy strokes from base to tip, then paused to swirl around the head.
"Malcolm!" Jon managed to cry out. "Either stop now or don't. I'm not going to last..."
The lips that might have answered were otherwise occupied, as Malcolm took Jon's full length into his mouth. Jon tried to control his need to thrust into that warm wetness, and Malcolm held his hips to the bed lightly, trying not to cause any pain to his bruised body.
There would be no question of stopping now. He abandoned any attempt to hold back and lost himself in the sensations Malcolm was creating with that marvellous mouth of his. Jonathan's words as his release washed over him were incoherent, but trailed into an awed whisper.
After dinner, Jon poured two more glasses of wine and gathered Malcolm close as they relaxed on the couch, just savouring the warmth and comfort of one another. Breaking a comfortable silence, Malcolm finally raised a subject that seemed to have been on his mind for some time.
"Jon, when I approached you in the mine at Rura Penthe, Kolos seemed rather protective of you. And he gave me a very intense look, almost as though he were appraising me, judging me somehow."
Archer let his hand trace the curve of his lover's cheek before pulling him into a kiss. "We had to look out for each other, Malcolm. He knew I was hoping for a rescue, but didn't dare expect one. When he saw you, he may have recognized you as the man I'd described to him as the most likely person to be mounting a rescue effort."
"But why the scrutiny, if, as you say, he probably identified me quickly enough--not many humans in that prison after all."
"Maybe he was expecting someone taller," Jon teased.
Jon replied carefully, eyes locked with Malcolm's. "Because he knew what you are to me, what you mean to me, beyond your job description."
Malcolm absorbed this information, seeming to turn it in his mind, examining it from all sides as he would an unfamiliar weapon. "Why would be know that? Why would he have needed to know that, Jon?"
Archer could sense shields going up, almost visibly, as he watched Malcolm's face and eyes; the man guarded his privacy as fiercely as he defended the ship. He needed to get this explanation right, or risk damaging the newly acknowledged trust between them.
"As I said, Malcolm, we had to look out for each other. Neither of us had any other allies or friends in that place. We'd gotten to know each other a bit back on Qo'noS when he was conducting my defence. We shared a bottle of something he called 'bloodwine' one night, and he told me a lot about his family and the way the Empire used to have a less corrupt legal system. He's a good man, Malcolm, but he's fighting a shift in the whole focus of his society. I decided that I respected him, though I didn't realize how much I'd have to trust him, or what he was risking in continuing to press my case.
He wouldn't have ended up on Rura Penthe if it weren't for me; he would never have been found in contempt of court if he hadn't spoken out about the injustice of my sentence. But he wasn't blaming me; he simply accepted his sentence as inevitable. I had to respect that, but I felt guilty as hell for condemning an old man to that frozen pit when he should have been home at his fireside drinking bloodwine with his friends and reminiscing about the good old days. Instead, he was stuck on Rura Penthe, and likely to die there one way or another-if not from over-exertion then by the hand of one of the guards or our fellow prisoners."
"Jon, it wasn't your fault. You couldn't have known..." The shields Malcolm had raised were dropping again, as he took Archer's hands in his own and shook them a little, as it trying to stop the self-recriminations. "So you tried to protect him once you got there..."
Prodded by Malcolm's gentle encouragement--the man was a skilled interrogator--Archer continued. "Actually, it was more like mutual protection. I didn't know anything about the 'system' there, and couldn't understand half of the languages I heard being spoken all around me by the other prisoners. Some of them looked like pretty disreputable characters. And then there were the guards...
Kolos made sure we got our hands on some warm clothing--I don't want to know how he managed that, or where he got it from, but we would have died without it. And he stayed by my side to make sure we got assigned to the same work details. Once, one of the guards thought he wasn't working hard enough and got a little rougher than I thought was necessary..."
Jon licked his still-bruised lip and involuntarily shrugged his shoulder in vestigial or remembered pain, prompting Malcolm to lift his own fingertips to his partner's lips, caressing them gently before settling back into the curve of Jonathan's arms.
"I would imagine that Klingon work-camp overseers can be pretty brutal," Malcolm said. "That was probably not a choice assignment for them either, and they had no reason to treat their prisoners well, as there appeared to be a steady resupply of the work-force. They weren't particularly worried about security, probably because the surface of the planet was so inhospitable. I've actually never seen such a lax security system. Once we got past the orbital checkpoint, it was rather easy to walk in and get you out of there.
But you were going to tell me how you annoyed one of the guards enough to get yourself the kind of bruises you did. I do hope, by the way, that you gave him something to remember you by; otherwise all that self-defence training I've given you has been a bloody waste of time." Malcolm smiled as he teased Jon with this, plainly trying to lighten the mood.
"He'll remember me, Malcolm. I just thought he ought to pick his fight with someone closer to his own age. What honour would there be in beating an old man to death? God, I'm starting to sound like Kolos now, with all his talk of honour.
Anyway, the fight ended and we went back to work, but that guard or supervisor, whoever the hell he was, didn't forget about us. He came back to taunt us frequently, calling us every name in the Klingon dictionary of graphic obscenities, including one intimating that my...umm...'equipment' was comparable to a shrivelled root vegetable. I should have Hoshi add that one to the Klingon dictionary.
Malcolm laughed and caressed the maligned 'equipment' in question. "I believe it was an inaccurate accusation, love. Perhaps you mistook his meaning."
Not to be diverted, Jon continued. "He used one other expression that the translator didn't recognize. There was something about the way he said it that set my teeth on edge, and I could tell Kolos didn't care for it either. But I held my tongue that time, and waited until the bastard left before I asked Kolos what he'd said this time.
Kolos kept up the pretence of picking at a chunk of ore while he explained that the overseer had just asked me if I was Kolos' par'ma'kai--his lover.
'Why else would you be protecting that old man?' the guard had taunted.
I laughed, and told Kolos I'd been called a lot worse by better men than that, and we left it there at the time."
Jon paused, looking at his nearly empty glass. Malcolm followed the glance, and slipped out of his arms to get another beer for each of them. When he returned, Jon continued as though he'd never paused in his recounting of events.
"But the same guard came back later that day or evening--it was hard to tell time in that place. He brought a couple of his friends and picked up where he'd left off with his verbal abuse.
'He must be your par'ma'kai. You two are always together,' he leered. 'You're kind of scrawny, Human, but you could probably still do better than that old man.'
That time I hauled off and hit him. Let's just say he was not unprepared for that reaction. Between his kicks and his damned painstick, I didn't have a lot of opportunity to try those self-defence moves you showed me, Malcolm." He winced at the remembered pain, and Malcolm took his hand, gripping it hard.
"Jon..." Malcolm's eyes were blazing. "Did he try...were you...?"
Archer tightened his grasp on Malcolm's hand. "No. After he finished kicking me around, they all just taunted us with their jeers and laughter. But I'll admit the thought crossed my mind about how I'd have to react if one of them tried anything more physical. It was hard to think coherently in that pit--always hungry and exhausted--but all I could keep telling myself was that I would endure whatever I had to endure in order to be there, alive, when you came for me."
"What did Kolos have to say about all this? Did he join in the fight?"
"No, thank God, he stayed out of it. When it was over, he helped me sit up against a rock wall and got me some water. Then he told me again that I still hadn't learned anything from my experiences, and was still a meddling fool to be trying to protect him. But I could hear a difference in his voice from when he'd said the same thing before; this was more like friendly grousing. It almost felt like I was talking to Trip after one of our stupid exploits back in training..."
"It isn't unusual to bond with fellow captives, Jon. I'm not surprised that you started to think of him as a friend." Malcolm sat his empty glass on the table and settled back against Jon, who wrapped an arm around his shoulder and drew him close again, anxious to maintain the physical contact between them.
"I know. But I think we would have become friends anyway. That night I saw him shivering and realized he'd given me more of the fur wraps than he'd kept for himself. I felt guilty about that and told him so.
'You're freezing to death here, Kolos. Get your ass over here to share some warmth or you're not going to survive a week here, let alone a year.'
He raised his eyebrows at me and asked if I wasn't afraid the guards would taunt us again for being lovers.
'Maybe that would be the best impression to give. It might ward off that guard's own threatened advances as well as anybody else who gets the same idea about either of us.'
Kolos made no reply and it occurred to me that he might really find it insulting to be accusing of having a male lover, or a human one. He just sat there silently, still shivering, so I got up and moved closer to him. He still didn't move or say anything, so I pulled him under the outer fur with me and put an arm around his shoulder.
The guards just sneered as they made the rounds that night; one of them asked if we wouldn't prefer a more luxurious bedchamber. Later I saw them pointing at us, snickering and laughing among themselves over a cask of something or another, probably bloodwine. Kolos didn't say anything at all, but he did finally fall asleep. I didn't dare sleep at all.
I thought about a lot of things that night. The situation reminded me of trying to protect Trip when we were on Zobral's desert planet, under attack, with Trip delirious from heat and dehydration.
But mostly I thought about you, Malcolm. About how much you meant to me and how sorry I was not to have ever told you about it. About how much I wanted to tell you I loved you and hear your reply, to kiss you and feel your lips opening to mine. About how much I wanted to make love to you half the night and wake up every morning with you in my arms. About how I needed to survive long enough for you to mount a rescue. It was a long dark night, Malcolm, but you were a beacon at the end of it."
Malcolm had no words for him. He simply wrapped his arms around Jon's waist and snuggled closer, holding him tightly, resting his cheek against the older man's chest. They sat together silently for long minutes before Malcolm finally murmured, "I knew, Jon. Somehow I knew." Jon dropped a kiss into the dark hair of the man in his arms, and continued his story.
The next morning, Kolos was still quiet. When he finally spoke, he had some questions for me.
'You're truly not disturbed by what they say about having a man as your par'ma'kai, are you?'
'No,' I replied, 'that's never been a concern. My preferences are no secret. Is it so uncommon in the Empire?'
'Not really, some men turn to one another by choice, others for convenience. Among the warriors, though, it is more often about power or protection than about par'mach, or love, as you would term it. And you, Archer, do you have someone waiting for you on Earth? Or on your ship?'
'No, there's no one on Earth. On Enterprise? I don't think so. I wish he were.' I knew I was being deliberately vague.
'You wish he were which? On the ship? Or you wish he were your lover?'
Kolos was a man of precise words--he wasn't going to let that slip by without clarification. Damn lawyers.
'Both. He'd be safer on Enterprise than where I imagine he probably is right now, and he isn't my lover yet. But if I ever get the hell out of here, I'm going to try to change that.'
'Aaargh, so you think this man is going to try to rescue you? Another fool. I wish him luck, and hope he dies well.'
I told Kolos that I'd given my first officer strict orders to keep Enterprise safe above all else, and not to try anything as foolish as a rescue attempt in Klingon space.
'But you still hope they will try? You're full of contradictory impulses. No wonder you get yourself into so much trouble.'
'No. I don't think T'Pol would disobey an order or risk Enterprise. But I have a resourceful crew and yes, I have to keep hoping that he...that they will find a way to get here before I say or do something stupid enough to get myself killed...or starve to death here.'
'A private rescue mission. That would be the honourable act of a friend. Or a par'ma'kai. I wish him success; it won't be easy getting here.'
Then I told him about you, Malcolm. That you were my armoury officer and the best strategist I'd ever met, that if anyone could pull off a rescue like this, it would be you. That you were the most goddamned stickler for regulations and protocol I've ever served with, so you'd never disobey my order either, but that your sense of duty would compel you to find a way around it."
Malcolm suddenly interrupted him, silencing Jon by placing his fingers over his lips. "Jon, it wasn't just duty, you know...And you must realize by now that it wasn't even my plan. I had to sit here on my arse doing nothing, waiting for T'Pol to make arrangements, having to trust her when she gave me her word that she would succeed. I think she sensed that my frustration was more than just professional. If it weren't for T'Pol's connections, I might have had to get more...creative. But you're right, I would have found a way, somehow, to get you out of there."
"I think T'Pol keeps surprising us all with what she picks up on from things we don't say, and the nonverbal ways we humans communicate. I'm learning not to underestimate her."
Archer turned so that he could catch and hold Malcolm's eyes as he held both of his hands tightly. "I don't give a rat's ass whose plan it was; it wouldn't have worked without the man who slipped into that cavern to carry it out.
And when I saw the smile lighting your face in the darkness...I knew this wasn't a man who'd just done his duty in rescuing his captain. It was an affirmation, Malcolm; one I'd never dared hope to see so publicly. It's no wonder Kolos picked up on it as well." Jon's voice trailed off into memories.
"You're worried about Kolos' decision to stay behind, aren't you? The two of you seem to have developed a great deal of respect for one another."
"Yes, he's the first Klingon I've ever really respected. In another world we could have been friends. I understand his reasons for staying, but I can't help but think that I might have made his life there more difficult because of his association with me. I hope he survives his year on Rura Penthe, and I hope he's right when he says maybe he can make a difference. There still may be hope that a voice like his might be heard within the Klingon society, and might attract others who hold to similar values."
"He looked old, but strong," Malcolm replied. "And he seems to be a survivor."
"Very strong, and resilient," Jon agreed. "He'll survive. He knows the system, knows that sometimes you do whatever you need to do to make sure you survive. Just like he knew you do whatever it takes to protect your friends. He saved my life, Malcolm, both in the courtroom and on Rura Penthe. As he said, most prisoners there have very little to live for. He deserved to know why I wanted to live, so I hope you don't mind that I told him about you. And I'm glad he had the chance to meet the man he was keeping me alive for."
"How could I mind, love? I was just surprised at the intensity of his scrutiny at the time."
"He seemed to be a good judge of character. As for judging you...based on what I read into my last exchange with the man, I'd say you passed with flying colours, Malcolm."
Jonathan found his head being drawn down for a lingering kiss, during which Malcolm leaned backward on the couch, pulling Jon down on top of him. Both of their bodies reacted strongly to the contact and they never made it to the bed until much later.
After they had finally slept a little, Jon woke abruptly, unsure of where he was. It felt like he was in his own bed on Enterprise, but something was different. He wasn't alone. There was a warm pressure against his back and an arm locked around his waist. The arm convinced him that this wasn't Porthos, who sometimes jumped up on the bed in the middle of the night.
Malcolm. Oh God, he'd just awakened with Malcolm in bed next to him, and this time it wasn't his hunger playing tricks on him. Once, in the Klingon holding cell during his trial, he'd dreamed of Malcolm in his bed, but the dream paled next to the reality of the man. He let himself stroke the arm wrapped around him, not trying to wake Malcolm, but needing very much to touch him.
"Jon? Captain? Is anything wrong?"
He'd expected Malcolm's voice to be sleepy and soft, but apparently the armoury officer woke to full alert.
"You had it right the first time, Malcolm. It's just Jon here--not the captain--and no, there's absolutely nothing wrong. I'm sorry to have startled you. I just wanted to reassure myself that you were real. I've dreamed you before, but always woke up alone. What about you? Are you okay?"
Malcolm moved so that they were lying face to face and he could see Jon's face in the low light. He ran his hand from temple to jaw line and brushed his fingers across the sleep-softened lips.
"I'm more than okay, love. I've just never felt this way before." Malcolm replaced his fingertips with his lips, precluding any reply, then pulled back and continued.
"When I was on my way to Rura Penthe, I thought a great deal about how you had touched me over the past months, trying to convey your feelings to me. But I had refused to understand what you were trying to tell me, retreating behind duty and regulations. I nearly trapped myself there, alone. When I realized that you somehow seemed to share what I was feeling for you, it was like a door opening for me and I could barely wait to step through it.
It became vitally important to me that I find you alive there. Not just so I could rescue you from imprisonment, but to free myself as well--free me to love, to enjoy a relationship. If you had died there, some part of me would have died as well, a part that was just learning to live, that suddenly wanted very much to live.
When I found you alive and I saw you smile at me in the midst of all that desolation, it was like a beacon to me, a signal that I could live too. So I'm not quite sure which of us takes more joy in being free."
Jon's voice was husky as he drew Malcolm into his arms again, thinking of how perfectly he fit there, how he belonged there.
"I'm not going to debate it tonight, Malcolm. It's a question that will take years to decide. So for now, just kiss me and we'll take it from there."