Beyond Tomorrow

By Alia - 2009

Disclaimer: These characters do not belong to me. Sadly Jon and Malcolm are the property of Paramount. I am just playing with them, and request you keep in mind that no disrespect or infringement to copyright is intended.

Summary: Jonathan Archer has survived the Expanse, but what comes next?

Rated: PG+ for adult M/M content.

Author's Notes: This is a story started out as a brief synopsis for a title challenge. It is not exactly what I had in mind when I wrote the synopsis, but hopefully it will hit the right chord with anyone not completely happy with the season 4 episode of Home. Dedicated to Mareel for providing me with the title, and the inspiration to continue with these characters.

Comments: Are always welcome and can be sent to aliajones1999@yahoo.com

----*----

None of it feels real. Not the masses that welcome our return or the twenty-seven coffins draped in Starfleet colours. Yet, in the back of my mind I know I am not dreaming any of this. The raised voices and the solidness of each casket beneath my fingertips confirm their existence -- the reality of it all.

They call us heroes, saviours of earth, but I cannot bring myself to believe any of it. Neither my conscience, nor my memories of those we have lost along the way will allow it.

I don’t dare let myself sleep. My apartment, long abandoned for my captain’s cabin feels more like a prison cell than the home it once was, even Porthos seems to think so. Crowds of reporters have set up camp outside our small block and if their behaviour upon our arrival here is anything to judge by, they have no intention of leaving until they get their story. I can’t talk to them though, not yet. Maybe when our return sinks in and I have had some time to reconcile the emptiness I feel, maybe then I will have something to say to them.

Morning comes and I am forced to step outside. I barely escape the barrage of questions before my temper flares.  I am not so lucky when I face the Vulcan ambassador however, and even though I would prefer to stay and deal with his accusations, Forrest sends me away.

I head for the mountains, as far from civilisation as I can go on short notice, and attempt to submerge myself in the challenge of climbing, pitting myself, body and soul against the elements as I had in my youth.

I do not anticipate company, but I cannot bring myself to engage long enough with my uninvited guest to send him away.

For two days I push myself to the limit of my endurance and finally I sleep. My dreams, when they come to me are all nightmares and nothing about them or the effect they have on me has changed since our return to earth. I wake up screaming, fighting for my life against a reptilian monster whose only goal it seems is my death and demise of my species.

A strong hand settles on my shoulder as images of my imminent annihilation continue to cloud and control my consciousness. I swing without thinking, my fist connecting with not the scaled exterior of one of the reptilian monsters or even the smooth almost moist armour of the insectoids, but with a decidedly human adversary.

I would not have believed my companion capable of over-powering me given the differences in our sizes and the fury driving me, but some how he manages to force me back and down against the rocky ground of our campsite. Physically restrained, I find myself pinned between the unrelenting terrain of the mountain side and my very determined armoury officer.

Our eyes meet with the assistance of the dying fire light and as if a dark shadow has been lifted I can see Malcolm’s bruised and bleeding profile staring back at me, his face contorted between wary concern and a look of longing I do not understand.

“You were dreaming,” he informs me through ragged snatches for breath. “I tried to wake you up.”

I give a slow nod, knowing what I was being told was true, that I had just come out the other side of yet another nightmarish encounter with the Xindi.

A part of me wondered if the dreams would ever go away, if I would ever enjoy a normal night’s sleep again. Right now it seemed unlikely that anything about my life could be considered normal again, but I am too exhausted to think about it, or to care. The damage to Malcolm’s lip and the look of concern and confusion in his eyes is too much to endure along with everything else and I turn my face away.

Scanning our campsite, I search the shadows for any stragglers from my dream. There are none of course. And other than the rapid beating of my own heart and Malcolm’s still some what laboured breathing above me, all is quiet around us. Just the peace and solitude I’d been looking for when I chose this place, I remind myself -- with one exception.

Now the remnants of my dream have passed and my safety for the moment is assured I find myself caught between feeling irritated and slightly embarrassed by Malcolm’s presence.  He isn’t exactly resting any of his weight on me but our position against the rocky face of the mountain is extremely uncomfortable and growing more awkward by the moment.

I need some distance and I needed it now.

Twisting my raised arms I try to free myself from the man currently holding me captive. Instead of releasing me however, I feel the grip around my wrists increase and his weight resettle so that he is now straddling my hips, his rump resting across my crotch. The night and all it’s now familiar horrors close in around me again and in a moment of reignited, completely irrational fear of attack my irritation gives way to panic.

“What are you doing,” I demand. “Get off of me.” I fight the best I can but it is no use. No matter how much I struggle the man above me has the advantage and it is only the utter futility of my efforts that finally halts them.

“Perhaps if you talk about it.”

Malcolm’s breath is hot against the side of my face now, closer than before, his voice demanding in a way I had not experienced during all the years he has served with me and I find myself returning his gaze before I can think to stop myself.

“I can’t,” I tell him. For the life of me I cannot explain why I am able to admit the truth to Malcolm when I find it impossible to tell anyone else.

“You have to try,” he informs me.

There is no explanation given for why I have to talk about my time in the Expanse and I am in no mood to ask for one.

I flex my arms, unclenching and re-clenching my fists, my patience growing thinner by the moment.  I am too tired to deal with any of this, Malcolm’s sudden need to act as counsellor included.

Moistening dry lips I set my jaw.

“Need I remind you lieutenant that I am your superior officer, and you are out of line?”

The warning I give has no visible impact. For all his apparent concern for me and his position under my command Malcolm appears completely unmoved by anything I have said, or any action I might take against him.  Barely a moment passes before he answers me.

“I am very aware of who you are, Jonathan, and what I am doing.”

The use of my name opposed to my rank surprises me at a time in my life when I had come to believe that nothing would and for a moment or two I simply lie beneath my captor contemplating my changing relationship with him.

In all the years I have known him, Malcolm has always given me the impression that he likened breaches of protocol with a fate worse than death. In fact there was an incident during our second year out when he had proven exactly that. I have no idea why I would think of our stint in mine field now, or recall the connection that had formed between us during the days that surrounded it only to dissipate again, making me think it had never existed in the first place.

I shake my head; trying without any real success to dispel the unwanted memories of the awkward meals we’d shared in the captain’s mess and my failed attempts to break through the barriers of rank and impenetrable Reed tradition. We are not the same men anymore. Never will be again, I remind myself. Too much has happened. Our days of innocent exploration were long gone and nothing I had imagined or hoped for back then could be revisited ever again.

Just thinking about the past felt like the opening of another old wound -- the burying of yet another life lost to the Xindi. The pain it awakens is indescribable and for countless moments I can’t breath, can’t think beyond the loss I feel on so many levels that I can’t even begin to name them all.

I have scarily allowed myself to acknowledge my grief, but I know it is on a scale only comparable to my ever present frustration and anger. The latter, I don’t doubt, is growing increasingly more evident on my face as Malcolm and I continue to regard one another. I don’t understand why his eyes seem to have a way of cutting me to the core, why they have never seemed so blue, why he is here? None of it matters though, I can’t let it.

Digging my heels into the ground beneath me I flex my arms again, the tension in my body nearing breaking point. The pain in my gut – in my heart, more than I can bear now.

As if sensing some impending and unavoidable danger I note the changes occurring in Malcolm’s gaze as I struggle against throwing him off and staying where I am, along with the instant he loosens his grip and shifts his weight. It takes me even less time to realise my opportunity and to take it. Thankfully, this time he makes no further attempts to restrain me and I free myself without interference.

Navigating by feel alone I crawl a short distance then slowly drag myself to my feet and stagger the rest of way to the cliff face.

The mountain side drops away as I come to stand on the edge, sand and small rocks falling the hundred or so metres to cavern below. Leaning forward I wonder about their fate at the bottom, and at a canopy of stars marking my own final resting place…

Somewhere behind me I hear my name being called and I step back, my legs literally folding under me as I crumple to the ground where I had once stood. Drawing my knees to my chest I wrap my arms around them, realising as I rock myself back and forth that the fear clipping Malcolm’s voice was more warranted than I wanted to admit, to him, myself or anyone else right now.

----*----

It is hard to say how long it is before I manage to accept what had almost happened and I drag myself back to the here and now, though in truth, it can’t be more than a minute or so, if that. Malcolm is standing beside me when I look up again, his eyes as haunted and confused as I feel right now.

“You should move away from the edge,” he says using a tone that leaves no room for augment, a hand already extended to help me up.

I don’t know what to say, if Malcolm knows what I had been thinking before he called me back or not. It seems likely that he does, but is either unwilling or unable to discuss it at this point.

Moments of indecision pass and with no energy left to fight him I untangle my legs and reach for his pro-offered hand. Nothing is said as Malcolm pulls me to my feet or as we take our first tentative steps away from the ravine, our hands still clasped firmly together. 

Within seconds it seems we hear the mountain protesting our presence and the ground beneath our feet begins to crumble, threatening to give way. I catch Malcolm’s eyes as the gravity of the situation takes hold, noting the sudden fear and realisation that we needed to get away from this place the instant I come to the same conclusion. For one brief moment I contemplate the possibility of fate deciding my future after all, but before I can extract myself from him, to let it all go, I feel myself physically hauled to safety.

We land badly, my full body weight pinning my companion to the uneven ground where we fall.  He groans in protest, uttering a string of obscenities that erases all traces of his British reserve in an instant. Still winded, I roll us to the side, trying to catch my breath with very little success as nothing I do seems to make any difference. Fury has replaced fear and Malcolm is clearly unprepared to keep his opinions to himself any longer.

“Jesus Christ, Jonathan. Are you trying to get us both killed?”

I shake my head. I may not be overly concerned about my safety right now, but I have no intention of seeing Malcolm, of all people, harmed. Despite not giving a damn about what happens to me I have never stopped caring about him. Like everything else though, it has been a waste.

I try to untangle myself from him, to pull away and put some distance between us but he locks both legs around my lower body, holding me in place. I struggle against the contact and the unavoidable intimacy as he brings our hips together, his intention very clear and then raises his hands to either side of my face, forcing me to look at him.

I don’t want to look though, to see the disappointment or anything else that I know is there and I close my eyes.

“Stop it,” I tell him. “Please let me go. I can’t.”

“No, and yes you can.”

Malcolm’s voice is gentle again, though no less demanding than before, his breath warm against my face as he pulls me closer.

I am not sure what any of this means, why he is here, doing any of this when he had made it very clear he had no interest in me beyond my role as his commanding officer, but something I had thought died long ago slowly stirs inside of me and I find it impossible to resist when he presses his lips to mine.

It has been a very long time since anyone kissed me. Longer still since they have used anywhere near the sincerity and determination that Malcolm draws on as he deepens the kiss and carefully manoeuvres me on to my back.

For a moment or two I concentrate on the sensations flowing through my body, the long dormant feelings of need and desire that rise like absent friends as he sets about stealing my breath and driving away any thoughts of calling a stop to this.  If I didn’t know better I would think that he had planned this because it feels as if every touch and gesture was designed to set me free and it is only a matter of seconds before I find myself returning the kiss with unprecedented enthusiasm and my hands travelling over Malcolm’s muscular back and up to his shoulders.

I am not accustomed to taking the submissive role and thankfully Malcolm seems to understand as I take control of the situation and roll us both over again. Opening my eyes I get a brief glimpse of the longing I had seen earlier, but had not understood – had in fact resigned myself to the idea that I had been mistaken about the time we spent together before the Expanse.

It seems impossible that I could have been so wrong.

“Why now?”

Malcolm seems a little bewildered by my question. “Does it matter?” he returns, one strong hand reaching up to stroke my cheek, loving me in a way I never thought he would.  “Isn’t it enough that we are here now? Together. That you want this?”

I shake my head, wanting to deny the truth, but failing miserably. I am hard for the first time in over a year, though God only knows how that is possible.  I am very familiar with self-service, or at least I used to be, but I know that is not what Malcolm has in mind, or what I really want. I still don’t understand, having sex won’t fix anything, or suddenly make the differences in our ranks vanish, but my concerns are silenced even before they can be voiced as he again takes possession of my mouth and I find myself drowning in his touch, unwilling now to save myself.

With Malcolm’s help I manage to get his pants open and underwear off, tossing both items out of the way as he begins work on my own. It feels dream like to be touching him like this, his skin almost hot under my hands, his breathing ragged as he arches against me, begging me for more, for anything and everything I am willing to give.

“Whatever you want.” He tells me when we finally free me from my own clothing and I resettle myself at his side, immediately reaching for him again.

“We’ll work something out,” is all I say.

I am very aware that Malcolm means every word and that right now he would allow anything, never minding his own comfort.  I won’t risk hurting him though, now or ever.

----*----

It is over too quickly for both of us, and yet there are no words of complaint or disappointment. For myself at least, I have no regrets about what we have shared and Malcolm seems content for the moment to remain where he is, moulded to my chest while our bodies continue to cool.

It feels strange to have him so close, to feel his heart beating so strong and know that it’s not from fear or anger. To know that he came to me, wanted me after everything we have been through, after everything that has been lost in the last year seems like a gift I never expected to receive, or felt I deserved.

I close my eyes and breathe in the man in my arms. I have no words for this moment, for the gratitude I feel, or for the days ahead I now know we will endure together. That somehow I am still redeemable, even if only in Malcolm’s eyes.

 

End.

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