My Hero.

By Alia & Mareel.

 

Disclaimer: The characters belong to Paramount and to one another.

Rating: PG

Author's Notes: This is in response to the 7_virtues challenge; ' Humility ', thank you to Mareel for the gift of patience and allowing Malcolm to take as long as he needed.

Comments: For Alia & for Mareel

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Jonathan

It's not easy being home.

Or perhaps I should say that it's not easy being on Earth again, as I'm not sure it's really home right now. I know I wanted little else on every day we spent out there in the Expanse, but as they say 'be careful what you wish for.'

Today was one of those days when I felt like nothing more than a fraudulent hero, a symbol of things I'm not sure I can believe in anymore, if I ever really could. I'm expected to be able to share some kind of inspirational words with everyone from politicians to schoolchildren. The people they should honor are those among my officers and crew who survived the same things I did, with more grace and less reward.

This trip has been especially rough. I met with grieving families of people whose lives were cut short, either by the Xindi attack or, worse yet, by our response to it… by my response to it. They seem to be looking to me for some kind of validation of those deaths… and with gratitude for the reassurance that they weren't pointless. I hope they weren't, but it makes me more than uncomfortable to be hailed as some kind of savior when, in reality, some of those deaths were by my orders.

I try not to even think about those I can't meet. Degra's family can't be the only Xindi grieving a loss of a much-loved lifemate or parent… or child. One day, I'd like to know his children; in my mind, they are the faces for all of the nameless ones we hated blindly.

And Starfleet wants to make me an admiral. I know it's meant as an honor, a promotion; my father would be proud. Hell, Malcolm's father might even be secretly proud, a little, even though it is only Starfleet and not the Royal Navy. I wish I could be, but the man they intend to honor doesn't exist anymore, if he ever did. I lost part of him in the Expanse, bit by bit, as I made each choice from a set of no-win options.

After a week of sleeping in a different lonely place every night, I need this break, need to find my own way home again. My transport shuttle, another Starfleet courtesy, is finally getting close to the small wine-country town where I've asked Malcolm to join me for a weekend away from it all. Nestled between vine-covered hillsides, this is a place where I don't have to be the hero, or even the captain. I don't have to be strong, or inspiring, or even in charge of ordering dinner, unless I choose to be. Or unless Malcolm needs me to be… for him, I would do or be anything he asks. I owe him so much.

I lost part of myself in the Expanse, but Malcolm is the reason I survived it. He's the hero, the strong one who never lost sight of who he was… or of what we are together. Right now I want nothing more than to touch that certainty again, to wrap my arms around him and feel his heartbeat against my chest. I want to make love with him as well, and want to fall asleep and wake in his arms, but his simple nearness is what I'm craving most.

I jump out of the shuttle as soon as it lands, grab my own bags, and wave the pilot off. Calling Malcolm's name, I push the door open and am met by a smile that lights the room.

"Malcolm, love… "

The rest of my words won't matter right now. He knows so well what I need. He always has known, even when I didn't.

I thought I'd probably rush to gather him into my arms, and I did let the duffels drop to the floor as soon as I stepped inside. Instead I find myself just gazing at him, drinking him in… the love and concern in his eyes, the quiet strength and stillness in the way he stands waiting for me. And I'm almost overwhelmed by all of this… the peaceful isolation of this place, the time away from responsibilities… and especially by Malcolm's reassuring presence, by my deep certainty that he will be willing to again help put me back together when I feel broken in so many ways.

When I finally take the few steps to close the distance between us, his arms draw me in and enfold me, holding me safe, sheltering. My own arms find their way around his waist as I press my cheek against his hair, breathing him in deeply.

I can't begin to express all of what I'm feeling, or all that I need to convey to him about how much I love and need him… about how at last I can let go and be only his Jonathan. In silence, I sink to my knees near his feet, and reach up to take his hands between mine, squeezing them tightly, hoping he will understand.

His eyes meet mine and time slows. The only words I find are very simple ones.

"… home, love… am home now."

Malcolm

I barely have time to finish looking around the small villa Jonathan has organized for us before I hear a shuttle land outside. I know instinctively that it is him. After all we have been through during our time in the Expanse I can feel his presence as innately now as I can the beat of my own heart.

I take a deep breath, letting it out slowly, consciously calming myself as I make my way back to the main room. I know this last week especially has been difficult on Jonathan and that he has been waiting for this time together since before we even returned to earth.

What I don't know is how he has managed our time apart.

The messages I have received have provided me with brief details about his movements, but there has been little else to tell me how he has dealt with meeting the families and loved ones of those lost during our mission. It can't have been easy for him - to come face to face with the parents and partners of the men and women he'd been responsible for, only to have to tell them he'd failed in his duty to keep them safe.

I hear the shuttle taking off again outside and my heart swells of its accord in my chest.

Despite Jonathan's reservations that his visits or any amount of words could bring comfort to those whose loss could not be measured I am very aware that his presence has the ability to heal the deepest of wounds and give meaning to the most difficult situations.

For myself, this last week has felt like an eternity and all I want now is to hold him in my arms and to tell him he is safe here with me and that I will be whatever he needs for as long as our time together allows.

The sound of his voice and the look of relief on his face as the door finally opens bring a smile to my lips and a familiar stirring in my groin as I take in the sight of him.

"Hello love."

After our week a part I half expect Jonathan to gather me in his arms and to kiss me senseless, but for reasons I understand only too well he simply drops the duffle he's been carrying and stands gazing at me.

While it has been difficult for Jonathan to accept it, our time in the Expanse has changed a great deal about him. Gone is the man who would have taken this moment for granted, or not given a second thought to the tranquility and beauty surrounding us, leaving in his place is another man entirely, one who has experienced loss and the threat of losing moments like this forever. Not that I am complaining, it is just I need to remind myself that for Jonathan this time alone is a chance for him to put aside the responsibilities of captain Archer, the horror of the mission and concentrate on re-finding himself - on us.

As always I am humbled by the way he looks at me and how he can make me feel ten feet tall. A few steps forward brings us within arms reach of each other and I open myself and draw him in, holding him close and breathing in his scent as he presses a cheek against my hair.

God, I want him so badly right now and while I can feel the same need to reconnect radiating from Jonathan I know that he needs so much then just being made love to. As if to confirm as much I note him pull back after a moment or two and slide silently to his knees in front of me.

Reaching up, Jonathan takes both of my hands in his own, his eyes locking with mine as the world around us slows and vanishes, leaving only the two of us. Squeezing my hands I watch the struggle for words that aren't necessary, now or ever.

"Yes," I assure him. "You're home, love."

End

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