By Alia

Disclaimer: The Enterprise characters belong to Paramount and not me. I am only borrowing them and promise to return them once I am finished. No money has been made or disrespect meant.

Summary: Jon listens to his heart.

Authors notes: This story picks up sometime after "All that I need" & "Innocence Lost."

Warnings: None really. This story is rated PG for adult themes and more angst.

Thanks: To the very kind and helpful Mareel for betaing this story for me.

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

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What the mind cannot imagine, nor the eyes see, the heart already knows.

My heart swells out of all proportion, and for a moment I feel like I am going to choke on the lump that simultaneously forms in my throat as Malcolm's head becomes a dead weight against my shoulder. In all the time he has been coming to me he has never once relaxed long enough for him to fall asleep and the realization that he has, gives me a sense of satisfaction that quite literally defies description.

I know what it means, why I feel the way I do, but even as I recover enough to keep up the careful stroking of his short-cropped hair, I also know that simply acknowledging something wasn't necessarily going to make it any easier to live with.

As expected, my elation is short lived, and begins a sure and steady decline as the reality of our relationship takes hold of me once more. With very little provocation, my mind fills with images of the two of us together -- images of how others see us, and of how we must appear right now, curled against one another in my bed. I close my eyes, fighting the conflicting emotions coiling inside me, wishing with all my heart that loving Malcolm were as simple as I knew it should be.

My father taught me to trust my instincts and not to fear change but I don't think even he could have envisioned anything like this. Honestly, I have no idea what Henry Archer would think of my relationship with Malcolm, whether or not he would understand how complicated my life has become. What I do know is that I can't just lie here wondering what other advice he would give me if he were alive to see me now. I am in love with my armory officer and although I have suspected as much for a while now, I know it's time I decided what I am going to do about it.

Opening my eyes again, I wait until they adjust once more to the minimal lighting in my cabin. Malcolm's breathing is warm and regular against my shoulder, reassuring me that he is fast asleep, and if I was careful I might just be able to get my arm out from under his head without disturbing him.

It takes a little careful manoeuvring and constant checking but somehow I manage to disentangle myself from the man who, for the time being at least, seems blissfully unaware of my exit from his side.

Recovering Malcolm with the sheet, I stand for a moment by the bed, hugging myself in the absence of his arms as I watch closely for the slow rise and fall of his chest. For someone who usually appears to be at a constant state of alert he looks incredibly peaceful; so completely content, in fact, that I am almost too afraid to move. If he woke up now I know he would want to leave and for the first time in months, I don't want him to. We need to talk, but before we do, I need to decide just how much I am going to tell him -- if I could live with having him know how I feel.

Sighing a little at the enormity of all I have to consider, I reach down to retrieve my discarded clothing from the floor. Searching in the semi-darkness for my shorts, I pull on my Starfleet issued underwear as soon as I locate them, then checking on Malcolm one more time, I take up a position by the window so that I can also act as sentry while I think.

It is difficult to know where to start though, and for a few minutes I simply watch as Malcolm takes full possession of my bed in much the same way he has my heart. Despite my current predicament I find myself smiling at him in the darkness, grateful as always for his presence.

His initial intention might have been to provide me with an occasional diversion from my responsibilities, but his company has become such a constant in my life that I can't even imagine what it would be like if I ever had to go back to the way things were before.

My last thought leaves me feeling very unsettled and not for the first time I wish I had someone to confide in, not just someone I could talk to about the decisions I am sometimes forced to make - but about Malcolm. If I have learnt anything at all though, it is that wishing something were different doesn't automatically make it so.

Dropping my gaze, I fold my arms across my chest and turn from the tranquil sight on my bed to stare out the open viewport. But the stars in the Expanse only serve to remind me of how far we are from home, and I close my eyes. Resting my head against the plated glass, I let the familiar vibrations of the ship comfort and ground me.

Even before I accepted command of Enterprise, I knew the life of a star-ship captain was not going to be easy. Admiral Forrest warned me that, amongst other things, I should expect a certain amount of isolation due to my rank and responsibilities. I had listened to what he had to say, but I had also decided then and there that I was not going to be isolated, or alone. There were eighty-two other men and women aboard. Some I already knew and the others I had simply anticipated learning more about as time went on.

By the time we left spacedock I was prepared, I thought, for every conceivable situation.

We had our mission to contend with. I brought Porthos along for companionship, and I had my books, PADD's and vid's for entertainment. I was living my dream; I wouldn't need anything else.

For almost a year, everything went more or less as Starfleet expected. We explored, relayed what we had learnt back to Earth, defended the ship when necessary, and for the most part we lived our lives. At least that's what I thought I was doing. Living. I didn't even realise how wrong I had been until I spoke to Phlox.

I had originally gone to him to talk about Porthos' allergies and somehow ended up discussing the human condition. Namely mine. I still don't know how he knew, or what it was exactly that gave me away, but during the course of our conversation Phlox managed to bring up the one thing I had not planned for, or even considered before we left Earth.

Okay, so Phlox had a round-about way of saying it, but we both knew I needed to get laid. There wasn't a great deal I could do about it though. Shore leave opportunities were few and far between, and even if there were someone I was interested in onboard, Starfleet regulations were very clear about the fact that I could not initiate a relationship with anyone under my command.

I didn't want a relationship anyway. I didn't have the time, or the heart for something that I couldn't, in all good conscience, commit to. All I needed was a way to burn off the tension that was slowly driving me to distraction and the sooner I dealt with it, the sooner I could get back to doing what Starfleet intended.

Looking back on it all now, I wonder if that's what convinced me to accept Malcolm's offer when he first came to me. I had been searching for a quick fix when he had suddenly appeared at my door, and even while I was still dealing with my initial surprise, I remember thinking that the fact that he was another man made it safer somehow. There would be no chance of a relationship between the two of us, or that I could ever develop feelings for him. I could take what I needed and not worry about feeling more than the physical relief. It was, all things considered, the perfect solution. Of course, I hadn't anticipated just how much the man providing my relief would ultimately come to mean to me, or that at sometime I might want more than what we had originally agreed to.

I know my own lack of self awareness is the reason why it took so long to acknowledge my feeling for Malcolm but I never imagined that another man could teach me as much as he has about loyalty, and love's capacity to not only endure, but to grow.

Just what else I wanted from Malcolm, what else we could share with one another along with how I thought I would go about fitting him into my life remained somewhat a mystery to me, and would have to stay that way, I concluded, for at least a while longer.

There is a small variation in the ship's engines as I ponder the possibilities of having a lover onboard, and I open my eyes and pull back from the window. Raising a hand to the area where I had been resting I wait for the irregularity to re-occur. The view is no more familiar than what it had been earlier, only now I realise that the man sleeping peacefully in my bed is included there - has been there all along, my conscience whispers.

I move my hand as I continue to wait, my fingers gently tracing the outline of Malcolm's reflection. But the only changes I feel come from me, and they, I remind myself, aren't anything to be afraid of. I am not sure why, after weeks of contemplating the many changes Malcolm has inspired in me, my father's advice comes back to me again. If it's because what I see reflected back at me appears so natural, or that I am finally understanding that I already have a lover onboard and I only need to tell him so to make things right.

Knowing what I need to do does not solve all of my problems, but I know it is a start. The rest of it, how I would continue to deal with my duties and the changes that would most likely occur because of my relationship with my armory officer -- are all issues that I can face as the need arises.

I can no longer detect any variations within the ship and I withdraw my hand from the viewport. Making a mental note to tell Trip about what I had observed in regards to the engines, I turn around and then take the couple of steps necessary to reach the bed. Stripping off my shorts again, I lift the covers and slip beneath them. Malcolm stirs as I stretch out beside him but does not wake. It's because he is too comfortable, I decide, and I smile at how good that particular thought makes me feel - at how good loving him makes me feel.

The End

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