Thank you all for your lovely reviews. Here's the end - as promised, mild smut, and quite bittersweet.
Malcolm waited anxiously on the bench in sickbay. It had only been moments since they'd arrived, yet he kept glancing across the room to where Jon was.
He'd held Jon's hand the entire way to sickbay, and now, without its warmth, his own hand felt cold and numb. He drummed his fingers on the seat, trying to work off some of that feeling - like part of him was missing, like he'd lost something he was anxious to get back. He wanted - no, he had to be near Jon.
Phlox had drawn the curtain, and Malcolm could just hear his voice and that of his assistant as they examined Jon. Trip was still in there, too, having helped bring Jon in.
This was maddening, Malcolm thought. It was killing him, not knowing what was going on with Jon, not being near him. Worse, he couldn't talk to Phlox, especially not with Trip there. And something was definitely wrong.
He looked away from the curtain, trying to focus on something else, on anything other than the captain. He thought of how tired he was, but that didn't work - it made him think of how tired Jon had seemed earlier. So he thought about the odd flavour of the mint Jon had given him last night, but that didn't work - again, his mind went to Jon. He started to count the seams in the plating below his feet, hoping that would distract him.
As his eyes roamed over the twelfth ridge, two boots came into view before him. His head shot up.
Trip stood there, his arms akimbo. "What's going on?"
"What do you mean?"
"Is something going on between you and the captain?" Trip asked, his voice pitched low enough that Phlox wouldn't hear.
"What?" Malcolm asked, his heart racing.
"The way you were acting back there," Trip said. "It seemed more than just a lieutenant concerned about his captain." Trip leaned towards him. "I saw you holding his hand."
Malcolm stood, a bit unsteady on his feet. He was unsure what to say. He didn't want to lie, but he certainly didn't want to answer Trip's questions. Even if he did, he wasn't sure how to answer. Instead, he redirected the questions back to Trip. "Are you upset?"
Trip's eyes flashed. "Well, I just found out that my two best friends are in a relationship...with each other. Which neither of them bothered to tell me about."
"It's not like that," Malcolm said. He knew that he was blushing, but he couldn't control it.
"It seems pretty much like that," Trip said. "Y'all kept some things from me, hmm? Seeing each other." He looked away for a moment, and Malcolm couldn't see his face. When he turned back to Malcolm, he was clearly distressed. "And Jon, gay?" he said, his voice plaintive, his expression one of deep hurt. "I don't get it. We've been friends for years, and he never said a word." His voice dropped to a near-whisper. "I thought I knew him." Trip shook his head sadly. Then he looked to Malcolm. "And you, always on about the women you've dated. Never even told me you liked guys."
"I don't," Malcolm said, looking straight into Trip's gaze.
Trip looked at him in disbelief. "Excuse me?"
"I don't," Malcolm said softly. "Nor does he." He waved towards the curtain, then he shook his head and sank onto the bench. Looking up at Trip, unable to keep up the front any longer, knowing that his fright was coming through, he said, "I don't know what's happening to me."
Trip blinked. "You mean, before this, you've never..."
Malcolm simply shook his head, looking away, unable to bear Trip's gaze.
He felt Trip sit beside him. "Listen, I'm sorry," Trip said, his voice gentle. "I know, it must be hard, if this is your first same sex relationship, and with people finding out like this..."
Malcolm's head snapped up. "No, no. You don't understand. I'm straight. I just..." He let his voice trail away, trying to find a way to explain. "Yesterday, earlier today, I was straight - I wasn't attracted to men. I wasn't attracted to Jon."
Trip looked at him doubtfully, but Malcolm ploughed on, trying to control the shaking in his voice. "We returned to Enterprise, and at lunch, Jon propositioned me. Still, there was nothing." He touched his own chest, over his heart. "I turned him down, more surprised than anything that he liked men, and that he'd be willing to date a subordinate. It seemed unlike him."
"Then, later today, it was as if I'd been..." Malcolm hesitated, struggling to find the right words. "Transformed. I had to see him, had to..." He felt the panic building, his heart beating madly. "I don't know what's wrong. It doesn't seem right, and yet..." He closed his eyes. "God, I want him so badly, it hurts."
He felt a hand on his arm, and his eyes flew open.
Trip was watching him thoughtfully. "You should tell Phlox."
"You have to. If it happened like you said, if something really is wrong, then it could have something to do with the captain collapsing." Trip smiled gently. "No matter the circumstances, you know that Phlox doesn't tend to pass judgement."
Malcolm sat there, unsure of what to say. He hadn't even figured out what was going on himself, and now Trip knows, he thought. Then Phlox will know. By tomorrow, it would be all over the ship.
Trip interrupted his thoughts. "I'll bet Phlox has already guessed."
"Oh," Malcolm said in surprise. Trip was probably right - if Trip had picked up on it, Phlox probably had.
The curtain around Jon's bed rustled, then Phlox stepped out, followed by his assistant. They held a short conversation before the doctor approached them on the bench. Smiling broadly, he said, "The captain is stable."
Malcolm felt the relief come over him in a rush. He exhaled loudly and Phlox cast a pointed look in his direction.
"What happened?" Trip asked, standing.
"He collapsed due to high blood pressure," Phlox answered. "What's odd is that he's never had problems with his BP before. He's sleeping now, although he should wake soon." Phlox turned to Malcolm. "If you would, Lieutenant, I'd like to check you over as well."
Phlox led Malcolm to a biobed near Jon's, drawing a curtain and cutting off Trip's view. With Phlox's help, Malcolm sat on the bed - he still felt a bit unsteady, and most definitely distracted. As the doctor began the examination, Malcolm stared past him to Jon's curtain. He wished he could see the man. He really needed to see him, touch him. He felt his hands shaking, so he clenched them around the edge of the bed, trying to steady them. He really needed to see Jon.
"Were you and the captain in close contact over the past day or so?"
"Sorry?" Malcolm replied, startled out of his reverie.
Phlox stopped moving and smiled gently. "Were you and the captain in close contact recently?"
Malcolm hesitated, then nodded.
Phlox continued his examination. "In what ways?" he asked.
Uncomfortable, Malcolm shifted on the bed. "We were at the meeting together. Travelled on the same transport. Slept in the same room at his nephew's house."
"Any closer contact than that?" Phlox asked as he flashed a light into Malcolm's eyes. "Anything that would have caused the exchange of bodily fluids?"
Malcolm looked away, his hands clenched firmly around the edge of the bed, his arms rigid. "We kissed," he said hesitantly.
"And did you share any food or drink?" the doctor asked, his tone matter-of-fact.
Malcolm stared at Phlox as the doctor continued the examination. The comment about the kiss hadn't even fazed him, and Malcolm realised that there would be no judgement here. He unclenched his hands, and began to run through their days on Earth: what they'd drunk, the sandwich they'd shared. When he got to the mint, Phlox seemed interested.
"These mints," he asked, stepping back from Malcolm and pocketing his padd. "Do you still have them?"
Malcolm nodded. "Jon had them just this morning."
"I'll be back in a moment," Phlox said, and stepped through the curtain. Malcolm heard him speaking with his assistant, and he slid off the bed and stepped over to Jon's curtain. Quietly, he slid the fabric aside, revealing Jon on his back on the bed with the blanket tucked up under his arms, eyes closed, breathing soft and even. Malcolm stood by his side and, reaching out, traced a finger along his arm, down to his hand, grasping it.
Jon's eyes opened. "Hey," he said, smiling gently.
"Sorry," Malcolm replied. "I didn't mean to wake you."
"Sickbay?" Jon asked, looking around.
"Yes. You fainted."
"Phlox isn't sure yet. Although I think it may have something to do with this," Malcolm said, holding up their intertwined hands.
"Nah," Jon said. "This feels too good to be part of an illness." He tried to sit, and Malcolm pressed a button with his free hand, raising the head of the bed. Jon let go for a moment as he shifted into a comfortable seat, pushing the blanket aside, then he took Malcolm's hand again with a smile. "Although it does make sense," he said. Then his eyes flashed wide. "No offense, Malcolm. Um, it's not you, it's just..." He shrugged, and squeezed Malcolm's hand. "It's not like me, all this." At Malcolm's answering nod, he said, "So, Phlox will cure us, and this will all go away?"
"Probably," Malcolm said.
Jon smiled softly, his eyes flashing. "In a way, it's too bad."
Malcolm tried to act properly, although his words rang false in his ears. "It is inappropriate," he said. "And unlike us."
Jon nodded. "Probably." He reached out a hand and, with a finger, traced the outline of Malcolm's jaw. Malcolm closed his eyes, enjoying the sensation. "Feels good though," Jon said quietly.
Malcolm felt a hand at the back of his head, fingers through his hair. Jon pulled him forward gently and their lips brushed, so soft. He knew that he should resist, that he'd probably regret this later, but instead, he closed his eyes and leaned in, intensifying the kiss, putting a hand down on the bed beside Jon for support.
There was a clearing of throat behind him, and Malcolm found that he couldn't care less. He could feel Jon's soft breath on his face, and as their tongues touched, he trembled, and he could feel Jon smile against his lips.
Then there was Phlox's voice, "Excuse me, gentlemen," and they broke apart. Cheeks hot, Malcolm turned to face Phlox and saw Trip just behind him, looking surprised. He froze, then felt Jon's hand cover his own on the bed.
Jon looked at Phlox, not letting go of Malcolm's hand. "We think that this may be part of the illness," he said, raising their clasped hands.
"I have some additional questions for the two of you." Phlox turned to Trip. "Commander, if you wouldn't mind?" he said, shooing Trip away from the area. He drew the curtain around them. "Have you been experiencing any tiredness?"
"Disorientation, difficulty concentrating?"
"Yes," said Jon.
"And this attraction - when did that begin?"
Jon turned to Malcolm and smiled. "Today, this morning." He squeezed Malcolm's hand gently.
"For me, not until this afternoon," Malcolm said, unable to wrench his gaze from Jon's.
Phlox said, "I may have found something..."
Malcolm was amazed that he'd never noticed Jon's eyes before. They were green, and they reflected whatever emotion the man was feeling. And right now...Malcolm reached out a hand and caressed Jon's face, and Jon closed his eyes. It was only once Jon's eyes were closed that Malcolm realised Phlox was still speaking, and he turned back to him.
"...could be causing the tiredness, the distraction and disorientation as well."
Jon seemed to have been paying more attention to the doctor than he'd been, because Jon spoke next.
"Could this affect other crew members, or my family back at home?"
"Perhaps, if you shared the mints with any of them," Phlox said. "I'll need a list."
"And the attraction?" Malcolm asked hesitantly. "Is that part of it?"
"I believe so," Phlox replied. "The chemicals in the mint heightened your sensitivity to others. And I believe that your close proximity back on Earth, both having had the mints, drove you together."
"Is there a cure?" Malcolm asked.
"I believe I'll have something ready within the hour," Phlox said with a smile. "I'd like it if you'd both stay in sickbay for the time being." He opened the curtain, then waved towards Malcolm's bed. "If you would, Lieutenant."
Malcolm glanced at Jon, then back to Phlox. "Is it all right if I wait here"
Phlox smiled gently. "Certainly." He turned away and pulled the privacy curtain shut behind him. Malcolm could hear his voice fading as he walked away. "Mr. Tucker, there's no need for you to remain here. I'll call you once..."
Malcolm felt a tug at his hand, and he turned to see Jon smiling. "We don't have much time," Jon said, shifting himself on the mattress so that Malcolm would have a place to sit.
Malcolm joined him on the bed. "Or much privacy," he said, turning to face Jon.
"Just as well," Jon said with a wry smile.
Malcolm raised an eyebrow.
"I want to be able to face you in the morning," Jon answered with a little laugh.
Malcolm nodded seriously. "When all this is gone," he said, reaching for Jon. He touched the other man's lip with his index finger, then moved his hand away quickly, regretfully.
Jon grabbed his hand, stilling it. "You going to be okay with all this?" Jon asked.
Malcolm thought a moment. He wasn't sure.
When he didn't answer, Jon frowned. "Do you want this?"
Right here, right now, he'd never wanted anything more in his life, Malcolm thought. And wasn't that enough? "Indeed," he said as he leaned in, claiming Jon's mouth in a kiss.
There wasn't much room on the bed - Jon was sitting, his back against the raised head of the bed, and Malcolm was crammed into the small space left next to him, so Malcolm broke away with what he knew was his most fetching, yet evil smile. He shifted, lifting one leg, and sat astride Jon's lap, facing him. Then he gave a suggestive grind, and repeated what Jon had said. "Are you going to be okay with all this?"
"Oh, God, yes," Jon said, eyes blazing. He reached up and pulled Malcolm's head to his, and their lips met.
Malcolm closed his eyes and felt Jon shifting beneath him, and he responded. He fell into the sensations - Jon's body pressed up against his; Jon's lips, hands, the feel of his stubble scraping his lower lip as they kissed; the heat, the pressure as he moved against Jon. He stopped kissing Jon, his face tucked against the side of Jon's neck as his breath came in raspy gasps, and focused on the sensations coming from below him. He knew it would be so easy to tumble over the edge. He wanted to so badly. He hesitated slightly. It was a very bad idea. Then he started moving again. But God, it felt so bleedin' good.
"We should stop," Jon's soft voice whispered in his ear.
Malcolm nodded, not ceasing in his movements. "We should..." He opened his eyes and looked at Jon, coming to a sudden realisation, a flash of insight. In a voice slightly higher pitched than normal, he said, "I don't want to. Is it all right if I don't want to stop?"
Jon placed one hand on each of Malcolm's arms, and Malcolm stopped moving. Jon was flushed, flustered, breathing heavily, and quite obviously aroused. In a husky voice, Jon said, "There's nothing I'd like better right now, but...what about later?"
Malcolm took a deep, shaky breath. Then he came to a decision, and he smiled. Leaning towards Jon, he whispered, "I am straight. I'm sure I'll go back to being straight. But I will not regret this, I promise you that."
"So, just for now," Jon said softly.
"Just for now. And tomorrow..."
"We'll be okay?"
"We'll be okay," Malcolm said, his voice firm.
Jon smiled and closed his eyes. "Good, because I really want -"
Malcolm smothered Jon's lips with his own and began to move, sliding, the friction of fabric between them, and Jon underneath, so hard, and God, and he was everything, the man underneath him was everything, and he couldn't catch his breath, and the heat - fire, he was on fire, and he heard a low groan from below him, and Jon trembled, and pushed, and God, and God, and...
"Jon!" he gasped, his back arching.
He fell forward against Jon's chest and lay there, breathing in time with the man below him.
Malcolm felt fingers carding through his hair, a body shifting beneath his, and he stirred.
"You okay?" Jon whispered next to his ear.
Malcolm simply nodded, his eyes closed, and he sank back into oblivion.
Malcolm dreamt voices. Jon, and maybe someone else.
"Malcolm?" Jon's voice, from quite close by. Malcolm shifted, feeling a warm body beneath his. The voice came again, "Malcolm?"
Malcolm blinked his eyes open, and pushed himself away slightly, taking in Jon's smiling eyes. "Sorry. How long was I sleeping?"
"Just a few minutes, really. I think Phlox is ready for us."
Malcolm nodded and made to get up, but Jon grabbed his arm before he could move away. Leaning forward, Jon feathered a soft, gentle kiss on his lips, then pulled away. "No regrets," Jon said in a whisper, his voice firm.
Malcolm nodded. "None," he answered. Then he slid away, stood shakily, and sat in the chair next to the bed.
"Doctor?" Jon called out.
Phlox pulled aside the curtain, smiling as if nothing was amiss. "I've found a remedy," he said, inoculating them both. "It should take effect within next few minutes."
Malcolm reached up and grabbed Jon's hand.
The doctor continued, "It may make you a bit dizzy..."
Malcolm felt his head spin, a sudden rush. Letting go of Jon's hand, he bent over his knees, head down on crossed arms, breathing carefully.
The feeling was gone as fast as it had come, and he looked up into Phlox's smiling face.
"How are you feeling, Lieutenant?"
He turned to Jon and stared into his eyes. He felt...
It was gone, that...attraction, or whatever it had been, was gone.
Jon smiled at him, and Malcolm could see the sadness in his eyes. Malcolm tried to smile back, then turned back to Phlox. "Better, thank you, Doctor."
Malcolm listened as Phlox asked the same question of Jon...Malcolm shook his head and corrected himself. The captain, he thought. Captain Archer. Not Jon.
He sat there, numb, while Phlox bustled around them both. He stared down at the floor, not wanting to face the captain, or to see his own emptiness reflected back at him in the other man's eyes.
Archer's voice punctured his reverie. "Doctor, could you give us a moment?" He heard Phlox move away, then the captain's voice again. "You okay?"
Malcolm braced himself, then stood and faced Archer. "Fine." At Archer's frank look, Malcolm shrugged.
Archer nodded. "Me, too. It's too bad, in a way..."
Malcolm nodded. "Yes," he said in a quiet voice, then looked away.
"Regrets about what we did?"
Malcolm's eyes flashed back to Archer's. "No," he said firmly, and he meant it. "None."
Archer smiled. "Me, neither. So, we're good?"
Archer raised an eyebrow. "After all...um...that, I think you can drop the 'sir', at least when we're alone."
Malcolm hesitated, not wanting to hurt the man. Finally, he said, "Not right now." Seeing a flash of pain in Archer's eyes, he added, "Later, I think. Just, not right now."
Archer gave him a look of understanding, then a nod. "Good night, Malcolm."
"Good night..." He hesitated a second. "Captain," he finished.
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