Warnings: Slash, mild swears, AU

For: jenniferlupin, as part of the Enterprise Ficathon on LJ


Malcolm leaned far into his left outside edge, letting the brisk air caress his bare arms and cool the sweat from his skin as he moved across the ice. It was the worst of summer now, the days hot and humid, and he found the chill of the rink a welcome relief from his unairconditioned flat, erm… apartment. God, over half his life in this bloody country, and he still couldn't… He switched to an inside edge, letting it flow, then started stroking down ice, keeping his movements fast, powerful and smooth as he truly began his workout.

He hadn't been able to sleep, the heat and humidity oppressive despite his fan and the fact that he'd, in the end, slept nude out of sheer desperation, so he'd got up early this morning and headed here; he raised his head, lifting his arms and opening them wide before him, as if stepping onto a stage and greeting an audience. Then he turned and began a series of backward progressives down ice, to the left, to the right, dark hair blown forward across his face as he sped out of the light and into the darkness at the far end of the rink.

He'd stepped onto the ice well before the rink itself was officially open, and the only light in the large space came through the glass of the exterior doors. It cast the middle of the rink into brightness, leaving the rest in shadow, but he didn't mind – he knew this rink, and this ice, well enough to skate it blindfolded. Well, nearly. In winter, it really was too dark in the mornings to do this, but now? Summertime in New York, the sun rose early enough for him to skate in the peace and quiet of the closed rink, lights off, the place empty but for him, the only sounds his own breath and the soft susurrations of his blades as they cut into the ice below him.

Coming up ice again, he did a sequence of quick turns, back to front, reversing direction with each. He worked through a series of exercises, the types of things he taught his own students to do, focusing on edging and flow as he sped around the oval. He spent so much time coaching that it was a rare pleasure to be able to skate this way himself, and on an empty rink as well, so he let himself go, trying not to think too much about each movement, instead letting his body lead him through the elements.

He'd been skating for a while – he wasn't sure how long - when his blade caught in a rut and he felt a twinge in his lower back. Hissing out a breath, he let himself glide, hands on his hips, feeling himself out. It paid to be careful. It was his back, after all, which had ended his skating career, and he was no longer as young as he'd once been. He was thirty-six now – not particularly old in the real world, but ancient by skating standards – and thirty years' of skating, a good number of those at the elite level, had certainly taken its toll. Between his knees, his feet and the state of his back, he was surprised that he could still get out of bed most mornings, never mind be up and gliding across the ice.

The lights came on around him with a snap and whoosh, and he raised a hand in greeting when a woman shouted, "Hey, Malcolm!" from beyond the clear barriers that enclosed the rink and protected spectators from errant hockey pucks. She added a sly, "You look hot!"

He skated to an opening in the boards, ice flying from his blades as he stopped. "Hoshi," he answered as she approached, meeting her smile with one of his own. He wasn't normally a very "smiley" person, but with Hoshi, he simply couldn't help it; she'd cracked through his reserved façade years ago. He'd known her since he'd moved to New York, and he'd watched her grow from a shy, embarrassed teenage skater to a mature coach and skating school manager. Beautiful, with a great sense of humour, she was, to him, the perfect woman. If he wasn't gay, he'd date her. Actually, if she wasn't married to his best friend, he'd probably date her anyway. It had been so long since his last relationship, he was seriously considering changing his orientation to "bisexual" simply to improve his odds.

Pushing her long, dark, straight hair back from her face, she peered at him from under raised brows. "Nice outfit," she said, with a bit of a mock leer.

Malcolm felt himself blushing in response, and he glanced down at what he was wearing. Black skates, form-fitting black trousers, and a tight black short sleeved shirt, he knew he looked more like he was ready to go clubbing than work out, but he liked these clothes, they were comfortable, and, most importantly early on a Saturday morning, they had been clean.

"I'm surprised to still see you here," she said, her voice holding only a hint of the Japanese she'd grown up speaking.

He cast a glance to the large clock on the scoreboard and then wiped his brow. "It's only half past eight. I still have…"

He cut himself off at her look of surprise.

"It's nine fifteen, Malcolm." She said this matter-of-factly, but he could see the grin she was holding back rising in her dark eyes. "And it's Saturday. Today's the first day of 'Learn to Skate'. Any minute now, hordes of parents and tots will be…" She burst out laughing when he responded by skating backwards quickly, eyes wide, hands raised in defence before he turned and sped to the other exit. Stopping in a shower of ice, he practically burst off the ice, grabbing his bag as he ran for the locker room, Hoshi's merry laughter driving him on.

It wasn't that he didn't like the "Learn to Skate" crowd; or wouldn't, had he ever met any of them. After all, how bad could it be? Fifty to a hundred or so kids, ages three and up, wobbling about on the ice, crying when they fell, accompanied by their parents, the occasional grandparent, and various and sundry rowdy siblings. He'd never been here when they'd arrived, and that was by design, but he was sure he'd like them fine. If he'd met any. Which he most certainly had not. He heard tiny, childish voices ring out behind him, and he winced, only relaxing when the locker room door shut firmly behind him.

He stood with the door to his back, the scent of hockey players lingering in the air as he quickly scanned the empty room. He caught his reflection in the full length mirror facing him on the far wall, and the person staring back at him raised an eyebrow wryly. Maybe Hoshi was right. He wouldn't call himself "hot" – the very idea – but with his fair skin, dark hair, and blue grey eyes, plus his outfit showing off the slim, athletic build he'd managed to keep despite doing less skating now than in his youth, even he had to admit he did look good for his age.

Hearing the shouts of children from beyond the door, he strode to a bench and sat, bag beside him, and reached down to untie his skates. He heard a woman's loud voice, her New York accent distinctive despite the door between them, then a young girl, probably no more than five, answering back with that same strong inflection as they moved past. He couldn't help it – despite himself, he smiled.

Admittedly, some kids were cute. He'd coached young ones; probably the youngest of his students had been aged ten, but children were usually fairly experienced and mature by the time he worked with them. Most students had several years in before they began ice dance at all, and then some years after that before they reached the higher levels he normally taught. His more beginner students were actually all adults, so admittedly, he had little-to-no experience with teaching the youngest kids. That wasn't something that he was planning to change. He liked the way his coaching career was developing. He liked being here in New York. He finally felt… his hands stilled their movements as he thought about it. He felt right. It had taken a while, but he finally felt like he was on the right track.

When his body had broken down, forcing him to retire from elite level dance, he'd drifted. He'd started university, then quit when he realised that wasn't a good fit. He'd dated a series of men, none of them seriously, going from one to another as he'd moved from city to city. He'd done some work as a coach in Michigan, then in Texas, finally ending up here in New York. For a long time, he'd felt… He pulled off his boot, blindly placing it beside him on the bench. Honestly, he'd been a bit lost.

He bent to untie the other boot. He'd only been twenty-three when he'd retired from ice dance, and up until then, his entire life – all his experiences, every one of his friends – had been involved with skating. He'd planned to keep skating for years – the career of an ice dancer was often much longer than that of a singles skater, and his partner had been about his same age. They'd made the US Worlds Team, placed second at Nationals, and were ready to make a push for the gold that year, guaranteeing themselves placement on the Olympic Team.

Malcolm let his eyes fall shut, his hands stilling on his laces. The memories were still painful, even now. Mentally and physically, as evidenced by the scars on his back, which stood as stark evidence of his surgery. He sat up, boot in hand, and placed his other hand against his back, just over the scars.

The door behind him opened, and he turned with a start.

"Oh, sorry." A tall man stood in the doorway, young girl in hand, his large hand swallowing her own. "Can you tell me where the bathroom is?"

"What?" Malcolm said, dragging himself back to the present.


"Oh," Malcolm replied as he pointed. "Next door down."

The man smiled and it lit his eyes. Malcolm felt them hit him solidly. Green eyes, sandy hair, the man was probably at least fifteen years older than he, but he had an athletic build and a charm about him that came through immediately.

The man and his daughter had already left before Malcolm realised that he should probably have returned the smile. Man likely thought him a complete git. Placing his skate on the bench beside the other, he padded over to the door in stockinged feet, catching it just before it closed. He saw the man, small blonde girl in tow, opening the door to the bathroom. The man glanced up just as she entered, and gave a soft smile when he saw Malcolm staring after them.

Damn, Malcolm thought as the door closed behind them. Too bad, really. Young child usually meant parent usually meant married, or at least straight. Malcolm chuckled. Of course, this was New York and one never did know, but still…

Malcolm returned to the bench and slid into his shoes. He'd shower and change at home, so there was no need to bother with that. Instead, he tossed a light shirt over his outfit and ran a hand through his hair in order to make himself slightly more presentable. Packing away his things, he grabbed his bag and was out of the locker room in time to see a swarm of kids, parents and teachers out on the ice. Before he'd even realised, his eyes searched out and found the man from earlier. He and his daughter were in a group class with other young kids at the beginner level. The girl was probably no more than four, and… Malcolm raised an eyebrow and pursed his lips. Her dad was in hockey skates. Of course. It was the American male standard. If one must be on the ice, one must be in hockey skates or one was not a manly man. Never mind the fact that most men were unskilled enough that the skates, which curved at the back, could actually be dangerous. At least in figure skates, they would be less likely to roll over backwards. But this man seemed all right on them. He'd probably skated some as a youngster. He could certainly do the basics.

Malcolm watched as the man bent down, hands out, and egged the girl on. She simply stood there. After a moment, she bit her glove tentatively. Malcolm couldn't help but smile.

It really was too bad that the man was probably straight and married. He was just the kind of person that Malcolm might go for now. A bit older than he'd dated in the past, but that likely meant he was also considerably more established and stable, and Malcolm felt he could use that in his life. He'd spent enough time skipping from man to man, never staying for long enough to let anyone get close. Maybe it was time he grew the fuck up.

Hoshi came up beside him and, eyes on the scene on the ice, bumped him with her shoulder. "He's cute."

Malcolm felt the heat rise to his cheeks as he blushed. He'd no idea he was being so transparent. "He's kind of old," he said, sotto voce. He kept his eyes on the man.

"Nah," Hoshi replied, matching his tone. "He's fit. Older, but hot, you know? Is that his daughter?"

"I think so."

Hoshi leaned in close. "You should ask if he's available and, you know, interested."

"Nah," Malcolm replied with a shake of his head.

"Want me to ask?"

Malcolm turned to face his friend. Raising a brow archly, he said, "I think your husband might have something to say about that."

Hoshi hit him on the arm. "I'd be asking for you, dummy." She smirked. "Doubt Trip would be interested in that sort of thing."

Malcolm laughed, shaking his head. "I'm too busy. I'm coaching three elite teams now, and between all the training time and travel, I've not left myself enough time to get my washing done, never mind date someone."

Hoshi's sad smile told him that she knew that wasn't the real reason, but she was letting him get away with it. "Well, you're here now," she said with finality. "Are you free tonight? Because I wanted to invite you to dinner with me and Trip, and a few other people." Seeing he was about to protest, she pressed on. "We hardly ever see you. Come. We'd love to have you there."

Malcolm had almost said no. But what was his alternative? He could stay home, be alone and mope, or go to this dinner, be around people, and have a good time with Trip and Hoshi. So he put on his best, most charming smile and said, almost meaning it, "I'd love to."

Little did he know what Hoshi had in store for him.


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