It was a cold night out, a few inches of snow lay on the ground, a very tired Malcolm Reed leaving footsteps showing his path.
It had been a long day.
Malcolm had never really considered this day would ever come, he supposed logically he'd know it would eventually, but he'd never really taken the time to think much about it, today Malcolm Reed buried his father.
His mother, bless her soul, had died more than a year previous, Malcolm had been unable to attend the funeral, not for lack of wanting, but for simple lack of being able to, he'd been in deep space, and although he'd deeply wished to attend, Enterprise had been involved in important negotiations, and simply couldn't leave.
Enterprise though had returned to space dock just three months later, and Malcolm had take the trip to England, where his father was once more living, to find a man very different from the one he remembered leaving behind.
As a very young boy, Malcolm Reed had adored his father, he had wanted to be just like him, and in at least some part, he succeeded, but as he got older, Malcolm dreamed of stars, not sea surrounding him, and that dream had wedged itself firmly between himself and his father.
Stuart Reed, wasn't, contrary to what many believed, a heart-less man, Malcolm knew this, but the elder Reed's wishes for Malcolm to join the Navy had forced such a distance between them, that Malcolm had maybe for a time forgotten his younger days, and the father he had adored.
As a child, Malcolm remembered playing board games with his parents and sister, going to the park when his father wasn't away on duty, going fishing, and camping, and he remembered his father's laughter, and his joy when Malcolm had done something well.
As a teenager, Malcolm remembered his father's coldness when he told him he wanted to explore space, his father forbidding him angrily, and forcing him out of the house when at the age of eighteen Malcolm had finally told him, he WAS going into Space and his father couldn't stop him.
As a man, Malcolm remembered barely civil conversations, and false interest, mainly for his mothers sake, until he could bear it no more and Malcolm stopped calling for months on end, only barely bothering to call them about his posting to Enterprise... Malcolm remembered his father's cold eyes that day.
But what now did Malcolm remember about his father?
*Almost a year previous - 2174*
When Enterprise had finally returned to Earth that time, almost a year ago to the day, and Malcolm had gone to England, he'd expected a strained conversation, with an unforgiving man, who had practically disowned him as a teenager, and tolerated him after that only for the sake of Malcolm's mother, but instead what he found was... much worse.
Stuart Reed was a shell of a man. He had quite plainly lost weight, and was no longer the imposing figure Malcolm remembered from those arguments years before.
He spoke only when directly questioned, and sometimes not even then, he puttered about with models, or read books, the entire two weeks Malcolm had spent in England, they had said perhaps less than they had said in ten years before.
Malcolm had returned to Starfleet Headquarters, to find Enterprise in space dock just where he had left her, and decided, as the ship wasn't going anywhere, too look up a few old friends.
He'd found Charles Tucker with ease, after all, the man was second in command of the fleet... it wasn't as if he could hide easily.
The southerner had been happy to see him, and they had spent several hours chatting in his office, before he'd be forced to get on with some actual work, but insisted Malcolm come around for dinner, with him and his wife, the strangest match in the known universe, T'Pol of Vulcan, that weekend, which Malcolm had of course accepted.
Trip had been able to tell him where most of the others were.
Phlox had returned to Denobula after Enterprises first tour of duty, but he would be returning to Earth for Shanna Tucker's sixteenth birthday the following month, if Enterprise was still around, Malcolm would make a point of seeing the Doctor.
Hoshi was at Starfleet Academy, and Malcolm was able to find her easily, watching with pride that was something like that he held for his own sister, as Hoshi taught the freshest batch of cadets into Starfleet life. They had spent the afternoon together, catching up, and he had been delighted to learn that she had just had another child a few months before hand, her third.
Travis was off-world, having a first officer position on the Carlton, but Malcolm had seen him more recently anyway, when the Enterprise and the Carlton had run into each other several months back.
The only person Trip hadn't been able to lead him to directly was Jonathan Archer. The Enterprise's first Captain had practically vanished into thin air.
He showed his face when it was required, and only when it was required. Trip said he'd seen him maybe a half dozen times since he'd been back on Earth, that made it less than once every year. According to the information Trip had been able to give him, the old Captain, now an Admiral, though not officially, most considered him to be retired even from that now, was somewhere in Canada, he'd asked T'Pol many times, but the Vulcan had refused to tell him, insisting she had given her word she would tell no-one, Trip may well have been annoyed by that, but he'd never pressed it too much, he knew how seriously T'Pol took a promise when she made one.
Malcolm had at least another three weeks before he was needed back on Enterprise, he supposed he could spend the time working planet side on whatever projects were presently in the works, but he was owed the time of anyway, so he took it, and took a trip.
He hadn't been a security officer for nothing, he was an expert at interrogating people without them even knowing he was doing it, and interrogate he had.
It took nearly two of the three weeks he'd taken to find what, or rather who he was looking for.
The cabin was small, but well kept. And Malcolm immediately recognised the figure outside sitting on a swinging seat on the porch, head stuck in a pad.
Malcolm made his way up to the seat and sat down, Jon didn't even blink.
"I heard Enterprise was back in dock, I was wondering how long it would take you to find me." He said eventually, not even lifting his head.
"I would have found you sooner, but I had to go to England, my mother passed away a few months ago, I went to see my father." Malcolm told him.
"I know, I was at the funeral."
"You... what?" Malcolm asked incredulous.
"I was at the funeral... we may not be together anymore Malcolm, but your mother was a nice lady, I wanted to pay my respects." Jon said, finally setting the pad aside.
"She liked you." Malcolm said, looking into the green eyes he hadn't seen in so long... too long... almost twelve years.
"I liked her." Jon replied, a half smile on his lips.
He looked much the same as ever, a few more grey hairs, but then Malcolm reasoned, the man was in his sixties, and Malcolm himself had a few grey hairs.
"I can't imagine my father was thrilled to see you there."
"He was fine about it actually... I spent a few days with him after the funeral." Jon told him, surprising Malcolm even further.
Malcolm almost wanted to laugh, for the six years he and Jon had been together, Stuart Reed had been dead set against it, and now, almost twelve years after they had split up, now, he was being... nice?
"I think I'm beginning to feel decidedly uneasy." Malcolm said lightly.
"You came here... I didn't ask you too." Jon told him.
"I know... I..." Malcolm gulped back the lump in his throat... why damn it, why after so long could Jonathan Archer still leave him without words?
"You'd best come inside, it's go to get dark out here soon, and the temperature will drop fairly fast." Jon said, standing, holding onto the rail, obviously Jon was not as fit as he once had been either, an idea that was reinforced to Malcolm when he took hold of a cane that had been propped against the rail.
"I shouldn't have come... I... just wanted to check in, see how you were, I don't want to keep you." Malcolm reverted back to what he knew best, what had come in very handy in the time after he and Jon had split up, being a stereotypical, stiff upper lip, Brit.
"You spent two weeks looking because you wanted to check in?" Jon asked.
"I... I'd best be off, as you say, dark soon."
Malcolm had done what he always did so well, and scampered like crazy before Jon could stop him.
Malcolm walked stiffly towards the small cabin, it hadn't changed much since his last visit... but he had.
Malcolm had after that first visit here returned to San Francisco to the news his father was ill. He had taken a leave of absence from Starfleet, planning to be with the older Reed when he died, the least he felt he could do since he hadn't been there for his mother, but even as Stuart Reed got sicker, he hung around stubbornly... mainly Malcolm believed just to confuse him.
Stuart Reed talked.
About feelings, about love, about how he was sorry he had forced Malcolm away, how it had been his own selfishness that had led him to be so angry, and that the anger was misplace, but as much as the months of these conversations confused Malcolm, they helped him grow to better understand his father, and himself... it was only when a few days before his fathers death, the topic changed to Jonathan Archer, that Malcolm really knew the meaning of shocked.
His father told them about the few days they had spent together after his mothers funeral, how Jon had stayed in the Reed family home, and how Stuart Reed had come to realise something very important about the man, and about his son.
Malcolm listened stunned into silence as his father told him, *told him*, that he still loved Jon, and should go and do something about it, before it was too late.
Malcolm was sure he would pass out, wake to find it all a dream, so shocked was he that he wasn't sure he was even breathing anymore.
A few days later Stuart Reed was dead, and now Malcolm stood, less than twelve hours after burying his father, in the snow covered garden outside the cabin of one Jonathan Archer, unsure entirely what he was here to do.
Malcolm wasn't sure how long he'd stood there, but when he heard the cabin door open his eyes snapped up just in time to see Jon's retreating figure, the door left open for his entrance.
Malcolm walked up and into the warmth of the cabin... he'd never been inside last time he'd come, but it was warm, and inviting, and he closed the door firmly behind him ever aware that it was not so warm outside.
Jon was standing at the kitchen island that joined onto the living room stirring two steaming mugs, and with a nod of his head offering one to Malcolm.
"I heard about your father, I'm sorry." Jon said.
"I half expected to see you at the funeral." Malcolm spoke softly.
"I didn't think I'd be welcome... I'd intended to go in a few days to visit the grave, pay my respects." Jon told him, moving over to the large comfortable looking couch near the fire.
"You'd have been welcome." Malcolm said, sitting on a similar couch opposite him.
They drank the hot drinks in silence for a few minutes, until Jon spoke.
"Why did you come here?" he asked.
"My father told me too... believe it or not... he said I was a fool to let go of the person I loved... love, and that I should do something about it, before it's too late." Malcolm told him, keeping his face downward cast, as the idea that Jon may not want to hear this, may not want to get back what they once had suddenly struck him.
"So you came to make up... after twelve years... because your father told you too?" Jon asked, speaking slowly, like he was speaking to a child.
"I don't know..." Malcolm admitted. "I just... had to come; I promised him I would come... I... I wanted to come."
"After twelve years?"
"I... I'm sorry." Malcolm knew immediately they were the wrong words, but damn it, they were all he had, it had been twelve years, but to Malcolm it was fresh in his memory like yesterday.
The fighting and snipping had been going on for weeks, Malcolm knew it was down to him... but damn it he was hurt, and he was lashing out.
He hated to think of what had started it all, in-fact he point blank refused to, but no matter how much he tried to forgive Jon, after all he hadn't been his fault really, he couldn't get past it.
When Jon finally told Malcolm he was being transferred back to Earth, promoted to an Admiral, and taking over Forrest's old job, Malcolm had told him to go, and stormed out, angered even more than Jon had agreed to take the job within even asking what he thought.
Malcolm watched from the upper level as many of the Enterprise crew bid Jon farewell in the shuttle bay before he was transported to the Vulcan ship, and back to Earth... he hadn't said goodbye, or seen him off-duty since the day Jon had told him of the promotion, and he didn't see him again after that until years later, when he'd finally visited his cabin.
"Sorry about which part Malcolm? Not believing me? The fighting? Not saying goodbye?" Jon asked, setting his mug down on the coffee table with on slightly unsteady hand.
"All of it I suppose... I don't know anymore... God I messed us up royally didn't I?" Malcolm asked, but the question was rhetorical, and Jon didn't reply.
"Why did you come here?" Jon asked, repeating his earlier question.
"I find out if I'm already too late... my father said the only mistake he ever made was dying alone... he'd become so closed off that he'd stopped showing my mother that he loved her, and stopped fighting to keep her with him... I don't want to die alone Jon... I don't want to lie in a hospital waiting for death to come knowing I'm alone." Malcolm said, tears in his eyes.
He knew he had no right to be here, to do this, not after so long, but his father's passing had scared him more than he cared to admit, and he knew he had to try.
Jon laughed... actually laughed, out loud... and not just a chuckle, a honest to God belly laugh.
"I can't believe your doing this... after twelve..." Jon simply couldn't stop laughing, up to the point he was crying first with the laughter, and then with pain.
"Jon... God Jon are you okay... Jon please."
Malcolm jumped up towards him as the older man slumped forwards.
"God please no, Jon don't do this... Jon look at me... please." Malcolm begged, fussing in his pocket for his emergency communicator, and switching it to the local emergency services frequency.
Medics arrived quickly, fussing around Jon while Malcolm watched.
He was too late... too late, all because of his own stubbornness.
Jonathan Archer had suffered a massive heart attack. He was in a private room, with his own nurse, who provided for his every need, and Malcolm never left his side.
Three days he waited until Jon was strong enough to open his eyes, and four more before the Doctor's said he was out of danger... Malcolm waited with a patience he didn't feel, holding Jon's hand tightly, praying to a God he didn't believe in that Jon lived, even if he could never forgive Malcolm for the mistakes of the past, even if Malcolm had to die alone... just as long as Jon lived.
And live he did. Two weeks, and a list of instructions as long as his arm, including ones that said he wasn't to be left alone, Jon was allowed home.
Malcolm was still on indefinite leave from Starfleet, and had taken it upon himself to be there for Jon every step of the way.
By the end of Jon's first week at home, they were snipping at each other the same way they had twelve years before, and proving that they still knew how to hurt each other.
Malcolm finally stormed out on night ten, stomping into the garden, kicking at anything that happened to be unfortunate enough to exist, and wondering why the hell he'd ever thought he could fix things with Jon.
His eyes went upwards to the stars... Enterprise was up there somewhere, under the temporary command of his very able first officer, Commander Hess, one of the few original Enterprise crew still left on the old girl.
It was where he had met Jon... where he had fallen in love with Jon... they had first made love on that ship, in what where then Jon's quarters, now his. Malcolm felt a smile come to his face as he remembered that... they had been so happy once... Enterprise had brought them together, and ultimately torn them apart.
"I'm sorry." Jon's voice startled him.
"I'm not... look at the stars Jon... remember when we were on Enterprise? We use to lie for hours watching the stars go by." Malcolm said.
"I remember." Jon replied quietly.
"You never told me if it was too late?" Malcolm half asked, turning towards Jon, trying to project a calm he wasn't feeling.
"It's been twelve years Malcolm."
"I can't fix the past Jon... I wish I could... I still... love you."
"We've just spent the last two hours screaming at each other." Jon said.
"But we're still here... standing her in the cold, looking up at the stars..."
"I couldn't take it if you left me again." Jon said quietly.
"I didn't leave." Malcolm replied.
"You told me to go, never tried to stop me."
"I know... I wanted to, but I was so stubborn, so God damn proud... I was an idiot... I still love you Jon... the only question is, do you still love me?" Malcolm asked.
"You know I do, but this is home for me now... and you're still the Captain of Enterprise..."
"You can't do that."
"I can, I will, if that’s what it takes."
"It isn't... go back to your ship Malcolm." Jon said turning away tiredly.
"No... I let you walk away from me once, not again." Malcolm grabbed Jon roughly, sending them both sprawling to the floor, he'd forgotten Jon's bad leg, his cane, and now they lay, Jon on top of Malcolm in the snow.
"Please Jon... we were so happy once." Malcolm pleaded gently.
"I never slept with her." Jon said.
"What?" Malcolm asked disbelieving.
"I never slept with her... I thought I had, I was sure I had, I couldn't remember anything about it, just her kissing me, and I thought I'd done it... it wasn't till after I'd left Enterprise I remembered... hypnosis."
"Why didn't you tell me?"
"Would it have mattered?"
Malcolm closed his eyes, shaking his head, no it wouldn't have he knew.
"I don't know about you, but it's cold out here, and my leg hurts." Jon said, trying to stand.
Malcolm stopped him with a hand on his face, gently leaning forward, and kissing him.
"We've lost so much time Jon... Don't lets lose anymore." Malcolm pleaded softly against his lips.
Jon had tears in his eyes.
"I'm scared Malcolm... It's been so long..."
"It doesn't feel like it's been so long when I kiss you."
"No." Jon agreed softly.
Malcolm kissed him again, soft, tender, pleading Jon to give them another chance, to put aside the past and give them a future.
Jon choked on his own tears at the tenderness in Malcolm's kiss.
"I love you, God damn it but I still love you," Jon said, his voice thick with emotion.
"I love you too Jon... I never want to be anywhere but where you are, not ever again." Malcolm promised, holding him tightly against him.
Jon nodded against him, returning his tight embrace.
Snow began to fall around them, and Malcolm looked up, smiling at the speckles of white landing in Jon's hair.
"We should get inside... your still not well."
"I've never felt better." Jon said, smiling softly.
Malcolm knew it couldn't be this easy... their past would always haunt them, but as his father's words came back to him, he knew they would be okay.
"Let yourself forgive him Malcolm, and let him forgive you... love is more important than pride... don't make my mistake and find that out too late."
Malcolm Archer-Reed lay flowers on the graves of his parents.
"Thank-you." He murmured quietly over his father's headstone, turning to his husband.
They had married only a week before, after being back together less than a year... so much time already lost, both were determined to enjoy the rest of their lives together.
There were still arguments, still problems, but each time Malcolm remembered what his father had told him... and they worked through it.
When Malcolm remembered his father, he still remembered the fights and the arguments, but those images were now not as important to him... ultimately, his father had cared for him, and given him what he needed to forgive the past, and return to the man he loved... that was the most important memory of his father Malcolm had, and it was one he would always hold on to.