Christmas Countdown: December 10

by Juli

December 2006

Intellectually, Malcolm Reed knew why the Enterprise kept to the Earth calendar. Even though the actual dates and days didn’t make that much sense to the crew while they were in deep space, it kept them grounded. More importantly, it helped them feel connected to the home and loved ones they had left behind. From a practical standpoint, Malcolm approved of the tactic wholeheartedly.

There were times, though, when it could be a pain in the arse and Christmas was at the top of the list.

The religious reasons for the holiday had largely been left behind, but the people of Earth still celebrated families and friends at that traditional time of year with an exchange of gifts, as well as the other trappings of the holiday. Malcolm hated it. Not so much the holiday or traditions that went with it, but he hated the way a family-oriented holiday made it so blatant that he was alone.

Growing up, the Reeds didn’t make much of the Christmas season. Gifts were of the practical sort and included such sundry items as flashlights or sturdy woolen socks. The exception to the unimaginative gift giving was the presents from Malcolm’s sister, Madeline. As they grew old enough to be responsible for their own gift buying, Maddie had taken it on herself to give Malcolm the most outrageous and inappropriate gifts she could find. He’d always professed to be embarrassed by her choices, but deep down, he’d secretly appreciated them. In fact, a blue silk shirt she’d given him the last year was one of the few personal items he’d brought with him on the voyage, although he had yet to find the occasion to wear it.

The Enterprise was too far out to make communication from Earth easy, no matter what holiday it was. To offset potential morale problems, Captain Archer had encouraged a number of informal crew gatherings. Malcolm always volunteered to staff the bridge or otherwise be on duty during those occasions. Crew fraternization was not something he excelled at and he preferred to work, giving his team the maximum amount of time to enjoy the festivities that he could. He wasn’t the only one to do so, either. Oftentimes he found himself sharing duties with Sub-Commander T’Pol. While he respected the Vulcan immensely, it bothered Malcolm somewhat to find himself sharing the duty with her. T’Pol wasn’t human, so what did it say about Malcolm that he felt as alienated from his own people as she was?

In that frame of mind, Malcolm strode down the corridor towards his quarters. It was the night of Christmas Eve and he could hear snatches of Christmas songs echoing through the hallway, as well as laughter coming through the doors he passed. He supposed it was festive, but in his particular circumstances, he found it depressing.

Finally, Malcolm got to his own quarters and, with a profound sense of relief, palmed the switch to enter. To his surprise, the lights were already on. It wasn’t like him to have left them burning when he wasn’t there, thriftiness was a trait drilled into him from an early age.

Distracted by the lights, Malcolm didn’t notice at first that someone was sitting on his bed and so he jumped at the sound of a throat clearing.

“Bloody he-. . . .” Malcolm’s voice cut off as he realized that Jonathan Archer was perched on the end of his bed, looking at him expectantly.

“I’m sorry,” the captain said sheepishly. “I didn’t mean to startle you.”

“Captain!” Malcolm immediately straightened to attention. “I’m sorry, sir. I didn’t see you sitting there.”

Jonathan Archer rose, a placating smile on his face. “At ease, lieutenant, you had every reason to expect that your quarters would be empty. You have nothing to apologize for.” He shrugged. “I’m afraid that I took advantage of my authority to access the necessary security override. I hope you’ll forgive me.”

Malcolm relaxed minutely. “Of course, sir.”

“Good. You hold your personal life very close to the vest, I know, so I did this in order to give you a Christmas gift in private.” Archer held out a wrapped package and Malcolm belatedly realized that the other man had been holding it all along. “So, here.”

“Thank you, sir,” Malcolm replied awkwardly.

“No need to call me ‘sir’ here,” Jonathan stated as he handed Malcolm the gift. “Just call me Jonathan.”

“All right,” Malcolm replied, keeping from biting his lip only with the strictest self control. It just felt so odd calling his commanding officer by his first name. “Jonathan.”

“There, I knew you could do it,” Jonathan encouraged him with a big smile. “Now go on, open it.”

“What?” Malcolm had been lost in that smile and blushed to realize that Archer was referring to the gift. “Oh, right.”

Feeling clumsy, Malcolm carefully unwrapped the package. It was small, but relatively heavy and he exclaimed with pleasure as its contents were revealed. A book. A real bound paper book, with a leather cover. He opened it reverently, finding that it was a volume of the writings of Winston Churchill and, from the looks of it, either a first or second edition.

“Churchill,” Malcolm breathed reverently. His fingers lovingly traced the title. “How did you know?”

“I just figured that a man like you would admire a man like him,” Jonathan sounded entirely too smug. Sure enough, when Malcolm lifted his eyes to look at him, Archer had his arms crossed across his chest, a self-satisfied grin on his face.

Malcolm grinned back, but the smile faded as he realized something.

“But I don’t have a gift for you,” he exclaimed in dismay.

Jonathan looked surprised at the comment. “I didn’t expect a gift in return.”

Malcolm had to force himself to look away from those warm eyes. He glanced down at the book, once again struck by how perfect a gift it had been. “Then. . . why?”

“I take it that you’re not used to someone doing something nice for you just because they want to.”

Jonathan’s voice sounded sad and Malcolm looked up again. There was no judgment in the captain’s kind eyes, just concern and, dare Malcolm think it, affection?

When it came to battle tactics, Malcolm Reed was as sharp as they came. With personal relationships, however, he was a little slower on the uptake. Slower, perhaps, but not totally hopeless.

“Perhaps I have a Christmas gift for you after all,” Malcolm said softly.

He stepped closer and raised his face to Archer’s, gently brushing his lips against Jonathan’s. The captain’s hands came up and gripped Malcolm’s arms, but he let go easily enough when Malcolm ended the kiss. Shyly, Malcolm looked at the other man, eager to see how his gift had been received.

“Wow.” Jonathan ran his tongue across his lips. “That’s the best Christmas present I’ve gotten in a long time.” He grinned suddenly. “Then again, my mother always did say that I was greedy.”

Archer bent down and snatched another kiss. Malcolm didn’t object. In fact, his tongue found its way into the other man’s mouth and, from the way Jonathan moaned, it was a most welcome intruder. When the second kiss ended, Jonathan wrapped his arms around Malcolm, preventing the other man from leaving the circle of his embrace.

“Tomorrow is Christmas Day,” Jonathan stated. “Porthos and I would like it very much if you would join is for Christmas dinner. Chef tells me that he has something very special planned.”

”I’d love to,” Malcolm replied.

“Good,” Jonathan nodded. He gave Malcolm a hopeful look. “I don’t suppose I could count on getting any more of those presents of yours?”

Malcolm grinned. “I think that could be arranged.” Then he proceeded to bestow another one.

It looked like he was finally going to have an occasion to wear his blue silk shirt, although from the way things were going, he likely wouldn’t be wearing it for long.

~the end~


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