title: Strays

author: Michmak

spoilers: none

rating: PG13
notes: this one is from Hoshi's POV, set concurrently with Bridges...


His eyes flinch downwards when she looks at him, and his shoulders tighten. She doesn't understand why this is, but she knows it's the same response every time he notices her regard. It's a conditioned response, like the fabled Pavlov dogs.

Sighing, she looks at the UT and studies her fingers, before surreptitiously glancing sideways again. He wields his tenseness like he wields his phase pistol, but Hoshi tends to think his walls are more a shield than a weapon. This is his dichotomy - and it suits him.

She doesn't think anyone else sees what she does. After all, she specializes in communications. And Malcolm communicates more with his body language than he does with his spoken. She wonders if he realizes this.

Sometimes, when he thinks no one is watching, she sees the real Malcolm. She can tell by the flash in his eyes, by the slight tremors in his taught-held body that he is fighting to keep his walls in place. But she can see the cracks.

When she was a little girl, she had brought home an abandoned dog. It was whip-cord thin, and suspicious of everything. Every time she spoke to him, or fed him, or reached out a gentle hand to him, he would stiffen up - almost as if he couldn't believe that what he was being offered was real. It took her months to undo the damage that had been done to him, months before he would relax in her presence - and months before he realized he loved her as much as she loved him.

She wondered how many months it would take before Malcolm realized that what she was offering was real.

He fascinates her as no one else on the ship does, because of the contradiction of his languages. While his words are precise, professional and mostly aloof, his body language calls of loneliness and fear. It's odd to think that their armory officer - the man who projects such an air of competence and strength - is afraid. Hoshi knows this as surely as she knows her own name. She can read between the lines - or in this case, the muscles and sinews - to his very heart.

Like calls to like, after all, and she is lonely too.