Summary: Malcolm gets a splinter. Things get a little weird. Dada, anyone?

AN: Written by request of Lt. BlackFire, who's enmeshed in a thesis about Dadaism, and who'd requested the following: nice, fluffy, T/R, fainting Malcolm, hurt/comfort, Phlox (but not slashy). Well, despite my best intentions, that didn't quite work out. However, instead, just for her, there are some elements of Dadaism (at least as I understand it), including a Dadaist poem.

Disclaimer: Yeah, yeah, yeah, etc. All in fun, no profit.

-

"Damn," Malcolm said sharply, pulling his finger away from the pistol he was modifying. He looked down at his finger, grimacing to see a tiny piece of metal embedded deep into the tip. He sighed, setting the weapon aside, then stood and crossed his room to the lav. Entering the small space, he opened the medicine chest above the sink and pulled out his tweezers. Settling himself on the closed lid of the toilet, he set to work trying to remove the splinter.

"Bloody fu…" he cut himself off, grimacing as he tossed the tweezers into the sink. Peering closely at his finger, he swore again. "Damn." Despite his best efforts, he couldn't get the splinter out. It didn't help that it was in his right hand, forcing him to try to remove it with his left. Or that his tweezers were at least 10 years old, and hadn't been particularly sharp even when he'd bought them.

He sighed. He was going to need help. For a splinter. He rolled his eyes in exasperation. Fabulous.

Feeling foolish, Malcolm moved toward the door. There was no way that he was going to go to sickbay for something this minor. He paused as the doors opened, then he smiled. Trip. If anyone would have sharp tweezers, it would be the chief engineer. And after their last shore-leave, the man owed him. He gave a twisted smile, and headed down the hall to Trip's quarters.

-

Malcolm sat on the chair in Trip's room, listening to the sounds of rummaging as Trip rifled through his medicine cabinet, looking for his tweezers.

"Found 'em!" he heard Trip exclaim from the lav. The engineer appeared in the doorway. "I knew that they were in there somewhere," he said, smiling broadly as he walked back into the room, settling himself on the edge of his bed. He reached out with his left hand. "Let's see this monster," he said, laughing slightly.

Malcolm held out his right hand. "There's no need to make fun," he said dryly.

Trip grasped his friend's hand, peering down at the digit in question. "Actually, there is," he said merrily. "You're the armoury officer." He turned his head to the side and glanced up through his hair. "You've been laid low by a splinter."

Malcolm shook his head in annoyance. "Please spare me the witty repartee."

Trip smiled gently, squeezing Malcolm's hand soothingly, then turned his face back to the task at hand, his head down, his hair falling forward across his face. He squinted in concentration as he began his work.

Malcolm watched the engineer as he squeezed the offending finger, trying to get the splinter closer to the surface. Malcolm hissed in a sharp breath when the tweezers hit a particularly sensitive spot, looking up and away. Then he felt his eyes jump, and his vision shifted. He blinked.

-

Malcolm was standing in a room, alone. At least he thought it was a room; he couldn't actually see walls, or a ceiling, or the floor; he just had a sense of an enclosed space, and of brightness, and most overwhelmingly, of noise. All around him was bright white light, and there were voices, everywhere, multiple voices, all speaking at once, in a cacophony of sound.

He looked around himself frantically. He tried to speak, and he thought he made a sound, but the sheer volume of the noise around him drowned his voice. It got louder. It hurt. He pushed his palms over his ears, trying to block out the noise, and then he squatted down, closing his eyes against the glare.

Scenes flashed before his eyes.

He felt the cold, the unbearable cold, and glanced over to see Trip huddled beside him in the shuttlepod…

Malcolm opened his eyes, squinting against the glare. There was nothing there but the white light, and the noise. He closed his eyes again.

He saw the Captain standing over him on the hull of the ship, the mine looming, the spike piercing his thigh…He felt the slam as an alien's fist hit his face…He was in a fire fight, weapons fire all around him…

He opened his eyes. He was standing, calmly tossing objects onto the floor…pieces from a pistol, parts of a torpedo, the blade of a knife, components from a hundred different weapons…He watched patterns form, beauty in chaos, beauty through chaos, chance causing this piece to fall here, that piece to fall there, as the noise wailed in the background; someone barking orders, the words in English, but in a random order, their meaning lost, but the emotion there; despair, confusion, madness.

Then a flash of light, and the noise cut out. Amazed, he watched the broken weapons shift themselves along the floor, moving to form…no, that was absurd.

He stared as the picture began to coalesce. A smile quirked the edge of his lips, and then he laughed.

It had formed an outline of Trip's smiling face.

The voices started again.

He blinked.

-

Malcolm opened his eyes, relieved to see that the light had dimmed, and he could make out a ceiling above him. He turned at the sound of a voice – one voice, this time, and quieter. He closed his eyes again. It was so much quieter here.

"Hey, Malcolm. Welcome back."

Malcolm opened his eyes again, turning his head to see Trip seated on a nearby chair. He smiled at the engineer. "I was lost."

"You fainted," Trip replied, pulling his chair closer to the bed. "You're in sickbay."

Malcolm nodded, then turned his head to trace a movement nearby. He saw T'Pol walking with the captain, talking, and he overhead one phrase, "That would not be logical, captain."

Turning his face to the ceiling, Malcolm whispered, very quietly. "Logic and reason lead to war."

"What?" Trip said, leaning toward his friend, his brow wrinkled in confusion and concern.

Malcolm turned to him, then struggled to sit up, spitting out, "They lead to chaos, and hysteria, and death." He twisted to face T'Pol. "There are no truths!" Pinning her with his gaze, he continued. "The way to salvation is through emotions, the intuitive, the irrational." He laughed wildly. "Everything else is bollocks."

He felt the pinch of a hypo and knew that he'd just been medicated, and he resisted, feeling hands pressing him down, hearing the buzz of conversations spinning around him, unable to focus on what was being said. After a moment he fell back, murmuring drowsily, "Everything else is madness," as his eyes drifted shut.

-

The bright, white light was all around him. He couldn't see the edges of the room, if it was a room, but he could hear. Oh, he could hear…noise from everywhere and nowhere, syllables without meaning. He put his hands to his ears to block the din, then squatted on the floor, rocking, back and forth on his heels.

Squeezing his eyes shut against the light, he shouted, "Stop it!"

He opened his eyes in shock. The noise was gone. It was just he, surrounded by the whiteness, and silence. Then he heard, "white, white, white," repeated again and again, softly. He laughed, and said sarcastically, "No, really?" He blinked.

-

Malcolm sat on the biobed, staring straight ahead, his hair lank against his forehead, his face pale, his eyes unfocused. His legs were hanging off the side, and he was fidgeting, his fingers pulling at the sheets again, and again, and again, as he swung his legs forward, and then slammed them back against the bottom of the bed once, twice, the sound ringing through sickbay.

Phlox walked towards him, a hypo in his hand. As he approached, Malcolm's eyes flashed towards the doctor and he stopped his frantic movements, instead using his hands to ward off the medication. "Enough, enough, enough," he said with alarm, shaking his head, his eyes wide. "I'm okay, I'll stop."

Phlox paused next to his bed. "Lieutenant, you are agitated. This is a sedative…"

Malcolm shook his head vehemently. "I need to write," he said, moving his hand in a scribbling motion.

The doctor nodded and, walking to a nearby cabinet, he pulled out a padd. He handed it to Malcolm, who immediately focused on it. He hunched over the device and started to write.

Phlox stood and observed his patient for a few moments, and then he deactivated the hypo. He turned at the sound of the door opening as Trip entered sickbay.

Trip nodded to the doctor, then turned his gaze to Malcolm. "How's he doing, doc?"

The doctor sighed. "He's been troubled, but he seems to be a bit better right now."

"Can I see him?"

Phlox nodded. "I'll be nearby, in case you need me."

Trip walked over to Malcolm, standing beside his bed. "Hey, Malcolm."

Malcolm continued writing, not acknowledging Trip's presence.

Trip turned and pulled up a chair. Then he sat, watching his friend work.

After several minutes passed, Malcolm looked up from his padd, catching Trip's eyes with his own. He smiled, then wordlessly handed the device to Trip.

Trip leaned forward, taking the padd tentatively. Then he looked down at it and began to read.

the time before

passion wait I-
the time before

I

the time after

With understanding sensibility

Here is a writer,

And of beyond;

Charming, though vulgar.

That the infinitely endowed

Are an original

And the you.

Trip looked up, slightly confused. "Poetry?"

Malcolm nodded, holding out his hand for the padd. Trip handed it back to him. Malcolm turned his face to the poem, re-reading his work, his hair falling forward, partially obscuring his face. Without looking at Trip, he murmured, "Something's wrong."

Trip nodded. "You're sick."

Malcolm shook his head, still staring down at the device in his hands. "How long have I been here?"

"Two days."

Malcolm looked up at Trip, his eyes burning. "How long was I there?"

Trip blinked, puzzled. "Where?"

"In the white room."

Trip shook his head. "You've been here the whole time."

"No," Malcolm said sharply. Then he grimaced slightly, lifting an arm and rubbing a hand against his ear. "It was rather noisy." He smiled. "My ears are still ringing." His smile faded, and he sat, staring at Trip. Then he started picking at the sheets with one hand, twisting the fabric tightly.

"What else was there?" Trip asked softly.

Malcolm let his hand still. "You were there." He laughed at Trip's look of confusion. "Well, your picture was there." Malcolm squinted at his friend. "You look better in person," he said as he turned his gaze back to the padd, and started writing again.

-

Trip leaned forward across the ready room table. "It's been two days, doc, and he's not getting any better. What's up with the tests?"

Phlox allowed his gaze to rest first on Trip, then on the captain. "Nothing seems to be physically wrong with him."

"But…" Trip interjected.

Phlox interrupted. "He appears to be suffering from psychosis, including hallucinations and, understandably, a considerable amount of stress and anxiety. Unfortunately, as of yet, I have not been able to determine a cause."

Trip looked stricken. "But this is Malcolm…" He let his voice trail off, then turned to Jon. "This doesn't make any sense." He turned back to Phlox. "You can fix this, right?"

"I'm not certain that I can," Phlox replied. "There are several medications that I can try, which may help with the symptoms, but not with the underlying cause."

Trip stood suddenly, turning to the window. "Damn," he said angrily. He spun away from the window, confronting Jon. "This can't be happening." He stepped forward, and sank back into his seat. "There's no reason. I mean, one minute, he was just sitting there. Then he faints, then he goes nuts?" He turned on Phlox, focusing his hostility on the doctor. "And you can't find a cause?"

Jon placed a hand on Trip's arm as he spoke and Trip stopped, catching hold of himself. He took a deep breath in.

Phlox shook his head. "I'm sorry, commander. I've ruled out the normal physical and chemical causes of this sort of illness."

Tears of anger and frustration formed in Trip's eyes.

The doctor looked at Trip kindly. "That doesn't mean that I'll stop trying."

Trip nodded, then turned his gaze to his hands on the table.

Phlox looked to Jon, and nodded, standing to leave.

As the doors closed behind the doctor, Trip turned to Jon. The captain was just about to speak when he was interrupted by the comm. signal. Reaching up behind him, he hit the button. "Yes?"

Hoshi's voice came across the comm. "Sir, we've been contacted by some aliens. I think you should get up here. They say that they have some information that might help us with an ill crewmember."

Jon looked at Trip, surprised etched on his features.

-

Jon and Trip stepped onto the bridge. "On screen," Jon said to Hoshi, and the viewscreen filled with the image of several tall, anxious-looking aliens.

When the aliens saw the captain, several of them began speaking at once, frantically, agitated.

"We've been trying for some time…"

"Once we realised what had happened…"

"We tried to make the place more peaceful for him…"

"Once he asked…"

"Once we realised…"

"We had to wait for you…"

"We could not reach you…"

Jon held up his hands to get them to pause, and began speaking. "I'm Captain Archer of the Starship Enterprise. If you could speak one at a time, please, so that we can understand you."

One of the aliens stepped forward. "I am Tzara, Minister of Arts and Culture."

Jon nodded. "You had mentioned that you may be able to help us…"

The minister cut in. "One of our art events may have damaged your crewmember."

Trip snorted in disbelief, interrupting the conversation. "Excuse me?"

One of the aliens behind the minister jumped forward a bit. "They can be very powerful events."

The minister nodded. "These events tend to be highly stimulating for our people. However, we didn't realise that it could affect another species so violently. We don't usually get visitors through our system."

Jon nodded. "How did you know…"

The minister continued. "When we saw your ship, we scanned you, hoping to learn about your people. We saw that we had caught one of your family in our event, and realised that he had been damaged."

One of the other aliens chimed in. "We may be able to help."

-

Phlox left the group outside the doors of sickbay as he went inside to speak to Malcolm.

Trip motioned for Jon to step away from the group. In a whisper, he asked incredulously, "So, what, this was a poetry reading that got a little out of hand?"

Jon nodded. "They said that they'd had a world war, and an art form evolved in reaction to the hysteria and madness of that war. It's based on the fantastic and the absurd, and involves noise, elements of chance, and simultaneity. It's now the foundation of their society."

"Whatever," Trip replied. "So long as they can help."

Jon nodded, and they entered the sickbay doors. As they approached the biobed, Malcolm looked up from his padd.

The minister spoke. "We apologise for any damage we may have caused you."

Malcolm simply stared.

"We can help you."

Malcolm looked at Trip, and Trip nodded, trying to smile.

Malcolm shrugged, and handed the padd to Trip.

As several of the aliens worked on Malcolm, the minister approached Trip. "Has he been writing?"

Trip nodded.

"May I see what he's written?"

Trip nodded again and, glancing over at Malcolm, handed the padd to the minister just as Phlox pulled the privacy curtain around the biobed.

The alien read the work. After a few minutes, he tapped a finger against the edge of the padd, saying, "This is actually quite good. He has an innate understanding of our philosophy." The minister raised his eyes, smiling at Trip. "It's too bad that the experience impacted him so badly. He has a gift." He handed the padd back to the engineer. "I would have liked to have met him under better circumstances."

-

Trip smiled as he entered sickbay. Malcolm lay on the biobed, propped up by pillows as he read something on his padd. Hearing the doors open, Malcolm looked up and smiled as Trip walked to his bedside.

"How are you feeling?" Trip asked, resting a hand on Malcolm's arm.

"Tired."

"Do you remember…"

Malcolm nodded, glancing down at padd again.

"Interesting poetry you wrote."

Malcolm smiled slightly, and looked up. "I used to write quite a bit when I was younger." He hesitated. "I'm not sure why I stopped." Malcolm paused again, wincing slightly. "Thanks for putting up with me while I was…"

Trip rubbed his friend's arm. "Don't mention it."

"Still…"

Trip smiled at him, pulling his hand away. "Tell you what. Write me a poem."

Malcolm raised his eyebrows. "Really?"

Trip nodded. "Really. Just make it something less, um…"

"Dada?"

"Is that what that was?"

"I think so."

"Then, yeah. Something less dada."