A/N: Thank you all for the reviews. I'm glad that you like this story.

-

"I'd like to speak to you about Mr. Reed," Phlox said, sitting down in the ready room across from Jon.

The captain nodded. "Has there been any change?"

Phlox shook his head. "His hearing is still the same. However, I have been corresponding with some researchers who may have a new method that might help him."

Jon sat forward in his chair.

Phlox held his hands up. "I'm loath to try it. It's experimental, first of all, and it may not work."

"Still, I think that Malcolm would be eager to try."

Phlox shook his head. "It's not without risk. If the procedure fails, it will destroy what residual hearing he has left. In addition, if it doesn't work, it will make it highly likely that he can not recover his hearing through any other method."

Jon nodded. "Perhaps you should talk to Malcolm about it; let him make the decision."

-

Malcolm sat on the biobed, nervously gripping its edge. "But my hearing still might come back on its own."

Phlox shook his head. "As we've discussed, that's not likely to happen.

Malcolm nodded.

"You should understand that this procedure is risky. It may restore your hearing entirely, or only partially. Or, and there is a very strong chance of this, it may end up destroying any residual hearing that you have left. It will eliminate any chance, however slight, of your hearing coming back on its own."

Malcolm nodded again. "So, in the worst case, I'd still be profoundly deaf, right?"

Phlox nodded. "I have some information here," he handed Malcolm a padd. "Please read this. Then we can talk again."

Phlox stepped away, stopping when he heard "Doctor?"

He turned back to his patient.

"If I decide to do this, how soon do you think you'd be ready?"

The doctor paused. "Possibly as early as next week."

Malcolm nodded, looking down at the padd.

-

Trip entered the observation lounge, seeing Malcolm sitting on the couch, his feet propped up on the table in front of him, staring out at the stars. There was a padd on the seat beside him, illuminated.

Trip stepped to the couch, catching Malcolm's eye in the reflection from the window and smiling.

Malcolm smiled and waved, indicating that Trip should join him on the couch. Trip did, and they both sat there, staring out at the view.

After a while, Malcolm spoke. "Phlox talked to me about a procedure that might restore my hearing."

"That's great, Malcolm." Trip turned to see Malcolm watching him thoughtfully. "So, what's the problem?"

"Even if it's successful, I still might not be able to hear well. The change might be negligible. And Phlox said that there's a high probability that it might not work at all. If that's the case, then my hearing will be gone permanently, with no chance of it coming back."

Trip nodded, wincing slightly. "What do you want to do?"

Malcolm didn't respond at first, and Trip wasn't sure if he'd understood. He just sat there, looking at Trip. Then he looked away at the stars again.

"I think I want to take the risk."

-

Hoshi looked up and smiled as Malcolm entered the observation lounge, right on time for their appointment. "I'm almost surprised to see you," she said.

"Why?" he answered, signing quickly as he settled into the seat across from hers.

"You're having your surgery tomorrow. I guess I thought you'd skip this lesson."

Malcolm smiled, although Hoshi could see that the smile didn't reach his eyes. In fact, as she looked at him more closely, she realized that he looked quite nervous. He shifted in his chair. "I wanted to be doing something positive. I've been obsessing about the surgery all day." He shrugged. "I felt like I needed to do something. And anyway, it might not work, the surgery."

Hoshi's eyes searched his. "You know you don't have to do it."

"Actually, I do," he said, his voice rising slightly. "Without my hearing, it's like I'm..." he let his voice trail off, hesitating.

"Deaf people can do anything that hearing people can…"

Malcolm cut her off, shaking his head. "Except hear. And I can't stay in Starfleet, I can't protect the ship, and its crew, if I can't hear." He leaned forward. "I couldn't even protect myself."

Hoshi looked at him warily. "What if it doesn't work?"

"It has to work," Malcolm replied adamantly.

Hoshi tore her gaze from his, uncomfortable and unsure of how to respond, and looked down at her padd, reviewing her notes. Malcolm interrupted her, waving to catch her attention.

"I also wanted to come because I wanted to tell you how much I've appreciated everything you've done for me. I know that I've been a real, um…"

Hoshi smiled slightly when he hesitated, and cut in. "Asshole?"

Malcolm blushed. "I was thinking worse, actually. So…thank you for…"

Hoshi interrupted again. "Refusing to leave you alone?"

He smiled at her. "Basically, yes."

-

"So how did it go, doc?" Trip asked, staring anxiously at Malcolm from across the room.

"We'll have to wait until he wakes up. And even then, it may take a few days for the swelling to go down, and for him to realize the full effects of the surgery."

"Is it okay if I sit with him for a while?"

Phlox nodded.

Trip grabbed a chair, dragging it next to Malcolm's bed.

"Hmm…," Trip hummed vacantly as he sat beside Malcolm's bed, typing into his padd. He stopped when he heard Malcolm moan, then stir.

Malcolm's eyes opened slightly. "What are you doing?" he mumbled, turning his head in Trip's direction.

Trip stood, moving closer to Malcolm so that his friend could see him as he spoke. "I'm sorry, Malcolm. I didn't realize that you were awake."

Malcolm closed his eyes. "I think I can hear you," he said softly. "You sound really far away, muffled," he yawned, "And I'm not sure I quite caught what you said." His eyes still closed, he said, "Can you say something again?"

Trip grinned. "Sure, Malcolm. What would you like me to say?"

Malcolm smiled and opened his eyes. "Anything you say sounds wonderful, commander. Despite the accent."

-

Malcolm sat on the couch in the observation lounge, his eyes closed, holding himself still as he simply sat there, listening to the sounds of the ship around him, the soft buzz of conversation behind him. He sighed, opening his eyes only when he heard someone approach. He smiled as Hoshi settled next to him, a package in her hand.

"What are you doing?" she asked.

"Listening," he replied softly. "I'd almost forgotten."

"I figured you'd be off listening to music, or a film, or something big like that."

Malcolm shook his head. "Nah, this is good. I didn't realize how much I missed this," he waved to encompass the room around him.

Hoshi smiled. "I brought you something," she said as she held the package towards him. At his questioning look, she shook the box. "Take it. I ordered it special."

Malcolm gave her a half-smile and took the package, sliding off its wrapper and pulling out a recording. He read the label, then looked up at her, confused. "What is this?"

"The Acadian Euphonium and Tuba Quintet Do Christmas," Hoshi replied brightly, a hint of mischief in her eyes.

"Yes, I can see that," he replied, "But, um, what is it?"

Hoshi smiled at him innocently. "I wanted to give you something truly unusual to listen to. Something you've never heard before." She laughed lightly. "Something you'd remember, to mark the occasion of the return of your hearing."

Malcolm raised an eyebrow. "Well, it certainly is different. Thank you." Hoshi stood as he looked back down at the recording, reading the list of songs, then back to her. "What are you doing right now?"

Hoshi paused, then said guardedly, "Why?"

He held up the recording. "Because if I have to listen to this, then you certainly…"

Hoshi started backing away, laughing slightly as she said, "Oh, no."

Malcolm grinned evilly, standing and stepping towards her, the recording in his hand. "Oh, yes."

-

-

A/N: Regarding the summary I gave in the header: "I was in an accident, and I woke up deaf." It's a twist to a quote from I. King Jordan, President of Gallaudet University.