Although I have only been posting here for six months, I just passed my one year anniversary as an author. Looking back to just over a year ago, I didn't even know that fan fiction existed. Heck, I was the only person I knew who even watched Enterprise!

So one year ago, I wrote my first story. It was an Enterprise story. It was, quite frankly, awful. I blush thinking about it.

That story, I'll never post here. However, I do feel like I should somehow commemorate my one year anniversary. So I've decided to post one of my first stories - actually, it's part of a series, "Malaysia Stories", with each related by themes to the others in the series, although not precisely sequels. Each can be read independently, and this is the one of which I'm most proud. I post it here to commemorate my year anniversary as a writer. (Pats self on back)

Thank goodness I've improved. Still, you might enjoy this. And I'm still darn proud of it.


Warnings: Angst, swear words in Malaysian and Japanese, implied violence. Thanks to Walt Whitman for the title. A very special thank you to SusanC, who was a most excellent beta!

Disclaimer: Yeah, yeah, yeah, etc. I wish.

Foreign words are translated at the end.

Remember from episode...whatever...we learned that Malcolm's parents moved back to Khota Baru...and off we go!


Hoshi jerked. Something had startled her out of her restless sleep.

Lying still, Hoshi could just hear Malcolm's voice from the cell next door, as well as the voice of one of their captors. Although the thickness of the walls, plus the sound-dampening field that their captors employed when interrogating them, muffled the sounds, if Hoshi listened carefully, the low, narrow drainage shafts at the base of the wall sometimes allowed words to slip through.

Holding herself rigid, Hoshi could just make out, "Tell...medication..." as the rough voice of their captor filtered through the wall. Hoshi sat up from her sleeping area on the ground, straining to hear what was going on in Malcolm's cell. She could hear Malcolm reply, but not what he said. Then there were sounds of a struggle, and one clear, angry shout from Malcolm, quickly muffled. Hoshi started, drawing her knees up to her chest and wrapping her arms around them. She held herself still. Their captor's voice continued, although she couldn't make out the words.

The field turned off with a loud "zap", and suddenly she could hear Malcolm's breathing, harsh and ragged from his cell. His door opened with a scrape, metal against stone. Then came the heavy noise of her captor's boots as she passed Hoshi's cell without a glance, heading towards the doors at the end of the corridor.

Once Hoshi heard the final door close, she scrabbled to the drainage space in the wall between her cell and Malcolm's. Flattening herself against the cold, wet floor, she forced her face against the moldering wall as she tried to get as close to the low shaft as she could. She peered through the hole, only able to see the space directly in front of it. "Malcolm...Malcolm!" Hoshi whispered urgently, trying not to be heard by their captors. When he didn't reply, Hoshi whispered, louder, "Malcolm, talk to me." Nothing. Not a moan, not a rustle of fabric - just Malcolm's rough breathing. Frightened, she continued, shakily, "Talk to me."

After a long, agonizing moment with no reply, Hoshi sat up and leaned back against the damp wall. She slammed her hands against the ground, frustrated. "I can't help Malcolm," she thought, angrily clenching her hands into fists. "I don't know who these people are, or why they've captured us...they won't even talk to me."

Hoshi anxiously tried to count back the days to their capture. "Three...I think three," she thought, rubbing her temples violently. She could remember every moment, but, with their cells kept constantly bright, she had lost track of time. Shaking her head, she thought of how they'd been caught.


Since they had been communicating with the Xxactians for over a month, and had been visiting the planet, in groups, for a week, the Captain felt that the crew had a "pretty good handle," as he said jovially, on the Xxactian culture. Even Malcolm agreed that the Xxactians seemed fairly peaceful, although he was concerned about rumors he'd heard of a small, anti-government faction that had recently become active. The Xxactian government had dismissed his concerns as unfounded.

Just after their capture, in their first hurried conversations, Malcolm told her that he hadn't known about the captain's plans to allow solo visits to the planet. He hadn't believed the Xxactian authorities when they'd dismissed his concerns about the rebels, and had explained that to the captain.

The captain had Travis pilot a shuttle down to the surface, dropping Hoshi off at their central archives, T'Pol off at their main government center, and Trip at their polytechnic university. He then returned to the ship with plans to rendezvous late that night.

When Malcolm had gone to the bridge for his shift and found that the three team members were working alone on different areas of the planet, he'd insisted that one member of security travel down to be with each of them. The captain eventually agreed, sending Malcolm himself to be with Hoshi " some sort of joke?" Hoshi wondered. The captain knew very well what Hoshi thought of Malcolm. "I guess he figured that, since there should be few, if any, security risks down on Xxacia, our working together might break down some barriers - as if getting to know Malcolm better could possibly make me think that he's less of an asshole." Laying her hand, gently, on the wall between their cells, she thought, "I don't think he imagined we'd have to get through these kinds of barriers." Hoshi laughed out loud, then quickly covered her mouth with her hand. "Three days...I think I'm losing it," Hoshi murmured to herself.


Hoshi heard a low moan, and then a loud thump as something in Malcolm's cell hit the floor. "Malcolm?" she whispered urgently as she crouched down, bringing her face near the drainage slot. She heard a barking laugh from the cell next to hers. "Malcolm?" she said, louder. "Are you okay?" She heard shuffling from the other side of the wall, then saw Malcolm's dirty bare feet through the hole. After more sounds of movement, Malcolm's face appeared.

"That woman is some anak haram," Malcolm said softly, smiling. Hoshi noticed that his accent was stronger than normal, different, and he was slurring. He was also swearing in Malaysian, something she'd never heard him do before. Looking carefully at Malcolm, Hoshi noted that his eyes were red and looked dazed, unfocused. "Bodoh" he swore, laughing loudly.

"Malcolm," Hoshi said, softly. She remembered that their early attempts to communicate had been violently quashed. Since then, they had been a lot more cautious. "Quiet down. Please."

"Sorry, Hoshi," Malcolm replied, more quietly, still slurring. "No fun-lah, you," he said, rolling his eyes at her and grinning.

"Not quite the proper and distant man I'm used to," Hoshi thought, worried. "Um, Malcolm," Hoshi interrupted, shifting into a more comfortable position along the wall. "Are you okay? You're talking kind of funny."

"I'm cun-lah, you know?" Malcolm laughed. He moved his face away, and stuck his dirty fingers through the drainage hole, wiggling them at Hoshi. "Terrific, beautiful, fantastic..." he trailed off.

Hoshi grasped Malcolm's hand. His fingers were cold, trembling. "Something's very wrong," she thought. "What did that woman do to you?" she said, worried.

"She gave me..." Malcolm paused, and pulled his hand from her grip. Hoshi could hear him shifting closer to the wall, and his face reappeared. His brow furrowed. "I don't know what, but I don't think it's doing what she thought it would do!" he smiled happily. He then started coughing, covering his mouth with his hand, blocking her view of his face. Hoshi heard him take a harsh, rasping breath, and the coughing stopped. "Ooh, maybe not so good-lah," Malcolm said, faintly. Then he giggled, peering through the hole at her. He raised one eyebrow. "I can't seem to control my accent," he laughed. "My accent is wobbling," he exclaimed, in a sing-song tone.

"What do you mean, Malcolm?" Hoshi said nervously, her eyes searching his. Malcolm's breathing was becoming rapid, and his pupils were dilating. She wanted to keep him talking.

In something closer to his normal accent, although still slurring, Malcolm replied, "My father sent me to school in England to ensure that I'd end up with a proper English accent, not a Malaysian one." He paused. "Listen to me now! My father would be so proud," he said, sarcastically, slipping back to his altered accent as he spoke. Malcolm coughed again, violently. He groaned and turned away from the drainage slot. "Taik," he wheezed, unable to catch his breath.

Hoshi reached through the space, but she couldn't fit her arm in far enough to allow her to touch Malcolm's back. "Malcolm, come on...Malcolm..." Hoshi paused. She thought she could hear footsteps. "Malcolm, I think someone's coming." She stood quickly, scrambling away from the drainage slot. The doors to their corridor slid open with a clang, and their captor, the same woman who always visited, walked past Hoshi's cell. Hoshi heard her stop in front of Malcolm's cell door. Hoshi yelled, "What did you do to him?" just before she heard the crackle of the sound-dampening field as it snapped into place.

Hoshi stood in the center of her cell, lost.


Hoshi had been working in the Xxactian central archives for several hours. Although they were a fairly advanced race, technologically, they still stored most of their old data in its original hardcopy format, forcing her to visit their archives in person a few times over the past several days. Usually, she'd gone with a group, as T'Pol and several others from the ship had also been doing research there. This was her first time working alone in the archives, and she was finding the empty building spooky. "This place is so different after hours. Darker. Emptier." She sneezed, loudly. "Dustier." She wiped one hand across her face, rubbing her itchy nose, then settled back into her work. "I wonder what the Xxactian word is for "tissue"?" she thought, pulling a book from the stack on the table.

Hoshi jumped at a noise behind her, swinging her chair around to face..."nothing, damn it!" Hoshi thought, frustrated. "There is no one there - relax, Hoshi." She took a deep breath, and turned back to her pile of books. A few moments later, she heard another noise behind her. She refused to turn around. "There is no one there," she thought to herself, tensely, as she tried to refocus on her work.

Hoshi yelped and jumped up from her chair, clutching one of the books close to her chest when she heard someone take a soft step behind her. Swinging around, she saw that it was Malcolm, standing there with a cocky grin on his face.

"Oooooh...spooky...," Malcolm said in an eerie voice.

"You. Are. An. Asshole." Hoshi said, furious, turning away from him and back to her books. As she sat, Malcolm slid into the seat beside her. "What are you doing here?" Hoshi said, twisting towards him, openly hostile.

"I didn't think it was safe for people to be working down here alone. I convinced the captain to send security for each of you," replied Malcolm coolly, his voice echoing off the room's stone walls.

"Lucky me," Hoshi muttered under her breath as she sat. Ignoring Malcolm, she refocused her attention on her books.


Hoshi heard the field come down with a snap, startling her out of her stupor. She looked out from where she was standing and watched their captor leave. Hoshi could hear Malcolm wheezing, then alternately laughing and coughing. After she was sure the woman was gone, she dashed towards the drainage opening.

"Malcolm," she whispered, loudly. She could hear him talking. "Malcolm!" she said, louder. His voice stopped, and she heard rustling as he moved towards her wall. The sight of his bare feet was quickly blocked by the sight of his eyes and forehead, upside down, as he bent over to look through the hole. Hoshi was sure that she'd glimpsed a trail of blood running down one of his ankles.

"Malcolm, oh, he already chao," Malcolm laughed, although Hoshi could tell that he was still having some difficulty breathing. His eyes disappeared for a moment as he repositioned himself to lie along the wall, his face at the hole. "Needn't worry...he already all gone," he whispered, conspiratorially. Hoshi could see a red mark along one of his cheeks, and his eyes were bloodshot, his pupils dilated despite the bright light. Sighing, Malcolm closed his eyes. "I quite like this," he said softly, a smile playing across his features. He took a deep breath, then coughed violently. "Chilaka...bloody hell." He sat up and disappeared from her view.

"Are you okay, Malcolm?" Hoshi asked, frightened, as Malcolm struggled to control his breathing. After a few minutes, his breathing eased, and he settled back down on the floor and peered at her.

"I feel...odd." Malcolm wiped a hand across his eyes and smiled. "But I'm not sure I care," he laughed.

Hoshi hesitated. "Malcolm," she began, softly. "What is she doing to you?"

Malcolm replied, lightly. "Nothing...asking questions, playing games." He paused, then said more soberly, "I don't actually like the games." He looked concerned for a moment, then continued, with a slight smile, "Gives me this stuff..." Seeing the worried look on Hoshi's face, he continued, appeasingly, "I don't know - feels pretty good."

"Malcolm..." Hoshi interrupted, concerned.

"Doesn't hurt," Malcolm replied, trying to soothe her. He grinned, and laughed. "I think it should, but it doesn't."

"Malcolm, I'm sorry...I wish that I could..." Hoshi said softly. Her eyes welled up, and she angrily wiped the tears away from her face.

"It's okay, Hoshi." Seeing her face, Malcolm sobered a bit. "I know I should be scared, or angry, or something. But all I feel is good." Malcolm yawned, hugely, turning his face up towards the ceiling. "And knackered."

Hoshi peered at his profile through the hole. She watched him blink, slowly, at the ceiling. "Why don't you go to sleep?" Hoshi whispered softly.

"Okay-lah." Malcolm rolled onto his side. Hoshi could see the back of his neck, and hear a soft humming.

"Singing himself to sleep," Hoshi thought as she rolled onto her back and closed her eyes. It was a long while before she slept.


Hoshi was trying to focus on her reading, but she was finding it difficult with Malcolm prowling the shelves of the archives around her. To regain her focus, she started looking up the derivations of Xxactian words that reminded her of Malcolm. "Sullen. Annoying. Pompous. Unfriendly. Son of a b..."

Suddenly Hoshi looked up, hearing the sound of glass breaking. Seeing several figures in black enter the room, she pushed out her chair and crouched behind the table, grabbing her communicator. She saw Malcolm leap towards one of their attackers as she tried to signal the Enterprise. "Enterprise, we're under atta..." Hoshi managed to say before she was shoved from behind. Her head hit the table.


Hoshi woke, stiff and damp from the cold floor. She remembered reliving their capture in her dream and groaned, reaching up to feel the lump on her forehead. "Ah," she said sharply, pulling her hand away from her injury. The swelling had gone down, but the area was still tender. "The most peaceful planet in the sector, and we somehow manage to get captured by the only god-damned rebels on it." Hoshi gently returned her hand to her forehead. "Lucky us..."

Before getting up, Hoshi turned her head to the side to peer through the drainage slot. She could still see Malcolm's profile. The red mark on his cheek had turned into an ugly purple bruise, and she could see blood dried in his ear. She listened closely, and heard his soft breathing.

Hoshi stood, stretching, and went over to the area she was using as a lav. She was trying to comb her hair with her fingers when she heard Malcolm groan. She was walking back to the hole when she heard him say, "Hoshi? You there?"

Aligning her body with the wall, Hoshi replied "Yeah, Malcolm," peering at him through the opening. "How are you feeling?" She evaluated his condition. His pupils were still slightly dilated, although his eyes seemed clearer.

"Brilliant," Malcolm replied sarcastically. At Hoshi's disgruntled face, he continued, "Tired, hungry, I've been out on a bender." He groaned and rubbed his chest. "Bloody awful. What the hell happened?" He coughed, then took a shaky breath.

"Well, you're certainly acting more like your old self," Hoshi replied, smiling wryly. She noticed that his accent had returned to normal, although he was still slurring a bit. She also didn't like the sound of his breathing. Hoshi paused, then asked, "What did that woman do to you yesterday?"

Malcolm looked sharply at Hoshi, his eyes wide, frightened. Quickly he glanced away, running his hand through his hair. Still looking away from her, he said, slowly, "I'm not sure..." He continued in a rush, "I remember her in my cell. She had something in her hand, and she was walking towards me..." his voice trailed off. "I didn't remember until you'd reminded me." He stopped talking, staring up towards the ceiling, taking a deep breath. Suddenly he disappeared from view, sitting up quickly as he started a harsh coughing.

"It's okay, Malcolm," Hoshi said softly. They didn't talk again for a long while.


"She doesn't interrogate me," Hoshi explained. "After that first day...that was it. She just walks right by my cell, right towards yours..."

"Fabulous," Malcolm interrupted, snide. Seeing the expression on Hoshi's face, he softened his tone. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't take it out on you. I'm just feeling jiggered," seeing the look of confusion on Hoshi's face, he explained. "Ah, tired."

"Malcolm, it's more than tired." Although Malcolm seemed a bit better, and his speech was back to normal, he was wheezing. He looked exhausted.

"I'll be fine," Malcolm replied sharply. He started coughing. "I just need to get out of here."


Hoshi dozed restlessly on the floor. The bright lights on the ceiling never dimmed, making real sleep difficult. She was just dropping off when she shot awake at the sound of their corridor door being opened. "Not again," Hoshi thought. "What does she want from him?"

Scrambling to the door of her cell, Hoshi began shouting as soon as she spied her captor. "What are you doing to him? Leave him alone!" she yelled, angrily, as the woman came down the corridor, hoping to both warn Malcolm of the woman's approach and to divert her from going to Malcolm's cell.

Hoshi looked around her for something she could use as a distraction. Seeing nothing, she spat at the woman as she walked past, and hurled Japanese insults mixed with English as her captor opened Malcolm's cell door, "Dete ike! Kono shiri nuke me! Get me out of here you..." before she was cut off by the sound of the dampening field. In silence, she sank to the ground.


Hoshi was still sitting slumped on the floor of her cell, her head resting in her palms, her fingers wrapped in her hair, when she heard the sound of the field being deactivated. She didn't look up as she heard her captor moving past her cell. Hearing the corridor doors bang shut, she lowered her hands to her lap, then slowly looked over towards the drainage slot, her face blank, her eyes wet.

Hoshi could hear the raspy sound of Malcolm's breathing interspersed with a low, gentle hum, almost a song. Roughly wiping her tears away, Hoshi crept over to the wall, listening carefully to the sounds from his cell. "Malcolm?" she whispered roughly, clearing her throat. When she received no response, she spoke more loudly, "Malcolm!"

The humming stopped. She heard shuffling, then the sound of Malcolm singing, growing louder as he moved towards the wall.

...surely goodness and kindness shall follow me, follow me, follow me...

"Not a bad voice" Hoshi thought, catching one small part of his song as he approached the wall. As he got closer, Malcolm started coughing again. She heard him stop moving, struggling to catch his breath. "It's getting worse." The harsh coughing continued for a while before it settled, and he started moving again. Hoshi peered through the hole, catching a glimpse of Malcolm's feet, now bloodied. She drew her breath in sharply and closed her eyes for a moment. Opening them, Malcolm's feet were gone, and she saw a smear of blood on the floor where he had been standing. Then, suddenly, she saw Malcolm's smiling face.

"Hoshi!" Malcolm said, gleefully, slurring. "Having a good day?" He laughed, then coughed. "Sorry," he said in between gasps. "Chest hurts." He grinned at her. "Can't breathe."

Hoshi took in the fresh bruises on his face, and an open cut above one eye. He was pale, and his lips had a bluish tint. His pupils were fully dilated again, and he was visibly shaking. "Malcolm," Hoshi said, her voice trembling. "What did she do to you?" Then, softer, "What does she want?"

Malcolm looked closely at Hoshi. "Don't know..." his voice faded as he used the back of his hand to wipe blood away from his eye, up through his hair. "Doesn't matter..." he said, so softly that Hoshi had to strain to hear him. Malcolm then held his hand, smeared with blood and trembling, toward her. Hoshi reached as far as she could through the hole and softly ran the tips of her fingers through his. Hands intertwined, they lay quietly along the damp wall.


Hoshi, standing at the door of her cell, heard Malcolm laughing and muttering to himself, swearing loudly in Malaysian as he coughed. This was the sixth time their captor had come to Malcolm's cell and given him her "treatment", as Malcolm and Hoshi had begun to call it. He still insisted that it didn't hurt, although it was obvious to Hoshi that he was being tortured - it was the drug, which they figured was supposed to be making him complacent and willing to talk, helping him forget the pain after each session.

Despite Hoshi's questioning, Malcolm could remember very little of the actual sessions once they were done. Based on what she was able to piece together, his interrogator might have been interested in his knowledge of Enterprise's technology, but Malcolm's memories were so muddled that it was hard to be sure.

Hoshi was frightened. In addition to the injuries Malcolm received with each treatment, the drug was making Malcolm sicker with each use. His breathing was becoming increasingly labored. Hoshi wasn't sure if this was intentional on their captor's part, or just an unexpected side effect.

Hoshi could hear Malcolm moving, slowly, towards the opening in the wall. She heard him take a few shuffling steps, then stop, trying to breathe. Then he'd start again. She heard him chuckle, then cough. "He can barely breathe," Hoshi thought. "And what am I doing to help?" Hoshi grabbed the bars, tensing her arms. "What can I do to help?" Frustrated, she pushed herself away from the door and paced, twice, the length of her cell, meeting each wall with a loud slap as her palms hit, and pushing herself off for her return trip.

Hearing Malcolm cough once again, Hoshi stilled in the middle of the room. She rubbed her forehead with one hand, then ran a hand across her eyes. "Tired," she thought. Taking a deep breath, she walked over to the wall between their cells and sat down, her back against the damp stone. Staring up towards the ceiling, she pressed her fists to the floor. "Useless." She bent her knees up, and, crossing her arms over them, lay her head down on her arms and waited, tense, listening.

After several moments, Hoshi heard Malcolm on the other side of the wall. She crouched down, leveling her face with the drainage space. Malcolm's face appeared, smiling, bruised. He looked dazed, his eyes bleary and unfocused. Hoshi noticed a new cut above his lip and blood in his hair. Malcolm tried to say something to her, but instead started coughing. He struggled to control his breathing, taking shallow gulps of air in between coughs. Finally grimacing, he rolled away from her. Hoshi could see the back of his head, and she reached as far as she could through the hole, running her fingers through his hair. Malcolm stilled, and slept.


Hoshi started out of her doze, surprised by a loud noise. The door at the end of the corridor opened with a slam and she heard voices. Twisting onto her stomach and staring out the cell door, Hoshi saw a group of people she'd never seen before walk down the hall. One of them stopped outside her cell and, without looking at her, unlocked her door. Jumping up, Hoshi dashed out of her cell, running over to Malcolm's. Looking past the group gathered at his door, Hoshi could see Malcolm curled up on the floor, his back against the wall. Hoshi pushed her way through just as one of them got the cell door open. She ran into Malcolm's cell, rushing across the room towards him. Without a sound, she stopped as she reached him and bent down, placing one hand on his shoulder. He was hot to her touch, but he was breathing. She whispered, "Malcolm," trying not to startle him.

Malcolm started at her voice, scrambling up onto his hands and knees, swaying, his eyes squinting against the light. Hoshi could see his entire upper body move with his effort to draw breath. Then he fell back and sat, his arms draped forward across his knees, his back to the wall. His eyes dragged around the room, unfocused, bloodshot, his pupils dilated. Blood moved steadily, gently, down the back of one hand, dripping off the tip of a finger, settling in a pool on the floor.

"Malcolm," Hoshi repeated, quietly. "It's okay."

"Hoshi," Malcolm smiled as his eyes found hers. Unsteady, he reached out his hand to caress her face, leaving a streak of blood where he touched. "You look terrible," Malcolm said, bringing his other hand to his mouth as he started coughing.

"Puki, Malcolm-lah," Hoshi replied quietly, holding his hand gently against her face and grinning.


Hoshi couldn't sleep. It had been three days since they had returned to Enterprise. That first night she'd slept, exhausted, for over 12 hours, waking stiff, not feeling rested. Since that first dreamless sleep, every time she closed her eyes all she could see were Malcolm's stormy eyes, staring at her accusingly through the drainage hole. Trying to sleep, listening to the sounds of the ship, she felt like she could still hear him coughing. Tonight, instead of struggling, she paced the ship's corridors.

Hoshi walked past the doors of sick bay. Since her return to the ship and her initial checkup, she hadn't returned. Still not cleared for duty, she had refused visitors, instead spending most of her time sitting on her bed and staring off into space, or roaming the halls of the ship, trying to stop thinking "...of my cell," Hoshi thought. "Of my uselessness..." "Damn it," Hoshi said aloud, frustrated. Stopping in the hall and closing her eyes, she swore quietly, "I can see his eyes..."

Hoshi turned abruptly and walked back to sick bay. She raised her hand to trigger the door and stopped, realizing her hand was shaking. Taking a deep breath, steadying her hand, she opened the door and stepped inside.

Moving carefully inside the dim room, Hoshi stopped just outside the floor-to-ceiling sheeting that surrounded one of the beds. She moved one part of the sheeting aside, and poked her head through the enclosure. She felt the warm, damp air on her skin, and saw white mist as some of the trapped vapor rushed past her face. Despite the dimness and the humidity, she could see Malcolm, his upper body propped up on the inclined bed, vapors drifting out from the mask on his face. His eyes were closed, and he was breathing slowly, deeply. Thinking that he was sleeping, Hoshi started to let the sheeting drop from her hand, only to see Malcolm's eyes snap open, alarmed at the material's rustle. Seeing Hoshi, Malcolm blinked, then visibly relaxed, and used one hand to wave her forward.

Hoshi walked over to the bed. "How are you doing, Malcolm?" she said softly, noting his pallor, the dark circles under his eyes, and the remaining faint blue tinge to his lips beneath the mask. Malcolm replied by tilting his hand in one direction, then the other, and grimacing slightly. He reached his hand up to his mask, pulling it away from his face.

"You okay?" Malcolm gasped, quickly replacing the mask over his nose and mouth.

"Yeah, I'm fine," Hoshi replied sharply. "Don't talk - keep that mask on."

Malcolm appraised her, then reached up and pulled his mask away again. "You look like shite." He coughed. Taking a breath from the mask, he continued, "Sleeping?"

Hoshi looked away from Malcolm. "Sure," she lied, glancing back at him.

Malcolm pulled his mask completely off. "Bullshit," he said harshly. Stifling a cough, he gasped, "don' bollocks..." He bent forward, coughing, unable to catch his breath. He shook as he gulped for air. His mask tumbled off the bed and to the floor.

Hoshi bent down quickly, grabbing the mask, and placed it back over Malcolm's face with a trembling hand. He pushed her hand aside and stared at her harshly, struggling for breath. Then he leaned back, closing his eyes, trying to calm his breathing.

"I'm sorry, Malcolm." Hoshi backed towards the exit. "I shouldn't have..."

Malcolm's eyes snapped open, angry. Reaching up with a shaking hand, he pushed his mask aside. " can't..." he gasped, breathing heavily, his voice raw.

Hoshi heard movement behind her, and turned to see the curtain being pushed aside. Phlox entered, his trademark grin absent. Moving towards Malcolm's bed, he addressed Hoshi, rushed. "That's enough for now." He grasped Malcolm's mask and pulled it back over his face, then added a medication through a portal on the side of the device. Malcolm sighed, and Hoshi saw his eyelids flutter, then fall shut. His breathing gentled. Hoshi stood near the door for a moment, then turned and left.


Hoshi was standing, frozen, in front of the sickbay doors. Again. "Third time this week...I should just go in...or stop coming," she thought. She'd just completed her first shift since their return from Xxacia, but she hadn't been able to focus, instead thinking about Malcolm and what he'd been through. Of her inability to help him. "I don't belong out here," Hoshi thought, guiltily.

Staring at the doors, Hoshi jumped back when they suddenly opened and Phlox almost walked into her. Taking a step back, Phlox smiled at her. "Ah, Hoshi!" he said, brightly. Tilting his head to one side, he said, "Going to see Malcolm?"

"I don't know," Hoshi replied quietly, looking down at the floor.

"I think you should," Phlox stated, his tone softer. Seeing her hesitate, he said, "Go," and stood aside from the doors. "Try not to be too long."

Hoshi stepped past him, through the doors. Phlox slipped back in behind her, and, giving her shoulder a light, reassuring squeeze, turned to walk into his office. "...just in case" Hoshi grimaced.

Hoshi could see Malcolm on his bed, the sheeting that had been surrounding it gone. He was sitting up, facing away from her. Hoshi walked towards him, forcing a smile onto her face. Hearing her steps, Malcolm turned towards her. He did not smile.

Hoshi was relived to see that his mask was gone, although it had been replaced by tubing under his nose. His face had more color, and his breathing was better. "Malcolm," she said, with false cheer. "You look better. Back on duty soon?"

"Something I can do for you, Hoshi?" Malcolm asked coldly. His voice was still rough, and Hoshi could tell that speaking made his breathing more labored.

With less bravado, Hoshi continued, "I'm sorry I haven't been by, but...I just wanted to make sure you were okay."

"I'll be fine," Malcolm replied, bluntly.

"Good." Hoshi hesitated. "Well, I'll be going," she said awkwardly, turning to leave.

As Hoshi reached the door, Malcolm rasped, "Wait, Hoshi..." Hoshi paused, then turned back towards him.

"Can we begin again?" Malcolm stifled a cough.


"Because I...I'd like to apologise." Malcolm leaned his head to one side.

"For what?" Hoshi asked, confused.

Malcolm took a deep breath. "I can be a real prick," he said quietly, with an attempt at a smile. "As I'm sure you've noticed." Seeing Hoshi smile, he continued. "I don't mean to push you away. I'm..." Malcolm coughed again, then took a raspy breath. "I just don't want you to lie to me."

Hoshi felt Malcolm's gaze pierce her. She looked away from him, shifting uncomfortably, and her eyes filled with tears. Finally, she said softly, "I couldn't do anything."


Hoshi interrupted, harsh, her voice rising. "Malcolm, I thought you were going to die. There was nothing I could do...they wouldn't even talk to me." Hoshi looked at him, then turned away. "You were getting sicker and sicker, and I..." She stopped, mid-sentence, and rubbed her hand, roughly, across her eyes. Then she looked back at him, her eyes red.

Malcolm stared at her, stricken. Then he motioned for her to join him, and she sat, carefully, on the edge of the bed, her hand resting in the space between them. "Listen," Malcolm began. "I still can't remember most of..." He stopped, wheezing.

Waiting for him to recover, after several moments Hoshi said, "Malcolm, you don't have to..."

Malcolm waved for her to stop, and reached towards a mask that was hanging from a pole next to his bedside. Putting it on, he breathed carefully. She watched the mist curl from the sides of the mask as she waited. Other than the soft sound of the mist being pushed through the mask and Malcolm's harsh breathing, the room was silent.

Malcolm pulled off the mask. "No, I...what I do remember involves you," he said, gasping again. With one hand holding the mask up to his face, he moved his other hand over hers, squeezing briefly, then pulling away. Pushing the mask aside, he continued, "If you hadn't been there..." He coughed. "Damn...sorry." He replaced the mask.

Hoshi looked into Malcolm's eyes, not saying anything. Behind his mask, Malcolm smiled at her, tilting his head to one side and shrugging. Hoshi returned his smile.

Despite his mask, Malcolm coughed, rubbing his chest vacantly with one hand. "Still hurts," he murmured apologetically, his voice muffled by the mask.

Hoshi could see a faint blue tinge returning to his lips. Standing, she said, "I should go..."

Malcolm nodded, yawning. Hoshi walked towards the door.

Just as Hoshi was about to leave, she heard Malcolm call out, "Are you going to be okay?"

Hoshi turned back to him, considering. Then she grinned. "I'm cun-lah, you know?" She laughed gently at the shocked look on Malcolm's face.

"Ah, right," Malcolm said, hesitantly. "About that...if you could..." Malcolm stopped to cough, then continued, "not tell anyone..."

"I can't promise that," Hoshi said, lightly. "It's too good." She laughed at the worried look on Malcolm's face. "Ah, don't worry, Malcolm..." she chided.

Malcolm held her in his gaze. "Cibai," he whispered, grinning evilly, bringing the mask back up to his face.

"Anak haram," Hoshi laughed, the doors closing behind her.


Malaysian words used in text:
-lah - trailing sound Malaysians use in conversation. Used for emphasis.
anak haram - basard bodoh - dumb as
chao - go away, in "Hoshi's not here. She already chao"
chilaka - dam it, fuing hell cibai - btch cun - terrific, fantastic. puki - f you taik - sht

Japanese words used in text:
Dete ike! Kono shiri nuke me! - Get me out of here you fcking jerk!