Disclaimer: I don't own it, I make no money from it. Not written for profit, simply for pleasure.
Note: This story is modeled, in no small part, after "Distraction", written by Lacey McBain. "Distraction" was a Stargate: Atlantis story. With her permission, I've taken elements of her structure and story and adapted them for use in Enterprise as a way to try something different with my own writing. So anything about this story that seems similar to hers was done intentionally.
Trip stumbled through the darkness towards his door, no idea how long the knocking had been going on. His hand hit the door panel and he squinted against the sudden brightness, his room flooding with light from the hallway. "Yeah, yeah?" he said breathlessly, trying to make out the face of the person at his door through sleep-blurred eyes.
"What?" Trip muttered, moving aside to allow the person entry before he realised that, One: it was Malcolm and Two: as if it wasn't odd enough that Malcolm was showing up at his door in the middle of the night, then Three: it was even odder that Malcolm, "Mr. Military" himself, had just called him "Trip". Usually he spent half their conversation trying to get the man to stop addressing him as "Commander" or "Sir." So, whatever that meant, it couldn't be good.
The door shut and cut off the light from the corridor, so Trip triggered the room lights low. "What is it, Lieutenant?" he shot back over his shoulder. He made a feeble attempt to straighten up his bed before he gave up and plunked down on it, leaning back against the wall and running a tired hand across his face. He cast a surreptitious glance at the clock at his bedside and he had to stifle his groan - 03:00. He watched Malcolm hesitate before lifting several padds off the only chair in the room, placing them carefully on the floor before sitting, facing Trip.
It was Trip's first chance to get a really good look at him, and what he saw surprised him, and made him sit straighter. It was the middle of the night, so seeing Malcolm in, basically, sweats and a tee shirt didn't surprise him. It was the unkempt hair, the tired eyes, the tension in his posture, but perhaps most shocking of all, Malcolm's bare feet that clued him in that something was seriously, seriously wrong.
"What, Malcolm?" Trip said, using the man's first name deliberately.
Malcolm looked down and ran a quick hand through his hair, which only served to make it stand up further. He looked directly at Trip, his eyes gone grey in the dim light. "I think I'm going mad."
"Okay," Trip said, drawing out the word. When Malcolm didn't continue, he sighed. "Are you planning to tell me why you think that, or were you just going to show up in the middle of the night, declare that you're nuts, and then, what? Suggest a video?
Malcolm gave him a shaky smile. "From your collection? Not likely." He gave a slight shiver and wrapped his arms around himself.
"Hey, you want a - " Trip stood suddenly and stepped to his bureau, pulling out an old sweatshirt and some socks. He held them out towards Malcolm with a soft, "Here."
Malcolm nodded, looking slightly sheepish as he shrugged himself into the clothing. "Thanks."
Trip nodded, settling himself back onto the bed. "So, talk."
Putting on the final sock, Malcolm pulled his feet up onto the chair. Wrapping his arms around his legs, chin to his knees, he frowned. "Perhaps it's not -"
Trip could tell that Malcolm was regretting, hell, a lot of things: his choice of words, coming here, so he said, "Listen, I'm not going to go running off to Archer or Phlox or whoever. We can keep this confidential. Unless you're about to go off half-cocked and get yourself or someone else killed. Which you aren't, right?"
Malcolm bit out an exasperated, "Of course not."
Malcolm stared down at his clenched hands. "I'm hearing..." he let his voice trail away, then finally said with a shrug, "...things."
"Things," Trip repeated cautiously. Okay, he thought. I guess we can call that progress. "What sorts of things?"
Malcolm looked up at him. "I'm not sure, actually," he said, speaking slowly and carefully. "Voices, maybe."
Trip wasn't quite sure what to make of that, so he decided to ask some basic questions. "More than one?"
Malcolm nodded. "I think so. I can't quite make them out."
Malcolm simply shook his head, not quite meeting Trip's eyes.
"When did this start?"
"A few days ago. At first I only heard them when I was sleeping, so I did think it was part of my dreams. But now..." He rubbed a hand across his face, and Trip realised just how exhausted he really was. "Now they're constant."
Trip leaned forward slightly. "How long has it been since you've slept?"
Malcolm shook his head again. "That's not it."
"How long, Malcolm?"
Malcolm sighed. "A couple of days."
Trip raised an eyebrow. "It might be that."
"I'm no doctor or anything, but I've read where sometimes, if a person is sleep deprived, they can start hearing and seeing things, even when they're awake." Trip lifted a hand, tracing a pattern in the air. "Their dreams sort of merge into their awake time, if you know what I mean."
"I don't think so."
"They're what's keeping me up!" Malcolm spat in frustration. At Trip's look of surprise, he grimaced. "Sorry, sorry," he said, his voice now low. "They started before I stopped being able to sleep. And it doesn't feel like a dream."
Trip decided to try a different tack. "Are they speaking English, or -"
"I told you I don't know," Malcolm said, standing suddenly. "This was a bad idea. I shouldn't have -"
Trip stood and reached out, grasping Malcolm by the arm. His friend looked up at him, the fright and frustration clear in his eyes. "Can you hear them now?" Trip asked, his voice soft.
Malcolm hesitated, then finally nodded. "All the time." He sounded exhausted. "I hear them all the time."
Please let me know what you think so far!