A/N: Written for the EntFicathon on LJ. Rinkle requested the following: No slash, and... Story 1: Tucker, Reed friendship, angst, humour or hurt comfort / Story 2: Despite great odds, Trip saves the day. Angsty rather than humour.

I gave her both.

Some influences from the New York Times coverage of the Israel/Lebanon situation, N. Gaiman and R. Thurman in this piece - little touches here and there, nothing overt, just influences. And of course, all my own angst and crap with the stuff in London, the 9/11 anniversary coming up, and all that thrilling garbage. Thus, a story is born!

Warnings: Angst. Violence and its aftermath. Some swearing, but mild.

Beta: SueC, with thanks.


Malcolm tried to push himself up but his hand slipped and he crashed back down. Wincing, attention torn between the pain in his elbow and that in his head, he looked around, confused by what he saw. What in the world...?

The plaza around him was slick with blood and littered with bodies and chunks of fallen masonry. Twisted metal dangled from the graceful arches that had surrounded the large space. The building nearest him was charred, its windows blown out, glass strewn across the pavement.

There had been an explosion, of that he was certain. God...Trip! Where was...? Malcolm swung his head to the right, then groaned when the nausea and pain hit. He let himself sink back to the pavement, closing his eyes as he took a series of slow, measured breaths. Head injury. And something else.

His side felt heavy and cold. In fact, other than the sharp pain in his head, his whole body felt cold and numb.

He lay there, utterly still while he focused on the source of the feeling. It seemed to be centred mostly on his left side, near his stomach. He could feel the cold radiating out, flowing through his hip, his legs, and his arms. He ran a gentle hand along his side and felt warmth. Lifting his hand, he saw blood. His blood.

He almost smiled. The blood was so warm, but he was so bloody cold.

He felt a hand on his shoulder and found himself staring up into the red face of a concerned looking Polobian. It wasn't until the person started speaking, mouth moving in a silent dance, that Malcolm realised that the blast had taken out his hearing.


- Earlier -

Malcolm spun his empty glass on the slick surface of the table, the sunlight glinting off its edge as it twirled. He laughed at Trip's latest joke as his eyes wandered to one particularly stunning Polobian who swept by their café table. He watched her pass, admiring her scantily clad assets, and he heard Trip give out a low whistle.

He and Trip had spent the entire afternoon at this outdoor café, drinking, eating, and enjoying themselves. Malcolm had placed his chair so that he could just see the ocean through the arches closest to them - that is, when no one was blocking his view. Their café was directly in the middle of a wide, sweeping plaza ringed by ancient arches, and it seemed to him as if half the town had walked by while he'd been sitting there.

Malcolm ran a hand through his dark hair, brushing stray strands away from his damp forehead. It was a warm day and most people, Polobian and alien, were wearing little to nothing in terms of clothing, revealing skins in a variety of shades of red, blue, green and other colours. Both he and Trip were remarkably pale in comparison, although like the rest of the visitors they were dressed casually, Trip wearing one of his typically flamboyant shirts, Malcolm dressed somewhat more sedately in a simple black shirt and his favourite trousers, the ones past girlfriends had told him accentuated the positive. Still, based on the skimpy attire of the natives, he suspected that he was significantly over-dressed.

He was grateful that he and Trip had been able to get their shore leaves to coincide. Not only was Trip great company, if a bit boisterous, but it was nice to be able to relax with someone of a similar rank.

He'd always enjoyed the time he spent with Hoshi, Travis, and the other more junior members of Enterprise's crew, but at the same time, he felt this sort of activity - of the ogling the pretty natives and drinking sort - was off limits while with them, even on shore leave. There was a certain responsibility that came with his rank and position. In effect, even when he was off duty and security matters were well in hand, he often felt that he needed to behave "appropriately" when around their more junior staff members.

"Nice," Trip said under his breath, motioning with his glass towards one especially beautiful native. Malcolm watched her pass, appreciatively.

Actually, he wasn't sure that she was a she. The natives to this planet could tell each other's gender from a glance, but damned if he could. For sanity's sake, he'd pretty much settled on thinking of every Polobian as a "she".

The Polobian looked back over her shoulder and gave Malcolm a sly smile. Malcolm blushed, but he didn't look away. It didn't matter if that person were male or female; they were still enormously attractive. Keeping his eyes on her retreating form, he motioned for the waiter to refill his glass.

It was nice to have a few moments to himself, off the job with no one to protect and no responsibilities. He thought back to the gap year he'd had in Java before entering university, which he'd mostly spent going from beach to beach, moving when the spirit took him. He smiled, looking down at his glass. He'd learnt to surf on that trip. He'd also met Jamie. He cocked an eyebrow - learnt a lot there, too. He finished the drink and glanced up at Trip. "If we have time, I'd like to catch a few waves. Would you be interested?"

Trip looked at him in surprise. "Surfing?"

Malcolm leaned his elbows on the small table between them. "I think I saw a rental centre on the beach -"

Trip interrupted him with a hasty, "Aren't you British?"

Malcolm blinked in confusion, then frowned. "Yes?"

At Trip's answering, "Um," Malcolm sighed. Rolling his eyes in mock-frustration, he said, "We do have waves," he said, thinking fondly of the surfing he'd done in Cornwall. At Trip's look of embarrassed confusion, he decided to take pity on the man and smiled. "Although I learnt in Java."

"Java?" Trip asked. "Never been there." He took a slow sip from his drink, watching Malcolm over its rim. "I've never actually been surfing."

Malcolm raised his brows. "I thought, since you were from Florida..."

"Yeah, the Gulf side," Trip said expectantly.

When Trip didn't continue, Malcolm asked, "And?"

Trip's smiled, and he finished his drink before replying. "No waves." He put his glass down and drew a horizontal line with his hand. "Flat as a pancake."

"Well, there are waves here." Malcolm's smile turned wily. "Maybe I could teach you."

Trip pursed his lips and huffed a short laugh. "Yeah, I bet you'd like that. I can just see it: you surfing along all balance and grace, while I'm ass over elbows, body, brain and butt each going in different directions. No thank you."

Malcolm couldn't help but laugh. He could understand Trip's hesitation. Despite his fear of drowning, or perhaps even because of it, he'd found that he'd loved surfing, and he'd actually become quite good at it. Well, once he'd gone past the initial "get knocked off your board with every wave" stage. He could understand someone not wanting to go through that.

"Can you get me another one of these?" Trip asked, placing his cup on the table. "Be back in a sec." He rose and went into the restaurant proper, headed in the direction of the facilities.

Malcolm leaned back in his chair and swirled the liquid in his glass. He sniffed it, enjoying the warmth of the vapour before taking a slow sip. He felt the burn as it went down. Lovely. The drink was a bit of an intoxicant, but as promised, not too strong. It was leaving him feeling warm and mellow.

If Trip didn't want to try surfing, that was fine. Maybe they could find something else to do. He supposed it didn't really matter. Even just sitting here, enjoying the scenery, was fine by him.

He felt comfortable around Trip, not just due to the rank issue, but also because the man was brilliant company. With Trip, he could have the few pints and relax, maybe even get a bit pissed, without the weight of his rank and responsibility pressing down on him.

He wondered if being out of uniform had anything to do with his ability to let go and unwind. He loved his job, certainly, but there was often so much riding on his actions, and his uniform was a symbol of those responsibilities. He smiled, motioning the waiter over again, flirting with her as she took his drink order. It was nice to be out of uniform, in more ways than one.

Malcolm let the buzz of the other customers' conversations swirl around him as he looked up at the sky, its colour so blue that it had literally stopped him in his tracks when he'd stepped off the shuttle earlier. It was quite the Mediterranean sky.

Lowering his gaze, his eyes glanced over the screen hung suspended over the bar. What he saw caught his attention, and he frowned as images of some sort of conflict flashed up on the screen, a news crawl in the local language flowing below them. The information they'd been given had indicated that this was a peaceful planet, but there appeared to have been some sort of attack on the central city, only a few miles away from this resort.

The barman stopped his work and turned the sound up. The café fell silent, everyone's focus on the images playing before them.

Malcolm sat at attention when he saw bombs fall and smoke rise on the screen. That looked near, very near.

He heard the shattering sounds and felt the concussion. Then his world was gone in a flash of noise and brightness.