Warnings: Angst. Swears.
Spoilers: For "Breaking the Ice" and potentially for "Minefield"
Note: Set early in season one. Written for November, which is "Drown Malcolm" month!
His body shook and, unable to stop himself, he gasped, briny water filling his mouth and nose. His throat closed and he choked and coughed, but that just made him breathe the liquid in again, and losing his grip, his head hit something hard; the ceiling.
Water, lit from the lights above, blue, yellow, and grey, seen through panicked eyes that were darting everywhere, looking for escape. But there was nothing - he was trapped. And cold, he was so damn cold. And it hurt, his chest and his throat.
He should have told...
He struggled, arms thrashing against the walls, the hinge of the door cutting his hand as he moved.
...told Tucker that he was afraid of the bloody water.
Shocked upright and awake, heart pounding in his chest, Malcolm clenched sweat soaked sheets in tight fists as his gaze flew around the room, lighting on desk, on computer, on books. He was shaking; whether from the dream or cool air on damp skin, he wasn't certain.
He huffed out a breath, a word audible in the quiet of his quarters: "Again." Splaying his fingers, he let the covers drop into a pool on his lap, exposing his bare chest to the chill of the dim room. Okay. All right. He was fine. Or he would be. He exhaled slowly, forcing tight muscles to relax. Fine. He ran his palms over the sheet on his lap, anchoring himself with the sensation, smooth fabric against skin.
He'd been having this same dream for the last several weeks, ever since he and Travis Mayweather had come back from their mining trip to that comet. He'd almost suspect that their near-death on the comet had caused the dreams, but that the subject matter was all off. It made no sense for the two to be connected. On the comet, they'd almost died, trapped in a chasm as the temperature rose dangerously around them. In the dream - nightmare, really - he'd... there had been water. He could remember the water filling the small chamber and rising over his head. His panic, and then, then... Details already fading, he put fists to his eyes, trying to force the last of it away, or to keep it there. The dream seemed to actually be building in intensity and frequency, until now, it was coming almost every bloody night, vividly enough to disturb his sleep, but the details: when he'd try to recall the exact details later, they were lost to him. All he could remember was the water, and the fear.
He sent a glace to the clock on his nightstand. Too late to sleep, too early to work, and with the dream still just there under the surface, he did the only thing for it, and what he'd been doing for the past weeks. Pushing the sheets away in frustration, he stood and dressed hastily, and took off at a sprint for the gym.
He found the gym deserted and dark, and rested a moment with his back against the door before reaching out to trigger the lights. Despite the hour, the room had obviously recently been used, a towel tossed on the floor giving the room a lived-in feel.
Pushing away from the door, he went for the treadmills. He took the first one he came to and started running, falling into a pace built of long habit. He wished he could actually run outdoors, full out. He missed it. He'd started running while he'd been at university, and he'd run the streets of London, or sometimes to Regent's Park, letting the smells of the city - food stalls, vehicle exhaust and what have you - drive him into the relative peace of the park. He'd kept up the practice when he'd reached San Francisco, although there, he'd mainly kept to Golden Gate Park.
His footfalls echoed in the small room, gray, blank walls shooting the sound back toward him. Somehow doing a real run, to some distance, wasn't the same experience on a machine as it was on the ground. But on a small starship, distance running other than on a treadmill simply was not possible. Still, the running, if not in the most ideal circumstances, did help. His endurance was improving, as with more dreams came less sleep and thus, more running.
He focused on the pound of his feet on the surface below him, the hum of the engine of the machine, and below all that, the deep rumble of the engine of the ship. It took a while for his mind to quiet, but once it did, he lost himself in the pace and the movement. As perspiration wet his hair, streaked his face, and made his shirt stick to his back, he ran, leaving the dream far behind him.
When he'd done eight miles, he sprinted out of the gym and back to his quarters, and directly into the bathroom. He stripped hurriedly, tossing his sweaty clothing to the corner, and stepped into the shower, his body still electric from the run. Only then did he go still, water thrumming against bare skin. He could still feel an undercurrent of anxiety that was left over from the dream, but it was better now, the feelings already losing immediacy with the blessing of distance. He leaned into the spray, hot water flowing over his face and down, plastering his hair flat. He breathed in, then out slowly, and let his eyes fall shut. He was tired, both physically and mentally. Tired from lack of sleep, from his run, but more than that, tired of dreams that would not let him rest.
He sat down on the cold floor, water pouring over him. He lowered his head so it wouldn't get in his face, and let it flow.
Next thing he knew, Commander Trip Tucker's voice was ringing out over the comm. "Malcolm, you there?"
Dripping, weary, he forced himself to standing and, shutting off the shower, strode to the comm. on the wall, leaving a trail of water on the floor of his room. "Yes?" he answered, voice coming out rough. He shook a bit in the chill air, and wrapped his arms across his bare chest.
"You coming?" Tucker replied expectantly.
Malcolm reached a hand to the comm. button. "Sorry?" he said.
Tucker dropped his voice. "You're late for your shift."
Malcolm blinked, fully awake now. "Shite," he said softly. Then, louder, "There in a minute."
Malcolm strode onto the bridge, figuring that if one must be late, one should at least arrive with a bit of aplomb. Although he was sure that the state of his hair, if nothing else, was telling the full story; still wet, it was probably sticking straight up for lack of gel. He'd just had time to run a hand through it after he'd dried himself and tossed on his uniform.
He greeted Ensign Hoshi Sato as he passed, not quite meeting her eye as he did so, and slid behind his station, nodding his thanks to the crewman he was replacing. In the end, he wasn't very late - fifteen minutes at most, but this was his first time late for shift, and he did not like this feeling. Not at all.
Busying himself with the report the crewman had left him, he didn't notice Tucker behind him until the man leaned down and, sotto voce, said, "Glad it was my turn for bridge duty."
Malcolm started in shock and, in the haste of his reaction, knocked one of the knobs on his console awry. He righted it with a quick hand, but not before the thing bleeped and called attention to itself.
Tucker, obviously surprised at Malcolm's reaction, frowned and leaned in closer. "You okay?"
"Yes," Malcolm said, feeling the heat rising to his cheeks. "Sorry." He winced. "Flustered."
"Understandable," Tucker replied, an amused glint sparking in his eye.
As Tucker moved off, Malcolm turned his attention back to his duties. The commander might enjoy winding him up, but he actually was glad that it was Tucker on duty today. It was not quite the same level of humiliation as if Archer or T'Pol had been on deck. That would be all he'd need; just four months into the bloody mission and...
Malcolm came back to the present to find Sato staring at him, a bemused expression on her face. Or, rather, he'd obviously been staring at her, so lost in his own thoughts that he'd not realised it, and she'd caught him out. She raised a delicate eyebrow and turned away.
He shook his head, hoping the motion would help him regain some focus. He was tired, but he'd been tired before. He simply needed to get through this shift. Maybe get some sleep. Or not, if the nightmares interrupted again. But at least get some rest, or some caffeine or something of that sort. Something to help keep him focused. Then he could stop thinking about the water rising above his head, trembling fingers reaching toward the ceiling to anchor...
...himself there as the water rose, and God, it had been cold. Water, lit from the lights in the ceiling above, blue, yellow, and grey. Cold, he was so damn cold. It hurt his chest and his throat -
Malcolm blinked rapidly. The eyes of everyone on the bridge were on him: Sato, and Mayweather, and, and... Heart racing, he saw Tucker standing several feet in front of him, and realised that the man must have said something, and he must have missed it, and - wait - where the hell was he? He wasn't at his console. He was, he... Back pressed to the wall behind him, he was standing clear across the bridge, and he'd no idea - no bloody idea at all how he'd got there.
Tucker was staring at him, fright half-buried beneath a veneer of calm. "Malcolm?"
"What's going on?" he asked in reply. His throat hurt as if he'd been shouting.
Tucker visibly sagged, and he took a slow step forward. "Malcolm, you're relieved," he said, concern and command warring in his tone. "Hoshi, if you could..." he tapped his ear and she nodded, worried eyes turning away as she made to call in what Malcolm assumed was his replacement. When he realised that she was actually calling Doctor Phlox, his sense of panic rose. Despite himself, he took a step away from Tucker, hoping for... what? That he could escape? From what? To where?
Tucker raised his hands, both palms open, but didn't approach. "Malcolm, it'll be all right."
"What will?" he asked. His heart was hammering in his chest, and he pressed splayed fingers to the surface behind him. "I don't know what's going on."
"You don't..." Tucker let his voice trail away, and he exhaled audibly. Quieter, he added, "We kind of lost you there for a minute."
"Oh," was all he could think to say in reply. He could already feel the adrenaline beginning to flow from him, the alarm dissipating. He ran a hand across his face and let his gaze flit across the bridge, feeling completely exposed. He must have fallen asleep. And dreamt. And acted out. Shouted. His eyes met Sato's, then those of the other crewmen. They must think he'd gone mad, or worse. And perhaps he had.
Phlox entered the bridge, followed by two medics. They stopped just inside the door, and the doctor cast him an appraising look before approaching slowly, leaving his assistants where they stood.
"Lieutenant," the doctor said, his customary grin absent.
"I don't know what's wrong," Malcolm replied without preamble. "Or I do, but -" He tensed, digging his nails into his palms.
Phlox exchanged glances with Tucker, and Malcolm stopped himself from saying more. Oh, this wasn't good at all. He could just imagine the battery of tests he was about to be subject to. And they'd pull him off duty. All because of some nightmare that he couldn't seem to control.
"We'll just look you over in sickbay," Phlox said, his voice calm and even. "Can you walk?"
"Yes, I can walk," Malcolm spat back, immediately regretting his tone. Eyes up, back straight, he strode toward the lift, trailing medics as he entered. He could feel the eyes of his crewmates on his back, but turned toward them and stood at parade rest, keeping his own gaze focused over their heads as the doors closed. He didn't want to see what was in their eyes.
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