Hi! I know it's been a while since I've posted a story. So I'm making up for it with one that's relatively long - well, long for me. Enjoy!

Warnings: Swearing. Violence. Angst.

The following warning is kind of a spoiler, so read it at your own peril: in one part, this story may seem like a deathfic. I know people prefer to be warned about deathfics. This is *not* a deathfic.


- Now -

It wasn't until he felt the knife plunge into his back that he realized how bloody foolish he'd been.

Malcolm turned toward his attacker, and felt it again, in his ribs. Sharp pain gone dull; hot to cold in an instant. He looked from the knife, to the hand holding it, and up into the face of the man who'd struck him. Trip. He wrapped his own hand around where Trip's was clenched on the hilt of the knife, thinking he might push it away, but somehow, he couldn't quite manage.

"I didn't think you had it in you," he said.

Trip looked him in the eyes. "That's because you don't know me at all." And at that, Trip wrenched the knife, turning it as he pulled it out.

Malcolm fell from his seat, lying crumpled on the floor by the console. He stared at Trip's feet. He should fight back. He should get up, and grab that knife, and… He should…

Trip squatted beside him and, with a shaking hand, pushed Malcolm's hair back from his forehead.

Malcolm's eyes slid closed. "No," he managed to say.

"Sorry, kid," Trip said softly, from somewhere quite close.

Malcolm knew what was coming. When he felt the sharp thrust of pain in his side, he let it come.


- Then -

Malcolm scanned the others on the train. Even well after what would logically be the rush hour, there were still enough passengers to fill every seat, forcing him to sit directly beside Trip, their thighs nearly touching on the narrow bench.

There was a steady thrum as the train sped along the track, almost but not quite like the trains back at home, just different enough to be alien. Malcolm could hear Trip going on about their visit, voice carrying over those of the other passengers, a wash of sound that lulled him. Trains had always made him drowsy, and he'd been trying hard to stay alert. Still, it had been a losing battle; after the first hour, he could feel himself slipping. By the second, he knew he was in serious trouble.

The train jerked, starting him to awareness, and his eyes caught those of the person across the aisle from him. She was staring at him, blue eyes piercing, but he knew it was not because he was obviously alien – they could pass for locals here. He'd probably said something in his sleep.

He could not sleep, he thought, eyes drifting nearly shut again. It was his duty to remain awake and on guard.

He felt a nudge to his arm, and managed to pry his eyes fully open to reveal Trip, seeming perfectly alert, beside him.

"I'm sorry," he murmured, feeling as if he was still half dreaming.

"It's all right," Trip said, chuckling. "I'll keep watch, for what it's worth," he added, taking in the peaceful citizens around them, half of whom appeared as sleepy as Malcolm himself likely did.

"No," Malcolm said firmly, straightening in his seat.

It was a peaceful planet, and low in crime. Archer had only included security on the mission because it was procedure, not due to any perceived need on the captain's part. Despite that, was Malcolm's duty, his responsibility, to remain awake and alert, on guard against any possible…

He didn't even realise he'd nearly drifted off until he heard Trip's quiet, "Go to sleep, Malcolm."

He struggled to open his eyes. This was unlike him. In training, he'd remained awake for stretches as long as thirty six hours; there was no way he should be so unable to overcome this now. Something must be wrong. If only he could… if… He'd been tired ever since their… Well, more than a swim, less than a full out water ritual. Not his idea of fun, lying in a few inches of heavily salted water for an hour. At least it had been warm.

He knew Trip had been surprised he'd gone through with it, but really, it had only been a few inches of water, and it was one of the – gratefully – very few ceremonies they'd been asked to participate in since their arrival several days before. After getting past the initial, brief panic at the floating feeling, he'd been fine – or he had been once he realised that, if he reached down with his hands, he could touch the bottom of the pool quite easily. He'd felt the fear, but been able to manage it. Occasionally, over the course of the ceremony, he would let his fingers brush the smooth stone surface, to anchor himself in the sensation. But he'd been otherwise all right. Sleepy, in fact, after a bit. Then, now.

He felt a nudge. "You're talking," Trip said, voice low.

"Am I?" Malcolm asked, eyes still shut.

"Yes. Not a big deal," Trip said.

Trip said something else, but Malcolm missed it. He was floating – it was an odd sensation, being so buoyant in such a shallow pool. The water was mere inches deep – he could touch the bottom with the smallest amount of effort – but…

…He lay down, the water quickly soaking through the blue trousers and shirt he'd been given for the ceremony. He'd looked around the room before closing his eyes and lying back, and found that each of his crewmates had been dressed as he was, each one ready, prepared, each one in blue, blue to match the water, his eyes, the sky, the sea, Trip's eyes were blue, Jon's green, Hoshi's brown, very dark, unlike his, stormy, grey, blue like the water, the sky, the sea, Trip's eyes…

He felt a tug to his arm. "Malcolm!" He looked up, past the point of dreaming, and saw Trip's concerned eyes – blue, like the sea, and –

"Malcolm, you with me?"

"What?" he asked. He was… he was lying on the floor of the train; there were people gathered around him, and Trip there, hand firmly clasped around his arm. He tensed, heart leaping suddenly in his chest. "What just happened?"

"You had some kind of seizure."

"I what?" Malcolm asked, shock making his voice sharp. He'd never had a seizure before. He felt fine. Tired, but fine. Anxious. Sore. But fine. He made to push himself up, and Trip helped him sit on the floor with his back against one of the benches. The woman who'd been staring at him earlier – the one with the blue eyes – said something to the onlookers and shooed them away. Malcolm cast her a grateful look.

"I feel fine," Malcolm said as he turned to Trip, echoing his thoughts. And he did. He had no idea of what had just happened, but he felt all right. Tired, but otherwise all right. "Can you help me up?" he asked, keeping his voice low.

Trip nodded and stood, one hand to Malcolm's elbow as he guided him into a chair. "They've called their medical services. Should be here in a minute."

And at that Malcolm realized the train had stopped moving. "Is that really necessary?" he asked. All this fuss, for what? Whatever had happened, he was okay now.

"Are you kidding?" Trip replied, seeming incredulous. "You don't seriously think…"

Think? He wasn't sure what he thought. All he knew, as he fell, was the water surrounding him, and the sea, blue like the water, the sky, the sea, Trip's eyes…


Trip strode through sickbay's doors, going directly to Malcolm's bedside without so much as a by-your-leave to the people he passed. Eyes only for the unconscious form on the biobed, he asked, "You gonna tell me what the hell happened down there?" only realizing once his words were out how combative they likely were.

Phlox, ever the professional, paid them no mind. "His seizures seem to have been caused by a metabolic imbalance," the doctor said from the other side of the bed. His gaze remained on the device he was passing over Malcolm's body, and he murmured something to the nurse assisting. She made a quick adjustment to the medications flowing into Malcolm's arm, and Phlox looked to Trip with a tight smile. "The medications have stopped the seizures. We're still looking for the underlying cause."

Trip looked down at his friend. Malcolm was pale, dark circles framing eyes closed and dreaming. He placed his hands, palms flat, on the mattress; close enough to Malcolm's arm as to feel his body heat, but not close enough to touch. "He'll be all right?" he finally asked.

"We'll know more soon," Phlox said.

Trip let out a breath. By basically saying nothing, the doctor had just said a hell of a lot.

Maybe if he'd gotten Malcolm here sooner; but it had taken several minutes for the planet's medics to arrive, then some time before they could get back to the hotel, and from the hotel, to Enterprise. By that time, Malcolm had seized four times, and was no longer alert between attacks. If only their communicators had worked, but the stupid atmosphere was too full of crap to allow them to function over long distances.

"You did everything you could," Phlox said.

Still looking only at Malcolm, Trip nodded absently. He knew that. He had done all he could. Problem was, he wasn't sure that was enough.


Malcolm finally broke the surface, coming up into the all-too-familiar scents of antiseptics, cleaners, and underlying all that, animal bedding. He could feel the heavy heat of an IV snaking into his arm, hear the soft sounds of the monitors overhead. Finally waking fully, he opened his eyes to the dim lights of night in sickbay.

He knew where he was, but why? Turning his head to the side, he searched the room for some indication of what had happened. It all looked as normal – medical supplies neatly piled on the nearby counter, small stack of scrubs inside a windowed cabinet. The only odd thing, now he thought of it, was that there was no staff. Normally, when a patient woke in sickbay, the monitors let the staff know, and someone would come and check. This time, nothing.

Slowly, he sat up, careful of the line in his arm, and gave himself the once-over. He felt all right. A bit tired, maybe a bit sore, but fine. Sliding off the bed, he grasped the pole from which his IV was hanging and took a slow, measured step. Turning, he looked across the bed toward the far door. Only then did he notice that his body was still on the bed.

He stared down at himself in numb shock.

That couldn't be good.


Please review and let me know what you think of this so far. Thanks!