Thanks so much to everyone who's commented.
Here's the final section. This is it, all. Enjoy!
Trip flailed madly against the fog, a bright light forcing him to turn away. Hands grasped his arms, holding him down.
"You're all right," a voice said from nearby. Jon. "Trip, you're all right. You're in sickbay."
Trip stilled, focused. The scene came clear, the fog rolling back, the lights resolving into one fixture overhead, then faces: Jon and Phlox. Sickbay and Enterprise. He was home.
Malcolm? If he was here, Malcolm was here. He needed to tell the captain.
"Jon." He grabbed the captain's arm. "That wasn't Malcolm," he said, voice cracked and desperate.
"I know," Jon said, brow wrinkled in a frown.
"That thing told me it was there until death; I had no choice –"
Jon exchanged a concerned look with Phlox. "It's all right, Trip," Jon said.
Trip ran right over him. "Then I thought it maybe was in me, and I couldn't bring it back to the ship." He knew he was rambling, but he couldn't manage to stop. He saw Phlox inject something into his IV line, and he almost immediately felt the warmth. Suddenly, he was so damn tired. "Sorry." He was, for everything.
Jon exchanged another look with Phlox, who gave him a nod.
Trip released his grip on Jon's arm. "Any sign of that thing?" Trip asked, voice coming out rough. He ran a hand across his eyes, then let his arm fall across them, blocking out the light.
"Your readings are normal. The alien is no longer in you, if it ever was." Phlox said.
"Whatever it was, it's gone," Jon added.
How could they be sure? He'd have to… Once he got out, he'd… His eyes shot open. "Malcolm?" Trip gasped.
This, Phlox answered. "He'll recover."
Trip let his arm slide to the bed in his relief, his eyes sliding closed again as he said, "I stabbed him."
"We got to him in time," Jon said. "Lowering the temperature like that probably saved your lives. Phlox tells me that hypothermia…"
Malcolm was here. He was alive, and they were safe. It had worked. His plan had worked. They were here, and alive… Trip missed the rest of what Jon said, letting the sound of Jon's voice, and the feel of the engines vibrating through the ship, lull him to sleep.
It took some time for Malcolm to feel that he was well and truly awake. At first, it seemed a series of unrelated scenes: Phlox was there sometimes, as was the Captain. Trip was there most often. But it was all too muddled for him to make sense of any of it. He knew he was in sickbay. He knew something had happened. But what, he couldn't quite grasp.
It wasn't until he came fully awake and lay there, staring up at the night-darkened ceiling of sickbay, that he remembered. And then he wished he hadn't.
Trip lowered himself into the chair near Malcolm's bed, hissing against the pulls in his side from where he'd been shot, and in his stomach where the doc had patched him up. He settled on the seat, one hand on the IV pole he'd dragged along with him, and stared at his friend lying motionless on the bed. Well, not quite motionless. He was breathing, a reassuring rise and fall to his chest that Trip couldn't help checking on every visit he'd made since they'd returned from the shuttle. Phlox had told him that Malcolm seemed better, more awake now, but at this moment, anyway, his friend was sleeping. Sleeping and dreaming – his eyes moving wildly against clenched lids, shadowed dark against pale skin, breath coming in gasps. Nightmares. Understandable.
He wondered what Malcolm remembered. He hoped it wasn't much.
Malcolm woke with a start, the violence of his dreams shocking him awake. He turned his head, catching sight of Trip sitting in the nearest chair, the privacy curtain closed behind him and blocking off the rest of sickbay. He exhaled, shutting his eyes against the sight. He was not ready for this. He could barely look at the man, never mind talk to him.
Malcolm let his eyes open slowly. Trip looked horrible – eyes sunken and shadowed, sitting hunched forward slightly, a large bandage clearly visible through his thin shirt.
Malcolm had been trying not to think of what had happened, of what he'd done. He'd been sleeping as much as possible, dozing the rest of the time, and trying not to think. Trying, and failing.
Finally, he asked, "Did I do that?" He indicated Trip's bandaged stomach with a look and a raised hand.
Trip gingerly touched the bandage under his shirt. "No," he said, and left it at that. "What do you remember?"
"Everything," Malcolm said quietly. He shut his eyes, the scenes playing out before him. "Everything," he whispered. "I shot you."
"That wasn't you," Trip said firmly.
"I was there. I shot you."
"I was there," Trip echoed. "I remember. You stunned me. And anyway, I stabbed you."
"No, you don't understand." Malcolm opened his eyes. "I stunned you, yes, but that second time…" He clearly remembered that the weapon had not been set on stun. That he had known that. That he hadn't cared.
"That wasn't you, Malcolm."
It had been him. He remembered shooting Trip, how Trip had crumpled to the ground in front of him, how he'd turned his back on his friend and left him there for dead. How he'd been glad for the silence, after Trip's incessant… He gasped, hands clenching at the blanket beneath them. He'd done that. He'd done all that. God help him.
"Those people in the shuttle bay," he said, remembering the fight he'd had on his way to the shuttle. He tried to elbow himself up to a seat, but fell back to the bed, hissing against the sudden, sharp pain.
"Malcolm, stay still –"
"How is Ensign Martinez?"
"Already back on duty. Everyone's fine."
"I thought I killed him. I… I wanted to. I…" Malcolm shut his eyes, remembering the feel, the pleasure. "I really wanted to." A chill went through his body, and he trembled as if he were freezing; as if he and Trip were back on Shuttlepod One, that time months back when they'd got trapped there, when they'd thought Enterprise had been destroyed. He'd thought his life was over, then. He wished –
"You didn't. Just like you could have killed me, and with your training, at close range, should have killed me, but didn't."
"I wanted to," Malcolm said hopelessly. He kept his eyes shut, so he couldn't see Trip's response to what he was about to say. "I liked it. It was…" He shook his head against the thought. "It was fun. It felt..." He stopped talking as his breathing hitched, but couldn't help the thought that came next: it had been the most fun he'd had in years. The feel of his body, blood pounding – adrenaline coursing through him, lighting him on fire. The feel of the fight, fists hitting flesh. He fisted the blanket, clenching it tight. God, even now…
As if reading his mind, Trip said, "That wasn't you. That thing had taken you over. Don't you remember?"
"I remember everything," Malcolm said, his voice barely above a whisper.
"And Phlox must have told you –?"
Malcolm spoke across him. "I remember it like it was. Like I… I actually was that… That was me. I was…" He stared up at the ceiling, feeling lost.
He heard Trip stand, and the soft pad of his feet as he shuffled to the bedside, the screech of the wheels of the IV pole reminding Malcolm of what he'd done to his friend; of what he'd wanted to do. Still, he didn't look at him.
"You could have killed me, and the others," Trip said, his voice low and even. "You didn't. Maybe you had more control than you thought."
Maybe he… maybe he did, but that didn't change the fact that he'd intended to kill Trip; that he'd wanted to kill Trip. That he'd wanted to kill Martinez, and the others. He'd attacked, and he hadn't cared who he'd hurt. He'd *wanted* to hurt, to cause pain. He'd enjoyed it. He could still feel… He'd do it again… Breath coming faster, he scrunched his eyes shut, shaking his head against the memory. That wasn't him. It hadn't been him. Wasn't him now. But it felt as if it was. "I liked it," he murmured, more to himself than to Trip. He met Trip's gaze, wanting someone else to understand, to know how dangerous he was… had been…
Trip was right there, standing by his bedside: close, too close. "That wasn't you."
"I remember how it felt," Malcolm said, desperation forcing the words out. "What I did to you, to them. How I enjoyed…" the fear, the blood; God, the high he'd felt. "You should go," he said. "It's not safe here. Did you station security…?"
Trip cast a worried glance to the curtain behind him, then said, "That's not necessary. That thing is long gone." He pressed the call button on Malcolm's bed.
"Trip, please," Malcolm said. He wasn't sure he could trust himself.
"Give it time," Trip said softly, his expression anguished. "Let Phlox help you. Give yourself some time to find yourself again."
"What if I don't?" Malcolm said anxiously.
"What if I –"
The curtain parted and Phlox came in.
"Mister Reed," Phlox said, perceptive eyes roving from his patient to the monitors. "I'm going to give you something to calm you."
"Will it make me sleep?"
"It may." Phlox injected something into his IV line, and after a moment, Malcolm felt it hit.
"Dreams?" he asked.
Phlox shook his head. "No."
"Good," Malcolm said.
Trip could actually see the change in is friend's aspect. Calmer, but also, somehow, flatter. He knew that, normally, Malcolm hated to take any sort of drug, never mind the type of thing he suspected Phlox had just dosed him with. But he also knew it was necessary, in the short term. From Malcolm's reaction to what Phlox had said, he suspected his friend knew that as well.
He wished he could remove those memories. He wasn't sure how anyone could live with them.
Phlox raised the head of Malcolm's bed, then departed with a soft, "Two more minutes, Commander."
"Hold up, Doc," Trip said. He glanced back to Malcolm, who was, it seemed purposefully, not meeting his eye. Then he shuffled through the curtain. "Doc…?"
Phlox held up a hand. In a low voice, he said, "What he's experiencing is…" He shook his head, expression showing his concern.
"Is there anything that you can do?"
Phlox nodded. "Medications can help. Talk therapy." He gave Trip a soft smile. "Talking to friends. With time…"
With time, Trip thought. He nodded his thanks, and returned to the curtain, one hand poised, raised to pull it aside. He hesitated. Then he tugged it open.
Malcolm's eyes met his. "How did you know it would work?" Malcolm asked.
It was such a non-sequitor, that Trip didn't know what Malcolm was asking until Malcolm draped his arm gingerly across his belly, placing a tentative hand on the wound at his side. One wound of three, Trip thought with a wince; he had his own memories to deal with.
"I didn't," Trip answered, returning to Malcolm's bedside. "I guessed, based on something you… that thing had said; that he'd be with you until the end of your life." Trip gave him a wan smile, and said the rest quietly. "I knew you wouldn't want to live that way."
Malcolm gave him a sharp nod. "And yourself?" he asked, with a pointed look to Trip's bandaged stomach.
"I knew it could get into humans. I was right there. I couldn't give it a chance to come back to Enterprise. I had to at least try."
"How do you know?" Malcolm asked, eyes already starting to close. Phlox must have given him the good stuff.
"Phlox and T'Pol checked. Nothing," Trip said. "Maybe it's out in space, maybe on that planet, or maybe it died when… when you did." Trip shook his head. He still didn't know what that thing had planned to do, if it had reached the planet. Malcolm likely knew. If he really remembered everything, he probably remembered that as well. That thing's plans, whatever they had been, were now as much a part of Malcolm as… Trip actually shook his head to ward off that thought. He finally said, firm enough to convince the both of them, "All I know is that it's not here."
"And we are," Malcolm murmured, sounding half asleep.
Trip grabbed his arm, hard; hard enough that Malcolm opened his eyes again. "And we are," Trip echoed firmly.
For now, that'd have to do.
Please review and let me know what you thought of this. Thank you!
I was inspired by some ideas in Rob Thurman's book, "Nightlife".