ENT WIP: Finding Home 6/? R/S

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Philippe de la Matraque

Jul 25, 2020, 7:08:41 PM7/25/20
Title: Finding Home
Author: Philippe de la Matraque
Part: 6/?
Series: ENT
Rating: R (for discussion of violence and torture)
Pairing: R/S light
Archive: Yes to Trekiverse.org, otherwise, please ask.
Contact: pdelam...@gmail.com
Web: http://gabrielle.sytes.net/Trek/stories/findinghome1.html
Summary: Sequel to Alien Us. Malcolm Reed barely survived to see to be
reunited with Hoshi Sato. But things have taken a downturn and now he
needs a new heart and a way to heal.
Author's note: I deliberately use italics like this *in text** just
because it makes conversion to HTML so much easier.

Star Trek: Enterprise

Finding Home
by Philippe de la Matraque
Sequel to *Alien Us**

Chapter Six

It was late. The Two Towers was on. The battle was about to begin at
Helm's Deep. It was an exciting part but Malcolm was exhausted. He
wanted to sleep but he was afraid to. Helm's Deep was safer than
dreaming himself paralyzed and being cut open, or even just those three
fingers reaching for him.

Since their rescue, Hoshi and he had regularly dreamed together.
Guiding each other subconsciously if both were asleep, or consciously,
if only one was, to more pleasant dreams. Or at least being together
for the more unpleasant dreams. Now, here, he was too far from her. He
worried that she was having nightmares, too, but here was no sedative to
put a stop to them and rob her of the rest she needed.

That was the dilemma he was facing. If he slept, he'd dream, and those
dreams would be terrible and that would get his new heart overexcited.
Then he'd be unconscious for about an hour and start all over again.

At this point, he'd love one of the annoying recurring dreams when he
was in the past on *Enterprise** and someone would always tell him they
weren't there yet. But he'd caught up with the present. Would the
dreams just be *Enterprise** now? Before, he'd actually been on
*Enterprise** during those past events. So would he just be here on
Earth, in the hospital?

In his musings, he'd missed the battle. He switched off the screen. It
was no good. He'd have to sleep. Not sleeping would probably stress
that heart, too. Right now, he felt sort of hollowed out. He lowered
the head of the bed, but not all the way. It reminded him too much of
the beds back there. No, he wouldn't think of back there.
*Enterprise**. He'd think of *Enterprise**. Deck by deck if need be.

He closed his eyes and started with the Bridge, the Tactical console.
Every display, every light, every button, ever seam in his chair. He
went out from there.

By the time he'd reached the Situation Room, he slipped into sleep.
Fortunately for him, dreams didn't occur until later in the sleep cycle,
so he managed at least some rest before the images began to reach his
mind. And he was on *Enterprise**. Right there on the Bridge. No one
else was, though, which he found odd. He left the Bridge and went to
Hoshi's quarters. But she didn't answer her door. He tried the Galley,
Sickbay, the gym, but Hoshi wasn't there. Phlox wasn't there, the
Captain, Travis, the MACOs. No one was on the ship but him. He went
back to the Bridge to look at the sensor logs to try and find the crew.
But there was nothing on them but static. It was no use. So he went to
his quarters where at least he had plenty to read. But when he picked
up a book and opened it, the pages were blank. He laid back on the bed
and started to memorize the ceiling. Alone on *Enterprise** was
terribly uneventful.

It wasn't the only dream he had that night, but was the best one. The
sedative tipped him into unconsciousness a few times before Trip, and
breakfast arrived in the morning.

Dr. MacCormack stepped into Lt. Reed's room. He looked tired and
haggard, which wasn't surprising given his night. "Good morning,
Lieutenant," she offered as a greeting. "How do you feel?"

"Tired," he replied. "And hungry."

"Any pain?"

"Just a bit of an ache in chest," he answered. "Nothing new to me."

"I understand they kept you in an induced coma for a week after--"

"I only know I was eventually actually unconscious but I suppose it
could have been a week." His pulse increased and he rolled his eye.
"I've had nightmares for months," he said. "I can deal with them. But
I need sleep."

"I get it." MacCormack came closer to the bed. "It's that heart we
can't risk. May I take a look?"

Reed pulled back the blanket to reveal his bandaged chest. MacCormack
used her scanner to check the heart and the microsutures attaching it to
his body. Everything was holding well. There was no bleeding. No
signs of bruising. His blood pressure was slightly elevated but that
could be due to the post traumatic stress. And the lack of sleep. As
she put away the scanner, she covered him again with her other hand. She
mused that it seemed his sister's heart was determined to make this
work. As much as his sister was. Like she was still looking out for him.

"Can you flex all your fingers?" she asked him.

He demonstrated by opening and closing his hands. "They feel a little

"You may need some occupational therapy," MacCormack told him. "Even
though it was a relatively short time, the disuse and trauma to the
nerves caused some atrophy of the muscles. The nerves are working,
though. That had to happen first. Your ankles?"

"They're wrapped so tight, I can't move them much anyway," he said.

She uncovered his feet. Sorry, but this may feel a little
uncomfortable." She used a neural stimulator just below the
intermediate dorsal cutaneous nerve and peroneal artery of his right
foot. He grunted as his foot jerked. "Now the other." She got the
same reaction with the right. Then she covered his feet again. "You
wouldn't have even felt that before. It's still early yet, Lieutenant,
but you're doing well. I'm going to adjust the sensitivity of the
sedative trigger. Maybe that will get you a bit more sleep. How's
oatmeal sound for breakfast?

He shrugged.

"Not too exciting, huh?" She smiled. "What if I have them put chunks of
pineapple in it?"

He smiled. "I think I could live with that."

"Your Dr. Phlox did wonders on that sunburn of yours," she commented as
she looked over the skin of his face, his arms. "He really brought you
back from the brink."

"Apparently, I came very close to dying," he replied. "Before the
heart attack. Rather glad I didn't die."

MacCormack smiled again. "Me, too. I'll tell them to send your
breakfast up."

Trip arrived as Malcolm's breakfast did. He didn't look any better
rested. But his breakfast was definitely a step up from gelatin.
Oatmeal from the look of it. "Things are looking up on the food front, huh?"

"If oatmeal with dehydrated pineapple is looking up," Malcolm
responded. "Still, at least they added the pineapple."

Trip sat back on the loveseat and propped one leg over the other knee.
"Before you know it you'll be at eggs and bacon."

Malcolm took a long swig of milk. "Doc turned down the sedative this
morning. I might actually get some sleep tonight."

"Something else to look forward, too," Trip commented.

"Except that all my dreams are horrible," Malcolm added. "Still, at
least it's sleep. Anyone who thinks unconsciousness if restful is
highly mistaken."

Trip nodded. "More like skipping time, huh?"

Malcolm nodded and put his empty glass back on the tray. He grimaced
and sat back again. "Used to it," Malcolm answered. "Lost count how
many times my chest has been cracked open."

Trip sincerely hoped he'd soon be unused to it. It still horrified him
to think what that was like for Malcolm--and Hoshi--to wake up while
being cut open and unable to move at all. He didn't want to leave the
conversation there. "You given any more thought to talkin' to your

"He said he'd come by again today if I didn't object." Malcolm yawned.
"I didn't object."

"It'll be good for ya, I promise." Trip picked up a PADD. "Got a lot
of tech specs to go over before I head to R&D today. Mind if I read 'em

Malcolm lowered the head of the bed a bit. "I'd love to hear it."

Trip chuckled. He know Malcolm would take the opportunity to sleep.
He'd dozed off the day before. Trip had noticed the pulse monitor kept
up a steady beep. So he made a sure to grab a very lengthy, very
technical manual. If his voice kept Malcolm's dreams a little more
normal, he'd read until his voice broke.

Trevon approached room 36A. The door was open and Trevon could see the
patient asleep in his bed. His friend, likewise, appeared to be
sleeping. His head was tipped back on the back of the sofa. Trevon
knocked a bit harder on the door than he normally would.

The reaction was just want he wanted. The friend bolted upright.
Malcolm stirred.

"Oh, God," the friend checked the time. "I'm late."

And that woke Malcolm up for real. Trevon entered the room. "You must
be Commander Tucker." He offered a hand to the friend.

"Uh, yeah," Tucker said. He took the hand. "And you are?"

"Dr. Koy Trevon," Trevon offered, giving the hand a quick shake. "I
don't mean to keep you. I was hoping Lt. Reed and I might have a

"Oh!" Tucker reacted. "Uh, yeah." He turned to Malcolm, who looked
with interest at the tray beside the bed, which now held a sandwich, a
bowl of yellow fruit and a glass of water. He grimaced lightly as he
sat up.

"I'll see ya later, Malcolm." Tucker waved on his way out.

"Please," Trevon insisted, closing the door, "enjoy your lunch." He
sat down opposite Reed on the sofa. "How was your rest, Malcolm? It
seems Commander Tucker has a calming effect on you."

Reed took a moment to swallow. "If you mean his voice, while reading a
long technical manual, keeps the nightmares at bay, it rings true thus
far. He must have noticed me dozing off yesterday."

"He's a good friend," Trevon remarked. "You needed the rest. Dr.
MacCormack tells me the threshold for your sedative has been raised. She
said you'd rather have nightmares."

"I've lived with them for nearly a year," was Reed's answer. "I still
had to sleep there, too."

Trevon nodded. "I agree. Though, of course, it's better if you can
sleep without being traumatized over again while doing so. Still, I
think it's a good idea to wean you off that sedative, as the condition
of your new heart allows."

"Does that mean we are supposed to discuss those horrors today?"

"We needn't jump that far into things,' Thevon replied. "Let's start
somewhere a bit safer, so to speak. The crash."

Malcolm's left hand paused on its way to bring the glass to his mouth.

"Too taxing?" Trevon asked.

"No," Malcolm responded. "Just haven't thought that far back in a long
while. Except where Moody was involved."

"Moody?" Trevon recognized the word as emotion.

"He was a MACO." He finally took a drink. Trevon waited a moment. "He
saved our lives. We hit something on the way to the planet."

"Wait," Trevon stopped him. "Why were you going there?"

The hand paused again, this time on the way back to the tray. "A
message. We picked up a strange distress call from the surface." The
pulse monitor began to increase.

"This message upsets you," Trevon observed. "Why?"

"Because it was me," Reed whispered. He still hadn't set the glass
back down.

"Did you know that at the time?"

"No," his voice was stronger. "We didn't know. It was distorted. In
Denobulan. And Morse code."

Trevon walked over to him and took the glass to set it down. "What are
you feeling right now?"

Malcolm wasn't looking at him. His hand hadn't moved. He didn't reply

"Are you feeling guilt?"

"I," Malcolm began. He seemed out of breath. "They told me it wasn't
my fault."

"Whatever you feel is alright. You're allowed to feel it. If it is
guilt, it doesn't mean it was your fault, but you feel it was. Feelings
don't always tell the truth."

"It was me, my voice," Malcolm whispered. The beeping increased.

"You didn't know that at the time. Did they tell you after you were
rescued?" Trevon went back to the loveseat.

Malcolm nodded, barely. "It feels like my fault. But T'Pol said it was
a paradox."

Trevon started to put that together. "Let me guess. You were sent to
investigate the source of this message, that, in reality, you sent much
later into this story."

Reed nodded again. "So why do I still feel guilty?"

Trevon shrugged. "Perhaps it's only residual. Keep telling yourself
the truth, that no one blames you. You'll eventually believe it, as you
recover physically, and emotionally. Could it be that when
*Enterprise** discovered it was your voice, that they learned what had
really happened to the shuttlepod and were able then to start planning
your rescue? If that's the case, your message very likely saved your

"I hadn't thought of it like that," Reed replied. "So it's just that
simple: I tell just tell myself it's not my fault."

"Simple? No," Trevon stated. "There's a split between the cognitive
mind, and the more primitive mind in traumatic situations. I had a
patient once have that epiphany after a river-rafting accident. Her raft
was overthrown and she had a very traumatic time, being dashed on the
rocks. She escaped without injury, but one can't simply stop halfway
down a river. She had to keep going. She was put in another raft. She
said that she grabbed the handholds on that raft with white knuckles
every time it had even the slightest jiggle. At times, she could see
that the water was calm, and only knee-deep. But her hands would not
let go. She said, her mind was telling her it was safe, but her body
was saying, 'I'm going to die! I'm going to die!' That more primitive
part of the brain hijacked her body and the prefrontal cortex couldn't

"At least, not right away. For her, it took facing her fears the next
year. She didn't want to lose a hobby she enjoyed over it. She went
river-rafting again. She said the fear came back at first. She gripped
the handles at every bump. But as the day went on with no disasters,
she began to feel comfortable in the raft again. By the end of the
trip, she was fine."

"I don't think I want to try being vivisected again," Reed quipped.

Trevon held up a hand. "That was a lesser trauma, but the concept is
the same. Your cognitive mind can tell you that you're safe, that
you're healing, that there is nothing here to fear. But your body, your
primitive mind, is not going to just believe it. Not yet." He leaned
forward. "So you, Ensign Sato, and Moody were sent to investigate. What
happened to make you crash?"

"There was a layer of magnetic interference," Reed told him,
remembering. "We had just cleared that when we got another jolt, lost
power. We were already caught in the planet's gravity well. All we
could do was try to keep the nose up." A chronoton pulse.

"Obviously, you and Ensign Sato survived. Moody did not. Were you

Malcolm shrugged. "Concussion, broken arm. Hoshi had broken ribs. We
got a few supplies then I blew up the shuttlepod."

Trevon nodded toward the pulse monitor. "You don't appear traumatized
by the crash."

Malcolm adjusted a bit to see Trevon better. Trevon noticed and moved
to the other end of the loveseat so it was a little easier. Malcolm
relaxed again. "Why would I be? We weren't shot down. The shuttlepod
wasn't trying to kill us. We train for emergency situations like that."

"Of course," Trevon replied. "There are no bad actors in that
scenario. No one caused the crash. What did you do then? Were you

"Not right away," Malcolm answered. "We'd spotted some trees coming
in. We tried walking toward them. Got close."

"What stopped you? Did they catch you?"

"Hoshi's ribs. Punctured her lungs." Malcolm sighed. "I couldn't go
on without her. I buried our communicator and then we sat down and
waited for them to reach us."

"Were you frightened at all? Were they aggressive?"

Malcolm focused on that memory. That was when he first saw Sauron.
"Not particularly. They showed in force but they had one of the Wingeds
with them. He was very curious. They packed us up and took us to their
facility. We just had to hope they'd treat us well."

Trevon looked confused. "Did they? The notes I was given don't seem
to cover this earlier time. I supposed whoever sent them didn't find
this time to be traumatic. Were they?"

"Not particularly." That time was so different. "Boring mostly. They
treated our wounds, separated us. Poked at us a little. Blood samples
and the like. Seemed fascinated by our differences."

"Hoshi was with you?"

"Separate rooms." He smiled remember how they got in touch. "We tapped
on the walls. Songs first, then Morse code."

And there was that descant. So that had started before the base notes.
The bond began before the mistreatment and was only enhanced by the
eventual telepathy. "What is Morse code?" Trevon had never heard of it.

"Taps or pulses, long and short. Different combinations stand for
letters in our alphabet. Used for centuries."

"During that time apart, did you anticipate that things would get worse?"

Malcolm shook his head. "They gave us no reason to. We still hoped
*Enterprise** would come for us. We tried to stay positive."

The pulse monitor held steady. But Trevon knew that it would change as
soon as they left that first month behind. So he decided to focus on
the descant. "Can you tell me about Hoshi?"


And there was the wall Trevon had expected from Reed's psychological
evaluation. But this wasn't due to trauma, Trevon was sure. This was
protectiveness. "Because I have a suspicion that your relationship with
her was elemental in saving your sanity. I thought that that began
after you became telepathic. But I'm sensing this may have started
during this period of separation."

Malcolm regarded him with some suspicion. "She's our communications
officer. She's a linguist, a genius. She can hear things the rest of
can't even imagine. She's intelligent, competent, and kind. In her
free time, she likes to cook."

Trevon sighted but surrendered. "I do think she's important to your
story, but we needed get there today." He stood. "Perhaps now that
we've refreshed your memory of this less taxing time, you can have a
more restful night." He headed for the door. "Oh, but do tell me,
please, what gave you the idea to use this literary reference: Frodo and
Samwise Gamgee and the like?"

Malcolm smiled lightly. "The desert. Reminded us of Mordor. A
particularly inhospitable location in the *Lord of the Rings**. We
joked about who was Frodo and who was Sam. Then because we didn't think
it wise to be truthful to the natives, we let it stick."

"Yes," Trevon said, smiling broadly. "*The Lord of the Rings**. I've
begun to read it out of curiosity. It's quite a long story."

"They made films," Reed informed him. "Less time than it takes to
read, but not one hundred percent accurate to the books."

"I'll have to look them up. See you tomorrow, Malcolm." Trevon opened
the door and left the room. Tomorrow would be more difficult. He had a
feeling his notes started just after that time of boredom and tapping on
the walls.

Trip's visit was a bit later than the last few days. Malcolm had been
able to watch all four hours of the Two Towers. He shut off the screen
when Trip showed up.

"Oh, hey, you've already eaten," Trip said as he pointed to the tray of
empty dishes. "They kept me a bit longer today." He sighed and sat
down in the chair. "Looks like I can only stay a week more, maybe ten

"So soon?" The bloody pulse monitor kept giving away his feelings.
Can't put a brave face on anything when his heart kept betraying him.

"I'm sorry, Malcolm." Trip leaned forward so his elbows rested on his
knees. "You did such a good job stabilizing the particle density that
they don't have a whole lot of need for me."

"Don't think I'm ready to be alone yet," Malcolm admitted.

"I know. You give any thought to where you might go when they let you
out of here?"

Malcolm kept his breath even. It helped some. "Won't they contact my

Trip scooted closer. "Is that what you want?"

*Definitely not,** he thought. But this was Trip. Did he really have
to hide from Trip. "Wouldn't be my first choice. Maybe with Madeleine."

"You said you were never really close with your family. Can you tell
me why?"

He'd told Hoshi but he just wasn't ready to tell anyone else. "My
father was an Admiral. Very strict."

Trip sighed and leaned back. "Maybe strict isn't what you need right
now. I can look into other options if you like? I'll see if I can
reach Madeleine." He scooted closer again. "So what have you been
doing? You talk to that therapist again?"

Malcolm nodded. "Wasn't so bad. But he didn't ask about the hard
stuff, not yet."

"Like what?" Trip asked, shaking his head. "What about the last year
wasn't hard?"

"The crash," Malcolm told her. "The walk through the desert. The
month or so after that."

"Oh, really?" Trip leaned back again and crossed his legs. "Look, I
only saw the political stuff. Phlox got the medical stuff, and he only
gave us the highlights." He rolled his eyes. "Or the lowlights,

Malcolm sighed. He didn't want to rehash the whole thing. It was kind
of boring. But it was easy. "I destroyed the shuttlepod and everything
in it to keep it from contaminating their culture. Hoshi and I tried to
walk to a line of trees I'd seen coming in. As we walked, she remarked
that it felt like Mordor."

"Mordor?" Trip grinned. "So that's was the start of all the *Lord of
the Rings** references."

Malcolm smiled, too. "Worked well for code names. And other things.
Can you believe she thought I might not have read the books?"

"Well, it's not exactly Sun Su's *Art of War**," Trip commented.

"It was required reading in school," Malcolm informed him. "Besides, I
never said I didn't enjoy fiction now and then."

Trip's eyebrows went up. "You 'never said' a bunch of stuff." He
started counting on his fingers. "Like where you grew up, where you
went to school, what you did in your free time, if you had any pets,
your favorite movie..."

"Why?" Malcolm shot back. "Am I the subject of a trivia game? Do you
want to know about that first month or not?" Trip held up his hands in
surrender. Having successfully steered Trip into safer waters, he
continued. "At night, it got nippy so we had to keep moving. There was
a large predator that approached whenever we stopped. Fortunately, it
was rather shy and Hoshi has a good arm."

"You threw rocks at it?" Trip was grinning again.

"My arm was broken," Malcolm replied, nodding. "Her ribs were.
Eventually, that became a problem. She fell, the ribs punctured her
lung. We had to stop."

Trip stopped grinning and looked concerned. "None of those predators
around, I hope?"

Malcolm shook his head. "They only came around at night. This was
broad daylight. We'd seen them coming from a distance. A rather large
contingent of Raptors, the bigger ones, and one scientist."

"That had to be scary."

Malcolm shrugged. "We hoped for the best. And it seemed okay at first.
The scientist was fascinated and he recognized we were injured. They
put us in a box and took us back to their facility."

"Kennisatai Research Silo, in case you were wondering."

That had been his 'home' for a year. "I never got to see much of it,"
Malcolm said. "So they sedated us and repaired our wounds."

"They got it right?" Trip asked. "What the hell changed?"

"Damned if I know," Malcolm admitted. "But yes, that time they got it
right. I woke up in a room by myself. They came in now and then to
look me over. Eventually, Hoshi and I worked out we were in adjoining
rooms. We tapped on the wall to communicate."

Trip was grinning a lot today. "Romance start that early?"

"Not quite." Malcolm shook his head. "We kept to short messages.
Didn't want to give them any toehold in communicating with us."

"That had to have been hard on Hoshi."

Malcolm nodded. "She got quite angry. But they only ever tried to
speak to me."

Trip laughed. "I'm sure they never got anywhere with that. Why didn't
they try talkin' to her? Was it true the females were different there?"

"Very," Malcolm replied. "She told me about them, later on. She
befriended a juvenile. Called her Pippen and tried to test her
intelligence. She was like a small child."

"So they just figured," Trip said, shaking his head, "that all females
everywhere must be the same?"

Malcolm nodded. "Apparently. The Buftanisians never even tried."

"Bet Hoshi was happy to hear--" He touched his forehead. "--from you."

"We both were." Malcolm yawned.

"Ah, that reminds me." Trip began to fish into one of the pockets. "I
brought you something." He pulled out a small device about the size of
a scanner. "White noise generator. 'Stead of my voice droning on, you
choose a sound that works for you. Might have to play around with it a
bit to find a sound that works for you."

Malcolm turned the device and chose the sound of a locomotive to try it
out. It did drown out the damn pulse monitor's beeping and other
sounds, like the people moving outside the door. He switched it off.
"Just might work."

"Well, on that thought," Trip said, rising. "Mom's making pan fried
catfish for dinner. I *cannot** pass that up, but I'll be back first
thing in the morning. I promise."

"Go," Malcolm told him. "I'll be fine." Stiff upper lip and all.
Still, he hoped to get more sleep tonight thanks to the sedative being
changed. And maybe the white noise device would work.

"Let me know how that works tomorrow," Trip said as he left. "Sleep
well." And Malcolm was alone again. He turned on the white noise and
tried to sleep.

It was sometime in the night that Malcolm tripped the sedative. Dr.
Varnis entered with two nurses. She ran a scanner over the patient's
head to determine his level of consciousness. When she ascertained the
patient was fully sedated she gave the signal to the nurses. They
pulled back the blanket and sheet. Varnis aided one in disconnecting
some of the monitoring contacts while the other removed the catheter.
She left the pulse monitor and the IV. Dr. MacCormack wasn't ready to
have done with those.

All accomplished, the nurses tucked the sheet and blanket back around
the patient. Varnis took one more scan of the patient's heart. She
noted on his chart that he heart was working well under the stress. She
recommended a further reduction in the sensitivity of the sensor that
tripped the sedative. Then she and the nurses left the room.

Trip found Malcolm either asleep or unconscious. He really hoped it
was the former. He could hear the white noise device was still on. Just
in case, he made himself comfortable on the loveseat. He set the
container beside him. Dr. MacCormack had told him a small piece of
pecan pie wouldn't be a problem. So he pulled up the schematics of the
proposed antigravity skids. He wasn't sure EM force fields would allow
the skids to move smoothly over the edges of hatches. Maglifts would be
better, but that would only work on magnetized decking. And that much
magnetic charge would throw off several systems on a starship.

Suddenly, Malcolm jerked and woke up. "Bad dreams?" Trip asked.

Malcolm raised the head of the bed so he was sitting up. "Trip." He
sounded out of breath.

"Guess locomotive wasn't the right white noise," Trip commented. He
stood up and grabbed the container. He put in on the tray and slid it
over. "Mom sent you some pecan pie, and the doc said you could eat it."

Malcolm's one exposed eyebrow lifted. "Did she now?" He pulled the
tray closer and opened the container. "Smells good."

Trip produced a fork from his breast pocket. "No one makes pecan pie
like my mom."

Malcolm took the fork and cut a bite loose. Trip waited while he ate
it. "Well?" he asked.

"It *is** good," Malcolm said, cutting off another piece.

"The truth?"

Malcolm stopped before taking the next bite. "Why would you think I'm

"You ate Chilean Sea bass and said that was good. But you hate fish."
Trip sat back in the chair.

"I like it, Trip." Malcolm finally took that next bite. "It's not
pineapple but it's good. "You do realize I spent a year eating alien
produce and mystery meat."

Trip chuckled. "Well, you're welcome."

Malcolm shifted his weight and got a confused look.

"What's wrong?" Trip started to get up but Malcolm waved him off.

"It seems some things were removed last night. Just noticed I feel a
lot more comfortable."

Trip sat back. "Well, that's okay then. Must mean you're doing well."

"Ah, Commander Tucker." Trip turned to see Dr. MacCormack in the
doorway. "You're earlier than I thought."

"You said he could have the pie," Trip said in his defense.

"I assumed you were calling from home." She moved further into the
room. "The pie is fine. Though we shouldn't make a habit of dessert for
breakfast." She turned to Malcolm. "It's a big day, Lieutenant. You're
going to need to get out of that bed and put those ankles to work."

Trip backed up to give her access to Malcolm. She detached the pulse
monitor and the IV line. "The restroom is right through that door." She
pointed just past one end of the loveseat. "That's your goal today.
Get there. Do what you need to do and get back."

Malcolm eyed the loveseat. "Can I sit over there?"

"I suppose, but only when someone is in here with you. If anything
should go wrong...."

Trip grinned. Things were definitely looking up.

"I'll get you a walker in here," the doctor went on. "It's not
glamorous but those legs haven't been walking in quite a while. They're
bound to be a bit shaky. I'm sure Mr. Tucker can offer support while
he's here."

"Yes, ma'am," Trip replied.

"Finish your pie, Lieutenant," MacCormack said as she walked away.
"I'll send some milk to wash it down."

Malcolm wasted no time in finishing the pie. He pushed the tray away
and pulled back the covers, to swing his legs over the side. "They must
have dressed me when I was unconscious."

"Still happened?" Trip asked.

Malcolm shrugged. "I feel more rested than other mornings, but in this
case, I'm rather glad I was unconscious when certain things were removed."

Trip could guess. He hadn't needed the restroom before. "I would be,
too." He stood and held out an arm to help steady Malcolm as he slipped
off the bed. His ankles were still bandaged tightly. Malcolm took his
arm until he felt steady.

"You ready for this?" Trip asked him.

"Definitely. Whether or not my ankles are is still to be determined."

"I'll be right beside you," Trip offered. "Just in case."

The distance probably wasn't four meters, but it seemed like a gulf.
Malcolm remembered his thigh bone snapping, the cables pulling his ankles.

"You got this, Malcolm," Trip told him. "One step at a time."

Malcolm looked at the loveseat. He hadn't been out of a bed--except to
be executed or to have a date with Hoshi--for nearly a year. It was
dignity. To get to that restroom, to sit on that loveseat. Dignity
he'd been denied.

He test his left leg. The bone must have healed well--or the pain meds
were really good--because it only ached a little. He took a step. Then
another. His ankles protested but not loudly. It was more like his
feet were waking up, remembering they had a job to do.

It took thirteen steps to reach the restroom. Trip closed the door
behind him. The restroom itself looked so familiar. It was different
than the one in Sickbay. This one was definitely earthier, a little
less modern. It was pretty similar to the Academy. Malcolm found it
comforting. He relieved himself and washed his hands as well as he
could with the splints. There was also sanitizing gel, so he used that
just to be sure his hands and the splints were clean. Then he pressed
the door release.

Trip was waiting for him. "Ya good?"

Malcolm nodded. At least here in the hospital there were no hatches.
The floors were flat. He exited the restroom then turned to sit on the
loveseat. He found it strange to be so emotional about sitting on a
cushioned, forward-facing seat.

Trip sat opposite him in the chair. "You sure you're okay?"

Malcolm looked over at him. "Except for that wheelchair, I haven't sat
like this, on anything like this, since the shuttlepod."

An orderly entered just then with a glass of milk. Trip swung the tray
over to the loveseat. The orderly left the milk and Malcolm picked up
the glass. "Do you think we could pretend..." He looked to Trip.
"...just for a little while, that we're just sitting down for a chat
after a hard mission. Just relaxing."

Trip smiled. "Yeah, we can do that."

Trevon entered 36A surprised to find Reed's bed empty. But then he
found him propped on some pillows against the arm of the sofa. The
blanket from the bed was spread across his lower body. There were
voices and music on the screen on the wall to the right of the food. He
turned and saw very large elephants with scaffolding atop them full of
painted warriors. "I thought elephants were smaller than that."

"Elephants are," Malcolm replied. His voice sounded a bit strained.
"Those are oliphants. And they're not on Earth. They're in Middle-Earth."

"Ah!" Trevon realized what this was. "The Lord of the Rings films.
May I pause it?"

The lieutenant nodded. Trevon went to the bed and pulled the
controller from the pocket on the side. He looked at the screen again.
There was an impressive and rather nasty-looking army arrayed in front
of a tiered, conical, and very white city.

Reed attempted to change position to sit properly on the sofa. A quick
intake of breath told Trevon he was in pain. "How long have you been
away from bed?" he asked.

"Since breakfast."

Trevon helped him adjust his legs then went to the panel on the door to
call for pain medicine. It was apparent Dr. MacCormack had released him
from the IV drip and the pulse monitor. It was likely meant to be a
temporary reprieve. "Are you certain you don't want to return to the bed?"

"I'm certain." There was a hard set to his face.

Trevon held up a hand. He wouldn't force the issue. He sat down in
the chair to face him and waited for the nurse.

A young man entered with a hypospray and approached. "For pain," he
told Malcolm, then injected the medicine.

"*Ke shanita**," Malcolm said. His eye was unfocussed.

"I'm sorry?" the nurse asked.

Trevon stood and touched the nurse's arm. "I'll take it from here.
Please close the door on your way out."

The nurse left. The door closed. Trevon turned to his patient.
"Malcolm, what does *ke shanita** mean?"

"I remember that one," Malcolm said. "Hoshi told me."

Trevon tried again. "What does it mean?"

"For pain," he replied. "They gave us medicine for pain."

Trevon knew he'd have to tread lightly here. Malcolm was on the edge
of a flashback. If Trevon pushed too hard, he'd get lost in it. While
it might be enlightening and illustrative of his traumatic reactions, it
wouldn't necessarily help Malcolm heal. "Was that from your wounds
after the crash?"

He shook his head and blinked. "No, it was later."

Trevon only hoped he'd continue talking. "Hoshi was with you then?"

He nodded.

"Then it was after the first 'procedure.'" Trevon leaned forward
slightly. "Can you tell me about it?"

"What's there to tell?" he said, with that hard set to his face again.
"I was paralyzed but awake as they cut me open."

Trevon blew out a breath. "That's not quite how this works."

Malcolm looked away. "I don't know how it works."

"You need to tell me how you felt and how you feel now. You need to
let go of all that control and give yourself permission to not be okay
right now."

Malcolm didn't speak but he seemed to consider it. Trevon wondered
what had instilled that need for control. It often stemmed from
instability or trauma in childhood or adolescence. Was it tied to that
secret hurt?

Permission to not be okay. That was a foreign concept. Reed men
didn't let circumstances get the better of them. His father had been
very insistent about that in the years after his drowning. And then
there was Harris. So who was Trevon to say he could give himself that

"Were you not allowed to voice your feelings as a child?"

"Is that another educated guess?"

Trevon nodded. "But I sense you have more reticence to telling me
about that issue. So the events on Sharu should be easier. Malcolm, it
is no secret that you have nightmares, serious ones that increase your
pulse to a dangerous rate. You have flashbacks. You aren't always
going to be able to control those. You had a brief one when the nurse
gave you your pain meds." He smiled lightly. "You have post-traumatic
stress. You have to let your control go at times. It'll be taken from
you whether you like it or not."

Hoshi's word came back to him. 'Get better, Malcolm. Talk to someone.
You can't heal this alone. Not this time." He sighed and frowned.

Trevon sat back. "Let's start over. When were you aware that
circumstances had changed from being housed in adjoining rooms?"

Malcolm took a bracing breath. "They stopped feeding us."

"Did that frighten you?"

Malcolm frowned again. "Well, somewhat. They hadn't mistreated us to
that point. But they acted strange."

"What did you think they might be up to?"

"I thought it could be an experiment to see how long it took to starve
us, or to get us ready to transport elsewhere. Or to kill us." He took
a moment to exhale. "Or surgery."

"So that possibility did occur to you. Did you resist, when they came
for you."

Malcolm scoffed. "Fat lot of good that did. I only showed you a small
one. Bayzhoo was about a foot taller than me. The larger ones were
more than a meter taller. And there was one of each. They acted like
it was just another exam then they grabbed me."

"Was it immediate or were you legitimately unconscious for a time?"

Malcolm's hands clenched and unclenched, and he couldn't make them
stop. Trevon reached forward and covered one of them with one of his
hands. "You can't control it. Not yet. Let yourself feel what you feel."

"Before and after," Malcolm told him. He couldn't look at him. He was
breathing hard. "It was like I woke up but couldn't open my eyes. I
couldn't move. I couldn't scream. I couldn't gasp in pain."

Trevon released his grip. "I imagine that pain was incredibly intense."

Malcolm's chest hurt. His arm. His leg. He was tensing them both.

"Breathe," Trevon told him. "Deep breath in." Malcolm was breathing
too fast. He felt it. He took a deep breath. "Now let it out slowly.
You're safe. You're on Earth."

His breath was shaky when he blew it out.

"What did you feel besides pain? Did you know where they were cutting?"

"I felt them crack my ribs, reach in. My right leg, my right arm." He
stretched out his hand. His fingers shook. "I thought I'd die." He
took another breath. "I wanted to die."

"I can imagine," Trevon said. "Did you hear them?"

Malcolm nodded. "It was gibberish, but calm, dispassionate. And I
knew they didn't know. I tried."

"You were paralyzed. Anesthesia requires both paralysis and
unconsciousness. The balance was off." Trevon spoke softly, more like
Bayzhoo. Later. "Did you know how long it was?"

Malcolm shook his head. "Felt like forever." The memory slammed into
him. His hand when to his eye, the bandage there. He needn't to remove it.

"Malcolm, it may not be safe yet." Trevon's hand was on his arm. "Wait
here. I'll ask." The hands was gone.

His eye opened. He couldn't move it, couldn't blink. The light hurt.
Those three fingers reached for him, the cold metal pushed under his
lower eyelid. He was breathing too fast. He couldn't slow down. A
blade pierced his eye. He had to get the bandage off.

"Let me help you."

The bandage unwound from his head slowly. They were still cutting. He
could see his body, splayed open. Then he couldn't. It was all a blur.
There was pressure as they popped it back in. The last bandage pulled

The light hurt. He brought his hand up to block the light. "Don't
touch it. It's still healing."

Malcolm threw off the blank, tried to rise. "I need to see it."

Trevon helped him up, held him up as he walked to the end of the
loveseat and into the restroom. There was a mirror over the sink. He
forced his eye to stop squinting. It was open. It was there. It was
red where it should have been white. But he could see the reflection
clearly. He covered his other eye. Still clear. His breathing slowed.

He turned to leave. "I think you need the bed," Trevon told him. "That
took a lot from you."

He couldn't hold himself up anymore. He felt so tired. Trevon
half-carried him to the bed, helped him into it. He lowered the head of
it halfway down, then retrieved the blanket. He stayed by the bed. "It
was six hours, Malcolm. You survived it. Over and over, you survived
it. You may need to keep reminding yourself of that. You're a survivor."

Six hours. He looked up at the frozen screen. The Return of the King
was four hours twenty-three minutes. Six was longer. "I would have
died if they had let me," he breathed.

"I know. I would, too, if it had been me. I doubt *anyone** could
feel differently in that situation. Only someone who can't feel pain.
Even they would find it disturbing. But you got through it then and
you'll get through it now. When those memories drop on you, try to tell
yourself that it's over. Or tell yourself where you are. Find one
concrete moment, after your rescue, that can be your anchor on this side
of it."

Trevon put the controller in his hand. "Finish your film and then try
and get some rest. Tomorrow should be easier." As he went to the door,
he dimmed the lights.

Malcolm unpaused the video and tried to lose himself in the battle on
the Pellenor. Eventually nurses arrived. They reconnected the IV and
the monitor. Malcolm never moved his gaze from the screen. He didn't
want to see them and what they were doing. The pulse monitor beeped
quickly, but the Corsairs had arrived and Legolas was taking down an
oliphant all by himself. The beeping slowed in time, and it was steady
when the credits rolled. His eyes were heavy and he fell asleep.
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