In Vacuo
by Nehal

"Dad was convinced that the Vulcans lived underground," Travis said with a suppressed smirk as he and Hoshi ate dinner. "And that the reason why they never let any humans go to Vulcan was because they were embarrassed."

"Your dad had quite the imagination." Hoshi countered whilst spearing a piece of asparagus onto her fork, upset that Lieutenant Reed had missed yet another opportunity to eat a meal created by her. In the past three weeks she had filled in for the chef for twenty meals and, despite her best efforts, he had managed to skip all of them--even the ones she sent directly to his quarters. "Do you think he doesn't like my cooking?" She asked quite suddenly, interrupting Travis midway through a speech she was not listening to.

"Who, my Dad?"

"No," Hoshi rolled her eyebrows. "Malcolm."

Raising an eyebrow, Travis looked at his plate. Unlike Chef, who preferred to stick to American cuisine, Hoshi liked to experiment; and although sometimes, like the current dish--Asparagus pasta in cream--she produced something that was rather nice, most of the time she did not. In fact, the ratio of delicious dishes to disgusting ones was so low that all of the command crew, including the Captain, now had Chef make back-up meals the day before she did so they could gorge themselves privately in their quarters, away from Hoshi's prying eyes.

"Maybe he's busy." Travis offered meekly, not wanting to offend her by telling the truth. "You know how Lieutenant Reed is- he's always working on something or another. Perhaps he doesn't have the time to eat."

Hoshi sighed, obviously disappointed. "Funny how he's always working on something when it's my turn to cook."

Travis smiled before wiggling his eyebrows. "You could always surprise him by turning up to his quarters with a plate and force him to eat at gunpoint- I'm sure he'd like that a lot. You know what they say about armoury officers..."

"And what exactly is that, Ensign?" An incredibly familiar voice asked tersely from behind. Shocked, and not a little frightened, Travis immediately spun to see Lieutenant Reed squinting down at him with a dangerous glint in his eyes that just dared the junior officer to continue his line of thought. "Sorry I'm late Hoshi, I had a few modifications to run in the armoury. Those Klingon schematics you translated last week have proved a God send- they have all kinds of creative uses for particle generators. I can't wait to try some of them out once we get the phase canons online."

"Glad I could be useful." Hoshi deadpanned with a scowl when she saw that Malcolm had only picked up a piece of fruit and a slice of pineapple cobbler for dinner. "Not hungry?"

"Not particularly no."

"I see." Actually, she did not. Not really. But an argument with a senior officer in the Mess was not something Hoshi felt up to engaging in at that particular moment. So, she let his comment slide and once Travis made his excuses decided to address the Lieutenant directly. "Why are you avoiding me?" She asked softly, already aware of the answer before he looked up--cerulean eyes flashing--his right hand clutching his fork with enough strength to bend the utensil almost to breaking point.

"I'm not avoiding you." Malcolm said quickly, too quickly for her liking, the barely suppressed fury in his gaze fading to a faint glimmer. "I have been busy."

"Is it-" Pausing a moment to ensure no one was eavesdropping Hoshi leaned forward slightly. "Is it about that night?"

A flash of something glittered briefly in his eyes and he was about to say something when the internal COM bleeped and Sub-commander T'Pol's passionless voice called both of them to the bridge. There would be no confessions tonight and although disappointed, Hoshi felt a slight surge of unexpected relief.


That night meant more to Malcolm than he would ever be able to verbalise. It was the night Hoshi had been infected with a supposedly rare disease by a visiting Vulcan monk. It was also the night he had been promoted to Lieutenant Commander after saving a fellow crewmember, a friend, from almost certain death by allowing himself to be...used.


Yes. He had been used and he had allowed it. There was no other way to describe the events of that night, no other words could be used to depict the acts that he had been forced to engage in. Certainly not rape. Men were not raped. They could not be. And as Phlox--he couldn't quite use his prefix because this was, despite what the Captain said, not a professional visit--droned on and on about the possible ramifications of that particular word, he could not help but laugh. Loudly.

"I'm sorry Lieutenant," The Denoublan said softly with a hint of steel in his voice. "I did not realise that I was saying something humorous."

"I wasn't raped." Malcolm said quietly, still smiling indulgently. "Human men can't be, you know. It's not possible."

"I see." The `doctor' replied, staring at Malcolm in a way that suggested he did not. "So when Ensign Sato stormed your quarters with a phase pistol and tackled you to the ground before ripping the uniform from your body and then forcibly tying you to your bed just before an enforced copulation that lasted--"Pulling out a pad from behind him, Phlox scrutinised it closely before continuing. "Exactly ten hours, it was done with your consent?"

Malcolm frowned. It was the same frown he had seen countless times on his mother whenever he had asked her, as a child, why she continued to live with a man who loved the Navy more than his own family.

"I had an erection."

Phlox sighed. "You also had severe bruising around your scrotum, as well as several burns to your chest and a particularly nasty penile fracture-"

"What's your point?" Malcolm asked not really caring.

"My point is, Lieutenant, that you are in denial." Another sigh. "And my recommendation is that if you cannot talk to me about this subject you should turn to someone else. The ideal candidate would be Ensign Sato, of course. She has yet to learn of the ramifications of her illness and although I have refrained from telling her exactly what happened at your request, if you do not begin to communicate..." Deliberately trailing off, Phlox once again met Malcolm's gaze.

"The truth would kill her." He said plainly, his eyes trailing down a bulkhead to focus on a tank of what looked like yellow seaweed. "Besides, even if you did it would all be for nothing. Hoshi did not rape me. Now, if we're done here may I please return to my duties?"

"Of course." Phlox smiled curtly, his tone as gracious as ever. "However, I must tell you that your denial is not helping Hoshi in any way. I believe the two of you were once friends, Lieutenant?" Pausing a moment for a confirmation, Phlox did not seem too concerned when he did not receive one. "True friends do not keep secrets of this magnitude from each other."

"If you are quite done, doctor." Smiling in a deliberate effort to remain calm, Malcolm nodded once before storming from the sickbay. He had had quite enough of the doctor's ramblings for one evening.


"I'm afraid the situation with Lieutenant Reed has become far worse than I could have imagined." Phlox muttered, almost to himself as he examined the unconscious officer. It had been exactly a month since their last counselling session and the doctor had thought the tactical officer began to show signs of improvement. Apparently, and this was not the first time, he was wrong.

"You're damn right it's worse!" Commander Tucker shouted from behind the Captain's restraining arm. "What kind of doctor are you, couldn't you tell he was starvin' himself!"

"Trip..." The Captain growled in a low voice that immediately forced the Commander back.

"No, he's quite right. I should have spotted Lieutenant Reed's condition sooner. Depression is quite common in cases such as his, I should have been more vigilant."

The Captain looked at him searchingly for a moment before resting his eyes upon the form of his fallen officer. Involuntarily, Phlox's eyes did the same and not for the first time that morning he wondered how he could have missed such a clear case of depression. The Lieutenant's face was gaunt, and his usually pale skin had somehow managed to grow paler- a clear case of Anorexia Nervosa; there were deep shadows under his eyes that suggested insomnia, as well as various welts and bruises that littered the almost papery skin of his arms. He had obviously been trying to fight his way out of his anguish and failing that had, according to the shallow scratches at his wrists, attempted to cut it out. Unable to keep looking at him, Phlox turned away only to find a pair of bright brown eyes gleaming pleadingly at him from the sickbay doors.

Ensign Sato, it seemed, wanted answers. And for the first time since that incident he did not want to be the one to give them to her.

"Do you think he'll pull through?" Captain Archer asked after what seemed like an eternity. "Not from this." He added quickly, gesturing at Lieutenant Reed's prostrate form. "But from..."Before he could finish, however, Commander Tucker indicated the sickbay entrance with a curt nod of the head forcing the Captain to face Hoshi. "Hoshi!"

"What's going on Jonathon?" She asked suddenly, not looking at anyone except the Captain. "And don't give me that bullshit about classified information. I obviously did something to Malcolm that night. What was it?"

Sighing, Phlox glanced between the Captain and the Communications officer; he had not seen them both look so determined in all of their time together aboard the ship. Neither would, to use a human expression, budge an inch. It would seem, that whether he liked it or not, Phlox would be the one to provide the Ensign with her answers.

"Ensign," He said after a brief, or perhaps it was a long, moment; there was no longer anyway of telling. Time seemed to stand still. "If you would kindly take a seat I will tell you everything."


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