A/N: Thank you all for the reviews. You're all very kind. Trip is years away from the technology of the VISOR that enabled Geordi LaForge to do his job. So, we'll find out if our Trip has healed enough inside to will himself back to normal!

Chapter 8-

He sighed, leaning against the sink in frustration rather than exhaustion. Upon waking up Trip had made his way, with success, to the bathroom and was able to take care of matters there without incident. Well, it hadn't been easy, but he did it. Now he felt around for the faucet and turned the water on, placing his hands underneath the stream. He bent down and began to wash his face.

His mind had been trying to sort out what his life was going to be like now. Without his sight, he couldn't remain on Enterprise and do his job. Who ever heard of a blind chief engineer? But he had gained so much from this. His father and he had finally talked, really talked to him. Jon had made that possible, Trip was sure of that.

Jon. They had been friends for almost nine years and had shared the best times, both on and off work, that Trip had ever had. He felt closer to Jon than his own brother, which had been a source of guilt in the past. But not anymore. He and Jon had been through more together than Trip and his brother had. It was all good now.

After drying his face and hands, Trip felt his way out into the living area. He stood there for a minute, debating with himself whether he should call anyone. Finally he made his way to the door, found the controls and pushed the button that opened his door.

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T'Pol stood across from Captain Archer's desk in his ready room. She studied his face closely, the stress apparent by the pronounced wrinkles in his forehead.

"Have Travis set a course to rendezvous with the Vulcan science ship. We should meet up with them in three days at warp two." The captain muttered. "I'll go tell Trip."

"Sir," T'Pol spoke up. "It is the logical course to take. The science ship is heading that way. They will be able to deliver Commander Tucker back to Earth and this mission can continue without interruption."

Archer looked up at the sub-commander. Deep down inside he knew she was trying, in her own way, to ease his guilt about not taking Trip home himself. But his emotions were so on the surface and exposed, he had trouble keeping silent.

"He's not a piece of cargo, T'Pol." Archer barked. "He's the chief engineer of this ship, an injured Starfleet officer and my best friend."

"I was not implying any less, sir." T'Pol defended herself. "He will be all right. He is quite adaptable, as you well know."

Archer let out a tired grunt. "And how. I'm sorry. I've been put through the ringer here and I'm a little tired."

"Understood." T'Pol nodded. "I will return to the bridge and inform Ensign Mayweather..."

"Engineering to Captain Archer." A female voice sputtered across the comm.

"Archer here."

"Sir," Lieutenant Hess' voice sounded excited. "I just thought you should know. Commander Tucker is here. Alone."

Archer jumped to his feet. "Doing what?"

"At the moment, he's feeling his way toward his station." She whispered something to someone near her. "What should we do, sir?"

"Nothing. I'll be right there." Archer rushed past T'Pol, who followed him out the door.

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"Lieutenant Reed," Archer called out as he exited his ready room and headed for the lift.

Malcolm Reed looked up and saw the captain motion for him to follow him. He immediately rose and hurried to catch up.

Inside the turbolift, Archer turned toward Reed.

"Trip's gone exploring. He's in engineering."

"What? Alone?" Reed asked.

"Yes." The captain shook his head. "He's going to be hard to keep down for the next few days."

"Few days, sir?" Malcolm asked.

"We're meeting up with a Vulcan science ship that's going to take him back to Earth." Archer said, not looking at the armory officer.

"Oh," Malcolm hung his head. "I see. Does he know?"

"He knows it's inevitable, but not the specifics." Archer told him. "I just thought it might be better if we were both there."

The lift came to a halt and both men exited, walking briskly toward engineering.

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Trip felt the cool metal of the handrail in his left hand. He swung himself around and his right hand now gripped the other handrail. He had to go up there one more time, just to feel the power of towering over the room even if he couldn't see it. Slowly, he put his right foot up on the first rung and brought his left foot up and over onto the rung above it. He took a deep breath and decided he should just go for it.

Archer and Reed entered and stopped short behind Lieutenant Hess and Crewman Morris. The two men followed the gaze of Hess and Morris and looked up to see Trip ascending the ladder to the second level.

"Oh, no." Archer breathed out. "What in the world is he doing?"

"He's done it a thousand times, Captain." Malcolm tried to ease the captain's nervousness as well as his own. "Maybe he'll be all right."

"Malcolm," Archer insisted. "He's done it before with sight. He's blind for God sake."

"Well, what do you want to do, sir?" Malcolm's nerves were showing. "Call out and startle the hell out of him?"

Trip knew he was almost to the top. He'd counted those rungs before and knew he had only three more to go. As his right foot was rising to meet the next rung, his left hand suddenly cramped up sending an excruciating pain through his hand. He lifted his left hand off the railing and instinctively let go with his right hand to grip his left wrist. That was it. He totally lost all sense of balance without his eyesight and started to leaned backwards. He pitched forward trying to right himself, but he couldn't. He felt himself freefall backwards and heard the gasps of the crew and the distinct voice of Captain Jonathan Archer calling out his name before all was silent.

It all seemed to happen in slow motion. Jon watched as Trip leaned back and fell all the way down and heard the clanking thud as his head hit the deck plating. Hess ran for the comm and called Phlox, while the captain and Lieutenant Reed rushed to Commander Tucker's side. Trip was lying flat on his back with his eyes closed and still as could be.

"Don't touch him!" Archer called out to Malcolm. He leaned down and put his cheek a few inches from Trip's nose. "He's breathing. What the hell was he trying to prove?"

"Perhaps he just wanted to see...I mean, be here in engineering again." Reed offered. "It's where he's most comfortable, sir. And hearing the engines might make up for what he can't see."

Phlox entered and Reed rose to let the doctor by Trip's side. He scanned the commander.

"No broken bones. He's got a concussion and will likely have a very nasty lump protruding from the back of his head." Phlox told them. "But I think he's all right. I need to get him to sickbay for a thorough check up, though."

Trip started to stir, moaning slightly. He opened his eyes in the direction of the doctor.

"Trip?" Archer said, leaning in. "Can you hear me?"

Trip swallowed hard and closed his eyes tightly. When he opened them again he was still fixed on the doctor.

"I hear ya, Cap'n." Trip answered.

"How's your head?" Phlox asked.

"Hurts like hell." Trip answered. "Doc? Did I ever tell ya that you're a damn good lookin' guy, for an alien?"

Phlox raised his brow as he looked into Tucker's face, in particular his eyes, and realized they were focused. Focused directly on him.

"Trip!" Archer exclaimed. "What're you saying?"

Trip turned his head and looked at Jon now. "Damn, you're not too shabby lookin' yourself, Cap'n."

As they all understood the implications, there was a round of applause and cheers from the engineering crew. Archer helped Trip up slowly and with Phlox supporting him on the other side they got Trip to his feet. He looked at Malcolm now and smiled.

"Good to see ya again, Mr. Reed." Trip said.

"Thank you, sir." Reed nodded, moving aside to let the group through.

"Mr. Reed," Archer called back to Malcolm. "Would you please tell Sub-commander T'Pol to retract that course change she gave Ensign Mayweather a few minutes ago? And tell her to resume our previous heading."

"Aye, sir." Reed said with a relieved sigh.

"Where were we goin'?" Trip asked as they moved along the corridor.

"No where important now," Archer told him. "So where did you think you were going? Huh? That was a dangerous stunt you pulled, Commander."

"I know and I'm sorry, sir." Trip apologized. "I just didn't like bein' so isolated."

"Well," Archer put on his best command face and voice. "If you ever pull something that stupid again, you'll be isolated until further notice. You got that?"

"Yes, sir." Trip replied, feeling rather foolish knowing he had scared Jon that badly. But as the captain continued to scold him for what he'd done, Trip felt lucky to be able to be in that position again. To not only have Jonathan Archer, his best friend's caring and concern. But that of Jonathan Archer, his captain and commanding officer. He was one lucky guy and there wasn't any doubt in his mind that he was loved and cherished by his dad now, thanks to this man that bawled him out relentlously all the way to sickbay.

THE END