Chapter Eight

Good-bye and good night

Sub-commander T'Pol stopped in her tracks when she walked into her quarters, having just returned from the final scanner calibration test aboard the Zedeev. There were framed blueprints and engine schematics on her walls, not to mention engineering-related knickknacks and a family portrait or two on her desk. Her mediation candles had been stack in a pyramid shaped formation on the desk's corner. A couple of boxes were shoved beneath her bed and sticking out slightly. The doors to her small metallic wardrobe were swinging open. Half the clothes hanging therein were no longer hers. A mish-mash of civilian, human clothes and Star Fleet issue items occupied one half. She blinked. Commander Tucker had obviously moved in during her absence. Despite his protests concerning the time required to perform the task, it had been done in less than four hours and seventeen minutes. And he was nowhere to be seen.

Looking at her closet for a second time, Sub-commander T'Pol stated to the empty room, "I cannot live like this." And immediately exited her quarters. She had to find Trip. This had to be fixed.

Commander Tucker and Lieutenant Reed were having an earlier supper. The ship board schedule was not what it once was, primarily due to the interruption in their 'routine' caused by having a ship to repair, a crisis that had begun in the middle of the night. The lieutenant rose when he saw T'Pol enter the mess hall and offered her his chair.

"Sub-commander, I was just about to leave. Would you care to take my seat?" he inquired, moving his nearly empty tray out of her way.

"Thank you, lieutenant." she said evenly, although the armory officer, not to mention Trip, thought he could hear the sound of less than perfectly suppressed annoyance in her voice.

"What's the matter?" asked Trip as soon as Malcolm had made a tactical retreat and T'Pol had seated herself at the table.

"My quarters are no longer ... orderly." she informed him.

"I was careful with everything. Not that there was much to be careful with ... And I didn't leave anything on the floor." he said, raising his eyebrows at the accusation.

"All true, but nevertheless, the appearance of neatness and orderliness is no longer there. For instance, the place where I store my clean and laundered uniforms ..."

"The closet?"

"Yes. It is no longer organized. It looks too chaotic."

"It's because you don't have any civilian clothes. Well, other than the robes you keep in the back. Mine just look out of place. But, tell you what, I can get a storage locker from the quartermaster and keep them in there. No problem." said Trip, smiling as he tried to compromise with the disconcerted Vulcan. "What else you got?" he asked.

"The boxes ..."

"Temporary, I swear. I just need someplace to put some of the stuff I've collected. I think there's a store room down in engineering that'll work fine. It is mostly parts and pieces, after all."

T'Pol considered his conciliatory attitude and seemed to relax ever-so-slightly. She touched his hand lightly across the table.

"Thank you. I believe that I can live with everything else, although I would be most appreciative if you refrained from stacking my meditation candles in geometric shapes."

"I think I can do that. You hungry or do you want to help me get those boxes down to engineering?" he asked.

"I could ... tolerate a piece of pecan pie, if any remains." she said, looking at the empty plate on his tray.

"Comin' right up."

He knew that it was going to be a big adjustment for both of them, and they had just taken the first hurdle at a flying leap.

The repairs aboard the Zedeev were completed by the end of following shift. The warp engines had been tested and were still performing below optimal. Commander Tucker estimated that the engines could maintain warp three point two at best, which would have the brothers back to their home world in what they considered a reasonable amount of time. The other systems, including the lateral scanners and the sensor arrays, were almost as good as new, much to Tish's satisfaction when he read the report that was delivered to sickbay by Crewman Fuller.

"You are releasing him now, right?" Az questioned Phlox as he read the report over his brother's shoulder.

"I am." Phlox affirmed.

"And from the look of things, we should be able to get underway immediately." said Tish, turning the report to his brother.

"I agree." said Az.

Tish slid from the biobed and stretched, rubbing his still slightly bruised ribs. Phlox removed a small kit from a nearby counter and gave it to Az.

"Make sure your brother takes his medication for the next few weeks." said the doctor.

"I will." Az assured him with a chuckle.

"Captain Archer wanted to see both of you off. He is awaiting your arrival in the shuttlepod bay. You two shouldn't keep him waiting." Phlox told them.

"Of course not." said Tish.

As they all walked toward the door of sickbay Phlox said, "It was nice to see you both again. When this mission is over and my steps also turn toward home again ..."

"We may not be there, father. Remember, with any luck, we will have a research vessel of our own by then. But ... when our paths do cross again, I will be pleased to see you, father." said Az awkwardly.

"Me too." Tish echoed.

Az and Tish stepped in he direction of the bay and turned as Phlox remained by the sickbay doors. They understood that he would not see them off. Az recognized the look on his face only half-disguised by a smile. He was going to miss them and didn't want to see them go.

"Good-bye, father." said Az.

"See you soon, boys." he said. As they started down the corridor, he called after them, "And would it kill you to contact your mother sometime? You know how she worries!"

The brothers grinned over their shoulders and nodded as they turned the corner.

Captain Archer smiled as he saw Az and Tish walk through the doors of the shuttlepod bay. Neither looked particularly distressed anymore.

"We both want to thank you for all the assistance that you and your crew have provided. If there is ever anything we can do to repay you ..." Az began to say, but Archer held up a hand to stop him.

"Unnecessary. It was our pleasure." he assured the two young Denobulans.

"Please pass our gratitude along to Sub-commander T'Pol and Commander Tucker and his engineers. I have never seen finer work." said Az.

"I would be glad to." chuckled Captain Archer.

He watched the pair board the pod before exiting the bay. Archer knew that he couldn't solve every problem they encountered, that some things were beyond his control, as Sub-commander T'Pol sometimes reminded him, but on this occasion they had done all right. He chuckled softly and began making his way toward sickbay, wondering if Phlox would be in the mood to talk about life, the very complicated life of his people on his planet, perhaps over an early breakfast or whatever meal Chef happened to be preparing.

Meanwhile, in the quarters that T'Pol and Trip were sharing, Commander Tucker sighed softly in the darkness and moved closer to his sleeping companion. She was fast asleep, and he was drowsy. It had been a pleasant evening. Very pleasant, he decided, mentally mimicking T'Pol's own words. After a year of sleeping almost every night in the same quarters, her place didn't quite feel like home, but he smiled and knew that he would be used to it soon enough. She stirred slightly in her sleep, and he hoped that she would get used to his chaotic presence soon as well. Of course, they would still have their differences and their arguments. It would hardly be a worthwhile relationship without them. But Trip could barely even imagine that he had ever lived without her, without the beautiful Vulcan sleeping by his side.

Commander Tucker closed his eyes and relaxed as he felt the vibration of the warp engines coming on-line. Everything had been squared away with the Zedeev and they, the crew of the Enterprise, were ready to face whatever was ahead, whatever was next. And as Trip finally drifted to sleep, he knew that they, T'Pol and himself, would be ready too.

The End


A/N: Thanks for reviewing, Emily and Becky, fanofsmith, (pookha_hare), and tracy!
And anyone else who may review, thanks!
This was an exhausting write. Deadlines ... sigh.