^*^*^*CHAPTER 11*^*^*^

"Charles… Charles…" he heard a soft voice. He slowly opened his eyes and saw the beautiful woman he had always remembered, leaning over him.

"Judianna!" he exclaimed and sat up. "God, I missed you." He brushed his hand on her soft cheek and gazed into her eyes and sweet smile.

"I missed you too," she said and kissed him on the cheek. The vines flew wildly with the blowing wind and he could smell the air full of citrus. "But you have to go now."

"No, I'm fine right here," he said eagerly. "I want to be with you this time."

"Your whole life you've been dreaming of Starfleet, Charles. And my whole life has been dreaming of this opportunity," she replied and held his hand. "I'm happy, and you'll be happy."

Trip lowered his head and gently stroked her soft hand. He remembered why he had missed her so much and why it hurt. He lifted his head and looked back into her eyes.

"I'm sorry," he said. "I could have been there for you."

"No," she smiled and shook her head. The sun shown through the trees and her skin glistened. "There was nothing you could have done and no one else could have done anything either. Just remember that, Charles. It wasn't your fault." She leaned in again for kiss, this time on the mouth, and he welcomed her. His eyes closed and he felt better, yet he still missed her more than anyone or anything. It was a long time ago the last time he had seen her. He still remembered everything about her, no matter how many times he would slip her into the back of his mind. She let go of the kiss and he stood silent, eyes closed, soaking it in.

"Trip…" he heard a voice.

"I'll always miss you…" he whispered.

"Trip…" the voice said again and someone nudged his shoulder. He slowly opened his weary eyes and saw his friend, Captain Archer standing over him with a smile. His throat was dry and his head ached, but nothing like before. *Before…* he thought. His eyes shot open and he sat up. "Easy there, buddy."

"What happened?" Trip asked and looked around the infirmary. He heard someone clear their throat and saw Doctor Phlox enter. There was a large, grey bump by the Denoblean's hairline and Trip lowered his head. "Oh, hi Doc."

The doctor simply nodded his head happily yet awkwardly and scanned the commander's head.

"You were attacked by Tisk'rar," the captain began then paused. "And luckily T'Pol and a security team had gotten there on time." Trip sighed and rubbed his cool skin on his forehead.

"How long has it been," he asked. "What about Tisk'rar?"

"A few days," Archer said. "Trust me, Tisk'rar is being dealt with on his planet… justly… the Veekician captain sends me his regards. How do you feel?" Trip went over everything that had happened in the shuttle bay. The crewman, Tisk'rar, and, vaguely, the anguish he went through when he was beaten to a pulp. He still didn't understand what happened but didn't care to hear about it just yet.

"Much better," he finally said. "But it really depends on what the doc thinks." He turned his head and looked at Phlox. The doctor grinned and turned off his scanning mechanism.

"Like before, 'you've improved remarkably'," he replied and grinned. Trip felt himself smile.

"When can I have my engineer back to work?" Archer asked. *Ahhh… back to work* Trip thought *I could use some of that*

"Don't be too hasty, Captain, it will be a couple days before he can recover enough to get back to his duties. But he will be fine… this time," Phlox assured them and walked out with a crooked smile. Archer sighed and looked at his friend's bruised face.

"Glad ya made it, Trip," he said. "You have no idea how worried I was."

"Yeah, got myself a little scared too," Trip said and smiled. "And I owe ya an explanation…"

"No," Archer stopped him and held up his hand. "Not now." Trip took a deep breath and shook his head.

"Alright… Sir…" he said. Archer stood up straight and stood next to the curtains.

"See ya in the Captain's Mess in the morning? Oh-nine-hundred?" his captain inquired. Trip chuckled.

"See ya then, Jon," he said and watched his smirking friend walk through the curtains. Someone else had apparently been patiently waiting outside and walked in after greeting his captain. "Well, hello Malcolm. How've ya been?"

"Fine, Sir," Lieutenant Reed said dryly. "You?"

"Well, ya must've heard our entire conversation… I'm fine," Trip joked. Malcolm managed a smile.

"I'm glad, Sir," he said and walked closer to the bed. His eyes then twinkled curiously at him. "May I ask, Sir?"

"What ever you'd like, Mal, I got plenty of time," Trip said and shifted himself in a more comfortable position. Reed looked at him strangely.

"I'm still curious about that woman you mentioned a few days ago, you know, after…" Reed left the sentence open for Trip to finish it how he'd liked. Trip took a deep breath and thought for a moment.

"Judianna, you mean?" he asked. Reed nodded his head. "She was one of my old girlfriends, like I said. I left her for the academy and she left me for her new career on New Berlin." He paused and looked Reed straight in the face. He hadn't really told anyone about this but felt comfortable telling of it now. "One day, I got the news from her family that she had been attacked. And murdered…" Reed sat soaking in what he had been told.

"Oh, I had no idea," the lieutenant said.

"The murder wasn't intentional but the attack was. Apparently, she just got in the way of some sort of disagreement in a bar between her new boyfriend and some alien guy… with a very short temper," he said and thought over it. It scared the living hell out of him what Tisk'rar did to him and he foolishly tried to avenge Judianna, getting himself nearly killed again. He shook his head and looked at the surprised face of his friend, Reed. 

"I'm sorry, Trip," Reed said and lowered his head. "And I'm glad you're alright." Trip brought himself to smile again after a long pause and patted his friend on the back.

"Thanks, Mal, I 'preciate it," he said. The lieutenant stood up straight and stood by the curtains.

"See you around, Commander," he said sternly with a proud smirk. Trip chuckled and raised a hand and his friend walked out.

Trip sighed happily and lied back down, flat on the biobed. He thought of his friends: the friends he lost, the friends he left back on Earth, the friends he had on the Enterprise, and the friends he would make… and keep… in the years to come. He smiled at the thought of what would throw itself into his life next. He knew he would go through pain again, for the universe was a dangerous and awesome place. But he loved it. He loved his life and loved his friends. His eyes became tired and his body relaxed.

His mind was at peace, and he fell into a deep sleep.

~THE END~