(Note: Battle of Little Sickbay and December will be updated in the near future, hopefully when my writers' block buggers off back to whence it came.)
"May God grant me the courage to change what I can, the serenity to accept what I cannot, and the wisdom to hide the bodies of the people I had to kill because they screwed up with my mama's pan-fried catfish."
"Charles, honey, come on!"
"Yes, Charles." Jonathan Archer's grin was pure evil. "Come on, little Charlie! Time to go to church, Charlie!"
Charles "Trip" Tucker sighed. "Jon?"
Trip scowled. "I'm coming, Mama!" he called out of his bedroom door. He turned back to the small mirror on his wall, and tried to smooth out the wrinkles in his shirt. "Why am I doin' this?" he moaned, mostly to himself.
Jonathan, annoyingly enough, answered him. "Because you haven't seen your family in three months. You haven't seen your family in three months because you've been doing intensive Starfleet training, and I swear you've even put in overtime a couple of times. Oh," he added. "And it's Christmas."
"Exac'ly," Trip replied absent-mindedly. "Christmas is a time for family," he said finally managing to get his shirt looking as if it hadn't spent the night crumpled up in heap on the floor (which, incidentally, it had).
"Lieutenant Tucker, you've just sunk your last battleship."
Realisation dawned. "Oh, crap."
Jonathan grinned. "Trip, come on. If we don't get moving, your mother'll send up Lizzie after us."
Trip moaned again. "She keeps comin' in here when I'm not home anyway," he said. "S'lost it's appeal now." He gave himself one last inspection, approved of what he saw and followed Jonathan out of the room.
Ann and Charles Tucker (the second) were in the kitchen when their son finally ambled in, followed by Jonathan. Ann was finishing up the preparations for the turkey, and her husband was sitting at the head of the long oak dining table. Also sitting at the table was Lizzie, and Trip's two younger brothers, Andrew and Michael. Trip slid into the chair next to Michael, and Jonathan sat the other side of him. Ann then took her place next to Charles the elder.
Everyone then joined hands, Jonathan - the outsider - looking a bit bemused about linking his with Trip and Lizzie.
"Good Lord," Charles' voice boomed, "we thank you for the opportunity to be here as a family, and to celebrate what we have together. Amen."
"Amen," the family chorused. Despite the advancements in technology over the last century in particular, and the hopeful prospect of (finally) exploring deep space, and the inevitable decline in religious beliefs, many people still held onto them for the values they entailed, the Tuckers included. And now, they were off to church.
They walked there, of course, and when they arrived, Father Donegal (fresh out of Ireland) was standing by the entrance in the winter sunshine with a large smile on his face. He greeted each of the Tuckers warmly, the family being regular churchgoers, and welcomed Jonathan to the church.
Inside, they took a bench towards the back and as Jonathan watched, Lizzie began leafing determinedly through one of the hymnbooks.
"What are you doing?" he asked curiously.
She looked up in surprise. "Oh," she said in a softer version of Trip's Southern accent, "Andy and I used to doodle in one of these hymnbooks when we were younger." She blushed. "Don't go tellin' Mama, she'll have our guts for garters!"
"I won't tell," Jonathan intoned solemnly, then grinned. "Scouts' honour," he added, giving her a salute.
Lizzie laughed for a moment, returned to her hymnbook, and then smiled in triumph, and held up the book for the commander to see. A few pages from the very back was a blank double page - or, it used to be a blank double page. Spread out over part of the space was a cleverly drawn picture of three people burning in what appeared to be the flames of hell. On closer inspection, Jonathan found them to be miniature caricatures of herself, Trip and another male.
"Father Christopher," she explained. "He was the vicar here before ol' Donegal back there."
"Ah." Jonathan let it rest at that. He then noticed that the rest of the double spread was taken up with Hangman games, the answers to most of which didn't really belong in a hymnbook.
"I'm bored," he heard a voice from the other side of him complain. Jonathan turned around to see his friend leaned back on the bench, staring blankly at some fixed point on the opposite wall.
"I'm bored," Trip repeated plaintively. Hell, he didn't care how pathetic that sounded; if he was honest with himself he'd much rather be back at Starfleet HQ looking over some more engine designs. Something, anything rather than being here - in a church. It wasn't that he didn't want to see his family, in fact, he missed them like hell when he was away from them for several months at a time. It was the fact that the one time he did take a few days off to come visit his family (and bring his best friend with him), that his family decided that the done thing would be for everyone to spend two hours in a church on a mildly cold winter's morning.
It beggared belief. It completely and utterly beggared belief.
"Go to sleep, then," Jonathan suggested to him, only half-joking.
Trip looked over at him in surprise. "Jon," he said, "I'm never goin' to tell you you're a waste of oxygen again."
Jonathan smiled. "Until tomorrow, that is."
"Yeah." Trip settled back on the bench, using Jonathan as a shield between him and his parents, so that they didn't see. "But this time I mean it."
"Uh-huh. Whatever you say, Mister Tucker."
Trip decided to ignore that last comment, and instead focused what remained of his attention on the pool light directly behind the altar up at the front of the church. So bright… he found that if he stared at it long enough, his eyes got kinda heavy, and he felt really tired. So, being the Charles Tucker the Third that he had become, Trip kept staring at the little light until his eyes started closing, and there was nothing he could (or would) do to do anything else other than look at the pretty little light…
A prod on his shoulder woke him up, and Trip sat up with a start. He was still in the church, but something was different… everyone sitting in the rows in front him were facing backwards, and were staring fixedly at him for some reason, with weird smiles and grins on their faces. Pulling his robe around him, he sat up straighter, trying to figure out what the hell was going on…
Wait a minute.
Trip looked down at himself to find he was decked in a bright green vestment-cum-robe-cum-whatever the hell it was called, with a shiny, ornate golden cross-stitched onto the front of it. He was wearing his own black shirt underneath it, and the white dog collar made a stark contrast against its background.
What the… ?
A face leaned in toward him, and Trip recognised it as being that of Jonathan Archer. Except that he was wearing the exact same goofy smile as everyone else, and was regarding him with a look that almost bordered on reverence.
"Come on, Father," Jonathan said softly. "They're waiting for you."
That was it. Trip had had enough. "Jon, would somebody mind tellin' me just what exactly is goin' on here?"
Jonathan smiled apologetically at the watching people. "He's just a little cranky, that's all. Must have been up late last night saying his prayers."
"No." Trip was confused. "We were both up late last night 'cause we were sharin' all those really dirty jokes Cap'n Forrest keeps tellin' you." They had though. Hadn't they?
The people laughed, clearly thinking this was funny. Jonathan leaned in even closer, grabbed hold of Trip by the arm and pulled him up so that they were both standing. Wordlessly, he pushed the apparent clergyman in the back so that he was half-walking, half-stumbling up to the pulpit at the front of the church. Once up there, Trip froze where he stood, looking out at the seated people, all of whom were looking up at him expectantly, including Jonathan and, strangely enough, he realised that every single person seated there was dressed in pure white.
"Uh," he began. Even his throat was dry, and it felt kinda scratchy, come to think of it. Suddenly, out of nowhere, his mind latched onto the one bible phrase that he could actually recall from limited Sunday school stints as a child. "In the beginnin' God created the world, and, uh -"
He broke off, coming to a complete and utter blank. However, the people were clearly expecting more, so Trip did the only thing that he could be counted on to do in a situation like this; he improvised.
"A nun's in the bath, completely nude, as you do in there. Anyway, she hears a knock at the door. Well, she's in the bath, so she calls out an' asks who's at the door. This voice replies, 'It's okay, I'm the blind man.'. Now the nun considers this for a moment, then she says to the man that he can come in. So the door opens, in comes this man, an' he wolf-whistles at the nun an' says, 'Nice tits. So. Where do you want the blind?'"
Nobody laughed. Not so much as a giggle, a snort or even a smile. Inwardly, Trip groaned. This was one pissed-off crowd. Well, he wasn't a priest, so what could they possibly be expecting from him? A rousing round of, "Glory, glory, hallelujahs!" or a quick succession of Hail Mary's or whatever? Now that he was thinking about it, the congregation did look kinda pissed off with the whole situation, and they actually began advancing on the pulpit. Not one or a few of them; all eighty-odd of them were slowly climbing over the benches, led by Jonathan. It was then that Trip noticed that the vast majority of the crowd - should he call them a mob yet? - appeared to be over the age of sixty. Not good. Excepting his grandparents, Trip had never really liked old people. They freaked him out.
And they were definitely freaking him out now, coming at him in their droves as they were. The old ladies at the front were swinging their handbags with surprising menace, and Trip found himself stumbling backwards over fraying carpet edges and the altar trying to get away from them.
Still they came, out of nowhere… but then they stopped, stopped at the edge of the raised area surrounding the altar. Trip, however, kept backing up until he was up against solid wall, trying to get the maximum distance between himself and the mob.
They were definitely a mob now, no doubt about it.
One person, however, was not deterred. Jonathan Archer kept moving; he was next to the pulpit, he was by the altar, he was picking up the processional cross from where it stood next to the altar, and wielding it in a way that processional crosses really shouldn't be handled in an ideal world. There was a very un-Jonathan-like smirk on the older man's face as he approached Trip, the stick end of the cross closest to the engineer.
Closer and closer the stick came, until it was but a few inches away from Trip's side.
Then it made contact.
Trip stood there for a moment, wondering what was going on. He was for some reason dressed up as a priest, and was being poked in the side by a seven-foot barge pole being handled by his best friend. It didn't hurt - hell, it tickled more than anything - but something was seriously not right here.
Out of nowhere, Trip felt a hand at his shoulder, and turned around. Hazily, he made out the face of Jonathan, looking a little concerned, to tell the truth.
Then the lights went out.
When they came back on, Trip was sitting in church, wearing a crinkled shirt, and just about everybody was staring at him with weird looks on their faces. Pity, derision, something like that.
At least it wasn't reverence.
Panicked, he looked down. No green robes, no dog collar. Phew. He looked over at Jonathan. "You fell asleep," he explained. "And…" he broke off.
"What?!" Trip demanded.
"You started talkin' in your sleep durin' Donegal's sermon," Lizzie chipped in from Jonathan's other side. "Somethin' about naked nuns in the bath?" She looked confused.
Trip sat up slowly, and registered the concerned, controlled, yet oh-so-obvious anger of Father Donegal up at the pulpit. He couldn't help himself. It was like a chemical reaction imbued in his DNA or something.