Behind Blue Eyes
By Thalia Drogna
Author's note: Hope you all like the conclusion of this story. Thanks to everyone for reviewing and giving me your input.
No one knows what it's like
To be the bad man
To be the sad man
Behind blue eyes
– Behind Blue Eyes, The Who
Hoshi sat in the near empty mess hall nursing a cup of mint tea. She didn't know how long she'd been sitting there but her tea was cold, which meant it had probably been a while. All she could feel was the cold knife of the Klingon at her throat, and all she could see was Trip being stabbed by the same knife, his red blood spilling out as he dropped to his knees.
Archer had dismissed her from the bridge to go and have her injuries seen to when he realised that in the rush to get Trip to sick bay and the possible Klingon attack, Hoshi's wounds had been neglected. The tiny cut at her throat had stopped bleeding by that point anyway and Hoshi wasn't sure that she really needed to go to sick bay at all, but Archer had insisted.
Phlox had still been operating on Trip when Hoshi arrived in sick bay so Liz Cutler had taken care of her injuries. Liz had cleaned the cut and put a dressing over it, she had also noted that Hoshi had sustained a knock to the head. It wasn't serious but Liz told her to come back immediately if she felt nauseous. She also told Hoshi that she was off duty for a day, just to make sure, as Liz put it.
So Hoshi found herself staring into the brown depths of her tea and not really focussing on anything, just willing her mind not to think about the knife. The D'k tahg. "Warrior's knife" in translation, there was no real English equivalent word for the three bladed knife. The Klingon word was as old as the weapon. She could recite it's etymology and think of dozens of Klingon sentences in which to use it. Tradition said that the weapon could not be drawn without drawing blood. She'd learnt the word never thinking that she'd ever see a real one or be on the receiving end of its blade.
"Is this seat taken?" asked a voice. Clipped phraseology, British accent, well, English accent to be precise; it had to be Malcolm. Hoshi analysed without even registering that she was doing it, but it was enough to derail her train of thought and make her notice Lieutenant Reed with his own mug of tea standing beside the table.
"No, Lieutenant," said Hoshi, "I could use some company. Any more news on the Commander?"
"Nothing good, he's still critical," said Reed, sitting down.
"I heard Phlox's call for blood donors, makes me sorry that I'm AB negative and can't help out," said Hoshi.
"There wasn't any shortage of people willing to donate," said Reed. "In fact that's why I'm here. Sweet tea and chocolate biccies is traditional after giving blood." Reed tried to smile warmly at Hoshi but he knew that neither of them felt very happy at the moment with Trip lying in sick bay at death's door.
"Malcolm, I need to ask you something," said Hoshi, looking up at Reed.
"What is it?" asked Reed, there was something in her voice that worried him.
"If you'd gone on the away mission instead of me, would Trip still have been hurt?" asked Hoshi.
"Hoshi..." said Reed with compassion in his tone, but Hoshi interrupted him to continue.
"I bet you wouldn't have let a Klingon grab you and hold a D'k tahg to your throat, would you?"
"Who knows what would have happened if I'd been there? You can play the what if game until the cows come home and never be any wiser. From what I heard, Trip made a mistake and that was why he was stabbed. He left a weapon within reach of an enemy. You can't blame yourself, Hoshi."
Darwin's words in the gym came back to him. The Colonel had told Archer that he didn't need to watch him, Reed had assumed that he meant Archer needed to watch Trip. Darwin obviously hadn't meant that he needed to watch Trip because he was out of control, but more because he was too much in control. It was as Trip said, once you stop listening to your instincts, you lose your edge in a fight, and when fighting a Klingon, that was dangerous. That was what Trip had done, when the moment had come to kill Kartok he had hesitated, looked for another way, and that had been all the Klingon needed to make his move. This was why Reed trained his men to disable not kill. Most people hesitated before they killed, unless of course you were a battle hardened MACO, but then Trip hadn't been that for many years now.
"Trip is still lying in sick bay though. I just felt so helpless, Malcolm," said Hoshi. "I want you to teach me how to fight."
"Hoshi, you've had the basic self-defence training," said Reed. "You already know how to fight."
"No, I know some basic moves that I can use in set situations," said Hoshi. "I want to learn how to fight properly, so that next time a Klingon comes at me I know what to do."
"He came at you from behind and held a knife to your throat, even I'd have trouble getting out of that one," said Reed.
"Fine, then teach me enough that I know what my own limitations are," said Hoshi.
Reed gave Hoshi an assessing look, trying to decide if she really was serious. "Okay," he said. "Tuesday night in the gym, nineteen hundred hours."
"Thank you," said Hoshi looking back down into the watery depths of her tea.
"Don't thank me yet, Ensign, you don't know what the training programme is like," said Reed.
T'Pol entered the mess hall. Unusually for T'Pol she seemed to be looking for someone and apparently that was them as she was coming towards them.
"Good evening, Sub-commander," said Reed. "Can I do something for you?"
"That is a possibility. I have something to ask of you," said T'Pol.
"You'd better sit down," said Reed. T'Pol inclined her head in acknowledgement and took the offered seat.
"I am considering performing the Has-mar Klashau," said T'Pol.
"The Has-mar Klashau?" asked Reed. Hoshi beside him was just nodding as if she understood what T'Pol had in mind.
"It is a traditional Vulcan ritual of vigil that is observed when a close friend is seriously ill. It is performed by three or four of those closest to the individual who is ill, therefore I am asking if you will join me in the ritual."
"Literally in Vulcan it means "to watch over the sick"," said Hoshi in explanation to Reed. "It's a very old Vulcan custom."
"It is the act of lending one's strength to the individual who is ill," said T'Pol. "The ancient Vulcans believed that by meditating on the individual it was possible to reach their mind and stimulate healing."
"What exactly does this ritual involve?" asked Reed, slightly sceptically. He'd never considered himself to be a spiritual person and he didn't really understand how a usually logical Vulcan could expect something as nebulous as a ritual to do any good.
"It is a simple meditation. It should be performed in a place which is important to the individual concerned, with an object to focus the thoughts about that individual on. Those participating in the ceremony should meditate on the sick person becoming well," said T'Pol.
"Well there isn't anything else that we can do for Trip at the moment," said Reed, wondering if he was going to regret this.
"There's only one place that we can do it," said Hoshi, looking at Reed.
"Engineering," said Reed. He was glad he hadn't had time to think about agreeing to this because he was pretty sure that when word about three senior officers meditating in the middle of Engineering got back to the Captain, there'd be some questions to answer.
An hour later the three officers sat on the deck plating in Engineering, tucked away beside the warp engine, forming the points of a triangle, with Trip's Go board sitting between them. All three sat in Vulcan meditation pose, eyes closed, cross legged, hands resting on their knees. They concentrated hard on Trip becoming well and what he meant to them. Once the Engineering staff had been informed exactly what they were trying to do, there had been no question of interruption.
Archer got the shock of his life when he opened his eyes to find the biobed next to his empty.
"Trip?" he asked, sitting up quickly. "Doctor?"
Sick bay was unusually quiet, something wasn't right. He got off the biobed and went looking for Phlox. Then the doors to sick bay opened and in walked Antonia.
"You again," said Archer. "I suppose that means this is all a dream and I'll wake up in minute."
"Not exactly," said Antonia, her silver skin glistening under the sick bay lights.
"I'm beginning to think that's your favourite phrase," said Archer.
"I find that it fits a lot of situations in life," said Antonia.
"So if I'm not dreaming, then what am I doing?" he asked.
"I'm just borrowing your dream state to communicate with you. This is one of the ways that the Builder's plane intersects with yours," said Antonia. "The Builders removed my powers temporarily and won't let me return to your world, so this is the only way that I can help."
"Where's Trip?" asked Archer.
"Not here," said Antonia. "He's created his own personal hell to reside in."
"Antonia," said Archer in a warning tone. "What do you mean?"
"That's why I'm here actually," said Antonia. "I'm hoping that you can pull him out of it."
"Pull him out of what?" asked Archer.
"Can you feel that?" asked Antonia, going off at a tangent.
"What?" asked Archer, but there was something, almost as if the air had become slightly warmer around him.
"T'Pol, Hoshi and Malcolm," said Antonia. "They're performing a Vulcan healing vigil. It's working but I'm not sure if it will be enough."
"A Vulcan healing vigil?" asked Archer. "How will that help?"
"Never underestimate the power of the mind, Captain," said Antonia, "especially the Vulcan mind when it is focused and supported as T'Pol's is now."
"What about Trip?" asked Archer impatiently.
"I'll take you to him," said Antonia. "Follow me."
"Where are we going?" asked Archer.
"Engineering. Where else? It is the centre of his world. Resigning was probably the hardest thing that he has ever had to do," said Antonia.
Archer followed Antonia down to Engineering. The scene that greeted them when they entered Engineering was unbelievable. Instead of the ordered, pristine engine room which Archer had left on the real Enterprise he was faced with chaos. It looked like it had when Enterprise had been in space dock, everything was in pieces. The warp engine had been dismantled completely and now lay in its component parts, scattered across the deck. There working on the pieces of the engine was Trip, a hydrospanner in one hand and some pieces of the engine in the other.
"I have to fix it," said Trip, to himself. "I have to fix it. Got to put it back together."
"It's a typical anxiety pattern," said Antonia.
"You're a psychiatrist now too," said Archer.
"When you can read people's minds, you pick things up," said Antonia with a shrug. "Of course like most dreams this is just a metaphor for what's really wrong."
"He's been feeling that everything has fallen apart around him," said Archer.
"Exactly," said Antonia. "I'm afraid Trip isn't very subtle."
"No, he never has been. Subtlety is not one of his strong suits," said Archer.
"If you can persuade him to heal mentally then his physical form will stand a better chance," said Antonia. "It's like I said about T'Pol's ritual, the mind is a powerful thing. I'm afraid that's all I can do, I've pointed you in the right direction." With that Antonia disappeared.
"Hey!" said Archer, "how am I meant to snap him out of this?" he asked the space where Antonia had just stood.
Antonia reappeared. "Get him back to sick bay and T'Pol's ritual will do the rest. His mind is going round in circles at the moment, he should be concentrating on healing and instead he's trying to fix this. If you can get him back to sick bay it will concentrate his mind on getting well. Now, go," said Antonia and she disappeared again.
"Trip," said Archer approaching the Engineer. "I need you to stop that and come with me."
"I have to fix this," said Trip.
"Trip, it isn't really broken," said Archer.
"Yes, it is, look at it," said Trip, indicating the engine in front of him, "the whole damned thing's in pieces." He sat down on the steps that led up to the warp engine controls, even though the controls themselves were now broken down to their components.
"This isn't real," said Archer, sitting down beside Trip.
"Oh this is real, and I made a mess of things as per usual," said Trip. Archer realised that Trip wasn't aware that this was a dream.
"Trip, you aren't really here, this is a dream. You were injured when we went down to Deneb," said Archer.
"Nah, I'm fine. It's the engine that needs fixing," said Trip.
"I'm telling the truth," said Archer. "At the moment you're lying in sick bay, unconscious."
"If I'm dreaming, what are you doing here?" asked Trip.
"Antonia set it up for us, she wanted to help," said Archer.
"I thought you weren't speaking to me," said Trip.
"Just forget all that," said Archer, "I need to get you back to sick bay." Behind him something which Trip had recently repaired fell apart onto the deck plating with a crash.
"I need to fix this," said Trip and he picked up his tool kit and went over to the engine again.
"Please, Trip, you have to listen to me," said Archer, following Trip. "Enterprise needs you."
"I know Enterprise needs me," said Trip. "I'm doing my best to hold her together, but with everything falling apart it isn't easy."
"It isn't just Enterprise which needs you, the crew does too. Phlox asked for volunteers from the crew to give blood, to help you get better. There wasn't a single person of your blood type who didn't report to sick bay," said Archer.
"Really?" asked Trip, pausing in what he was doing.
"Really," said Archer. He watched in amazement as in front of them, pieces of the engine flew together and fixed themselves.
"That's mighty nice of folks, but I've still got a lot of work to do here," said Trip.
"You have a lot of friends who need you, Trip. Malcolm told Phlox to take as much blood as he needed to get you well again," said Archer. "He pushed to the front of the line so that he could donate first. He said something about rank having it's privileges."
"Malcolm did that for me?" asked Trip. "I knocked him flat on his ass just a couple of days ago."
"Malcolm is really concerned for you," said Archer. "He values your friendship."
More pieces of the engine magically moved into place and mended themselves.
"And T'Pol persuaded him and Hoshi into performing some sort of Vulcan healing ceremony to help you get well," said Archer.
"I never understood why a Vulcan would want to help me. She's been great with the neuropressure sessions as well. We seem to be getting along better these days, but every time I think I've got through to her she still pushes me away," said Trip.
"T'Pol thinks very highly of you," said Archer. "Being a Vulcan she doesn't show it like you or I would, but I know that she considers you to be her friend. You don't do three neuropressure sessions a week for someone if you don't care about them."
"You may have a point there," said Trip. The sound of metal moving against metal indicated that yet more parts of the engine were coming together behind them. It was nearly there now, almost completely rebuilt.
"Come on, Trip, let's go take you to sick bay," said Archer.
"Sorry, Captain, I can't go until it's completely fixed," said Trip. "I need to repair one last thing."
Archer had known this was going to be tough, but he hadn't expected to have to bare his soul in order to save Trip's life. Archer looked at his feet. "It's been hard for me to come to terms with who you really are, but I think I can see my way past this. I know I told you that friendship was all about trust but I think I forgot that it isn't just about trust. Friendship is about taking the good with the bad, and being there for each other when you really need it. I can't say that I did that for you recently."
"You had every right to be pissed, Captain," said Trip. "I kept a lot of things from you and maybe if I'd told you sooner we wouldn't have had a problem, it would just have been who I was. And even ignoring the fact that I lied and kept secrets, there's still the matter of everything that Special Projects did. You know that it's been tearing me apart, all the people that died because of us or that I killed. I'd pushed it down so far that I'd almost tricked myself into believing it didn't happen. And then Colonel Darwin called us in for this mission and suddenly everything was right back on the surface again. The guilt and pain of all those deaths, it's just unbearable some days."
"It think you proved that you aren't a killer anymore," said Archer. "You could have killed Kartok but you didn't. It was sheer bad luck that you ended up getting hurt."
"Or stupidity," said Trip. "If I'd killed him when I had the chance then I wouldn't be in this mess. Maybe the Colonel was right, sometimes killing is the only way."
"No, it's never the only way," said Archer. "There's always an alternative, but sometimes that alternative has a price and you have to decide whether you're willing to pay it. When I ordered Malcolm to destroy the lookout post on the moon of Azati prime I knew that our other option was to let them discover us. I was weighing our lives against theirs. We would probably have been killed if the Xindi had discovered us then, but we wouldn't have had blood on our hands. But I couldn't let Enterprise be destroyed with the future of the human race resting on us. It wasn't a price I was willing to pay to keep my morals intact. So you see, there is always another way, but sometimes the price is too high."
Trip nodded. "And I guess this is my price," said Trip. "My life, for atonement and redemption."
"You don't have to die," said Archer. "Phlox and T'Pol are doing everything that they can. Just please come back to sick bay with me. I don't want to lose you."
With that final phrase the engine became whole again and Trip looked at Archer with a new light in his eyes.
"Okay, let's go to sick bay," said Trip.
Archer led Trip through the corridors of the dream Enterprise. The ship was laid out exactly as it was in reality. Trip probably knew the ship's schematics backwards, forwards and sideways, it wasn't really surprising that even in his dreams Enterprise should appear precisely as it was in real life. They arrived at sick bay and Trip went to the bed where he had been lying before back in the real sick bay. He lay back down and closed his eyes, and suddenly he was just as Archer had left him, enmeshed in medical equipment and plastic tubing.
"Sleep well, Trip," said Archer and he retook his own place on the biobed beside his friend. He closed his eyes, and when he opened them he was back in sick bay. This time it was the real sick bay, there were the familiar chirps of Phlox's animals and the clicks and beeps of the medical machinery that kept Trip alive.
"Ah you're awake," said Phlox.
"What time is it?" asked Archer.
"About eight o'clock in the morning," said Phlox. "You slept through the night, although you did seem to be having some interesting dreams."
Archer sat bolt upright. "I dreamt that Antonia told me I had to talk to Trip to help him recover. He was in the engine room and the engine was in pieces. I told him how much he meant to us and that fixed the engine. Then I got him back to sick bay and it was just like he is now. It was weird."
"The human mind is a complicated thing," said Phlox.
"How's he doing?" asked Archer.
"I was just about to wake you, his vital signs have stabilised," said Phlox. "Which is a good sign. I think he may have turned a corner."
"He doesn't look much better," said Archer.
"Actually he's doing better than I expected. Perhaps it has something to do with T'Pol's Vulcan healing ritual," said Phlox.
"Vulcan healing ritual?" asked Archer. "With Malcolm and Hoshi?"
"Yes, how did you know? She only told me after you'd fallen asleep," said Phlox.
"My dream," said Archer. "Antonia told me. Maybe it wasn't just a dream after all."
"Given the other things that we've seen Antonia do, and the fact that the Commander told me she spoke to him in a dream as well, it is a distinct possibility."
"She said that Trip was preoccupied with his emotions and not concentrated on healing. Antonia said that if I managed to persuade him to listen to me then T'Pol's healing ritual would do the rest," said Archer.
"I think she may have been right. There was a turning point last night but since then he has been getting steadily better," said Phlox. "He's not out of danger yet, but if he continues to improve then he should make a complete recovery."
"Where is T'Pol?" asked Archer.
"I believe she's still down in engineering with Hoshi and Lieutenant Reed," said Phlox.
"Why engineering?" asked Archer.
"That's where they were performing the healing ritual," said Phlox. "T'Pol mentioned that it should be somewhere important to the individual who is being healed."
"I think they picked the right place," said Archer. "It's where Trip's most at home."
An alarm sounded from the direction of Trip's bed. Phlox moved rapidly to check the monitors.
"What is it?" asked Archer, worriedly, jumping off the biobed.
"He's waking up," said Phlox. He noticed the change in Archer's expression from worry to happiness. "Don't get your hopes up too high, he's going to be very groggy and probably a bit confused. Not only that but he still has a long way to go before he's going to be well again."
"Doctor, at the moment, I'll take any improvement that I can get," said Archer. For the first time since he'd entered sick bay he saw Trip make a move other than the rise and fall of his chest. His left hand closed and opened. He went to Trip's side and took Trip's hand in his own. "Come on Trip, you can do this."
Blue eyes slowly worked their way open and then closed quickly, hurt by the bright lights of sick bay. Phlox lowered the lights a little.
"Try again, Trip," said Archer. "The lights shouldn't be as bad now."
Once again the eyes opened and this time they blinked and stayed open. He moved his head stiffly and looked around him in confusion. His eyes rested on Archer and blinked, questioningly.
"Welcome back to the land of the living," said Archer.
Trip licked his lips but his mouth was dry. He swallowed, in the hope that would help ease the dryness, but instead he realised that his throat was equally dry. There was a mask over his nose and mouth, which felt strange. He started to raise his right hand to remove the annoyance but another hand stopped him from reaching the mask. He tried to move but found his shoulder was being held down and given his weakened state that was quite enough to keep him lying down, plus the fact that his stomach hurt like hell at even that small attempt. He winced with the sharp pain it produced.
He tried to recall memories of what had happened but nothing seemed to be forthcoming. He'd gone down to the planet to destroy the black hole generator. He remembered going to the shuttle to get the relay and then coming back through the rain, and then everything got blurry. Something was very wrong, what had happened to him and why was he in sick bay? Then it hit him, Klingons. There had been Klingons on the planet and one of them had stabbed him. He suddenly very much wanted to get up but the pain stopped him and once again he felt hands on his shoulders gently restraining him.
"Just lie still, Commander," said Phlox. "You sustained a very nasty stab wound to your stomach and I had to operate to repair some of the organ damage. You're going to have to take things easy for a while."
He tried to produce some words but he only managed a dry croak hardly audible through the oxygen mask. "Thirsty."
"I'm sorry but you can't have anything by mouth at the moment," said Phlox, "but I can moisten your lips."
Trip closed his eyes, he was unbelievably tired. He didn't think that was possible considering he'd only just woken up. He felt Phlox remove the oxygen mask and something cold, damp and soothing against his dry lips. Then the mask was replaced and he sank back into a comfortable unconsciousness.
"He's asleep," said Phlox.
"At least he was back with us for a bit," said Archer.
"I'm certain it will be longer next time and he should get more lucid, although the pain medication won't be helping that at the moment," said Phlox.
"This is good though, right?" said Archer.
"Oh yes," said Phlox. "I should call T'Pol and tell her that she can conclude her ritual."
"I'll tell her myself," said Archer. "Call me when he wakes up again."
Archer left sick bay, taking one last look back at Trip as he did so. Something had changed. Trip was still looking just as pale and ill as before but now Archer knew that there was hope. He headed down to Engineering and after enquiring with one of Trip's staff, he located his three officers. They sat in perfect silence and stillness beside the warp engine while the business of Engineering went on around them. All three had their eyes closed and they sat in the traditional Vulcan meditation pose.
Archer approached them slowly almost not wishing them to disturb them. But he didn't think they would mind being disturbed for the news that he had.
"T'Pol," said Archer. "It worked. Trip woke up."
Three pairs of eyes flew open and blinked at him in unison. Archer felt as if he had just intruded upon something very private or broken a spell of some type. None of them looked exactly as if they were looking at him, more through him.
"Has-mar Klashau kesau ho-rah shaht," said T'Pol. Archer had no idea what that meant and he looked at Hoshi questioningly. He knew that she spoke perfect Vulcan.
Instead of Hoshi explaining though, Archer was extremely surprised when Hoshi and Reed responded with one voice.
The three stood, T'Pol picking up the Go board that had sat between them this whole time. They all looked tired and like they'd had a hard night.
"Trip's awake?" said Reed, the first to speak a word of English.
"He went back to sleep again fairly quickly," said Archer. "But this time it's real sleep. The Doctor's confident that he's on the mend. He might not be completely with us for a couple of days but he's on his way back to us. Would one of you tell me what all that meant?"
"It is the conclusion of the ritual and the breaking of the ties," said T'Pol.
"Breaking of the ties?" asked Archer.
"During the ritual one mind leads the others in lending strength to the person who is ill. Our minds are in synchronisation during the ritual until the leader of the ritual breaks the link. I simply said that the ritual had been responded to and that it was finished."
"We replied that it was completed," said Hoshi.
Archer looked at his three officers, wondering what to make of what had just happened. He knew for a fact that Reed didn't speak a word of Vulcan and he had been slightly surprised to hear that T'Pol and Hoshi had persuaded the level headed Armoury Officer to take part in it. If he had known that in sick bay Trip had just mumbled in his sleep "my'tyez nam-tor" he would have been even more perplexed by the whole thing.
Archer had been right, Trip didn't properly regain consciousness for a few days, but he drifted in and out of sleep becoming more lucid each time he came back to the real world. If he had been more cognisant of his surroundings then he would have seen that Captain Archer, T'Pol, Lieutenant Reed and Hoshi spent considerable amounts of time sitting beside his bed.
On the fourth day, Trip awoke and didn't immediately feel like falling asleep again. He also knew where he was and the oxygen mask was gone.
"Trip," said Reed when he saw that his friend was awake. "Glad you could join me," he said with a slight smile. He expected Trip to mutter something incoherent and then fall back to sleep after a little while as he had done previously, but he didn't. Trip's eyes now had awareness behind them rather than pain and incomprehension.
"Malcolm," whispered Trip. "How long have I been here?"
"Three and a half days," said Reed. "You had us really worried for a bit, you know. Next time you go on an away mission, try not to get stabbed by an angry Klingon."
"I'll try to remember that," said Trip, with a slight smile. It was weaker than his usual grin but it was the best smile that Reed had ever seen.
"You been here all that time?" asked Trip.
"No," said Reed. "We've all been taking turns, the Captain, T'Pol, Hoshi. Phlox didn't want you waking up alone."
"The Captain?" asked Trip. He remembered something about that. When he'd first woken up, Archer had been there, he thought, but he'd also been there before. But how could Trip possibly know that Archer had been there whilst he'd been unconscious?
"Yes, Captain Archer has been here the most of any of us," said Reed.
"I thought he didn't want me around anymore," said Trip.
"We need to have a talk about that," said a voice from the doorway. Trip instantly recognised it as the Captain and turned his head to see Archer standing in front of the doors into sick bay. "I thought I told you that I didn't want your resignation. You never did listen."
Great, thought Trip, I get stabbed and I'm still in trouble with the Captain, probably more now for being so stupid. "I'm sorry Captain, but I still think it's best if I leave," he said, his voice still sounded weak even to his own ears. It hadn't come out as quite the confident and definite statement that he'd wanted.
"I think I'd better go," said Reed. "I have some phase pistols to...erm clean." He knew it was a flimsy excuse but he got the impression that these two men needed some space in order to mend their broken friendship. "I'll be back later, Trip."
Trip nodded and even managed to lift his arm a little to give Reed a wave. There was silence for a moment as Archer looked at Trip. The Engineer had been getting steadily better the past couple of days but that hadn't stopped him from worrying about the pale form that lay on the biobed. Trip was still very weak. Archer took a deep breath and decided that he just needed to tell Trip what he had to say.
"Trip, the Admiral refused your resignation," said Archer.
"Why? Why would he do that?" asked Trip, completely baffled. Surely the Admiral knew that it would be better if Trip left.
"I asked him to," said Archer.
"I don't understand," said Trip. "I thought after everything that I've done, you'd be happy to see me go."
"I asked him to refuse it because when you were hurt I realised just how much your friendship meant to me and then I realised that I wasn't the only one who'd miss you if you left Enterprise." said Archer. He sat down and told Trip about everything which had happened while he'd been unconscious, the queue to give blood, the Vulcan healing ritual and his dream in which Antonia had appeared to him.
"I thought that was just a dream," said Trip, "you talking to me in the Engine room, saying the stuff that I'd hoped you were going to say."
"Well if it was a dream, I had the same one," said Archer. "Please tell me that this is the only dark secret in your past. I don't think I can take any more revelations, I'll be a nervous wreck."
"This is it, Captain. You know the real me now," said Trip.
"I have to tell you that the Admiral said he would accept your resignation if you resubmitted it once you were back on your feet," said Archer. "I know how deeply this has affected you, brought things to the surface that you'd rather forget, but you're still needed here, Trip. I want you to stay and I'm asking that as your friend and not as your Commanding Officer."
Trip shook his head. "I'm honoured to have your friendship, sir, but to be honest I don't deserve it, never did. Even if you've forgiven me for what I did, I still killed all those people, the Faranoans..."
"Trip, I'm sorry," said Archer interrupting, "I should have told you sooner. The Faranoans aren't dead, they ascended like the builders. Antonia told me."
"They're not dead?" asked Trip in disbelief.
"No, they're not dead," said Archer. He guessed that this was something that would take his friend a little while to process. It had been part of his life for so long that to be suddenly told he'd been carrying the guilt for no reason was a huge thing to take in.
"But there were others," said Trip, finally after a long silent moment.
"I know, Trip, and you're going to have to live with that, nothing can change what happened. But it was ten years ago and I realised when you leapt in to save Hoshi from Kartok that you aren't a cold blooded killer. I'm not even sure that you ever really were, you just did what you had to do to survive. Darwin was the one who destroyed the asteroid, Darwin was the one who gave the orders to kill, he's the one who was behind this."
"Yeah, but you know as well as I do that following orders isn't an excuse. We have an obligation to question an order if we think it's wrong," said Trip.
"I think it's enough that you're questioning them now," said Archer. "None of us are the people we were ten years ago. I'm certainly not. You can still do a lot of good out here, and this is where you belong. On Enterprise."
If Trip had been able to then he would have been staring at his feet, instead he could only look at the ceiling. "There are those injector upgrades that I've been meaning to get to..." he said.
"Now that is more like the Trip Tucker that I know," said Archer.
Phlox had insisted that Trip get out of bed as soon as he could after he woke up properly, but he wouldn't let Trip do more than a few steps before he returned him to his bed. According to Phlox, getting up and walking would reduce the risk of blood clots. The first couple of times Phlox helped him out of bed, Trip was very glad that Phlox didn't expect more from him.
With Phlox's help he worked up to managing a lap of sick bay, which usually wore him out completely. It was frustrating, always being so tired but it was getting better. He had to be careful even when lying down because if he moved too quickly then he had a tendency to black out, and that usually earned him a telling off from Phlox for not requesting help when he needed it. He had never realised just how much he used his stomach muscles until every movement reminded him with the pain it caused him, but he was determined to get better.
It was two weeks before Trip was allowed out of sick bay and then it was another two weeks before he could manage to walk any distance on his own. Luckily there was no shortage of people who were either happy to allow him to lean on them while he shuffled along, or push him around in the wheelchair, which Phlox had produced, when he actually needed to get somewhere quickly.
Despite Phlox's promise to incarcerate him in sick bay if he set foot in Engineering before he was released to duty, Trip had already been down to check that his precious engine really was still in one piece. So far no one had told tales on him to Phlox and he still had his freedom. After the past four weeks he was desperate to get back to duty and do some work, but the doctor kept on pointing out that he'd sustained a serious wound and it didn't get better overnight. Trip knew that, but it didn't help the fact that he was used to being active and sitting around doing nothing was annoying him.
He still had another week of enforced sick leave to go when Colonel Darwin left Enterprise at Sigma. The Colonel was anxious to get back to Earth and was certain that, given the number of trade routes, he'd be able to pick up a transport back from Sigma. Despite everything, Trip was sorry to see him go and T'Pol took him to the airlock so that he could see the Colonel off.
Trip snapped a salute off as best he could with the wound still bothering him. Darwin returned it with precision, his lips forming a slight smile at Trip's persistence. T'Pol stood a discreet distance away, there if Trip needed her but trying not to be too obvious about it.
"I know it wasn't the best of circumstances, but I'm glad we could get together," said Darwin. "Make sure you listen to that doctor of yours and get well soon. Don't try to do too much too soon. Kanatova would have my hide if she knew what I'd let happen to you."
"I don't seem to remember anyone holding a gun to my head when I went in there," said Trip.
"No, they were holding it to Hoshi's head," said Darwin. "Which was probably more likely to get you to do something stupid."
"Yeah, I know," said Trip. "No one ever said I made a good soldier."
"That's because you're a good man and good men don't do well as soldiers. It's only us bastards who can carry it off," said Darwin. "You're a fine engineer and that's all that matters as far as I'm concerned. I'm sorry that all this let the cat out of the bag."
"It was probably for the best, it would have come out sooner or later," said Trip.
"Maybe," said Darwin. "Just don't let too many people in on the secret. We still have enemies out there who'd like to see us all dead. I bet Kartok would like to take his revenge on your Captain. Watch your back and don't lose your edge."
"As paranoid as ever," said Trip.
"Paranoid, but still alive," replied Darwin. "Take care."
"I will," said Trip. He watched the airlock door close behind the Colonel, and for the second time in his life he wondered if he'd ever see Darwin again.
One month later Lieutenant Reed arranged to meet Trip in the gym. Trip assumed this was for one of their regular re-training sessions. They'd been taking things slowly until Trip was completely healed, but he had just been given the all clear by the doctor, so Reed had promised him a surprise.
Reed stood on the mat in the centre of the gym with Hoshi.
"Hey Malcolm, Hoshi," said Trip. "What's all this about then?"
"Trip, meet your new pupil, Hoshi," said Reed.
"Pupil? Malcolm, I'm really not sure that this is a good idea," said Trip.
"Nonsense, it's perfect. Hoshi wants to learn martial arts and you need to practise your skills. One of the best ways to prove to yourself that you know something is to teach it to someone else," said Reed.
"Malcolm, we're not talking about scrabble here. You know what I can do, I could hurt her," said Trip.
"Hey, I'm sure that I can look after myself," said Hoshi indignantly. Reed gave her a quick look which told her to keep quiet. She hadn't really believed that Trip was as good as Reed said but if it would help him then she'd do it.
"Well I wasn't intending on leaving you two alone together to begin with," said Reed. "I'll observe you for the first few sessions but after that I want you to carry on alone. We've been working hard on your technique and I'm sure that you can do this. Now come on, we don't have all day for this. I would like to get to dinner this evening before all the Spaghetti Carbonara is gone."
"Fine," said Trip, realising when he was beaten. Chef's Spaghetti Carbonara was legendary and he didn't want to miss it either, which he suspected Reed knew. "Okay Hoshi, show me what you've got."
Reed watched as Trip blocked Hoshi's inexpert attacks cautiously, but as before his technique was almost flawless. Once Trip had an idea of what Hoshi knew then he began to correct her stance and start the real work of teaching. Reed knew as he watched the two of them that he'd done the right thing, using his skills to help someone was just what Trip needed. It wouldn't do Hoshi's confidence any harm either to improve her combat skills.
None of the three of them noticed a silver skinned figure watching them from the corner of the gym. "My'tyez nam-tor" she said, smiled and vanished.