Serious Business
by Ragua

Disclaimer: Enterprise and its characters belong to Paramount, and I get no money from the little excursions I periodically take them on.

A/N: This is an addendum to the ending of Storm Front II, because after all they've been through, dammit, those people need to lighten up!
Admiral Forrest's face, magnified on the viewscreen to ten times its normal size, beamed at Enterprise's ragged bridge crew. Said bridge crew was doing its best to beam back, but exhausted grins were the best most could manage. The admiral took the hint.

Twenty-four hours downtime before any debriefing, he ordered Captain Jonathan Archer. Forrest was trying to sound stern, but his smile kept sabotaging the attempt. You and your crew deserve the rest.

Archer felt all the tension in his body begin to dissolve in relief. Well, Admiral, he responded. I'd argue with you, but I'm too damn tired. The two men shared an understanding smile. I guess that means I'll contact you at 0900 tomorrow morning?I'll be waiting with baited breath, Forrest grinned. Then his eyes scanned the entire bridge, ensuring that his next words included everyone. It's the understatement of the century, but good work, people!

With that, the viewscreen went dark. Sighs erupted from several different bridge stations. Archer sat down in the captain's chair with a weary smile.

You heard the man, Travis, he told the helmsman. Park us at Jupiter Station and let the sleeping begin!

The young pilot cheerfully complied with the order. Archer glanced around the bridge, enjoying the expressions of profound relief and happiness evident on everyone's face. Even T'Pol looked somewhat emotional. Trip looked ready to pass out.

Archer's gaze paused on the engineer. Trip literally looked ready to pass out. The captain kicked himself, mentally. He should have ordered his friend to sickbay instead of allowing the man to accompany him to the bridge. Time to remedy that.

The engineer jumped slightly at his captain's query, as if he'd been asleep on his feet. Get down to sickbay, Archer ordered. Let Phlox take a look at you.I'm fine, Cap'n, the engineer responded automatically, trying to straighten up his wilting form.

Archer raised his eyebrows at his friend. Dammit, why did Trip always have to be so stubborn? That wasn't a suggestion, Commander, he said softly.

Trip's bruised, haggard face scrunched up in a frown. He looked like a little kid about to throw a tantrum over being left out by his older siblings. When he opened his mouth to protest, Archer cut him off, addressing T'Pol instead.

he began casually, a wicked idea forming in his mind. The Vulcan certainly had been concerned about the engineer's fate, although she was doing a good job of hiding it now. Why don't you escort Commander Tucker to sickbay? Just to make sure he gets there safely.Of course, Captain. T'Pol was immediately on her feet and moving toward the engineer. Trip's mouth dropped open in an expression of utter indignation.

Ah don't need a baby-sitter, he snapped petulantly.

I'm sure you don't, Commander, the captain agreed, hiding a smirk as the Vulcan took the recalcitrant engineer firmly by the arm and hustled him toward the lift. Although disconcerted by the First Officer's forcefulness, Trip continued to glare over his shoulder at Archer as T'Pol manhandled him off the bridge.

Once the lift doors hissed shut, Archer allowed himself a grin. He noticed that the other bridge officers were suppressing their amusement as well. The captain felt a moment's misgiving. Maybe he shouldn't have made such an appealing target of his two most senior officers.

You know, Lieutenant Reed mused playfully. I really shouldn't say anything, but those lately those two— The captain interrupted his Armory Officer, frowning. Don't say anything, Malcolm.

Reed carefully rearranged his face, reining in his gleeful expression. Aye, Captain.

There was silence on the bridge, but only for a moment. How about me, Sir? Ensign Sato piped up saucily. Can I say something?

Archer wheeled on her in surprise. No, Hoshi, you may not, he retorted with mild exasperation.

The Communications Officer dropped her eyes demurely, grinning down at her console. Yes, Sir, she murmured softly.

Another moment of silence descended on the bridge, but now Archer suspected that it wouldn't last. There was just too much good feeling bursting to get out.

He was right.

What about me, Sir? Travis Mayweather wanted to know. I mean, I got beat up by alien Nazis. Shouldn't I get to say something? Archer growled in vexation. Nobody is going to say anything! He glowered forbiddingly at all the bridge personnel.

Restful silence once again overtook the bridge. But it was soon disrupted by strange sounds coming from Tactical. Archer looked over at Reed, incredulous. Malcolm was covering his face with his right hand, attempting to control himself, but his Armory Officer appeared to be...giggling.

Before the captain could decide how to handle the uncharacteristic outburst, Hoshi leapt to Reed's defense. You didn't say we couldn't laugh, Captain, she commented, eliciting a sputter from Mayweather at the CONN. Pretty soon the entire bridge crew was laughing hysterically, although admittedly more as a release from the tension of a long, arduous mission than in amusement at their absent colleagues.

Archer sighed, dropping his head into his hand in defeat. It was his own fault. He'd started this. You're right, Ensign, I didn't.

I give up, he thought resignedly.

So he began to laugh along with them.