Disclaimer: I don't own it, I make no money, yadda, yadda, yadda.
Normally, Trip hated these sorts of events. It seemed that they were de rigueur for every first contact: formal, cocktail-hour type receptions, crammed-full of haughty government officials, stultifying speeches, and barely-edible alien foods. But this one was different. And it wasn't the food. It was the company.
Trip smiled at the woman beside him as the man next to her, another government official, laughed at the joke she'd just told. Trip had already forgotten the man's name, but Tiva's; hers he remembered.
She was beautiful, of course, but it wasn't just that. He took a sip of his drink, savouring its sweetness, watching her as she spoke. He felt a real connection to her, from the first moment they'd met. Since then, they'd spent most of the reception joking with each other, talking casually about their respective home planets, their families, anything that came to mind. It wasn't that he found her sexually attractive - although she certainly was that - it was more that he felt he'd found a friend.
Trip looked up to the clink of glasses from nearby, and noticed Malcolm and Jon across the room, talking with the President and her husband. The President spoke, and Malcolm threw his head back and laughed.
Trip raised an eyebrow in surprise. Fun evening for all, he thought, turning back to Tiva, who was now standing alone.
He raised his glass to her. "Beautiful dress, by the way."
Tiva smiled, flouncing the deep green fabric with her hands. "Thanks, I..."
White flashes lit the room, accompanied by a dull hiss, then a loud roar.
Trip realised that he was on his back, staring blankly at the ceiling as orange sparks arced across it. He wasn't sure how much time had passed. He took a breath, then coughed. The room was eerily quiet, and his ears were ringing.
"Tiva?" he said, then realised that he couldn't hear himself speaking. Whatever had happened had taken out his hearing.
His vision filled with white and orange flashes framed against a plume of smoke roiling overhead, and he smelled something burning nearby. There was a building roar, then muffled shouts and moans of pain filled his ears.
He felt someone beside him, and then heard a voice, "Commander?" He looked to the side and saw Malcolm kneeling there, his dress uniform torn, his face flushed and soot-stained, but otherwise seeming unscathed.
Trip tried to sit, and Malcolm helped him with a hand at his back. "I'm fine," Trip said, coughing again.
Trip watched as Malcolm looked him over. "You're injured," Malcolm said, nodding towards Trip's arm. He waved to a passing medic, who hastily began cleaning and bandaging the small wound.
As the medic worked, Jon knelt beside them. "Are you all right?"
Trip nodded. "Barely even hurts," he said. He turned to the medic. "Although my hearing's kind of off." As the medic checked his ears, Trip looked around the room. Tables and chairs were overturned, and there were people sitting on the floor between them, in various stages of treatment. Glass from the windows sparkled where it had broken on the carpet, and Trip stared at a nearby shard for a moment, wondering at the destruction. After the medic gave him a nod and moved away, Trip asked, "Anyone seriously injured?"
Jon looked solemn. "Yes. Two people were killed."
Malcolm replied, "We were attacked. An anti-government faction has already claimed responsibility."
All of a sudden, Trip felt sick. He realised that he must have gone pale, because Malcolm suddenly stopped explaining and looked at Jon pointedly.
Kindly, Jon said, "We'll bring you back up to Enterprise in a few minutes. Are you okay to wait?" Trip nodded, and Jon said, "We'll be right back," then he and Malcolm moved away.
Trip sat there, head down, feeling a bit dazed. Breathing deeply to help settle his stomach, he stared into the rubble littering the floor beneath him, wondering where Tiva had gone. She couldn't be far, he thought. She'd been right next to him. He raised his head slowly, trying not to worsen the nausea, and took in the destruction around him.
He saw a flash of green in the corner of his vision and turned in that direction; he thought he'd seen Tiva, but there was no on there. He shook his head, rubbing his arm absently.
"Ready?" Jon asked.
Trip looked up in surprise; he hadn't noticed their return. He nodded and let Malcolm help him stand, his nausea building as he moved. He glanced again to where he'd seen the flash of green, but there was still nothing there.
A local official approached Jon, and the two men left the room, Trip and Malcolm following behind. As they stepped into the corridor, Trip stopped. "Is Tiva all right?"
"The woman I was talking with, Tiva?"
Malcolm frowned. "I'm sorry, Trip. She was one of the people killed."
"No," Trip said under his breath. Suddenly, he felt a bit dizzy, steadying himself with a quick hand on the wall.
Malcolm grabbed his other arm. "Are you all right?"
Trip nodded. "Dizzy," he said quietly, then grimaced. "I'm okay now."
"We'll have Phlox check you over once we return to the ship."
Trip felt another wave of vertigo, and his vision swam. He nodded. "That'd be good."
He saw a flash of green out of the corner of his eye, and turned in that direction. Tiva was standing there, uninjured, her green dress flowing in the breeze.
Breeze? Trip thought. He blinked, and she was gone.
He felt Malcolm pull his right arm gently, and he started walking. He peered back over his shoulder to the spot where he thought he'd seen Tiva, but she wasn't there.
Turning to face forward, he caught a glimpse of green next to him, and groaned. She was walking beside him, on his left, and staring straight ahead.
Trip stopped suddenly and closed his eyes.
Trip opened his eyes, careful to look only at Malcolm. Maybe if he didn't look...
"What's wrong?" Malcolm asked.
Trip winced and, despite his unwillingness, let his eyes move to his left. She was still there, standing next to him, looking straight ahead. Well, he thought, I guess it could be worse. At least she wasn't staring at him. Then he saw her eyes move, and she pinned him in her gaze.
Still watching Tiva, his heart racing, Trip asked Malcolm, "Tiva's dead, right?"
"She is," Malcolm replied.
Trip leaned towards her and whispered, "What are you doing here?"
"Who are you talking to?" Malcolm asked.
Trip, his vision swimming now, turned to Malcolm. "Don't you see her?"
"Who?" Malcolm asked, worry etched on his features.
"She's right here," Trip replied, turning to Tiva. She was gone. "Oh, for Christ sake," he said in exasperation.
"Trip, there's no one there."
Trip started to tremble, his breath coming in short gasps. "Nah, she was right here," he said quickly. "Next to me. Walking with us." He faced Malcolm and whispered, "But she's dead. You said she's dead. I mean, she just died, but..."
"Trip," Malcolm said forcefully, and Trip stopped speaking. Malcolm put the back of his hand to Trip's forehead, and his eyes widened. "You're feverish. We need to get you back to the shuttle."
As Malcolm spoke, Trip saw movement behind his friend. It was Tiva again, looking directly at Trip. She started speaking, but soundlessly.
Trip said, "I'm sorry. I can't hear you."
"Trip?" Malcolm asked, and Tiva reached to Trip, her arm passing right through Malcolm, who didn't notice. Trip took a quick step back, then another, until his back banged against a wall. He watched Tiva step through Malcolm, her arm still upraised, reaching out.
His heart racing, Trip shouted, "No! Stay away from me. Don't touch me." He waved her off, and she stopped moving. She stood in front of Malcolm, staring at Trip, and started talking again, her mouth moving without a sound.
Trip slid down the wall, hands over his head, trying to protect himself. As he curled in on himself, he closed his eyes. "No," he whispered.
After a moment, he felt a gentle hand on his shoulder, and he flinched. He heard Malcolm's voice, then Jon's, and he looked up to see them both squatting beside him, Malcolm touching his shoulder. Tiva was gone. "I think I'm seeing things," he whispered as the nausea, which he hadn't realised had gone, came back in a rush.
Jon asked, "Can you walk?"
"I don't..." Trip let his voice trail away, watching, fascinated, as a fog began to form where Tiva had been standing, tendrils extending languidly towards him. "Do you see that?" he asked, trying to control the tremor in his voice.
"See what?" John replied.
"The fog," Trip said, nodding in its direction. Not waiting for their answer, he stood. Leaning unsteadily against Malcolm, Jon's hand on his free arm, he closed his eyes, blocking out the vision. "We should go," he whispered.
Trip's eyes darted about sickbay, the room a swirl of light and sound; Phlox's voice, Archer's, Malcolm's. He couldn't see clearly, but he could hear Phlox's animals through the din; smell their bedding and a background note of antiseptic. Tasting something metallic at the back of his throat, he swallowed convulsively then blinked, trying to clear his vision.
Cold, he was cold.
Phlox's voice came from nearby. "This is to bring down your fever." Trip felt a hypospray at his neck, then heard the hiss.
"Cold," he whispered.
He felt a blanket being placed across his shoulders, then heard Malcolm's voice. "There."
He let himself sink back onto the bed, his leaden eyelids falling closed as his head hit the pillow. I'm taken, he thought, listening to the sounds around him, trying to focus, to remain grounded. Wandering, he thought. Unbalanced.
The sounds built to a crescendo and he was gone.
God, he felt like shit, Trip thought, gradually lifting a hand to his head, trying to stop the pounding. Cracking his eyes open, he lay quietly on the bed, staring up into the lights above him. Sickbay was oddly silent; it was unusual not to hear at least Phlox bustling nearby, or the usual noises from the menagerie.
He sat up slowly, feeling a bit unsteady. Looking around the room, he found it empty, the door, oddly, ajar. He groaned when he saw a swirl of green pass the entrance.
Swinging his legs off the bed, he stood, keeping one hand on the bedrail for support. He approached the door, triggered it fully open and peered into the corridor. There was no one there. He sighed and shook his head, then began walking down the hall. He passed an open door and looked inside.
Tiva was there, her back to him, staring out the window at the stars. He walked in and stood beside her.
After a moment, she turned to him and placed one hand on his arm.
There was a rush of sound and light.
Trip slowly lifted a hand to his head, trying to stop it from pounding. God, he felt like shit, he thought. Cracking his eyes open, he lay quietly on the bed, staring up into the lights above him. Sickbay was oddly silent; no Phlox bustling nearby, not even the usual noises from the animals.
He sat up slowly, feeling a bit unsteady. Swinging his legs off the bed, he stood, keeping one hand on the bedrail for support.
He saw a movement and Phlox was beside him, looking concerned. The doctor said something, soundlessly.
"I'm sorry," Trip said, his voice sounding loud in the quiet space. "I can't hear you."
Phlox stepped closer to him, and Trip saw a hypo in his hand. Trip felt a flush of anxiety and, heart pounding, he stepped back in a rush. He felt something fall to the ground behind him. Glancing back, he saw a tray of instruments there on the floor, and he stepped over it, making for the doors. He slapped his palm to the door trigger, and stepped into the corridor.
Moving quickly, he almost sped passed the open door. He had to take a step back to it, then enter.
She wasn't there.
He stood at the window and stared at the stars, watching as the planet, Tiva's planet, revolved below him. He felt someone step beside him, and turned, expecting to see Tiva there. Instead it was Phlox, two security men behind him. Over their shoulders he saw Malcolm enter the room. He smiled, then turned back to the window.
A voice came from beside him. "I need your help." He felt a hand on his arm and he turned slowly.
Looking at her in amazement, Trip laid his hand on top of hers. "I can hear you." He grasped her hand.
"It's coming for me," she said, a note of panic in her tone, her eyes frantic.
"But you are dead."
Trip watched as Malcolm stepped through Tiva and stood beside him, mouth moving silently. His friend was speaking very slowly, like one might with a frightened child. He placed a hand on Trip's arm.
Trip looked at Malcolm. "I can't feel you."
Malcolm nodded and pulled at Trip's arm. Trip's hand slipped from Tiva's, and he turned back to look at her as he was lead away. She stared after him, fog beginning to rise under her feet.
Trip tried to make out the lights that were above him. He knew they were there; he'd been in sickbay enough times that he practically had the patterns of their surfaces memorised. But now those patterns were getting lost in the fog, so, instead he focused on the mist itself, watching it swirl and writhe. He trembled, suddenly cold, the vapour beginning to reach thick tendrils towards him.
Seeing movement to his side, he turned to see Tiva standing beside his bed. She was staring at him.
"Stop staring at me," he said bluntly.
"Death is coming," she said, her voice flat.
"That makes sense," he replied. "You're dead."
"It's coming," she said, starting to look a bit frantic. She touched his arm briefly, and turned to the door.
Trip saw grey fog, like a solid mass, roiling through the door. It began coming towards him and he felt a sudden flash of panic, and scrambled backwards on the mattress.
"Help me," Tiva said, frenzied, whipping her head from side to side as the mist began to swirl around her. She began to disappear into it.
Trip pulled all his limbs up onto the bed, away from the fog, and curled into a tight, frightened ball. "I can't."
"Trip," she said, her voice faint.
The fog rose up around the bed, curling around its edges, approaching him. He could feel it, cool on his skin.
"I can't," he replied in a small voice as she vanished into the vapour. "I'm sorry."
Trip blinked. The panic he was feeling, the sense of threat - it was gone. He watched the fog in awe as is rose, filling sickbay and blocking out the light.
He drifted, lost in a sea of grey.
Trip saw grey eyes watching him closely. He blinked. "Malcolm?"
Malcolm stood from his seat next to the biobed. "Nice to see you awake and alert."
"What?" Trip asked, confused.
Malcolm smiled. "Your fever had been quite high."
"Was I sick?"
"You were. What do you remember?"
Trip paused, thinking back. "I remember the attack, and being grazed. There was a medic bandaging me, and then..." He looked at Malcolm, feeling slightly panicked.
"It's all right," Malcolm said, placing a gentle hand on his arm, rubbing a calming circle. Trip felt himself relax slightly at the touch. "Phlox said that the injury allowed a pathogen to enter your bloodstream. It took some time to fight off."
Trip nodded, then smiled slightly, trying to lighten the mood despite his nervousness about his lack of memory. "Did I do anything that might come back and bite me in the butt?"
Malcolm laughed, then turned more serious. "It was fairly frightening, actually, you talking to walls."
"I don't remember."
Malcolm patted his arm. "That's probably for the best."
Trip shook his head, then yawned. "I feel like I've forgotten something."
"I'm sure it will come back to you. You should get some sleep."
Trip nodded and let his eyes slide shut.
He turned to Tiva. "Are you okay?"
She smiled. "Yes, actually." She stepped to his bedside. "I wanted to apologise. I didn't realise that I was dead, and I panicked."
Trip nodded. "Well, it was pretty scary."
"It doesn't have to be. It was my own fault, really."
"What do you mean?"
"You shape your own death, you know. The experience is as you imagine it will be. Mine was what I'd thought it would be like." She laughed. "Seen too many horror films."
He smiled, remembering some particularly ghastly scenes. "They tend to stick with you."
She smiled back. "But death doesn't have to be that way. I wanted to make sure you knew that."
"So that, when your time comes, you wouldn't be afraid."
Trip smiled. "Thanks."
She placed a hand on his arm. He couldn't feel it. Then she was gone.