Thank you all for reading this, and especially to those who wrote reviews. This is the final chapter.
Trip felt odd. Something was seriously wrong. He sat up suddenly, looking frantically around sickbay.
He realised what was different and he smiled. The voices were gone. And he felt okay. Not great, but okay.
Phlox stepped to his side, smiling broadly as he ran a scanner over him.
"You know, I feel all right," Trip said. He tapped his ear. "No voices."
"Good," Phlox replied. "I've taken you off the medications."
Trip felt a bit of panic. "Are you sure that's a good idea?" Phlox stopped scanning and looked at him. "I mean, earlier, when I stopped taking them..." Trip felt himself blushing. "I'm sorry about that, for not taking them, but I had to, I..." He sighed. "Anyway, sorry."
"Apology accepted, Commander. You should know, however, that your current lack of auditory hallucinations may not be due totally to the medications." Phlox began scanning again. "Lieutenant Reed convinced the Captain to, as he said, 'ditch the thing.' The device has been off-ship since last night. I suspect that you may feel a bit more stable with it gone."
"Oh," Trip said in surprise.
"How are you feeling?" Malcolm asked, stepping to Trip's bedside.
"Great, actually. Phlox said that I'm 'bout cured." Trip smiled broadly, then his brow furrowed. "Um, he told me what you did, getting rid of the thing." At Malcolm's answering nod, he said. "I thought you didn't believe me."
"I wasn't sure I did."
"But it seemed a chance we should take. We put it back where we'd found it - with a warning buoy, of course."
Trip smiled. "I'm just disappointed that I didn't get to really figure that thing out."
"I think you learnt more than you wanted."
"Yeah, I suppose you're right." Trip pretended to be wistful. "Still..."
"You are kidding," Malcolm said flatly.
"You betcha." Trip broke into a grin. "Happy to have light-years between us and that thing."
"Light-aeons," Malcolm said, starting to smile. "I was thinking, rather than years..."
Trip's brow furrowed. "That's not a very good joke."
"No, I know, but I felt a joke of some sort was in order."
"Because I've missed having you around. Well, whole and around."
"Missed my sparkling repartee?"
"Yes, trading quips with Hoshi isn't quite the same." Malcolm gave him a twisted smile. "Which brings up the next order of business." He unzipped a pocket in the arm of his uniform and pulled out a small data disc. "Hoshi and I thought you might like this." He held it out towards Trip, one eyebrow raised as he waited.
Trip stared down at the disc. "What is it?"
"Something we both thought you might like. For you to listen to later."
Trip held out a cautious hand and took the object. "Um, thank you. I think."
Trip placed the disc that Malcolm had given him into his computer. It was his first night in his own quarters since they'd found the artifact, and his first chance to hear whatever was on the recording. He wasn't sure if he was looking forward to it or dreading it.
As the recording began, his room filled with the sound of giggling, then Hoshi's voice came through. "We dedicate this disc to Trip Tucker."
Then Malcolm's voice began. "On the occasion of his getting out of sickbay."
"Again," Hoshi interrupted with a laugh. There was the sound of shuffling, then she continued. "We put this together when we realised that you were going to be okay."
"For you to use if the silence becomes too deafening, without the voices," Malcolm said.
Then it began in earnest and Trip burst out laughing.
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