Set in Stone
By Thalia Drogna, based on a synopsis from Softyfluff
Eight broken bones took quite a while to heal, and Trip had never been good at lying still, even when he wasn't feeling well. His bruises were now fading to a rather sickly yellow and green, which left his skin looking slightly mottled, but he was feeling his injuries less and less every day. He did still have both legs and one arm in plastic casts which made moving around a bit difficult, but in general things were looking up. Despite frequent visits by many members of the crew Trip found himself to be utterly bored. Unfortunately for Phlox, a bored engineer meant trouble.
The doctor had been getting more and more exasperated with Trip's requests to be released from sickbay. The final straw had been when he had returned from tending to one of his last Tauran flu patients and found pieces of a medical scanner scattered all over Trip's bed while the Commander tried to track down an intermittent fault that Phlox had made the mistake of complaining about earlier. Phlox wouldn't normally have minded, after all anything that kept his patient occupied was good, but this particular scanner was the only one he had brought with him from Denobula. Trip did put it back together again but it had taken him a full day during which Phlox had been without his favourite scanner. Insult was added to injury when a visiting Hess had offered to help and Trip told her to leave it to him. Trip was, of course, working one handed due to having his other hand splinted up and therefore taking twice as long as anyone else would have done. Not surprisingly, Phlox didn't leave any more electronic devices lying within Trip's reach.
After that he had begun to operate a day release plan. This involved getting Trip settled into a motorised wheelchair and sending him out with a chaperone, usually to the mess hall for some food. The task of chaperone had mostly fallen to Lieutenant Reed, although occasionally Captain Archer took it on. They were apparently the only two people who Phlox thought could handle a wayward Chief Engineer. Trip had been very annoyed to discover that firstly his chaperone wouldn't let him anywhere near Engineering, secondly that, when he was able to slip away from said chaperone, he couldn't get his wheelchair over the lip of the hatchway into Main Engineering, and thirdly his staff had been ordered not to help him. In fact the last time he'd turned up down there Hess had shopped him to Phlox, and she was so going to pay for that when he was back on duty. This all meant that mostly Trip spent his time reading or watching movies, although even he admitted that he was still sleeping a lot. Today, Trip had other ideas.
"This really isn't a good idea, Trip," said Reed. "If Phlox catches us we'll never hear the end of it."
"Where's your sense of fun, Malcolm," replied Trip.
"I lost it when I remembered that I'm due my annual medical next week," replied Reed. "I would have thought that someone with as many broken bones as you wouldn't want to annoy their doctor any more than they already have."
Archer entered sickbay just as Trip was about to reply. "See, the Captain's up for it. Phlox can't get mad at us if the Captain's involved."
"You invited the Captain?" asked Reed in a whisper, half shocked and half horrified. To be honest, he didn't think the Captain's presence would save them from Phlox's wrath.
"It wouldn't be as much fun with just the two of us," Trip pointed out.
"Is the coast clear?" asked Archer, as he approached Trip and Reed.
"Phlox is out for lunch with Liz Cutler," said Trip. "We've got at least an hour."
"So, where are they?" asked Archer, obviously very enthusiastic about the whole thing.
"In their usual place, the storage compartment opposite sickbay," said Trip.
"What are we waiting for then?" asked Archer, "let's go and test them out."
Archer made for the doors, Trip following in his wheelchair and Reed traipsed behind them. Archer got to the storage compartment first and heaved open the door. He and Reed pulled out the items that they had come for, two more motorised wheelchairs. While they were doing that, Trip had flipped open the covering on the control box of his own wheelchair and was making some minor adjustments. He snapped the box shut with a triumphant click.
"There, all ready to go," said Trip, with a grin.
"How did you ever find time to do this?" asked Reed.
"Phlox can't watch me all the time. Besides it may come in handy to have three turbo powered motorised wheelchairs at some point, you never know," said Trip.
"Yes, when the Romulans unleash their dreaded wheelchair attack we'll be ahead in the arms race," said Reed, sarcastically.
"Gentlemen, when you're quite finished, we have a race to get started," said Archer, positioning one of the chairs and sitting down. He began experimenting with the controls to see how they worked. Trip was also testing out his modifications and was already halfway down the corridor.
"What if one of the crew sees us?" asked Reed.
"We're in the middle of the shift, everyone's either at lunch or at work," said Archer. "It'll be fine, Malcolm, and Trip really needs the distraction."
Reed knew that all too well. He had been the one who'd had to explain to Trip that, no, he wasn't allowed to check on the warp engine, or anything else related to Engineering, and that included getting Hess to sneak him status reports. It also meant that he wasn't allowed to threaten members of his staff with cleaning the plasma conduits if they didn't bring him hourly updates on how repairs were going. When Phlox said Trip should have complete rest for at least another week, he meant it. Unfortunately for everyone, Trip didn't seem to know the meaning of the word rest.
Reed rolled his eyes and gave an exasperated sigh. "I still don't know how he managed to talk me into this."
"The same way he always does," said Archer, with a grin, "by appealing to your inner child."
"Are you guys going to stand there all day?" asked Trip, returning in his own wheelchair.
"My apologies, Commander," said Reed, amusement in his tone. He got the other wheelchair into place, and Archer and Trip lined up beside him.
"Okay, when I say go," said Archer. "The course is down to the end of the next bulkhead."
Both Reed and Trip nodded, their hands poised on the controls.
"Ready, set, go!" shouted Archer, and the three wheelchairs set off at an impressive pace, considerably faster than they were designed to go. It still wasn't terribly fast however and Archer was taking advantage of this to cheat by pushing Reed off course with an outstretched hand. Reed was doing his best to fend him off with his own flailing arms. The racing wheelchair tilted slightly before Reed was able to rebalance it, but he had lost valuable seconds that had let Archer and Trip move past him. The manoeuvre had also cost Archer some time as well though. Trip edged slightly ahead and crossed the finish line first.
"Yeeha!" Trip punched the air in victory, and then remembered why sudden movement was still currently a very bad idea as he jarred his healing ribs.
"Trip, are you okay?" asked Archer, seeing the flash of pain cross his friend's face.
Trip waved him off, but he was still breathing heavily. "I'll be fine in a second." He moved his hand to brace his side where the incision for the chest tube had been made. It still twinged and pulled when he moved wrong, but it was healing, along with the scars on his back. A week in a coma meant that the injuries he had sustained in the Thackerite prison were already much better by the time he woke up. Phlox had promised to do something about his scars but they'd never be gone completely, and he was beginning to consider just keeping them. The whole experience was part of his memory now and getting rid of the scars wouldn't make it go away.
"I knew that this was a bad idea," said Reed.
"Nah, let's race back again," said Trip.
"Don't you think we should quit while we're ahead?" suggested Archer.
"Awe, come on, one more go," Trip pleaded.
Archer shook his head indulgently. "I suppose one more go won't hurt, but after that you need to get back to sickbay."
"Deal," said Trip.
They set up again, facing back the way they had come, Trip in the middle this time, so that there would be no cheating. It was very hard with one arm in a sling to push someone and drive at the same time, and Trip's injuries obviously precluded any pushing from his friends.
"Go!" shouted Archer and the three of them set off at top speed back down the corridor towards the sickbay doors.
Reed was ahead when there was a sudden bang and blue smoke began to escape from the control box on his wheelchair.
"Bloody hell," Reed coughed as his wheelchair slowed and then came to a halt.
"Uh oh," said Trip, pulling up beside Reed. "Phlox is not going to be happy."
Which of course was the moment that the doctor to chose to return from lunch early. Three pairs of eyes turned towards him, all looking as if they had just been caught with their hands in the cookie jar.
"Commander, Captain, Lieutenant, what is going on here?" Phlox sounded rather annoyed.
"I thought you said an hour," whispered Archer to Trip, before turning to Phlox. "We just thought that Trip needed a bit of cheering up."
"Cheering the Commander up is one thing, Captain, but I fail to see why three wheelchairs are required. It appears that you have also managed to break one of them."
The broken wheelchair flew a few more sparks out to accentuate the point. The three men continued to look uncomfortable.
"It was just a bit of fun, Doc," said Trip.
"These are not toys, Commander. What did you do to them?"
"I removed the speed limiters," said Trip, guiltily. "I guess it overloaded the circuit."
"I'm sure that Trip can put the limiters back in and repair the damage," said Archer.
"Commander Tucker shouldn't even be out of bed," pointed out Phlox. "I did not provide you with a wheelchair so that you could carry on in this way. We agreed that you would be allowed out of sickbay for limited periods."
"Well, what do you expect, Doc? I'm bored out of my skull," said Trip, heatedly.
Phlox looked as if he was getting more and more angry. "Let's get these put away and you back to bed, Trip," said Archer. Reed decided to help defuse the situation and began to put the two extra wheelchairs back in the storage compartment.
"Bed?" asked Trip. He crossed his arms over his chest as best he could, but gave up when he realised it was going to cause him more pain than the gesture was worth. "I'm not going anywhere. I want out."
"We have had this conversation several times before," said Phlox. "You are not leaving sickbay until I am ready to discharge you. You had major surgery less than two weeks ago."
"Yes, and I'm feeling better."
"Trip…" began Archer.
"Whatever you're going to say, I don't want to hear it," said Trip.
"Well, you're going to anyway," said Archer. "Do I have to remind you what you've been through in the last three weeks? You were accused of murder, beaten up, flogged, and nearly buried alive. Which might not be so bad if you were in good shape to begin with."
"The Captain is right, Trip," said Malcolm. "You need to listen to Phlox."
Trip sighed. "Great, you're all ganging up on me."
Archer took the handlebars of Trip's wheelchair and pushed him back into sickbay. "Sorry, Trip, but it's for your own good."
"And it's only until tomorrow," said Phlox.
"Tomorrow?" asked Trip, in surprise. "I thought you said another few days at least."
"I think this has shown that you are indeed ready to return to your quarters, as long as you make me some promises. I am not completely unaware of your feelings, Commander and you have proved that you are reasonably mobile without assistance."
"That's what I've been telling you for the last three days, Doc." Trip smiled as Archer and Phlox helped him back into bed. He didn't like to admit that the doctor was right, but he was tired and maybe another day wouldn't hurt. His ribs and side were aching fiercely after his earlier exertion. He lay back and settled himself against the pillows.
"I'll come by tomorrow, Trip, to take you back to your quarters and make sure you're settled in," said Archer.
"You don't need to do that," said Trip.
"I know. I want to."
"Okay then, I guess I can stand to be fussed over a little," said Trip.
Reed approached the biobed. "I've stowed the wheelchairs and let Lieutenant Hess know that one of them needs some repairs."
"She's never going to let me live this one down," said Trip.
"Perhaps you should have thought of that before modifying them," said Phlox, but there was no anger in his voice this time. "Now I think everyone should leave and let the Commander rest."
Archer nodded. "See you tomorrow, Trip."
Trip gave a half hearted wave as Reed and Archer left sickbay. Tomorrow was going to be hard work. He'd already done a lot of work to get this far in his recovery but that was only the start. He still had weeks before the casts came off and then lots of hard physiotherapy sessions. He was under no illusions that being back in his quarters was going to be easy, at least until he was more mobile. For the moment though he could rest and know that his friends were there when he needed them, even if that meant incurring the wrath of their resident physician. Trip closed his eyes and fell asleep dreaming of perfectly functioning warp engines.