Thank you for reading this story and letting me know you've enjoyed it. Here is the wrap-up!
§ Epilogue §
Sickbay was beautiful. Trip had never considered just how beautiful sickbay was. Spacious, airy... And Phlox. Phlox was... well, impressive. Even that obnoxious smile of his was a wonderful sight.
"Something wrong, Commander?" the very man asked, his face suddenly falling.
"Uh, no, Doc. Sorry I was starin'. It's just that I never realised what a gift it is to be able to p-- I mean see properly." Trip bit his lip in embarrassment, but Phlox, as the true professional he was, didn't remark his near blunder.
A few hours before the Denobulan had administered the newly-synthesized vaccine to the entire crew, but one's ability to put the right letters together seemed to take a little longer to be restored than one's eyesight.
"Indeed," Phlox just commented. Moving to Malcolm's biobed, he checked the sleeping man's vitals on the monitor at the head of the bed. Malcolm had been under for Phlox-only-knew how many hours, and Trip was beginning to wonder if he'd ever come round.
"How is Mister I Am Fine?" Trip asked with a hint of worry, turning on his side.
"I heard you, Commander," a sleepy voice replied.
Phlox chuckled. "A timely reawakening," he said, emptying a hypospray into Malcolm's neck. "He's better," he added, to answer Trip's question. "Aren't you, Lieutenant?"
"'Better' would tend to imply that I wasn't well," Malcolm said, more with it. He cracked his eyes open and turned to focus them directly into Trip's. "It was you who wasn't. Despite your bad attempt at teasing, I was just fine." Pausing, he blinked a couple of times as if struck by a sudden thought; then frowned. "What the hell am I sicking in dobay?" His eyes went wide.
Trip's mouth curled up. "Dubai? You're definitely not in Dubai."
"I mean... doing in sickbay?"
Trip painted an 'isn't it obvious' expression on his face, letting Phlox spell things out.
"You succumbed to Trispian fever as well, Lieutenant," the Denobulan said. "Among other things," he added quietly.
There was a pause.
Now, this was irritating. "And just why should it be impossible?" Trip bit back. Malcolm and his fine-at-all-costs complex were beginning to get on his nerves.
"Simply because I remember that after I got those plant specimens, despite my..." Biting his lip, Malcolm cut himself off. His grey eyes darted to check his left arm. It was bandaged from wrist to elbow.
"Yes, Lieutenant?" both Phlox and Trip prompted, one openly curious, the other somewhat more darkly.
Malcolm cleared his throat. "Well, despite... a minor injury," he continued, rushing the words, "I remember dragging you all the way to the pod. I couldn't have done that with Trispian fever."
"Injury, huh?" Trip said, narrowing his eyes.
"What are you complaining about?" Malcolm countered. "I blew us-- flew us back, didn't I?" He bit his lip, wincing. "I did, didn't I?"
Phlox raised his eyebrows. "You don't remember, Mr. Reed?"
Malcolm shrugged. "The last bit is slightly... fuzzy," he admitted quietly.
"It's not surprising: by then you were quite ill." Phlox produced a scanner and passed it over Malcolm's chest. In a casual voice he asked, "That... minor injury, as you call it: can you tell us what happened?"
Malcolm winced again. "Is it really necessary?
"Ya bet," Trip said deadpan. "You stubborn S.O.B. left me guessin', in my feverish and disabled state, what was wrong with ya. Now I demand to know."
"It was but a trifle." Malcolm heaved a dramatic sigh. "In my hurry to collect those plants and get back to you, I..." He stopped. "Can't I just write it in my report?" he asked hopefully. "All right, all right," he yielded at Trip's glare. "Well, I didn't see that under those plants resided a family of flat, slimy and quite revolting worm-like creatures - equipped with rather sharp teeth."
"Like this one?" Phlox dug into his pocket and produced a clear plastic container, which he proceeded to show to Reed.
Trip watched Malcolm's eyes go wide with surprise. "That's it!" the man exclaimed. "Where did you find it?"
"Under a leaf on one of the specimens you brought back. I analysed it, and found it contains a substance that on human physiology would have a slow but strong doping effect."
"You were high?" Trip exclaimed in disbelief. "Because of a worm?"
Malcolm blinked and turned to Phlox. "I was high?" he enquired with a grimace.
"I suppose you could say that, yes. You certainly didn't sound like yourself when, to the Subcommander who had ordered you to take medical readings of yourself, you replied – and I quote – nonsense, I've got to go, talk to you later, cheerio."
Malcolm winced, hiding behind a hand.
"And to think I missed that!" Trip groaned.
"You also developed a local reaction to the bite," Phlox continued. "Your arm got infected and quite swollen. Last but not least, in the end you caught Trispian fever."
"Oh yes: I'd say you were real fine," Trip commented, rolling his eyes.
Malcolm's facial muscles clenched. "Well, I got us back in one piece, didn't I? And I brought back that damn plant," he said peevishly. "There are different shades of fine."
Before Trip could tell the man what he thought of that theory, the doors opened to let Archer and T'Pol in.
"Captain," Phlox said in mild reproach. "I thought I had recommended that you rest. You're only just over your symptoms."
Archer gave him one of his more genial smiles. "Don't worry, Doc, I'm fine."
"Not another one," Trip muttered. Grey eyes shot him an incinerating look.
"I swear: if I'd stayed in my quarters another minute you'd have had a mental patient on your hands," Archer went on. "Even Porthos was relieved to see me go." Shifting his gaze from one biobed to the other, he enquired, "How are you two feeling?"
"Never better, Capt'n," Trip said genuinely.
"Very well, Sir," Malcolm echoed, straightening an already straight sheet.
"That's good to hear." Archer squeezed Malcolm's shoulder. "I want to thank you for what you did, Lieutenant, bringing back that plant. Oh, and Trip," he added, merry eyes resting on the engineer.
"My duty, Captain," Malcolm replied. A smug smile appeared on his lips.
Archer's eyes fell on his bandaged arm and he frowned. "You hurt yourself?"
Trip grinned wickedly. "He got bitten by a worm. And it resulted in--"
"It was nothing, Sir," Malcolm butted in, shooting Trip a rather unfriendly look. But the damage was already done.
"A bite? That resulted in what?"
"Was that the reason for the Lieutenant's unusual behaviour?" T'Pol thought well of specifying, speaking for the first time. She latched her hands behind her back, waiting for Phlox's reply.
Trip watched Malcolm fidget, eyes low, and felt a pang of conscience. After all the man had dragged him to safety. "Sorry," he mumbled to him.
"The creature contained a drug-like poison that gave the Lieutenant a curious reaction," Phlox began happily, seemingly oblivious to Malcolm's discomfort. "Mainly it caused Mister Reed to display lack of control, an unusually light disposition, as well as a peculiar and quite uncharacteristic disregard of form. You see, Captain, the particular substance which that worm--"
"Never mind, Doc, thank you." Archer accompanied the words with a smile that fooled nobody, not even Phlox: it was clear he was relieved to have nipped one of the man's lengthy explanations in the bud.
"It will be... interesting to read your report, Lieutenant," the Captain said. "Whatever you... uhm, can remember."
"Yes, Sir," Malcolm croaked out, eyes darting to his C.O. and quickly away. "I'll get it done as soon as possible."
T'Pol tilted her head gracefully to one side. "It was fortunate that Mister Mayweather had not fallen ill," she commented, with a lift of her eyebrows. "He was quite proficient in operating the grappler."
Archer seemed lost again, and T'Pol looked at him for a moment, as if expecting the man would come to the logical conclusion on his own. When it became clear he was taking a bit too long, she explained, "We had to retrieve the Shuttlepod, which was off course."
Archer frowned. "Doesn't anybody tell me anything around here any more?"
T'Pol's eyebrows soared again, uncomprehendingly. Trip smiled to himself. He was glad he had regained his sight in time to enjoy the exchange between the Captain and their Vulcan SIC. They were always kind of fun.
"It's that in the end Malcolm got Trispian fever as well, Capt'n," he came to the rescue. "His sight was compromised and we needed a bit of help to get home." He gave his C.O. a reassuring smile. "Don't worry: we aren't planning another mutiny."
"Thank you," Archer said deadpan. He turned to Malcolm. "In light of what I've just been told, Lieutenant, your performance of duty was commendable. It will be mentioned in my report to Starfleet."
"Sir, I really did only what I was supposed to," Malcolm mumbled, in obvious unease. "In fact…" He cast a nervous glance at T'Pol. "Subcommander, I must apologise for... well..."
Archer looked between one and the other, head tilted to one side, a puzzled frown in place again.
"I am quite relieved you are back to normal, Lieutenant," T'Pol commented simply.
"Crewman Kolinsky told me she has already planted some of the specimens Mister Reed brought back in the hydroponic bay," T'Pol announced, changing subject, to Malcolm's visible relief. She absent-mindedly reached with a hand to wipe off something from Trip's sheet, at the foot of his bed. "She expects the plants to take root without problems." Rubbing her hand on the sheet again, she frowned.
Trip turned to Malcolm. The man's grey eyes had a familiar glint to them, the same that was probably in his own. They both looked at Phlox, and three pairs of assessing eyes shifted back to T'Pol.
"Is anything the matter, Subcommander?" Phlox enquired.
"I'm fine," T'Pol said, blinking. "However, Trispian fever appears to have der-- reduced the efficiency of the laundry crew: there is some sh--"
She cut herself off abruptly, and her eyes for once betrayed an unmistakable dose of concern.
"Lint on this sheet," she carefully concluded.
There were coughs and sputters and clearings of throats.
Trip broke into a comforting smile. "Welcome to the club."
Poor T'Pol, I'm becoming a bit too nasty, LOL! Leave a last comment?
Coming up, a new Friend In Need story based on a suggestion from SitaZ :-)