Here is the epilogue to this crazy adventure. A big thank you to my readers and reviewers.
The next special month will be "'Tis but a scratch" Month, in April. Feel free to take part!
§ 6 §
Normality was a wonderful thing, Captain Archer mused, as he strode along the corridors of his ship, no longer weary of reading discontent on his crew's faces now that the Vulcan ship had delivered the 'important supplies'. Well – he amended; normality might not exactly be the right word, with two crewmen who still hadn't regained their original appearance, and still looked like shimmering images of themselves. Contrary to what Phlox had imagined, it was taking Trip and Malcolm longer to fully reappear than it had Trip's hand, that time; and he'd been scared as hell that something might have gone awfully wrong. Archer shook his head. What had got into him, to go along with Malcolm's idea to use Suliban cloaking on people? He was going to make sure the Lieutenant didn't get the idea this was a new 'tactical device' at his disposal.
"Evening Captain," Hoshi's upbeat voice said, interrupting his musings.
"Hoshi. Going to the movie night?" he asked. Maybe inspired by his subconscious, Trip had scheduled Phantom of the Opera.
Archer slowed down to allow the smaller Ensign to fall in step with him.
"Yes. But first I'm going to have a cup of coffee." Hoshi darted a self-conscious glance. "I never thought I was so addicted to the stuff."
Archer chuckled. "Yeah. And sometimes we take small things so much for granted that we don't even realise we have them. Until we don't."
"Well said, Sir."
They entered the Messhall, and found Trip who was already preparing the chairs for that night's screening. Archer noticed with pleasure that in the last couple of hours, since the end of their shift, he seemed to have regained a lot more substance; though the contrast between his shimmering skin and his very visible uniform was still stark and somewhat disturbing.
"Hey, Capt'n," Trip cheerfully greeted.
It was good to see he was once again his old self – at least character-wise. His friendly bickerings with Malcolm had taken a more nasty turn, when he'd been coffee-deprived.
"Commander," Archer replied, returning a smile. "Great progress. By the looks of it, by tomorrow we may hope to have you and Malcolm back for good."
"I really do hope you are correct, Sir," a clipped voice commented.
Archer turned to see the Armoury Officer enter the Messhall.
"I am sick and tired of cutting myself while trying to shave a face I can hardly see."
"Ever heard of electric shavers, Loo-tenant?" Trip teased.
Malcolm just glared at him – something that, for some reason, he managed to do well even with pixels missing from his face – and joined Hoshi at the drink dispenser.
"Coffee, with milk," Hoshi ordered. She took the cup in both hands and, closing her eyes, brought it up to her nose for a deep sniff of its aroma. "Delicious," she said dreamily, before finally taking a sip. "Oh, sorry Lieutenant." Realising she was still standing in front of the machine, she moved out of the way so Malcolm could access it.
"No problem, Ensign," the Lieutenant said, gentlemanly. Moving in place, he cleared his throat. "Coffee, strong," he ordered. He took his cup and brought it to his lips. "Hmm, lovely," he commented.
"Capt'n, that cannot be the real Lieutenant Reed," Trip said deadpan. "You'd better call Security and get the Doc take scans of that man."
"I don't recall ever saying that I don't like coffee, Commander," Malcolm said. "Only that I could go without it."
Archer could have sworn a blush was creeping up his still insubstantial-looking neck and face.
"Right," Trip countered with a sly grin. "As a matter-of-fact, I have been wondering why, on our mission, you brought along a straw, of all things. 'Cause for sure it couldn't be to snatch an early sip of that beverage you can so easily go without."
Malcolm cleared his throat. "I simply always go on missions well prepared. At least I didn't dip my uniform in coffee liquor and turn myself into the evening treat of the royal pet."
"Enough, you two," Archer interrupted, with a chuckle. "I don't think we need to worry about Malcolm, Trip. He's definitely the original."
"Thank you, Sir," the man in question said, obviously taking the words as a compliment.
"Now, if it were T'Pol, ordering coffee, that would be another question," Archer continued.
The Mess doors swished open and, as if summoned by the words, the very person entered. She surveyed the many pairs of eyes that had converged on her and said a curteous, "Good evening," looking slightly surprised at such unilateral attention.
"Coming for Movie Night, Subcommander?" Trip said in what sounded like hope. "You're a bit early."
"Thank you, Commander, but phantoms are highly illogical, and from what I could gather opera is excessively emotional."
Archer nodded gravely, reining in his mirth, and watched his Second in Command walk lithely to the drink dispenser.
Once again all eyes converged on her, and she turned to give her crewmates what looked like a puzzled glance.
"Go ahead, Subcommander," Archer encouraged her. "Don't mind us. We are..." He shrugged, giving her a quick smile. "Just wondering what you'll have as a drink."
T'Pol's eyebrows went up, and Archer almost felt bad for her. She must be spending a lot of her time just trying to figure out her Human crewmates.
Finally, she turned back and in her steady Vulcan voice ordered, "Chamomile tea, hot."
"You can breathe, Capt'n," Trip said, deadpan. "She's also the original."
That was when Phlox entered.
He took a look at the group, clapped his hands together, and said, cheerful as ever, "Now, who of you gentlemen and ladies is going to share a nice cup of coffee with me?"
"Doctor," Hoshi said in desbelief. "You never drink coffee..."
In the silence that followed Malcolm suggested, "Shall I call Security, Sir?"
Phlox shot him a frown; then turned to Hoshi, breaking into one of his smiles. "There's always a first time, Ensign."
Archer chuckled. "Hold on, Malcolm. Let's welcome the man to civilization first."
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