A/N: Last chance to leave a review. Thanks to all my readers!
Two months later.
The sound of a chair scraping across the weathered wooden floor provided background beat to the concert that was echoing around it. The cadence of the dishes clinking together and the murmur of the table voices mixed with mellow shouts from the kitchen to create an oddly balanced tune. Its hypnotic lure teased at him. The sticky sweet aroma taunted his nostalgic memories of his mother's kitchen and Sunday morning breakfasts.
"Trip? Did I interrupt something?"
Captain Tucker blinked and refocused his eyes on the man sitting across the table. "Sorry Jon," he mumbled as he shifted his weight in his seat. Archer had been rambling on about life at Command for the past ten minutes and Tucker had conveniently just tuned him out. "Just thinking about a simpler time."
"A time before you were the legal guardian to a teenager and the Captain of the flagship of the fleet?" Jonathan Archer asked with a tilt of his head.
"Somethin like that, although I'd hardly call Phoenix the flagship," Trip shrugged sheepishly. "Life sure does throw some curveballs doesn't it?" He played with the top of his water glass. "Five years ago, if you would have told me my next kid would be a fifteen year old that I liberated from an alien royal pain in the ass mass murderer I would have thought you were nuts."
"And yet it happened," Jon said with a half grin. "I can see why you and T'Pol felt compelled to take her in. She's hard not to love."
"Yeah, she gets under your skin," Trip agreed nodding his head. "It amazes me how many fights T'Pol and I can get into now over nothing." He picked up his coffee cup and took a sip.
"Let me guess, T'Pol's the disciplinarian?" the Admiral commented.
"Actually not," Trip replied setting the cup down. "I'm more strict if you can believe it. My brother told me last weekend that I was acting just like my dad." He picked up his fork and stabbed at his pancakes.
"Ouch!" Jon grimaced as he wiped his mouth with a napkin. Before he could respond, the communicator lying on the table chirped.
"I should have shut that off," Trip scowled as he flipped the device open. "Tucker," he said into the microphone.
"Supplies are loaded sir," Rybaiski's voice informed him.
"I'll be up in a bit," Trip replied. He flipped the communicator off and stuffed it in his pocket. "That's covert Rybaiski speak for get your ass up here."
"Speaking of Rybaiski, how did he take it when Gervase was promoted to First Officer?" Archer questioned.
"I think he was disappointed for about two seconds and then he got over it," Trip replied. "After Catch removed himself from consideration, Gervase was just the better candidate. Stu's great in his department and as the hit man, but long term doesn't have the focus to run the whole ship."
"Sounds like someone I used to know," Archer reminded him. "Give him time, he'll come around, just like you did."
"I had a good teacher," Trip replied pouring another cup of coffee.
"The memorial service was nice," Archer remarked playing with his coffee cup.
"Yeah, right up to the point when the Admiral's torpedo got stuck in the shoot," Trip chuckled. "You know half the crew thinks the ship is haunted with his spirit."
"Let me guess, his ghost jammed the pipe on purpose?" Jon questioned.
"Like it was a test to see if they could problem solve on the fly," Tucker mumbled.
"Well, they must have passed, the launch was only delayed a few minutes," Jon remarked.
"Hmmph," Tucker grunted with a smirk.
Archer stared at his friend and tilted his head. "Trip …. What aren't you telling me?"
Tucker looked around the restaurant and leaned into the table. "The Admiral's in the deep freeze in sickbay," he whispered gruffly. "We shot an empty casing into space for the ceremony." He looked up at Jon with huge smile on his face. "It took over two hours to clear the pipe! " Tucker chuckled and sat back in his chair. "He told me years ago he wanted a deep space burial...so now he's going to get it," Trip said shrugging his shoulders.
"Without his family's blessing?" Jon asked with raised eyebrows.
"They know," Trip muttered. "Zack is convinced that is why the whole thing jammed in the first place. Like the Admiral was sending us a message from the grave. He probably has a big ole grin on his face over it right now." He looked down at his watch again.
Archer chuckled and rolled his eyes. "Where you going drop him?"
"Well, I was thinking somewhere out by the Starbase, but Catch and Jeremy, the Admiral's son, reminded me that Stewart was a huge civil war and ole west buff. So we're going to complete the ceremony at North Star," Trip replied pushing his plate to the side.
"North Star?" Archer questioned. "Isn't that kinda out of the way?"
"Nah, Admiral Ford conveniently added the yearly supply run to North Star to our mission," Trip replied with a grin.
"Just happened to add it huh?" Archer commented with a raised brow. "Why do I smell a conspiracy?"
"Ah, I think you're jealous," Trip replied with a shit-eatin grin. "Any words of endearment you want to send Bethany's way? Maybe she's still single … I could bring her home for you."
"That's okay Captain," Jon shook his head and held up with his hand. "I do just fine in the relationship department on my own without your intervention."
"I heard she asked about you the last time one of our ships was out there," Trip teased the elder officer.
"Yeah, ah … you can just tell her I retired..got married," Archer mumbled. He took a sip of coffee and looked at his watch. "What time are you departing?"
"Zero nine hundred."
Archer looked at watch and noticed that Trip had just a couple of minutes to spare. "Wow, you weren't kidding when you said you were squeezing in breakfast," Jon remarked as he set his coffee cup down.
"Yeah, on that note, I need to go," Trip sighed heavily. "We'll be back in a couple of months. Take care of my girls Jon," he said pushing his chair back and stood up from the table. "I'm sure you'll need to mediate some mother-daughter disputes. Riley likes to forget that she's only fifteen."
"You got it Trip. It'll remind me of commanding a ship." Admiral Archer said. He extended his hand to his friend and then pulled the man into a hug. "Be safe," he whispered into Trip's ear. "You have a lot more to come home too now."
"You got that right," Trip said as he turned on his heel and walked to the door. "Same time, say six months from now? I'll buy."
"Captain on deck!" CDR Rybaiski hollered out as Trip stepped off the transporter pad. Trip rolled his eyes in annoyance at his executive officer.
"As you were," Trip said to the MACO detail standing near the pad. "You do that again and I'll bust you down to quartermaster, Commander," Trip grumbled under his breath as the two men headed down the corridor.
"Quartermaster huh?" Stu laughed. "That might be an improvement over my current job as hall cop," Stu replied. He handed the Captain a PADD with the latest status report. "What took you so long?"
"Agh, I got stuck in a traffic with some ole geezer cab driver," Tucker grumbled scanning the PADD as he walked. "Guy was talking to himself, waving his arms around rambling on about the traffic and the morons on the street. I bolted as soon as he settled on the ground. Ensign Morgan opted to stay on board?" he questioned looking over at Rybaiski.
"You mean Lieutenant Morgan?" Rybaiski corrected him, reflecting Kelly Morgan's recent promotion. "I talked to her myself. She said the ship is her home and she's ready to go. McCann signed off on it."
"Okay then," Tucker replied. "Alvarez and Miner jumped ship too huh?"
"Hoshi assigned Miner to replaced Ensign Braidi at the comm," Rybaiski commented. "Gervase wants to assign the chief to some bridge shifts."
"Probably a good idea for the up and coming chief engineer," Trip agreed.
"You trying to get rid of Dempsey and me already?"
"At some point the two of you'll need to move on to greener pastures," Trip said stopping at the turbolift.
Rybaiski followed him in the car once the door opened. "Hey ah, I wanted to talk to you about my room."
"Do I look like the quartermaster?" Tucker said with a sigh. "That's Chief Roman's department."
"He said I needed to talk to you," Stu replied.
"Removing the bulkhead with the adjoining suite," Rybaiski said flatly.
"And why do you need to do that?"
"It's a little cramped with two in one suite," Stu explained. "It will give us some more space. The next room is empty, so what's the big deal?"
"It's bad enough that I even allowed you and Navalle to hot bunk it," Trip remarked dryly. "I'm drawing the line at tearing out the bulkhead."
"Come on, we did it for you and T'Pol and the doc's so you married types had a bigger space," Rybaiski argued.
"With married being the operative word. Zack and Solon are married, T'Pol and I are married, with a kid no less," Tucker replied with an annoyed tone.
"Exactly my point," Rybaiski replied waving his left hand in front of Tucker's face.
The platinum band on the XO's finger sparkled brightly in the light and caught Tucker's attention right away. "What the hell?" Trip guffawed as he stared at the band. "You're married?"
"Yep," Rybaiski replied smugly just as the lift doors opened. "Did it last weekend in Vegas," he added before stepping out of the lift.
Trip followed him out with a perplexed expression on his face. "Your parent's know?" he asked standing at the railing on the edge of the bridge.
"Yeah, they were there. My dad said I had to make an honest woman out of her," Rybaiski replied sliding into the engineering station.
Tucker hesitated before stepping over to the command chair. T'Pol quit her job to become a fulltime mom, I have a kid that's fifteen going on thirty, Archer's ex girlfriend was just sentenced to ten years in prison and Rybaiski Mr. Commitment -phobe is married…to an alien, from the ice planet no less. "Commander Gervase, take us out," Trip instructed his new first officer. "Set a course for the Starbase, Warp five."
"Aye aye Captain," Gervase replied and then repeated the command to the helm.
"About that room Captain," Rybaiski prompted him.
"I'll take that under advisement Commander," Trip remarked as he headed over to his chair. Admiral Stewart sure put together a diverse crew, Tucker thought as he settled down in his seat.