Chapter Three


"They were doing what, sir?" asked Crewman Cutler, almost coming to her feet in surprise and anger. Phlox tugged her back by her sleeve. He was resting comfortably on his bed and feeling rather drained, but no worse for wear.

"Our visitors made some images and rifled through some of the ship's stores. They didn't take anything, and no one received more than bumps or bruises. I would say that your cracked ribs were the worst of the injuries." Captain Archer told them.

"There was once a saying, 'leave only footprints, take only pictures'. I think that's what their mission was, so to speak." said Trip, who had accompanied the captain to sickbay after the alien vessel departed.

"You mean they were tourists?" asked Cutler in disbelief.

"Tourists? Yes, I suppose they were after a fashion." said Archer, smiling and resisting the urge to laugh. Cutler still looked a little angry, but after what had happened or rather what had nearly happened, he could hardly blame her.

"That word is going to have a whole new meaning for me now." groaned the crewman, touching her sore ribs.

"I can imagine, crewman, but according to the doc, you handled yourself pretty well." the captain told her.

"That she did." agreed Phlox before stifling a yawn.

"Do you need some sleep, doc?" questioned Commander Tucker.

"Just a few hours." he answered with a smile.

"Come on, Trip. They both probably need some rest."

"Yes, sir." replied the engineer, who had a few things that needed repairs minor.

Crewman Cutler finally stood up and looked down at Phlox, who was reclining comfortably.

"I suppose this is good-night then." she said.

"Good-night, crewman." said Phlox. She turned to go, but before she could leave the alcove, he said, "Wait a minute."

"Yes?"

"About today ..." he began awkwardly.

"The hugging, the touching? It won't happen again. I'm sorry."

"No, no, crewman." he said, sighing and looking away for a moment. "I learned to deal with talking during meals. I even learned to like it. I speak to my bat, just like Captain Archer speaks to his canine. Maybe I can learn to deal with the human custom of touching too." he told her.

"Really?"

"Yes, but it will take some time to adapt."

"Of course." she said, smiling. "Good-night again." Cutler told him, turning for a second time.

"Wait! It's late already. You don't have to return to you quarters. You could stay here for the rest of the night." He moved over to make room for her.

Cutler studied him for a moment. His eyelids were heavy and he was smiling softly, almost expectantly, hopefully.

"Do you mean it, Phlox?"

"Of course I do."

"You don't snore, do you?" she teased, sitting down and removing her boots.

"Have I snored any in the last five days?"

"No." she chuckled.

"Then I suppose I won't tonight either."

She climbed into bed and looked into his sleepy blue eyes. They still twinkled just a little beneath the lids.

Kissing his forehead, Cutler told him softly, "Good-night."

"Good-night." he whispered in return, falling into a deep and recuperative sleep that would complete his hibernation cycle.

The End