Chapter Twenty

And it Happens Again

Moving the four unconscious officer from the bridge on A deck to engineering, a full four decks below them, was a challenge to say the least, but T'Pol would not consider leaving until Hoshi, Malcolm, Crewman Monroe, and Jonathan Archer were all safely evacuated from the bridge, which was only slowly becoming a hospitable environment again.

"I would not wish to ..." T'Pol began to explain to Trip.

"I know. I don't think I could either." he told her with an understanding smile that touched both his lips and his eyes. He glanced down the shaft and asked, "You ready to go now?"

"After you." she agreed, allowing him to help her into the shaft.

Commander Tucker was very careful as he guided her down the ladder. Every rung was a struggle for her, but no one could have been more dutiful or courteous as the commander.

Then she missing a rung or grew suddenly light-headed just past the C deck junction. Tucker wasn't exactly sure which as he caught her and steadied her, sacrificing his own grip and balance in the process. Before he knew what was happening, Trip found himself pitching backward and his feet slipping from the rung where he stood. He thought he heard someone cry out as he crashed first against the back wall of the tube and then face first into the ladder. A rung caught him under the chin, and the world went out like a light.

A dull buzzing in his ears slowly drew him back to consciousness as though from far away. Commander Tucker felt very disoriented and numb as though he were nothing more than a disembodied mind. Then he began to hear sounds, voices, and feel a slight tingling in his fingers and toes.

"You don't have to stay here, T'Pol. Phlox will alert you ... will alert both of us, if his condition changes." he heard a familiar voice saying. The tones were commanding, but not without certain strains of worry and compassion. The voice was that of a very tired man.

"It's Captain Archer." he realized, feeling a sense of calm wash over him.

"I feel that I should, captain." said an unemotional, but forceful feminine voice that made his heart skip a beat.

"Because he was so heroic when he fell down that shaft?"

"There is nothing heroic about falling from a ladder. If heroism is to be attributed to his actions, and perhaps it should be, Trip should be recognized rather for catching me or more importantly for commanding the ship in considerably unfavorable circumstances, not merely for an unfortunate fall." she said with an edge to her voice. It could be no one else but Sub-commander T'Pol, and taking his part for a change.

"Maybe you're right." chuckled Archer before sighing aloud.

"Of course."

Heavy footfalls retreated from the place where Trip Tucker lay in a questionable state of consciousness. Warm fingertips brushed lightly and gently through his hair. That was enough to give him reason to force his heavy eyelids open.

"T'Pol?" he mumbled as she swiftly drew her hand back. "Don't look at me like I caught you with your hand in the cookie jar." he scolded semi-coherently. She looked bleary at first, but slowly came into focus, and she seemed to be scowling at him.

"The amount of concern that you have caused has been considerable." she noted.

"Aw, shucks, and I didn't know you cared."

An eyebrow shot up at that remark, but she did not bother to rebut the accusation. It was too close to the mark.

"Captain Archer was just here." she informed him, deftly changing the subject.

"I'm not all that sure how much of the stuff going through my head is just dreams and how much is real." he hesitated, following her lead and changing the subject himself.

"Do you recall an ion storm and having command of the ship for approximately four and a half hours?"

"I vaguely recollect that." he affirmed.

"What about the procedure the Phlox performed to restore your memory?"

"Yeah, I remember that too."

"Did the procedure work?" she inquired.

A smile spread slowly over Commander Tucker's features and he said, "I seem to recall being kissed by a certain Vulcan science officer." Raising himself up on his elbows he asked her, "Do you still think something like that might happen again?"

T'Pol leaned toward him and replied simply, "It is only logical, after all, Trip."

The End

Author's Note: Several people wanted a sequel to "In Good Time", and after a couple of false starts, which were aggravated by two severe computer malfunctions (including a burned out mother board, for instance) this is what I came up with. If any techno-babble is wrong, I am sorry, but that's not my area. Feedback is always appreciated.