Captain Archer came in to sick bay flanked by T'Pol and Hoshi. He had been glad that their shifts had ended at the same time as the crisis. It meant he could have his off time, such as it was, making sure the people he cared about were safe and well. He knew Travis had been badly injured, but he couldn't help worrying that the others would be hiding injuries that they hadn't told him about so far.
Phlox looked up from talking to Travis, who smiled weakly at the sight of them. Another murmur from the Ensign, and the doctor moved over to the commanding officer.
"How are they, Doctor?" Archer asked, allowing himself to let his gaze move across the officers.
"Apart from the Ensign's broken ankle it's mostly cuts and bruises. A little dehydration. Nothing that some sleep and soothing balm won't solve."
The Captain nodded. "Are they free to go?"
"I would like to keep the Ensign here overnight. The break is complicated and I would like to monitor how it is setting. But the Commander and Lieutenant are free to go."
Archer nodded again.
"I have the balm here," continued Phlox. Reaching into his pockets he produced two small jars. Handing them to Archer and Hoshi he said, "You will need to apply it after they have had a shower. You don't need a great deal. It is rather potent."
"I take it this means I'm off duty," said Hoshi, waving the jar at the Captain.
Archer smiled. "I think we all are." He watched as she almost skipped over to Trip. The couple were quick to wrap their arms around each other, the medic that had been next to him discreetly leaving. Archer was convinced he had never met more affectionate people than Trip and Hoshi. He was stunned sometimes that they were as professional on duty as they were. He watched briefly as the oblivious couple kissed each other lovingly.
He turned to T'Pol, who nodded to him before walking over to Travis' biobed. For some reason Travis looked anxious at her approach. Archer knew that the Ensign could read his lover in a way that no-one else could. So if he was anxious there was obviously a good reason. Archer watched as T'Pol stopped next to Travis' bed and start talking to him. There seemed a slight restraint in her behaviour, which worried Archer for a moment. He would never expect the open affection of Hoshi, but it still seemed restrained, even for T'Pol. He hoped there was nothing wrong between them. He had grown very fond of them as a couple. Gave him faith in how differences can work. Speaking of which...
He turned finally to Malcolm. Their love was new. He was still finding his way around it all, still feeling surprised when people treated them as a couple, as Phlox had done when handing him the jar of ointment. And they had enough differences in style and approach to give T'Pol and Travis a good run for their money. But it seemed to be working so far.
He walked over to the biobed which Malcolm was sitting on. The armoury officer was slowly doing up his top, his fingers obviously grazed and sore from the climbing. Archer settled comfortably next to him.
"I hope Travis is going to be okay," Malcolm said quietly.
"The Doctor said the break will be fine," replied Archer.
"I wasn't thinking so much of his ankle as T'Pol. All he kept saying on the shuttlepod was 'She's going to kill me'."
Archer chuckled. "So that's why he looked so worried."
"I don't think the Sub-Commander finds Travis' klutz like tendencies easy to deal with."
"She worries," replied Archer. "We all do."
"Just about Travis," Malcolm asked in his most innocent voice.
"No, not just Travis," replied Archer lightly. "Trip as well."
Malcolm turned his blue eyes on his Captain. "And you as well." Archer paused before continuing. "I worry about you most of all."
"You don't have to worry about me," Malcolm replied.
"I'm the one who has to send you out with Trip and Travis, and you tell me not to worry."
Malcolm chuckled. "You may have a point there."
Archer put a hand on Malcolm's arm. "I don't know how they do it," said Archer. "Any of those four. How they stay so calm when their loved ones are away and at risk."
"You must get used to it at some point." Malcolm replied. He turned his blue eyes on Archer again. Shrugging his shoulders he continued, "I'm not sure when that is though." He moved his hand on top of Archer's.
"Well, I certainly haven't got to that point yet," replied the Captain softly.
"Nor have I," replied Malcolm, his eyes locking finally with Archer's. Archer took a deep breath at the rush of love through him. Leaning forward he gently kissed Malcolm on the lips, only momentarily thinking as a Captain and hoping the medical team would be discreet about what they saw.
Pulling back Archer raised the jar of ointment into sight. "Apparently I have been charged with applying this to you after your shower."
Malcolm took the jar from him. "We really have made it into coupledom, haven't we."
Archer chuckled again. "Come on," he said standing up fully. "Let's get you back to your quarters."
"Yes Captain," grinned Malcolm, getting down from the biobed.
"And don't start any of that," warned the Captain.
The armoury officer's grin widened at the look of amusement on Archer's face as they moved away from the biobed.
"Are you two planning on getting a room tonight?" Malcolm asked, as they passed Trip and Hoshi.
The engineer and communications officer broke off their kiss, Trip quick to pull Hoshi in tight to him.
"I would like to point out who is leaving first," replied Trip mischievously.
"I have areas that need soothing," replied Malcolm.
"I bet you do," Trip grinned, his smile broadening at the blush on the two men's cheeks.
"Come on Commander," Hoshi said, moving away from the engineer. "I think the same probably applies to you." She reached down and took his hand. "We don't want Malcolm taking all the hot water on this ship, do we?" She smiled impishly at her lover.
"Well, when you put it like that," Trip replied, moving away from the biobed.
The four turned to say good night to their remaining companions, but all restrained themselves at the sight that met them. T'Pol was leaning forward to kiss Travis.
"Looks like she's forgiven him," said Malcolm.
"Forgiven him for what?" asked Trip innocently.
"For scaring the hell out of her," replied Archer and Hoshi in unison.
The two couples walked slowly out of the sick bay. Archer risked another glance back, and sighed in relief as he watched Travis cup T'Pols face, leaning forward to kiss her.
The doors slid slowly behind them.
Hoshi tried to contain her impatience as they walked into sick bay. Her shift had ended the moment she walked off the bridge, but senior officer and all that had meant she hadn't allowed herself to run down to sick bay as she wanted to. She had been the first to hear his voice. The first to know they were safe. But it didn't make it any easier. She wouldn't feel happy until he was in her arms again, and she could feel the warmth of his body next to hers. Only then would she know it was real, and that he was with her once more.
The Captain came to a halt in the middle of sick bay. Phlox looked up from treating Travis. As the doctor moved towards them Hoshi caught Travis' last comment to the physician and suppressed a smile. She wondered if T'Pol with her hearing had heard it as well. She knew the Vulcan was agitated, and had been on the bridge. It was all in relative terms of course, but Hoshi could tell. As could Travis. He looked most worried, and not because of his injuries. Mind you, she couldn't blame T'Pol. Trip didn't have the same injury count as Travis, but he was just as adept at getting himself into trouble, if not more so. She had lost count of the times when she had waited for news, anxiety and fear rushing around her. And when she heard his voice again those times she had felt an explosion of happiness, which was rapidly followed by a rush of anger that he had scared so much. She had learnt to dismiss that sensation now. She only wanted to have him back safe and sound. But T'Pol was still finding her way in a relationship with a human. The greater emotional freedom wasn't made any easier for her to deal with by Travis' frequent trips to sick bay.
And then there was the Captain. Hoshi had been so pleased for him and Malcolm. It was obvious how happy they were with each other, even if they showed a discretion that she and Trip had never mastered, at least off duty. But she sensed that in situations like these the man next to her was torn between being Captain Archer,his concern for his whole crew, and Jonathan Archer who just wanted to be with the one he loved.
Hoshi turned her attention to Phlox, though her eyes couldn't help take in the work a medic was doing on Trip's hand. It didn't look too serious but her stomach still gave a lurch.
"I have the balm here," said Phlox. Hoshi turned her attention back to him. The Denoublian reached into his pockets and produced some jars of ointment. As he explained how and when it should be applied, Hoshi noticed with a little amusement the Captain's slight embarrassment at the assumption he would help Malcolm with applying it. He had yet to get used to people treating them like a couple. And if anyone was going to do that it was going to be Phlox. Hoshi smiled further before asking permission to do what she really wanted to and go to Trip.
The Captain's permission attained, she moved quickly to her lover. He stood up as she approached, wrapping his arms instinctively around her. She felt their warmth merge, and the world started to right itself again. She looked up at him before moving her lips to meet his in the soft personal dance that they had developed.
Hoshi sighed as they pulled apart again.
"Better?" asked Trip, a hint of amusement glinting in his eyes.
"Much," Hoshi replied before retorting, "Though that is not to say I needed that at all."
"Absolutely." Trip smiled as he softly stroked her cheek. A deeper sigh and some of the smile faded from his face, soon replaced by shadows of exhaustion. Hoshi's stomach lurched again. He had really been through the mill.
Hoshi leant forward into his body, his arms tightening around her as she did so. "You know," she said quietly. "I still say I have the toughest job on the ship."
"Really?" he asked gently, an affectionate kiss following.
"Yes," continued Hoshi. "I have to sit there and listen to the silence when you can't be found. I hear all the static, all the white noise. But I don't hear you. I hear the Captain pacing, T'Pol trying to be still. But I don't hear you." She looked up at him.
"And when, all of a sudden, I do hear your voice, I can't talk to you. The Captain has to." She sighed. "And people think that security have it tough."
His smile returned. "Well, can I just say how much I appreciate your suffering. Hearing your voice when I've had thoughts that I might never see you again...you can't imagine a sound like it."
Trip leant forward and kissed her deeply again. His hands drifted lower down her body. Breaking the kiss, Hoshi looked at him carefully to see if the hunger she was feeling was being reflected back. Seeing the glint in his eyes, she leant forward and gave her answer to his unspoken question.
"Are you two planning on getting a room tonight?"
Malcolm's amused voice broke into their world. Hoshi felt herself being pulled in tight against her love. She couldn't stop the broad grin spreading across her face. Listening to the two men banter she soon decided that they had had too much time together as it was. Taking Trip's hand she gently reminded him of his need to have a shower. The glint returned to his eye and he soon followed her.
When the two couples turned to say goodnight to Travis and T'Pol, Hoshi couldn't help smiling at the sight. The Vulcan was leaning forward and gently kissing the helmsman. The universe was back in order.
"Looks like she's forgiven him."
Hoshi was surprised though to hear Malcolm's comment. But she should have known he would have understood the situation.
"Forgiven him for what?"
Her beloved's question was expected though. His moods changed with the moment, and any anger at her being in danger would never be directed at her. The rest of the universe yes. But never her. She was glad he would never have to understand her answer.
Walking slowly out of sick bay with her hand in his, she breathed a sigh of relief as she heard the doors swish closed. Some sounds were worth waiting for.
T'Pol held herself still as she stopped with the Captain and Hoshi in the middle of sick bay. It took considerable effort but she did it none the less. Her eyes turned with the Captain's as they took in the injured crew members. On the edge of her hearing she heard Travis' comment to Phlox. He knew that she was upset, which strangely satisfied her. The past few hours had been difficult ones for all of them. She had tried to retain her calm and logical outlook on the crisis but it had been a strain. She had been surprised the Captain and the Ensign had remained so calm. Their professionalism, despite their feelings for the missing crew members, had been exemplary. Apart from the fact that the Captain had nearly worn a hole in the floor pacing up and down. But then he was the newest at this. Waiting for a loved one to come back. She would like to tell him it got easier. But in her experience it didn't. And with a mate like Travis she thought she would have got used to it.
The Vulcan listened carefully as the Doctor explained the injuries and their treatment. A flash of concern ran through her as he explained that Travis would be staying in the sick bay for that night. She took a deep breath and calmed herself. It was one night. Nothing more. She watched as the physician explained how to apply the balm for the Commander's and Lieutenant's injuries. It was no surprise to her when the communications officer took off to be with the engineer. She watched with a slight pang in her. She still worried that Travis was missing out on something by being with her. She could not show her feelings for him in a similar way, could not give him the same type of affection as he might get from a human. He would always dismiss her concerns, telling her how much he wanted her, and all that it meant. But it didn't stop her worrying.
She took a deep breath to settle her thoughts again. She turned and nodded to the Captain, keen to give him the freedom to move to his loved one. She found the pairing of the armoury officer and the Captain an intriguing one. With almost as many differences as she and her mate, it was interesting to watch them cope with the changes it brought in their relationship. Again she had been impressed with their professionalism, and she found it comforting to be around another couple who showed a discretion similar to that of her and Travis. Helped her not to worry so much.
She walked over to the biobed with Travis on it. She fought hard to keep a stillness in her as she saw the obvious look of pain still on his face, and for a moment her anger wavered. But then she remembered what it had been like on the bridge and it came burning back.
"Hi honey," he said as brightly as he could.
Her irritation nearly went under in another wave of concern. But not quite.
"I do not believe this is a time for endearments," she replied calmly but with enough sting in the tail to let him know what she was thinking.
She watched as his smile faded. She knew she should stop. He'd been through enough. But for some reason her self control was lacking.
"I am curious," she continued. "Is it a trait in your family to be so accident prone?"
"My Uncle Eddie once got stuck in a container for a day. We didn't notice until he didn't turn up for breakfast."
She knew he was trying to keep the tone light. She couldn't.
"So you are unusual then?"
"I suppose adventurous is more a word I would use."
"Adventurous?" She raised her eyebrow and saw him react. If he didn't realise he was in trouble before, he did now.
"I do not call it adventurous when you get yourself injured on every away mission. I do not call it adventurous when I spend yet another shift on the bridge wondering if you will get out alive this time." Her voice remained steady, but she knew her eyes were giving away the swirl of emotions inside her. She took another deep breath to calm herself.
Looking at the young man in front of her she continued, "I am going to my quarters to meditate. I may be some time." She saw him react at the sting of the humour and started to feel a change in her feelings. He never meant to get hurt. She knew he just tended to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. And he did save the others' lives. So why did she feel like this?
Suddenly she found herself unable to move from his bedside. He seemed to sense the change in her. Lifting up her hand gently he took it to his mouth and kissed it with the softness she had grown to love about him. It was unusual for him to show public affection for her, but it felt right this time.
"I am sorry if I worry you," he said quietly. "I never mean to. I know I'm a little accident prone, but I never intentionally set out to scare you."
"I know you don't," she eventually replied, her tone calm and quiet. "I am sorry for being irritable with you. It's just some days.....I find it difficult to be in a situation where I can not do anything to help. You provoke a great deal of emotion inside me, and sometimes that is difficult to deal with."
Travis gently kissed her hand again, and T'Pol could feel herself start to calm.
"I understand you are to stay in here tonight. Is there anything I can bring you?" she asked as the calmness started to spread through her.
"I could do with some clean clothes," Travis replied, "The book I'm reading...you."
She knew the glisten in her eyes gave him all the response he needed to his last comment.
"But first," he continued, "You are going to meditate and clear your head." he squeezed her hand tightly. "Don't want an irritable Vulcan on this ship."
The bond she felt with this man sang inside her. She was very fortunate to have found a mate as considerate and understanding as him. Leaning forward she gently placed her lips on his, savouring the warmth of the kiss. As she pulled back she was aware of the others leaving, but not for long. Travis cupped her face and leant in for another kiss.
The sound of the doors closing was lost to them.