Memories I Can't Call Mine

By Lt. Zoe Jebkanto

Rating: G

Genres: angst drama general missing scene

Keywords: bond

This story has been read by 485 people.
This story has been read 826 times.


Disclaimer:  I’m not a Ferengi, so this story wasn’t written for profit.  I don’t own Star Trek, Enterprise, its characters, its universe, or even the song quoted at this story’s beginning.  Come to think of it, I don’t even own a copy of the album that song was originally released on anymore.

Key words:  Friendship.  Healing

Summary:  A little accident.  A little procedure.  A little medication.  A little déjà vu?

A/N:  This story takes place at a time when the Romulan war is looming larger and larger  in the starfield, though it is not a direct part of the happenings here, except for some of the preparations being made for the coming conflict.  This  isn’t a song-fic, though the line that gave this story its title is from a very old, deep-track Bee Gees song that has one of the best “mind-tickler” lyric phrases I’ve had the pleasure of hearing.  This story is dedicated, with thanks to Adm. OhBoy! Archer for letting “Lieutenant Mac” come do demos in this engineering area and to “Asso” and to “Eireann” for all their wonderful encouragement & support- it came, guys, when it was most needed!

 


 

 

”Even when the lights go out

Still got things to think about

Memories I can’t call mine

In my own time…”

-by Barry & Robin Gibb:

The Bee Gees-  “In My Own Time”

 

 

17 May, 2155

“I gotta tell you, Cap’n, that ball would’ve gone in!” Trip Tucker complained as the doors to the turbo-lift hissed shut behind them.

 

Jonathan Archer glanced over at his Chief Engineer.  “Would have is not the same as did, Trip.”  He tapped in a series of commands that activated the lift.  “My game.”

 

“But it hit the rim, even with that jolt…!”  Trip protested, leaning hard against the wall as, with a soft whooshing sound, the lift began to move.  God, he was glad that annoying little shimmy-shudder-shudder thing it was prone to at start-up wasn’t acting up right now.

 

“The rim isn’t the basket.”  Jonathan’s tone was patient as he shot a grin in his direction, although, Trip noted it didn’t quite reach his eyes.  Despite the casual banter, his mind would be as preoccupied with the ship as Trip’s was, even if there was nothing either of them could do about it until they reached the comm. link at the corridor junction just outside Engineering and checked in with the bridge.  He was probably running the mirror-image of Trip’s own list of possible scenarios for what had caused that series of lurches a few minutes ago, even if speculation was still just about pointless.  At least there hadn’t been any summons to duty stations or blaring of klaxons, so Trip returned the grin, scooped up the captain’s comment and announced.  “I want a rematch!”

 

“All right, we’ll plan on it as soon-”  The captain began as the lift doors slid open.

 

Trip stared out into the corridor.  “This isn’t Engineering.”

 

“-as the ship and its engineer both get a once-over,” Jonathan concluded, grabbing Trip’s forearm and swinging it across his shoulders.  “Come on, let’s go.”

 

“But, Cap’n…”

 

 

“No arguments, Commander!”  There was just enough of the superior officer sounding through the voice of his old friend to keep Trip from further protest, though he did send one regretful glance over his shoulder as Jonathan urged him out into the hallway.

 

The doors to the lift slid shut, whisper-quiet behind them.  Peeps, cheeps, warbles and wails bounced off the walls as the doors to Sickbay slid open before them.

 

“Oh, God, no!  It’s feeding time!”

 

A shadow sweeping across the ceiling had Trip throwing a hand up over his head.  He didn’t know about Pyrithian bats, but every story he’d ever heard about the regular kind back in Florida said they loved tangling themselves in human hair.  Not that his was long enough for it to catch a real good hold up there, but the idea of  those little claws scrambling across his scalp was enough to set it prickling in revulsion.

 

His other hand crumpled the sleeve of the captain’s blue and gold U C L A water polo team tee shirt into a wad as the floor rocked beneath them.  Jonathan’s steadying hold tightened around Trip’s ribs, then when the motion stilled, propelled him forward again.

 

“Wait, Cap’n!  That jolt’s happened twice now!  I gotta get to Engineering!  I can drop by later if this doesn’t feel better in the next…”

 

“Oh no you don’t!” Jonathan shook his head.  It didn’t pass Trip’s notice that he’d had to raise it first, then un-squinch his eyes, before managing a half-embarrassed laugh.  He must’ve heard the same kind of stories about Bay Area bats!  Odds were his other hand would’ve been shielding his own hair if he wasn’t grasping the arm Trip had slung over his shoulder.  “You stay right here until Phlox has a look at you!”

 

“Captain, it was just a little tweek!  We gotta find out why…”  He searched for words.  Something more precise and technical than “…the ship dropped right out from under me in the middle of shooting hoops, exactly when I was executing a jump shot!”

 

At least this jolt hadn’t triggered any Reed-alerts either, and the warp drive’s  vibrations still rumbled smooth and sweet around him, so the odds were that it wasn’t an emergency…  Not an urgent emergency anyway, but still, even off duty and in his sweat pants and blue and orange Gators’ tee, his place was down in…

 

The captain interrupted his thoughts.  “That was your knee, Trip!  The last time I heard anything pop that loud was last New Years’ Eve, and that was when we uncorked the champagne at midnight!”

 

Phlox appeared from behind a curtained off area, a long pole with a net on it over one shoulder.  “Captain, Commander,” he greeted, as his gaze lifted toward the ceiling.  “I’d just opened the cage when we hit that subspace distortion,” he began.  “Ah, there she is!”

 

The net made a tall, sweeping arc through the air.

 

Trip’s hand went up.  Jonathan’s head went down.

 

High pitched squeaks and shrieks joined the chorus of warbles and wails.  “There we are!”  Phlox’s tone filled with satisfaction as the bat fluttered in the netting.  “Let’s just get you back in your cage.” he continued, then added over his shoulder.  “Gentlemen, I’ll be with you in a moment.”

 

There was the metallic keh-chink! of a cage door closing and the doctor’s crooning.  “Here you are, some nice Dravickian fleas for your supper.”

 

Trip’s hand came down.  Jonathan’s head came up.

 

He was used to the doc and his menagerie of exotic creatures, but Trip still had a hard time putting the words “nice” and “fleas” in the same sentence.  He couldn’t help making a face as a slight shudder of revulsion vibrated through him.

 

Wait!  That wasn’t him.  That was the ship again.

 

He winced, leaned more heavily against the captain’s side, then shot a worried glance back toward the door as the floor jounced twice more, followed by some soft rattles and clinks from the far side of Sickbay.  “I really should check…”

 

“Forget about it, Trip.”

 

Phlox was back.  “All right.  What seems to be the problem?”

 

“Hard flooring,” Trip released Jonathan’s tee shirt and limped the last few steps to the diagnostic table.  “Combined with that subspace field distortion you mentioned.”

 

Jonathan raised perplexed brows as he looked at Phlox.  “How did you find out about that before I did?  I couldn’t access either you or the bridge when Trip went down.”

 

Phlox activated a tricorder. “Commander T'Pol made a general announcement as soon as Ensign Sato got communications partially restored.  The distortion took out the systems on C and D decks as well as down here on E before we actually felt the first turbulence, which is why nobody below B had any advance warning.  Fortunately, at the moment of impact, nobody else seems to have been involved in…”

 

“Basketball,” supplied Trip.

 

“Hazardous activities,” finished Phlox.

 

“I’ll get a report from her on ship’s status,” said Jonathan, turning for the nearest comm. panel.  “And, if it eases your mind, Trip, on how things look in engineering.”

 

Phlox shook his head.  “I said ‘partially restored’, Captain.  We can receive transmissions down here, but we won’t be able to send anything out for several minutes.  Commander T’Pol says by that time the area of disturbance should be well behind us.”  He gave Trip an authoritative look.  “Come on, Commander, on the table.  Up you go.”

 

Grimacing, Trip hoisted himself onto the table and listened to the hum of the tricorder Phlox positioned over his knee.  Why he was craning for a glance at the screen, he didn’t know.  He’d had plenty of first aid and triage training, but much of the readings provided by Sickbay equipment left him half baffled- especially when, as now, he was forced to interpret them upside down.  Amusement won over discomfort and he grinned as he realized the captain was also leaning forward for a look.

 

Jonathan turned from the device to the doctor.  “If I can’t check on engineering, at least give me the report on our engineer.”

 

“I imagine the injury is somewhat painful,” Phlox said, setting down the small device and reaching for a hypo-spray.  “But I’m pleased to say it’s not serious.  Only a ligament in need of a quick repair.  Now, if you’ll please lie back…”

 

Sighing, Trip allowed the two of them to steady him as he scooted backward on the table’s padded surface.  From the moment he’d made it to his feet and hobbled the first few steps, he’d had the feeling it would come to this!  Getting a little repair work done on himself wasn’t such a big deal but…

 

Well damn it all, he’d had plans tonight, at least until the  trouble with these field distortions came up.  Today he’d scheduled himself divided duty so he could team up with the captain for a little one-on-one, then a quick supper with T’Pol before heading back to Engineering to watch Lieutenant Mac’s demonstration of the latest dilithium realignment techniques at the start of B Shift.  She’d taken an upgrade certification class when they were at Jupiter station for refits, and what she could do with crystal lattice shearing was an engineer’s pure joy to behold.  Now, even if the engines checked out fine,  he was gonna miss that, as if he hadn’t adjusted his hours in the first place.

 

Actually, truth to tell, the first numbness was wearing off and the knee was beginning to get uncomfortable enough to take half the shine off any of those prospects.  “Okay, doc, I’m all yours.”

 

Phlox nodded.  “I’m setting you up with a preliminary injection to relax you for a few minutes before you get the general anesthetic.”

 

“You’re gonna knock me out to fix my knee?   Isn’t that kind of overdoing it a little?”

 

“I said not serious, Commander. It’s also not superficial.  I want to relax your muscles as much as possible without doing a nerve block that would have you out of commission for several hours.”

 

 

The doc probably had a point.  “Okay, I surrender, let’s get it done with.”

 

The hypo-spray was a quick, cold hiss against his neck.  Setting it aside, Phlox resumed studying Trip’s tricorder results.

 

The stuff sure worked fast!  Already a rather pleasant heaviness was creeping through Trip’s muscles and loosening his joints as he eased back on the padded surface.

 

“Let me know how it goes.” Jonathan gave Trip a thumbs-up before turning away.

 

“Talk to ya later, Cap’n,” Trip began.  “And don’t forget, I want a rematch-”

 

He froze.  A silent, visceral protest surged up from somewhere deep inside him.

 

Don’t go!  Wait!  Just stay a minute longer!  Right there, where I can see you!

 

Where the hell had that gut-wrenching moment of panic come from?

 

Trip tried to swallow the surprising pain of it, to speak around it and found he could do neither as he looked from one familiar figure to the other.  Hadn’t he done this before?  Laid back, drinking in the beautiful quality of light coming off the walls and each detail of their well-loved faces as an aching sense of inevitability pressed around his heart.

 

Whose eyes?  Which pair of determined, almost haunted  eyes would be the last he saw before he closed his own?  Whose gaze would he carry with him into… into…?

 

He gasped.  For a moment, the room seemed to spin.

 

“Commander?” Phlox’s gaze came up from the scanner.  “Are you all right?”

 

Trip blinked.  It was gone.  The first surge of medication through his brain or a weird moment of déjà vu…  Whatever the hell it was had passed.

 

“Guess I was a little… dizzy for a second there,” he managed as the gee forces pulling him toward the table increased.  “I’m okay now.”

 

With an encouraging nod, the captain turned for the door. “I’ll be on the bridge.”

 

Phlox’s hand on Trip’s shoulder guided him the  rest of the way down.  “Lie quiet for a few minutes.  We’ll have cleared the distortion field by then.  I have a few things to attend to before we start your procedure, then we’ll have you out of here in no time.”

 

No time?

 

It was back: a jolt of impending aloneness, the urge to tell Phlox to wait…

 

Stay here with me, will you?  Doesn’t matter what you say, just  talk to me, so I can hear your voice, all right? Until I…  Well, until I go to sleep?

 

He wanted to grab Phlox’s hand, feel the large fingers circle his like when he was…

 

Little?

 

Trip blinked.  The table was firm beneath him, the ceiling white overhead.  Except for the heaviness in his muscles, everything seemed familiar, seemed right again.  But…

 

He hadn’t known Phlox when he was little.

 

This had to be a side-effect of the sedation!  He’d better tell somebody and fast! All the thing was supposed to do was make him kind of limp-limbed and mellow.

 

But the captain had gone.  The rustling whisper of the closing curtain was the only sign of Phlox.  Except for his last words.

 

Time.  No time.  In no time…

 

Not that there’d ever been much.

 

Fifteen days. That’s what they said he had.

 

But it wasn’t.  It was more like eight.  Maybe ten if he counted the time when he was floating around as a fetus in a tank in that dim corner of Sickbay.

 

Wait a minute!  Trip blinked.  Tried to clear his head.  He’d never been a fetus!  Well, yeah, okay, so he must’ve been, once upon a time, but back in Florida!  That hypo-spray was really trying to do a number…

 

Fifteen?

 

…a really weird number on him!

 

“Hey, Doc…?”

 

No answer.  The room swayed.  The subspace distortion must be at it again.

 

Beyond the curtain, Phlox was talking to his creatures: a rising, falling stream of reassuring words.  There was a drawn out sound of something metallic sliding across a counter.  “There you go.  Back where you belong.”

 

 

It wasn’t fair that he could hear Phlox out there so well when he couldn’t make himself heard at all!  Well, nothing to do but try again.  Would his voice carry better this time?  “Hey, Doc!  This stuff is makin’ me feel kinda weird here…”

 

His words hardly did more than trickle down his cheek onto the pillow.

 

Damn it!  He hadn’t thought he’d get woozy so fast!  Instinct had him wanting to fight it, to hang on to each second of precious awareness, no matter how he tried to tell himself it wasn’t the number of seconds… or days… that mattered in the end.  He’d lived life-times in his week and a half.  Two of them.  He was trying to be grateful for every last minute of them, but there was hardly even time for that now and  soon Phlox would be back with the final hypo-spray.  God, this hadda be breaking the doc’s heart, preparing for a surgery they both knew would end in death.

 

Trip’s eyes went wide.

 

Wait just a minute here!  Death?  This was a minor procedure!  Minor!  Phlox wouldn’t do anything dangerous to him without discussing the risks!

 

Especially when he’d always been such a damn good father.  He’d told Phlox that was how he’d felt toward him,  for as far back as he could remember, cause then Phlox had nodded to him and  said that he had been  a damn good son.  That was just before he laid  down on this table, right?

 

No!  Absolutely wrong!  Trip hadn’t said anything at all  like that!  He’d only made some crack or other about basketball.

 

This medication must be something he’d never had before and Phlox would make sure it went on the list of things he’d never have again, even if the warming in his muscles was kind of nice!

 

Why didn’t Phlox come back?  God, he didn’t want to spend his last few moments of living awareness staring at a plain white curtain…

 

“Phlox?  Hey, Phlox?”

 

His voice sounded sorta slurry.  Like on Risa.  Drunk on Risa.  Yeah, drunk on Risa with Malcolm.  Wait! He’d  never been there.  That had been…?

 

Had been Trip!

 

What was the crazy anesthetic talking about?  He was Trip!

 

Damn! Of course it was Trip who’d been on Risa.  Trip- the same guy who’d lived at

least half his life, the one who was gonna get to live all of it from now on.

 

Half his life?  Oh, God no!  Realization grabbed his guts and squeezed.  These weren’t his memories!  They could only belong to Sim!

 

And Sim was dead!

 

The grip on his guts tightened, pressing on all the aching, undefined emotions that filled Trip whenever he thought of Sim.  Sorrow?  Survivor’s guilt for a life begun and ended only to save his own?  He only knew  it hurt and humbled him, knowing Sim had given up part of his brain tissue, and with it whatever was left of his short, simbiant’s lifespan in order to save him!

 

But this was impossible!

 

Even if Sim hadn’t been dead, he wasn’t a telepath!  He couldn’t have transmitted memories any more than the ship’s comm. system could transmit information to the bridge from here on E Deck right now!  Trip wanted to say it was just some weird side effect from the dammed medication, except that…

 

Phlox, the captain and T’Pol had all said Sim had a lot of his memories.  Was it possible when they did the tissue transplant he’d gotten some of Sim’s in return?  Had lying here in Sickbay, growing woozy from medication somehow triggered them?

 

For a moment it was as if both of them were speaking together in one mental voice- like old recordings where the singer over-dubbed his own previous track with another to harmonize with himself.

 

What’s mine? His?  His?  Mine?

 

Trip didn’t want to listen, but the memories began to flow, a pendulum swing of, simple childish impressions at first: an instantaneous conversation in colors and sounds…

 


 

A smiling man bent low and held out his hands to me as I ran across green grass to meet him.  He scooped me into his arms and straightening, tossed me high in the air.

 

“Touch the clouds up there, Trip!” he shouted over my laughter.

 

He was the tallest, most wonderful man in the world.  He was my Daddy…

 


 

A lilting song drifted down from over my head.  I could feel it tickling against my ear and cheek.  When it first started, I wanted to look up and  try to sing along, but I didn’t know what all the words meant, and something about the slow, easy way it flowed  made my head heavy and my eyes want to go closed.

 

“That’s an old Denobulan lullaby, Sim,” the voice told me, sounding like it smiled.

 

I got my eyes open long enough to look up into a twinkling gaze and the  smile I’d already known would be waiting there.

 

“Sing it to me again?” I asked, then  let my head settled back on a warm chest where I fit snug and safe, circled in strong arms.

 

I think that before Phlox could begin again, I was already asleep.

 


 

I sat on a porch swing beside a woman with beautiful gold hair tied in a green ribbon.  She read me a story about people who came to Earth from Mars.  If I closed my eyes, I could see their ships getting lower and lower in the sky right above our house.  I didn’t want her to stop reading.

 

I leaned close against her.  “Can we have another chapter, Mamma?”

 

“All right, Trip, but just one more!”  She laughed and kept on reading, just like she’d done after the last time I asked.

 


 

A woman with beautiful long, shiny black hair sat beside  me on the floor in a room with no windows in it.  She listened while I sounded out words from a familiar story book- a really great book!

 

She must have liked the story too, because she let me keep reading and reading.  The only time she ever stopped me was so she could  help me figure out how to say the really big, long words.

 

It was fun reading to her, but I knew the especially good part was still coming up.  It was all the way in chapter ten.  That was when the Martians came.  I asked if we could skip ahead to it.  Her name was Hoshi…

 


 

Trip stared at the ceiling.  Was the dryness in his mouth, the queasiness in his guts from the anesthetic or from a kind of fascinated horror?

 

They weren’t his memories, but God, he could just see Hoshi sitting there on the floor beside him, feel Phlox encircling him on his lap.  He’d never even imagined either of them looking so… well… so big before!

 

Or thought in a long time about being small enough for some things to have been a challenge for him…

 


 

 

“Mamma says I’m big enough to make your supper now,” I told our dog, standing on my toes and leaning my chest on the hard front edge of the kitchen counter so I could reach the faucet behind the sink.  Bedford was so big, he could have stood on his back legs and stuck his tongue into the warm running stream easier than I could get his bowl under it, even though we both knew he wasn’t supposed to.  He was so large that until last year when I was five, I could ride him like a horse.

 

Even though Mamma had said I was “big enough”, I knew she really meant that I was “old enough”.  I was old enough to remember how to measure Bedford’s food in the morning and at night and mix the liquid in with it.  I could wash the dish afterward and take him outside to do his business.

 

Knowing she believed I could do these things did make me feel bigger somehow.  Like I could handle the responsibility, even if I didn’t always remember the word for it…

 


 

 

I hardly had to stretch to push the bowl of wiggling worms through the cage door, or click it shut as the Pyrithian bat flapped and squeaked over her lunch. At breakfast time I could look into  the cage, but I couldn’t quite reach the latch.  Now it was almost easy. I liked that Phlox trusted me to do it.  Maybe I could also feed the orange lizard in the cage next door!  Or would  I have to wait until I was taller, like by supper?  No!  If I got to the tips of my toes and held onto the counter, I could lift that latch too!

 

“Sim!  Let that back down!”

 

The latch dropped into place.  Phlox had  never shouted at me  before.   But an instant later he pulled me into a big, hard hug.  “Never open that cage until you’re ready to drop the food into it.  Escardian lizards leap when they see motion, and they can bite!  Their venom acts just like cure r e!”

 

“What’s cure r e?”

 

“Poison,” he said. “It paralyzes muscles so it’s impossible to move, even to breathe.”

 

 

Poison?  That was a scary word!  It was hard to make my throat swallow.  “So, if he bit me, it  could make me… die?”

 

He turned me back to the cage.  Unclipping a red-labeled hypo-spray from the bars, he pointed to the word “anti-venom”, then gestured toward his neck.  “The poison takes a few seconds to work.  That’s enough time to use this to prevent or reverse the paralysis.”

 

The lump of fear in my throat shrank enough for me to swallow. “So… I wouldn’t have to die… right?” I asked.

 

“No, Sim.  You wouldn’t have to die.”  He sounded funny, like now he was the one having a hard time swallowing.  Had being scared made his throat dry too?  I put my arms around him.  When he hugged me it made me feel good.   Safe.  Sometimes he told jokes to make me laugh.  Maybe if I did all that, he’d feel better too.  I was old enough to be reassuring, wasn’t I?  Looking up, I thought of the two sound-alike words and grinned.  “So, it’s the  cure for cure r e.”

 

He chuckled, but when I found his eyes I didn’t think the laughter ever got there…

 


 

Trip stared at the ceiling and stifled a groan.

 

Right now it was a good thing Phlox was bustling around out beyond the curtain, because after… well, the closest word Trip could find was “eves-dropping”… on that intimate moment… he wasn’t sure he could look him in the face.

 

God, if there was one thing he’d never wanted, it was to know the details of Sim’s life.  He’d always gotten this same sharp, guilty wrench in his guts when he thought about him.  It was almost as bad as seeing a hard-edged weary version of the same guilt in the captain’s eyes, or the haunted, bereft one in Phlox’s whenever the name came up.  Also, he believed he’d already taken so much from his genetic duplicate, the one thing he could leave Sim all for his own were the experiences he’d shared with the people here on Enterprise.

 

“How are you doing there, Mister Tucker?”  Phlox’s voice lilted to him from the far end of Sickbay.

 

“Okay, Doc!”  He managed.  His words sounded almost casual, and they traveled further this time.

 

What hell it must’ve been for Phlox, accepting that child’s embrace and earnest outreach of compassion, knowing the life Sim was concerned about would be over in, at most, two weeks.

 

 

Closing his eyes in concentration, Trip tried to ground himself with a memory of his own.  His!  Something vivid enough to bring into sharp focus!  Something to stop the drug-induced drifting quality of his thinking so it wouldn’t keep making more intrusions into Sim’s life.

 

He’d already been recalling his childhood, so it was no surprise that, without consciously planning it, he found himself back there again.

 


 

I was eight years old when I climbed the tree to our front porch roof and disconnected the drain-pipe in two places: one where the porch joined the house and the other where the pipe curved down over the eves.  I unfastened the outer casing and studied the layered materials inside.  There was a mesh filter for rain to get through, but angled so leaves went down a chute and couldn’t clog to make leaks in the living room ceiling.  I’d been wondering how that worked for a long time!

 

Dad was furious.  “God knows what Trip’ll get himself into next!” I overheard him tell Mamma that night.  “But I’ve gotta say, he had the parts laid out, nice and methodical as you please up there.  Wrote down notes about every step he used taking that drain  apart.  I tell you, Lanie, if that kid lives to grow up, he’s going to be one fine engineer!”

 

Despite the praise, Dad wouldn’t let me go up there for years, not even with a ladder. Could be he was afraid I’d find something else to take apart.  Like maybe the chimney?  Or that I might fall off that roof again…

 


 

Yeah, grounding was a good word all right!

 

That was the worst-ever yelling at of his life Trip had gotten up til then.  First it was for climbing a tree he was supposed to stay out of.  Second, for taking things that didn’t belong to him so he could… Third: dismantle part of the house! Dad would probably have yelled even more if he hadn’t guessed how bad Trip already felt knowing he was going to miss at least two weeks of summer baseball because of the ribs he’d cracked landing in the bushes.

 

The memory might have been vivid, but it didn’t help.  It only led to an answering one of Sim’s.  It seemed he liked to dismantle things too.

 


 

 

I was four… no five… days old when I took apart Phlox’s tricorder.  He must have had spares because he didn’t get angry at me for doing it.  Just pulled up  a diagram packet on a computer terminal at a small table in the corner of sickbay, right outside the quarters where we lived. “Here you go, Sim.  Just see what you can do about putting it back together again.”

 

It was fun.  While I worked, he and the captain of our ship stood nearby, talking.   “So the older he grows, the more of Trip’s life he’ll recall?” Captain Archer asked.

 

Trip?  My mamma called me that when we read the Martian book!  Where were she and my Dad, anyway?  How about my brother and little sister?  Why wasn’t I home with them and our big old dog?  Why didn’t anybody ever talk about them?  Had something bad happened no one wanted to tell me?  I was scared to ask.  Sometimes I missed them so bad it hurt, even if I thought they were fine and I’d be with them soon.

 

And why did my parents call me “Trip” when Phlox said  my name was “Sim”?  Scared or not, I knew I’d have to ask somebody for answers before much longer.

 


 

This was worse than Trip would ever have allowed himself to imagine!

 

God, the poor kid!  No yelling at for taking the tricorder apart, but one little reprimand would be a whole lot better than worrying over the whereabouts of his family.  To feel the ache of homesickness without knowing whether he had a home to get back to…

 

Trip could understand the longing for home.  He loved his life here on Enterprise, but sometimes he yearned for leave-time, when he could head for that warm touch of Florida sun on his skin, the fresh gulf shore breezes in his hair and a chance to just spend time  with his family.  There’d be beers in the back yard with his Dad while tangy smoke rose from the barbecue and cookies to snatch off the baking sheet while his laughing mamma pretended to shoo him away.  Sights and sounds, smells and stories that brought back the simplest joys of his growing up.  And even as awful as losing his sister Lizzie in the Xindi attack had been, knowing the truth of it still had to beat hanging between hope and fear the way young Sim had been doing.  Plainly, he’d wrestled in silence with a growing number of hard questions, but after what he’d heard they demanded he get some answers.

 

In Trip’s first memory flash, Sim thought his whole situation must be heartbreaking for Phlox.  Seemed like he’d already learned a lot about it himself in a few short days.

 

Phlox’s cheerful voice broke into his thoughts as it drifted through the curtain.  “And for you, I have some nice fresh grub worms…”

 

Nice?  Grub worms?  That sounded even worse than fleas!

 

It was both joy and relief when, with a crackle of static, a crisp, female voice came from an overhead speaker.  “This is Commander T’Pol.  Communication is restored on all of Deck C and parts of D.  Ensign Sato will have updates on when the remainder of D, as well as Deck E can expect repairs.  At our current rate of speed…”

 

There was a pause, through which Trip heard Phlox exclaim. “The Klingons just love this!  They call it ‘gagh’…”  He didn’t wanna even speculate on what that might be!

 

Good thing there was T’Pol speaking again so he didn’t have to think about it.  “…We should clear this distortion field in approximately ten minutes.”

 

God, he loved the sound of her voice!  She was…

 


 

…so beautiful, with those huge eyes and that elegant face.  Besides that, she had to be the most brilliant woman on the ship.  I loved working with her in Engineering, except we were almost never alone together.  And when we were, there was  always something she had to do, so she couldn’t go for a quick bite to eat or to movie night.  Did she think I was too young and immature to go out with?  Well, I was growing up fast!

 

Really, really fast.

 

Like nobody was actually supposed to grow!

 

Maybe that was the problem, that I was so un-natural… and I should quit asking her for what was actually (though I couldn’t quite bring myself to use the word when I talked to her) kind of a date.  But I had to check out my increasing suspicions. Once I had an answer, maybe I could let it… let her… go.

 

“It’s because I’m different, isn’t it?  That you don’t want to do things with me?”…

 


 

Ouch.  Poor Sim.  He’d known heartbreak all right!

 

Trip could empathize.  He knew a few things about that himself.  He’d had his share of it too, especially where girls were concerned.

 

When was Phlox ever gonna finish feeding all his friends out there and come start in on  his procedure?  This medication was bringing out way more than he’d ever thought he’d know about Sim, and right now those memories were hurting a hell of a lot more than the distant throbbing of his knee.  It was as painful as those days, early in Enterprise’s first mission when he’d gotten that surprising letter from Natalie.

 


 

I sat in a San Francisco restaurant, looking across the small table at her.  She was so pretty, with her hair on her shoulders and her candle-lit eyes bright with curiosity.  “Your message said you had news, Trip.  So, okay… now you’ve kept me waiting all through dinner, don’t leave me in suspense!”

 

“Natalie, I guess this kinda goes without saying, cause I’ve told you plenty of times before, but first of all, I just wanna say again how much I love you.”

 

“I love you too, Trip…”  I thought she might say something more, though I had no clear idea what it might be.  But she only sat there, taut with expectation across from me.

 

I reached for her hands.  I realized mine were shaking a little with the excitement I’d been working to hold in all the way through the hot and sour soup, the spring rolls and the Thai peanut chicken.  Careful that those fumbling little shivers wouldn’t spoil things by knocking over either of our drink glasses, I caught her hands and held them warm in mine, then drew a deep breath.

 

“I got word this afternoon!  The promotion we’ve been talking about finally came through!  I’m Commander Tucker now!  And, Natalie, it gets even better!  I’ve been posted to the NX01!  Can you believe it?  Just what I’ve been hoping for!  Enterprise!  I’m gonna be Chief Engineer on Earth’s first Warp 5 vessel!”

 

By the way she smiled, the way she leaned across the table and kissed me, deep and sweet, I thought she was happy for me.  I believed I would return home to find her waiting for me there.  She didn’t tell me that she’d met somebody else.

 

That she was really kissing me goodbye…

 


 

Trip had enjoyed a few mild flirtations after that.  He’d even had to tell the captain “I was a perfect gentleman” often enough for it to become a running joke on the bridge, but he hadn’t given his heart to anybody until he realized that T’Pol was already holding it in her hands.

 


 

I stood in the doorway to my quarters… No, to his quarters…  To Trip’s quarters, looking at T’Pol,  the most beautiful woman I had ever seen.  I’d told her the day before yesterday when I was  an adolescent reveling in my still deepening voice,  that she was all I… all he… all Trip… thought about.  One of us thought about.  Hell, both of us thought about.  I didn’t tell her again though.

 

By the way she lifted her face to kiss me, deep and sweet, I knew the moment of my fondest dream had arrived.  I did not tell her I loved her, not out loud anyway, though my heart sang with the wonderful depths of my feelings for her. To speak would only spoil the moment.  There was no future for us.   Once I walked away from her,, I knew I would not be returning.  I knew that for me, for us, this was goodbye…

 


 

That was a bittersweet recollection.

 

The remembrance of that kiss, the sweet strength and gentleness of it, was as vivid and as poignant as if Trip had been the one T’Pol had given it to.  Of course, there were plenty of other kisses splashed warm and vibrant through his own memories, but that one belonged to  Sim.

 

Jokes or not, he really was a gentleman and this was one area of Sim’s existence he was horrified to find himself blundering into.

 

Still, he could not help but be grateful.

 

Sim’s part in his life, from the controversy of his creation to the deliberateness of his death, was such a gut-twisting mix of guilt and gratitude, at least it was good knowing he’d had a moment like that, of hope fulfilled and dreams come true.

 

But whatever could have compelled him to tear himself away from T’Pol and summon the strength to make that inevitable last-mile walk to Sickbay?  Loneliness?  Ultimate resignation?  Trip didn’t know.  Just wondering threatened to clutch that gut-ache tight again.  Sim had been so painfully aware of how different he was, and that, no matter what he may have wanted, his life had never really been fully his own to live…!

 

Trip squeezed his eyelids shut, tight, as if blocking out the sight of the ceiling would stop the pointless conjecture.  He wouldn’t, couldn’t go there!  Before the guilt could tighten its grip any further, he drew a long, centering breath like T’Pol had taught him, then reminded himself of Sim’s joy when T’Pol kissed him!  There he was, “eves-dropping” again, though at least this memory did something to cover the ache with a kind of warmth and peace.

 

But then, if he thought about it, probably a lot of that particular feeling was only the deepening effect of medication.

 

Hell, it didn’t matter.  It was a pretty good feeling.  Maybe the doc shouldn’t put this stuff on the list of things he’d never have again after all!

 

He smiled as Phlox’s words drifted to him.  “…some nice, fresh slugs from Rigel…”

 

Slugs.  Yuck!  Oh, well okay, slugs.  As long as he didn’t have to look at or eat them himself, Trip didn’t mind if Phlox handed out those terrible little tidbits all afternoon.  He was happy to lie here listening to T'Pol’s voice floating down from the ceiling.

 

“Ensign Sato has informed me that rudimentary communications have been restored to all of D deck.   She anticipates…”

 

Okay, it wasn’t really coming from the ceiling, but from the speaker system mounted up very near to it.  What the hell, it was close enough.  Her words were still surrounded by soft whispers of static, but-

 

“…repairs on E Deck should be established in another five to six…”

 

-even with the interference he loved her voice.   She could go right on talking up there.

 

“…and at present speed, we will pass beyond range of the distortion field in another two to three minutes…”

 

He loved the crisp conciseness of her words.  He just plain loved… her!  Phlox’d spring him in time to meet her for supper after her shift wouldn’t he?  Their schedules hadn’t provided them much alone time lately, and he wanted to  tell her!

 

“As we approach its perimeter,” she continued.  “Indications are that we will  encounter another short burst of-”

 

The word and the jolt came almost simultaneously.

 

“-turbulence.”

 

The table seemed to thrust up from beneath him.  He felt himself bounce, then slap back down on the padded surface with a thwack!  There was a crackling explosion of static and T’Pol’s voice went silent.

 

He had time for an intake of breath.  “Phlox?” before the next wave came, bouncing his head up then down on his pillow.  Wha-wha-whap!  The motion jolted through the velvety numbness of medication, shooting protests up his leg.  A musical range of metallic resonance sounded from beyond the curtain- from the tinkle of bottles and vials ricocheting off each other, through the mid-range keh-chinks of cage bars colliding, to the slow, deep clunks of cabinet doors rattling in their tracks.  Mixed in was a rising chorus of squeaks, shrieks, warbles and wails, punctuated by a shout of surprise.

 

Trip lifted his head.  “Hey… Doc?  Everything okay out there?”

 

“Commander Tucker, I… need…!”

 

Trip got to his elbows on joints as firm as cooked spaghetti while  anesthetic argued with adrenaline  “Hey…?”

 

More squeaking and shrieking, but nothing from Phlox for the two or three seconds it took Trip to reach a sitting position, and then, through the din he heard a thud.

 

 

“Doc!”  He swung his legs off the table, groaning as his knee protested.  Maybe that tweek wasn’t so little after all.  No time to dwell on it.  Only the two of them were in Sickbay with no way to summon help and Phlox was in trouble.  Years of training began to kick in, almost without conscious thought.  He shifted to get both palms on the table, positioning himself so his sound leg would take the weight of his landing.  Resisting the reflexive tightening of his muscles, he reminded himself that the safest approach to impact was to be as relaxed as possible.  Well, he was more than halfway there already, wasn’t he?  So…

 

One, two, three!

 

Breathe.  Relax.  Go!

 

There was no way to catch the groan or stop his eyes from squeezing shut for the two, three, four seconds it took the blast of pain to disperse, then gather his breath and his resolve.  Gripping the table, he moved forward, leaning experimental pressure on the injured leg, then adjusting his balance for another three, four five anxious seconds until it told him how, if he just kept hanging onto something, it would take his weight without giving way.

 

Reaching for, then grabbing the edge of the counter beside the exam table, he kept going.  All his muscles were so heavy and… every limping step seemed to… take… a little longer… than it should, because of that damn drug!

 

Forget about it.  Just… keep going.  The distances… seemed… to stretch… ahead of him, but Sickbay really wasn’t all that big.  He lifted a hand to shove aside the curtain.

 

Phlox lay on the floor amid a scatter of wriggling grey slugs.  The doctor’s face was turned toward him, unblinking eyes wide open.  It would only be ten or twelve quick strides to reach him!  Or should be.  Damn!  No matter how fast his will pressed him forward, Trip only seemed to snail-pace his way across the room.

 

But during triage training the crew had taken in preparation for Romulan attacks, the emphasis was on how to prioritize, not panic.  He would do neither of them any good if he over-estimated what his leg and his spaghetti muscles could handle and went down in a pain-stunned heap.  He’d just set his methodical engineer’s mind to work and find a use for every second of travel time.  The treatment protocols from those classes began scrolling across his attention as he scanned the scene.

 

No sign of blood or vomit.  That didn’t eliminate a hell of a lot.  It could be anything!  Stroke, seizure, heart attack.  His one clue was those staring eyes.  They didn’t follow his movements as he approached, now steadying himself on a counter of bolted-down cages.  At least there were no awkward or unnatural angles to Phlox’s neck or limbs, and no sounds of choking or labored breathing.

 

Yeah, right.  As if he could have heard anything over the chittering, chattering, shrieking din in here!

 

Damn!  He had to concentrate.  He’d talk out loud.  It would help him focus and maybe Phlox would find the sound of it reassuring.

 

Sim’s unspoken wish tugged at his awareness.

 

Doesn’t matter what you say, just  talk to me, so I can hear your voice, all right?

 

God, had anybody done that?  Stayed there beside him?  Taken his hand?  Spoken to him?  Phlox?  The captain?  Painful question, with no time now to seek an answer for it.

 

“Hey, Doc,” Trip tried to swallow through a throat gone dry.  He hoped his words weren’t slurring too much cause sure as hell, nobody would find that reassuring.  “Since you can’t tell me what happened here,  we’re gonna test how good a teacher you’ve been.  We go back to the first aid A, B, C’s, right?  So,  I remember A is airway…”

 

It was weird talking out loud, not knowing if it was a conversation or a monologue, only that his words were definitely slurring.  Still, Trip kept on.  “Can’t tell… ‘bout your breathing from here by lookin’ or… hear through this noise.  I dunno how ya concentrate in this place, but you’d probably… say the same thing if we were down in Engineering!”

 

Phlox didn’t respond.  How could he be so still like that?  Another step and another and he still hadn’t moved.  Still another and more of Sim’s remembered words were ringing with painful urgency through Trip’s mind.

 

It’s not just Trip’s childhood I remember, but mine.  You were a damned good father.

 

Still no movement.

 

God, he was taking forever!  And the aching press of Sim’s loving memories wasn’t helping a bit right now.  But at least Trip could keep on talking, keep using his words to formulate methodical plans of action while he… made… his… way… across… Sickbay.  Juggling his bones for balance, Trip took another step, then two, three…    Only… a couple more… now!  “B is for blood.  An’ I don’ see any, but…”

 

He was prattling, wasn’t he?  Did Phlox find his tone calming, his slurring words disquieting, or could he hear them at all?  At least, thank God, he was finally at Phlox’s side where he could do something besides talk.  Too bad there wasn’t a tricorder here!  Still holding the counter with one hand, Trip leaned forward and began a preliminary once-over.  Head tipped, fingertips poised, he felt, waited, listened for a movement, a sound.  Three, four, five seconds.  Something here?  Here?  No rise or fall of ribs or sternum.  And where was the Denobulan heart supposed to be again?  If he touched Phlox’s face, would he feel the press of exhaled air on his fingers?  Nothing there either!

 

It had been at least a minute since Trip heard Phlox’s shout.  Probably closer to two.  Awfully long to go without air.  There was equipment here that could take over breathing and, if necessary, heartbeat far more efficiently than he could.  Straightening, he scanned the room.  Yeah, there it was… on the far side of Sickbay!

 

How fast could he reach it?  Another minute or two at least, if he added in carrying the thing back here.

 

Way, way too long.

 

Better, surer, to resort to old field methods.  Good thing they’d been running intensive first-aid reviews these last weeks as part of Triage training.  Despite his slurred speech, Trip kept his tone steady, though his gut tightened with his deepening concern.  “I’m gonna start artificial respra… resserper… res…oh, hell!… breathing…”

 

There was no real warning.  Only a shiver, a shudder, then the ship flung him forward amid a cacophony of keh-chinks, squeals and squawks.  Pain arrowed hot up his leg and the knee buckled beneath him.  His forearms cushioned his forward sprawl across the counter, as the top of his head grazed the metal-barred front of a cage.   He tightened his muscles, instinctively hugging himself against the smooth surface.  He mustn’t let himself tumble backward, mustn’t go down, though his drugged muscles would be happy to just let go and slide him offa here, right down- splat! on the floor where Phlox’s unmoving, vulnerable form lay, way too close to his feet!  Mustn’t!  Couldn’t!  It was only after the fourth or fifth gulp of air he realized the ship was steadying around him.

 

Using his hands to press upward, he began to straighten.

 

It was the angle that snapped the puzzle pieces into place.  Standing, he hadn’t seen it, but from here, staring at the low, taffeta  sheen of grey cage bars and feeling his hands… larger, bonier hands than the memory pictured, but his hands all the same on top of the counter, it all became clear.

 

If… I held onto the counter…, it was almost easy.  Maybe I could feed the orange lizard next door.  Trip could almost hear Phlox shouting from behind him to set the latch down on that cage, even as he saw that it was open now.  Escardian lizards leap when they see motion…

 

From behind the bars, the reptile stared at him with unblinking black eyes, the fat, grey tail of a slug dangling from the slowly grinding corner of its mouth.

 

There had been that wave of turbulence, an unexpected jerk as Phlox prepared to drop the slug into waiting jaws…  The sharp pinch of fangs, a spreading heaviness, then that second jolt and the emergency hypo-spray dropping from loosening fingers.  It lay, half-hidden beneath the counter, its red “anti-venom” label bright on one side.  Phlox had demonstrated its use for him… no, for Sim… but first aid classes going all the way back to his Academy days had taught Trip the unhesitating way to send the medication home.

 

The small, digital display light was already activated.  It blinked up at him: “Dosage Set, Dosage Set, Dosage… ”

 

“Oh, yeah!  Here we go”  Trip heard the relief in his voice as, still grasping the counter with one hand, he bent to close the other around the device and thumbed it to “Ready”.  He maneuvered it against Phlox’s neck and pressed.  Through the noise, he felt more than heard the hiss that announced its delivery.  Still, Trip decided as he let the hypo-spray go and, with shaking arms, lowered himself to the floor at Phlox’s side, it was the nicest sound he could recall since… Well, since T’Pol’s voice.

 

Phlox didn’t move.

 

No breathing yet.  But there was a heartbeat!  Too light, too fast, at least for a human.  He didn’t remember the exact Denobulan rate, but when he’d heard it during training, it was slower, more regular.  Still, numbers wouldn’t matter with no air to nourish the blood flow.  Time then to start that artificial respiration.  Mouth to mouth would be quickest.  Don’t panic.  Remember to pace it.  Sixteen to eighteen breaths a minute, right?  Trip checked the airway.  Clear.  “Okay, Doc, let’s go!”

 

It was… a lot… harder… work than… he remembered.

 

Position the head, steady it with one hand, pinch the nose closed with the other to create a seal so air wouldn’t escape, but be forced into oxygen starved lungs.   A deep breath in and then quick, strong puffs.

 

Much harder… than in… class!

 

But then in class, they’d practiced on manikins.  Only manikins for God’s sake!  Not crewmates…

 

Puff.

 

…or long-time friends…

 

Puff.

 

…or damn good fathers…

 

A deep, shuddering gasp of air for himself then more strong, steady puffs.

 

And those manikins had been…

 

Puff.

 

…neatly laid out…

 

Puff.

 

…on demonstration tables adjusted to…  To comfortable heights for…  For the students to work on!

 

Another deep breath.

 

Much, much…

 

Nobody had to fight through startling lances of pain or a system full of drugs.

 

…harder…

 

And they all knew the very worst that’d happen was they’d have to repeat the session.

 

“Come on!  You can do it, Phlox!”  Trip panted.

 

Phlox didn’t.

 

Trip began again.  Quick, strong puffs.  Deep breaths of his own.  Puff, puff, puff.  Pause, breathe, watch, listen through the noise…  Nothing.  Again.  Again.  Nothing.  Again.  Again, until he lost count of the number of times the cycle repeated.

 

How long since he administered the anti-venom?

 

Sweat was breaking out on his forehead.  He wiped it away on the front of his Gators tee shirt.  Those wide, unblinking eyes stared through him, vacant of any expression.

 

As he bent to his work again, memories of those eyes crowded in.  Only a little while ago they’d been full of authority:  “Come on, Commander, on the table.  Up you go!”

 

But through the years he’d also seen them bright with humor or curiosity.  And he could remember resolute sternness there, too.  Like when Phlox cornered him in the corridor after he’d been awake for two days making engine repairs back in the Expanse.

“Four hours sleep, Commander!  Not a minute less!”.  And from an earlier time.  “Sim!  Let that back down!”

 

Not to mention incredible gentleness in a time that was earlier still.

 

“That’s a Denobulan lullaby, Sim…”

 

Those eyes shining down at him, that face, those cradling arms, had been the safe center of his world back then, wordlessly teaching him…

 

…teaching Sim…!

 

… trust, contentment and love.

 

Damn it!  When would the drug start working?

 

Trip’s throat was getting desert dry and his own lungs were beginning to burn.  The sweat was running in his eyes now.  Stinging in his eyes, making them water.  Blurring his vision as tears formed, fell, streamed.  When he lifted his head for air, they made splotches on Phlox’s medical tunic.

 

“In… Out…C’mon, Phlox!  Ya… gotta…breathe!”  God, he sounded even drunker than on Risa!

 

And he was getting light-headed.  Weird, when his head was growing so, so heavy.

 

When had he begun shaking all over?  Didn’t know.  Didn’t matter.  What did matter was that it took more and more effort to make his drug-weakened muscles resume their work after each time he paused to catch a breath.  And still, there was no movement beneath his hands.

 

Puff, pause, breathe.  Check.  Any flicker of movement yet?  No.  Sound of inhalation?  Didn’t think so, but who knew with all the noise?  Couldn’t hear a thing through the squeals, squeaks and shrieks, except maybe a distant whisper of static…

 

Why wasn’t that medication taking effect?

 

“You said…  It’d work…!” There was a childish note of shattered belief in the panted words, a desperate, angry ache of betrayal.  He forced himself to begin another series of breaths.  His hands trembled so hard it was getting difficult to maintain the seal.  “You said… it would… get rid of… the poison!”

 

And still there was nothing.

 

It wasn’t fair!  He remembered the love and pride in Phlox’s voice when he’d called him a damn good son!  So how come there wasn’t more he could do for a damn good father?  How could he help Phlox feel better like the doctor had done for him with his hugs, his lullabies, his tricorders to take apart, with the way he made him feel safe?

 

There hadda… hadda be… a way!

 

He could… could search for a little more strength… find it somewhere within his resolve.  He could tell his hands to… come on!  Stop shaking!  Stay steady!  Tell himself to… keep going, don’t pause so long between each series of breaths.  Remember the rhythm?  That’s it…  Better…  Keep on… keep on going.  Brush away the sweat running in his eyes.  Fine, wipe away the tickling tears smearing his cheeks, but then focus!  Focus!  Focus!  Stay with the moment instead of drifting toward the memories!

 

But… he was… getting so tired!

 

He had to tell his back it mustn’t… no, mustn’t… settle against the counter doors behind him.  It seemed like he… just couldn’t pull in as much air as he had… done before, couldn’t make such strong puff, puff, puffs…!  He couldn’t stop his head from spinning or the tears from stinging and that red-labeled hypo-spray wasn’t doing its damn half of the job!

 

“’S’gotta work…” He stared hard into Phlox’s eyes and gulped air.  “’s’gotta,” he repeated, as if convincing the doctor could make the next breaths more effective.  “This is s’posed to be the … cure… for… cure r e!”

 

Another swipe at mingled sweat and tears.  Another gulp of air.  His heavy head bent forward.  Puff…

 

There was a hissing sound behind him.

 

Puff…

 

Running footsteps.

 

Puff…

 

“Trip-!”  It was the captain, coming fast from behind him.  “No one responded when communications came back up, so we-”

 

“Commander!”  His words were joined by Malcolm’s, as the lieutenant, in his Starfleet blue uniform, dropped to his knees, across from Trip on Phlox’s other side.

 

Must’ve cleared the distortion field, Trip thought dimly, or Malcolm wouldn’t be here.

Already he could see him reaching to check the doctor’s vital signs for himself.  “Tell me what’s happened here?”

 

Trip lifted his head.  Gasped for enough air to form words.  There was a bright flash of U C L A blue and gold at the edge of his vision as Jonathan crouched beside him.  And then, from beneath his hand…  A movement!

 

Or was it?

 

The captain’s strong, steadying fingers circled his shoulder.  Trip didn’t look at him, but studied Phlox’s face.

 

He was blinking!  Then that flutter came again under Trip’s hand.  Phlox pulled a short, shaky breath.  He let it out on a sigh as the corner of his mouth flickered in the smallest suggestion of a smile.  His voice came, barely above a whisper.  “Sim.” He said.

 

Trip didn’t know if Phlox thought he was Sim, or only recognized that somehow he’d played a part in the first aid treatment.  It didn’t matter.  Gazing down at Phlox and watching him pull in another shaky breath, Trip felt a returning smile form somewhere behind the sweat and tears.  “Yeah, Doc,” he agreed.  “Sim.”

 

Lifting a heavy hand, he flailed it out to make a large, looping gesture toward the nearby red-labeled hypo-spray, then, raising his head to meet Malcolm’s grey gaze, he slurred out “Gave Phlox… annie… vennn…”

 

Already Malcolm was grabbing for it, nodding, then surging to his feet.  “Got it,” he said and dashed away in the direction where the respiratory assist equipment was.  God, he was moving so fast…  He’d be there and back in no time!

 

No time…

 

The words reverberated oddly through Trip’s mind, echoing an ache somewhere deep in his gut.  No time

 

From across the room he heard the activation of a comm. link and Malcolm’s clipped, decisive tones.  “Triage team three to Sickbay, emergency status: blue.  Confirm, that’s status: blue.”

 

Obviously, the comm. was up and running again.  That was… good.  And that blue status level had been the one that meant extra hands were needed, but the emergency itself was under control.  And that was… even better.

 

Trip sighed.  The back of his head settled against the counter doors with a soft, almost comforting clunk. Good surface. Firm surface.  Seemed to help keep the room from spinning.  Even the hot throbbing down there in his knee had eased to a kind of distant thrum now that he wasn’t trying to walk on it.   Only that ache deep in his gut remained.  It meant there was something he needed to… to say?  To do?  Something…  Help Phlox?

 

Drawing a deep breath, he forced himself away from the comfort of the counter door.

 

“Don’t worry, Commander…” Malcolm was back.  His tone was brisk but kind as he settled lightly to the floor on the doctor’s other side.  “Just sit back. You don’t need to do anything more right now.  He’s breathing on his own.”

 

Trip nodded, then let his head follow the gee forces back to the welcoming counter doors.  There was the hum of a tricorder.  Malcolm studied it, then tapped in a series of commands.  His voice began rising and falling in a stream of brisk reassurances that were a counterpoint to the blipping of a respiratory monitor as he slipped a breathing mask over Phlox’s face.  “Here you go, Doctor.  This should make things a bit more comfortable for you until you begin to feel stronger.”

 

Trip almost smiled as he let his eyelids drift closed.  Malcolm had always done so well with the technical part of triage simulations, but was frustrated he couldn’t role-play the bedside manner part worth a dam.  Sometime, Trip decided, he’d have to tell him that when the need was real, Malcolm did absolutely fine…

 

“Don’t try to move, Trip,” the captain’s hand was steady on his shoulder as he crouched on the floor next to him.  “We’re going to get both you and Phlox someplace a lot more comfortable than this in no time.”

 

Actually, this place right here was plenty comfortable as far as Trip was concerned, or would be except for that stubborn ache still pressing, deep down there  inside, and those reverberating words.

 

No time…

 

They were what had sparked what Trip had first thought was déjà vu, weren’t they?  Back when he had started to lay himself down on the table, before he realized he was really experiencing a memory?  Whatever driving compulsion had allowed Sim to sacrifice himself, it wasn’t until that moment that the full, final realization of what was about to happen had hit him.  There were still so many things he  wanted to do, to experience, to savor, and now, except maybe to listen to the sound of a voice or share a familiar gaze,  there was …

 

No time.

 

Trip had to know, if at the last, there had been someone to…

 

Just stay a minute longer!  Right there, where I can see you!

 

…to remain with him.  Someone who’d…

 

Just  talk to me, so I can hear your voice, all right? Until I…  Well, until I go to sleep?

 

“Cap’n?” he began, then listened as, in a flurry of voices and footfalls, Triage Team Three began to fill the room around them.  Jonathan made no effort to rise, or to issue orders, but allowed Malcolm to continue coordinating its actions.  Instead, he waited, one hand on Trip’s shoulder as the reassuring sound of the Englishman’s words washed over both of them.

 

“The doctor’s almost completely stabilized now.  I believe we can safely transfer him onto a bio-bed.”  Stepping aside to allow members of his team to lift Phlox’s stretcher, he turned to look down at and report to the captain.  “We’ll get someone from bio-med sciences down here to check him out, but the way he’s already improving, I imagine he’s going to be fine.  Commander, we’ll come help you get settled in just a couple minutes.”

 

“’kay…” Trip nodded, though Malcolm’s last comment hardly registered.  He released a slow, relieved sigh.  Stabilized…  Going to be fine…  Real, real nice words.  He opened his eyes and, without lifting his head away from the wonderful comfort of the counter, looked side-eyed at Jonathan.  There was only one thing he really had to do now.

 

“Cap’n…?” he said again.

 

Jonathan’s gaze met his, so focused and attentive that, even with all the noise and activity around them, it could almost have been just the two of them in this room.  “Yeah, Trip, what is it?”

 

“Gotta ask… you… a question,” he began.

 


 

I met his waiting green gaze, then pushed to my feet.  The captain didn’t say anything, only watched as I stepped away from the shuttle-pod.

 

“You know why I did it?” I asked.

 

We both understood that it wasn’t a real question.

 

He knew I’d tell him why I hadn’t stolen the small craft and made a run for it instead of going ahead with the transplant surgery. And he also knew it had nothing at all to do with spending my last days growing old alone between the stars, peeing in a bottle or even remembering how Trip had been stranded in the very same shuttle-pod, listening to Malcolm dictate one  final fond farewell after another to what had to have been at least half the female population of San Francisco.

 

“It was because of my sister,” I said, as the ache of Lizzie’s loss tightened my throat.

 

Before he could say a cloned symbiant would have no real siblings, I added what my memories, and  my heart knew, even more than my DNA.  “And Lizzie was my sister as much as Trip’s.”

 

But there’d been no need for my defensive words.  Knowing him, I should have realized the captain wouldn’t have said that.  Instead, he gave me a long, thoughtful look.  “I don’t doubt that,” he said.

 

In that moment, for the first and only time, it didn’t matter to me at all if I was speaking Trip’s words or my own.  I knew that he and I would both believe in the reality of them.

 

“I don’t want what happened to her to happen to anybody else.”

 

 

After another long look, the captain nodded.  “That was why I gave the order that created you.”

 


 

Jonathan was still waiting, but as sure as he’d never have told Sim he had no real siblings, Trip knew there was no longer any real need to ask the captain his question after all.  Of course someone had remained with Sim.  Phlox for certain, because he had been a damn good father and, as sure as he was sitting here now, the captain would have stayed too, out of friendship for him and Trip.  Out of respect for both of them and even for the memory of Lizzie.  It was only Sim’s urgent realization that he wanted,  needed, the connection to his Enterprise family to be the last thing he experienced that had triggered the silent plea.

 

Trip could understand that.  If he was facing his own death, he knew he’d wish to have the people he cared about close around him.  He’d want to share their presence, to love their faces and their voices until his last fading moment.  And he’d hope that knowing they’d been able to comfort him, would in turn give them comfort in the days to come.

 

Of course it might not have been like that for Phlox or the captain.  Probably hadn’t been, judging by the looks in their eyes on the rare occasions when Sim’s name had come up in conversation.  Perhaps they’d felt like they’d been too much a part of the reasons for Sim’s death to gain any comfort from knowing they’d eased his final moments.

 

Maybe Trip could help make it different, by letting each of them know that not all of Sim had gone.  That it was his memory, not Trip’s, that had provided the essential clue for helping Phlox.  And, maybe even more important, by telling them that Trip knew, absolutely knew because he now had the memory of it, that Sim had believed, wholeheartedly believed, in what he’d agreed to do.

 

Believed in it enough, Trip realized, but wouldn’t tell them, to turn and walk away from that precious, secret moment with T’Pol and take himself to Sickbay.

 

Trip drew a long, deep breath.  It shuddered and wheezed with the effort, but…

 

The last of that guilty ache deep in his guts was gone.

 

It was so sharp, so clear: the sound of conviction in Sim’s words as they rang in the silence of the shuttle-bay.  The ache of love and loss that Trip had struggled with for months was in every syllable.

 

…she was my sister as much as Trip’s…

 


 

I ran along a beach with a small, long-haired  girl dressed  in green chasing to keep up with me.  In my hand I held the winding stick for the string of a bright orange, yellow and purple kite.

 

As I let the string play out, the kite bobbed and fluttered, hardly making it above the gulf waters.  I’d almost decided it was going to land in the drink, when it caught the wind and began to lift higher and higher into the blue sky.

 

“It’s flying, Trip!” she shouted, jumping up and down, laughing as golden sand sprayed up around her feet.  “Look at it fly!”

 

Her name was Lizzie.  She was my baby sister.

 

His memory?  His and Sim’s together?  It didn’t matter.  The heart’s truth was there, echoed in the swell of love filling Trip as, for another moment, the sound of carefree childish laughter rang across the years.

 

Her name was Lizzie.  She was… our…!  baby sister.

 

God, that kind of made Sim his brother, didn’t it?

 

Too bad he hadn’t gotten to remember Sim saying that a long time before now.  It sure as hell would’ve saved him a whole lot of guilty gut-ache!  How could he feel responsible for Sim’s sacrifice when, if it came right down to it,  in the spirit of honoring Lizzie, he’d have willingly done the same if it meant he could make a difference that would save another family the grief that his… no… that theirs… had known?  He only wished there was a way he could’ve told him he recognized what a brave and loving thing he’d done…

 

From what seemed a great distance off, Trip realized the triage team, under Malcolm’s direction, had settled Phlox onto a bio-bed and, by all the new hummings and bleepings now blending with the usual combination of shrieks and squeaks in here, were setting him up to be scanned by various monitors.  The way Trip figured it, there’d be a lot for the two of them to talk about later on, because there was no way the doc was gonna be doing his procedure tonight, and they’d probably spend it camped out here, looking at the ceiling, side by side.  He actually found he was kind of looking forward to it, except, of course, for missing supper with T’Pol as well as Lieutenant Mac’s crystal shearing demo.

 

“Trip?”  The captain’s voice was a gentle, repeated inquiry close to his ear.

 

God, that’s right!  He’d wanted to ask him a question a while back.  But…

 

It was the one that didn’t matter any more.

 

And there’d also been something he’d wanted to tell him.  About Sim.  He still wanted to tell him…  In fact, there were a whole lot of those somethings he wanted to tell him, and he guessed they might matter to the captain a whole, whole lot later on.  But now…

 

Trip was so tired, he… wasn’t sure he could find all the words to make so much as a start, and… even if he could, they’d probably be so… so damn drug-slurred, he wasn’t a bit sure the captain… would be able to understand half of them.  Still…

 

He wanted to say something to ease that concerned look on his friend’s face and let him know there was nothing left to worry about.  Something that could provide the captain with a little of the warm, sweet relief that was flooding all through Trip’s exhausted body … even though… probably a lot of that particular feeling was… only from the still-deepening effect… of medication.

 

Drawing a long, and finally satisfying breath, he managed a sincere, if shaky, grin and brought them all the way back to a subject that had been interrupted what seemed now like a long, long time ago.  “So, Cap’n…?  What did you decide… about our rematch?”


Comments:

putaro

Nicely done - neat way of using Sim's memory to save Phlox.

Cap'n Frances

Beautiful story! I loved the juxtapostion of Sim's memories with Trip's. You've portrayed Trip so well - his empathy, his determination and his ability to solve problems even when he is injured and sedated. I hope we'll get to see the conversation he plans to have with Archer (not to mention their rematch!)

Eireann

Amazing.  Just amazing, as your work always is.

Thank you for my part of the dedication.  Whatever I did or said to deserve that, I'm glad, but a talent like yours just leaves me awestruck.

Linda

Okay, writing review in snatches as I read it.  I find it easier to do this way and hope it makes some sense to those who read it, LOL.

It took me a while to get into it, but when I realized Trip was dealing with Sim’s memories, my interest in the story picked up.  But what a wonderful idea!  I had always wondered if the parts from Sim in Trip would last since Sim was condemned to grow up and get old and die over a very short time.  Wouldn’t these parts die quickly too?   I never considered that they would give Trip Sim’s memories yet this is such a creative and logical idea!

The interweaving of two people’s thoughts was great.  So where do Trip and Sim live as separate beings and where do they merge?  A judgment was made as to whose life was more important, but for a brief time, Sim was just as sentient and feeling and equally human.  What a heartbreaking situation.  And this story makes you relive it fully, poignantly (and LOL, I did write this sentence with this word before the word was used in the story.)

One of the singularly defining sentences in this story: “Sim had been so painfully aware of how different he was, and that, no matter what he may have wanted, his life had never really been fully his own to live…!”

The part about Trip getting to Phlox and helping him before Jon and Malcolm got there seemed very dragged out, but it was supposed to, from Trip’s medicated state.  Part of my feeling of that could be the large double spacing between paragraphs made the text a bit tiring to read.

The mention of Lizzie always engages me.  She is the one character I have really made my own – in three novels I have yet to share.  It is lovely to see other people working with her as a character.

Loved the wrap up of Sim’s life that he agreed to what was happening to him and that Trip could let Jon and Phlox finish their grieving for Sim by knowing a bit of him had survived.    Now did he ever get around to telling them?  That remains tantalizingly open, to my way of thinking.  Would Trip’s memories of Sim’s memoies fade as the medication wore off?  Would they ever be triggered to surface again?  

Weeble

Wonderful science fiction. Marvelous stuff. Trip and Sim sharing memories and laying to rest one of those niggling issues that would perhaps haunt Trip the remainder of his life. Thank you for your tale!

Loulah

Beautiful.

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