Trip and Malcolm discover there are far-reaching consequences of time travel. Especially when your ride is a month late. Some Trip and Malcolm angst in this chappie...don't worry, things will turn out all right in the end. But keep the tissues handy.
Spoilers: ENT "Terra Prime"
Starfleet Medical at Jacksonville, Florida
(-2 years, 3 months)
He didn't want to leave this timeline, even with the full knowledge of what could happen if he didn't. Trip slowly recovered from the “Battle in Earthspace”, as the Terran media had dubbed it. Starfleet limited access to the surviving Enterprisepersonnel, with one notable exception. He talked with Gannet Brooks, lead reporter for the Earth News Network and wife of his exec, Commander Travis Mayweather.
The whole ninety-minute interview was awkward as hell. Trip didn't know what was worse: deflecting Brooks's questions or being under the watchful eye of Admiral Gardner during the entire thing. The only thing that made it tolerable was Lizzie's presence at his side.
Malcolm visited him at Starfleet Medical at Jacksonville every day. Although Malcolm didn't say it aloud, Trip knew that he was reluctant to leave as well. Captain Reed had his own ship, his own crew and a wife who happened to be his executive officer. But Trip sensed there was something else bothering him, something more personal.
“Hey, you doing okay? You've been pretty quiet since we got back to Earth.”
He shook his head. “I'm fine--” A spate of coughing interrupted him.
Trip frowned. “You don't sound fine.”
“I may be coming down with a cold.”
"Or your allergies might be botherin' you again. It is April now.”
“You never told me Florida was still this cool in April.”
“Just wait until July and the humidity goes up.” Trip managed a smile. “Careful, or you'll give Hoshi the same bug.”
Malcolm frowned at the mention of Hoshi. “God forbid. I wouldn't want her to catch whatever this is.”
Trip's frown deepened at the concern in his friend's tone. “Okay, spit it out. What's wrong?”
Malcolm lowered his tone and said, “The TARDIS.”
“Yeah, she usually shows up after we saved the timeline and take us where we need to go next.”
“Perhaps we're missing something.”
“We saved Earth. What are we missin'?”
“ I don't know.” Malcolm sighed and sat back in his chair, next to Trip's bedside. “I have a bad feeling about this,Trip.”
He frowned as he considered that. “You think she's in trouble or somethin'?”
“I'm saying this is very unusual, even for her.”
“Let's give her a bit more time, and then we'll worry.”
Another week passed with no sign of the TARDIS's return. Trip found himself out of breath more and more often, and the spells of dizziness grew more frequent. To his alarm, Malcolm began showing the same symptoms at a much slower pace.
Doctor Jeremy Lucas was in charge of Trip's recovery, and as the days went by, he became increasingly concerned. He ran every test imaginable; the results mystified the doctors. Lizzie, Malcolm and Hoshi happened to be at Trip's beside when he dropped the bombshell.
“Captain Tucker, I can't understand it. I've had Phlox look at these readings, but we're both stumped at what we're seeing.”
Trip gripped his sister's hand tightly. “What's goin' on, Doc?”
Lucas passed a PADD to Lizzie; Malcolm and Hoshi looked over her shoulder to read it too. The doctor sighed and replied, “Your cells are losing cohesion, Captain. Every one of your internal organs are showing signs of degradation. It's physically impossible, but every one of our scans confirms it.”
Lizzie's eyes widened as she scrolled down the pages. “What's happening to my brother?” she whispered. “What's causing this?”
“We don't know, Miss Tucker. His body is slowly breaking down, molecule by molecule.” Lucas's face was unusually solemn. “It's as if he's suffering from extremely slow radiation poisoning.”
Trip closed his eyes. Now he knew the real cause. He didn't belong in this time. As much as he felt comfortable, even happy, here, he couldn't stay. And if I do stay here, I could cause more damage here in this time line, in the long run.
He had to go, as much as it hurt him to do so. He had saved Lizzie, and that was what mattered to him.
“...something happen when we yanked him off Enterprise?” Hoshi was asking, “With the transporter?”
Trip opened his eyes and looked over at Malcolm. “Doc, can you scan Malcolm too?”
Lucas frowned. “Captain Reed? Why?”
“Just a hunch.”
Lucas shrugged and glanced at Malcolm, who nodded permission. “This will take only a moment.” He passed his hand scanner over Malcolm, then read the results. “Good God--”
“What's wrong?” Hoshi demanded.
Lucas looked at her. “Your husband's showing the same signs of cellular degradation, Commander Sato. Whatever's affecting Captain Tucker is affecting him as well.”
“How long until it--?”
He shook his head and replied, “At this rate...less than a week, for both of them.”
She held Malcolm's hand with a death grip and whispered, “Scan me too, then.”
“What?” Trip asked, confused.
“Just do it.”
Again, Malcolm nodded, and Lucas did as Hoshi asked. Trip saw the fear and concern in Malcolm's eyes as Lucas looked at the results. What the hell's going on? Trip wondered.
The doctor took a deep breath and handed her the PADD. “You're safe, Commander Sato. Both of you.”
Trip and Lizzie glanced at each other in puzzlement. “Both?” Trip asked. “What are you talkin' about?”
Hoshi nodded at him, tears trembling on her lashes. “I'm pregnant, Trip.”
Trip's mouth dropped and Lizzie reached over to squeeze her shoulder. “Oh, Hoshi, that's fantastic!” Lizzie said.
“How far along?” Trip asked.
“Nearly a month,” Malcolm said hoarsely. “That's what Phlox said.”
“But--” He clamped his jaw shut as he did the mental math. “Oh, shit.”
Lucas scowled and shook his head. “We're going to have to keep you here at Starfleet Medical Jax for the meantime, Captain Reed. Don't worry, Commander Sato, Miss Tucker...we're going to find a way to stop this thing from advancing.”
“Don't forget to scan Commander Mayweather too,” Trip said, “and Lieutenant DeClerk and Major Hawkins. We were all on Enterprise's Bridge when Intrepidsaved us.”
Lucas nodded in approval. “I'll personally put out the recall order, Captain Tucker. Commander Sato, Miss Tucker, I'm going to have to ask you ladies to help me with the admission paperwork. Captain Reed, I'm sending a nurse down to help you get settled into the adjacent room.” He glared at Malcolm and added, “Phlox warned me about your penchant of sneaking out of his Sickbay. Don't try it here.”
Malcolm opened his mouth to retort, but Trip cut in, “I'll make sure he stays put, Doc.”
“I'm holding you to that, Captain Tucker.” Lucas nodded. “Time is of the essence.”
Lizzie nodded and squeezed Trip's hand. “I'll be back, as soon as Doctor Lucas lets me.”
He blinked back tears; this would be the last time he would see her. He slowly nodded as he committed every detail of her to memory. “Okay.”
Hoshi hugged Malcolm hard and he murmured something into her ear. She nodded and followed Lucas and Lizzie out, closing the door behind her. As soon as they were gone, Trip sat up in bed and motioned for Malcolm to help him. “Get me disconnected from this thing. We gotta find the TARDIS.”
Malcolm nodded as he deactivated the alarms that would alert the medical staff. “I take it you know where she is?”
“That's the problem. I haven't seen her since we were on this version ofEnterprise.” Trip gritted his teeth as he untangled himself from the I.V line. “That's a bad sign. And if we stay here any longer--”
“We don't belong here,” Malcolm finished, echoing Trip's earlier thought. His eyes were filled with regret. “If we stay here, we die.”
Trip took another deep breath. “Malcolm--”
He shook his head once. “We have other things to worry about right now. You already knew that Mayweather and the others aren't affected by this at all.”
“Yeah, but it'll buy us some time, since Lucas has to call 'em here.” He reached for something to staunch the bleeding from his arm; Malcolm rummaged through the drawers and found gauze and medical tape. After a quick patch, Trip rifled through the closets to find civilian clothes he could wear. “We gotta hurry. I don't feel too good.”
“All right. We don't know how long before Lucas's nurse shows.” Malcolm opened the door and scanned the corridor. “It's clear for now.”
“Okay. C'mon, before they send the cavalry after us.” Trip closed his eyes and reached out for the TARDIS. The mental link was faint, so faint, but it was still there, and it was definitely fading. “She's on the roof.”
Malcolm started and swore under his breath. “Bloody hell. On the roof? She doesn't make this easy, does she?”
“'Easy' isn't in our vocabulary,” Trip muttered. He turned the corner and spotted an elevator. “Okay, up we go.”
They took the elevator to the top floor. Just as they located the stairwell leading to the roof, a soft alarm rang through the halls. A feminine voice announced, “Hospital security, to floor 47. Security to floor 47.”
Trip fought against a wave of dizziness as he struggled up the stairs. “They figured out where we are.”
Malcolm said nothing as he looped an arm around Trip and half-dragged him up the rest of the stairs. The access door was locked, but one well-placed kick forced it wide open. Trip looked up to see the familiar blue police box sitting on the hospital's helipad, right in the middle of the Starfleet Medical logo. He hoped that no one was coming in on an emergency landing right at this moment.
Three steps, five steps, ten...Trip snapped his fingers and the TARDIS's door popped open. Malcolm pushed it open just as they heard booted feet climbing the access stairwell behind them. They fled inside just as they heard shouts. Trip's legs failed to hold him upright and he fell onto his knees.
“Get us outta here!” he rasped. “We need to get outta here now!”
The horrible grinding noise roared all around them; quietly at first, then building up into a roar. Trip squeezed his eyes shut as he felt some part his consciousness separate and fade, as though he'd been split into two and was bidding the twin good-bye. It was an odd sensation, and he heard a definite voice drawl, I'll take care of her, don't worry.
Trip wondered how the timeline readjusted as he and Malcolm popped in and out of universes. Did the “normal” versions of themselves just snap into existence, with full knowledge of what had happened during “their” absences? How much of their memories had been altered? Did their universes change again with their reappearance?
For that brief moment, his mind had touched his counterpart's as they made the switch. Trip thought back, Thank you.
Reality snapped back around him. He managed to roll onto his back as the air came back into his lungs with a violent start. He coughed and tried not to choke; a familiar warmth wrapped around him and eased the constriction around his chest.
“Good to see you too, Darlin',” he whispered. “Where were you?”
An image of a dark cloud filled his brain, then a bloom of color erupted from the center of it, before it was abruptly cut off, leaving it dark once more. Trip tried to recall where he'd seen it before. “Is that a wormhole? Some sort of subspace corridor?” At the TARDIS's confirmation, he asked, “You were actually stuck in one? That's why you couldn't get to us before now?”
She hummed agreement, then it scaled up in pitch. “Okay, lemme get up, at least. I feel like I've been gut-punched by a Tellarite. Damn--” He managed to push himself up to a sitting position, but every muscle ached. Trip closed his eyes against another surge of vertigo. “Ow. You all right, Malcolm?”
Trip opened his eyes at the hauntingly flat tone. Malcolm leaned heavily on the console with his back to Trip. He was trembling with the effort of staying upright.
“You don't look fine.” Trip dragged himself to the TARDIS's console and nearly collapsed into the bucket seat. “Sit down before you fall down.”
He expected Malcolm to ignore the order, so it surprised him when he sat down heavily on the floor and leaned against the base of the control panel with his eyes closed. Trip regarded him for several long moments.
“I had to leave her behind, Trip.”
“You were dying, Malcolm. We both were.” Even as he said it, he knew it was cold comfort. “You heard Doctor Lucas...we would've been dead in less than a week if we stayed there.”
“She's carrying my child, Trip.” Malcolm opened his eyes and Trip flinched at his expression. “Not my counterpart's. Mine. And I left her.”
Trip turned his face away from the anguish in his friend's face. What could you say to something like that? There weren't any words to ease Malcolm's pain. He knew about having a child, then losing her forever. At least he had gotten to know Elizabeth; Malcolm would never know at all.
The TARDIS tingled in his mind, the warmth tinged with sorrowful regret. Is there anything you can do for him? He doesn't deserve this. Trip's heart ached in bitterness. Dammit, this isn't fair. He felt that warmth radiated outward, touch him and Malcolm.
And for the first time, her words were crystal clear. Sleep, dream and forget.
“You sure this is a good idea?”
It will be the best thing for him. He has left a part of him behind with her there...at least know that part of him will live in a world of peace.
He struggled to keep his eyes open against the wave of exhaustion. “But erasing his memory...and mine too? That--”
You already carry too much of a burden, Trip. This is the curse of being a time traveler, being fated to know too much, and to remember too much. Some day, soon, he will re-experience this joy without the sorrow, and so will you.
Sleep now. Your journey is not yet over and you need the strength.
Trip managed to turn his head to see Malcolm still sitting on the floor, leaning against the TARDIS console, but his eyes were closed and his breathing easy. Trip fought against it as long as he could, but he felt consciousness slip away as if it was on a light breeze.
His last thought was, Aw, hell, not again...