Author's note: I thought I would finish and post the whole story; my early Christmas gift to you. If you have read this, of course I'd be very grateful for a review - it's what keeps us writers going! This chapter contains offensive language and gratuitous singing. You may even want to play "Fairytale of New York" by The Pogues featuring Kirsty MacColl at the end... Merry Christmas, everyone.

"What's the damage, Trip?" Captain Archer was sitting on a bed in sickbay, next to the Chief Engineer.

The Captain was sporting a bruise to his face and a cut to his forehead that had already been attended to; Trip was still feeling the after-effects of being hit by a stun beam at close range.

"We were lucky, all things considered," Trip told him, with a shrug, "the sensor array took most of the damage, but we'll have it back online within forty-eight hours. We've got hull breaches on Decks G through to E but repair crews will start working on that as soon as we get everyone back from the planet's surface. If it hadn't been for the emergency bulkheads we'd have a lot more casualties on our hands..."

"Shame Lee didn't survive the blast," Archer said, darkly, "what happened?"

"I dunno," Trip shrugged, tiredly, "I was out cold. D'Arcy said he was still trying to free himself when the bomb went off. Lee was thrown against the console; broke his neck. By the time I came around it was all over; I found D'Arcy waitin' for me to wake up, and that's when we went an' found Malcolm in the corridor..."

Trip trailed off, casting his eyes at the bed they were both facing. Reed lay there, one hand resting on his chest, the other twitching by his side as he grimaced, shifting uncomfortably. His face was bruised and battered; his right eye was swollen shut with bruising from what Phlox had informed them was a hairline fracture to the eye socket. The Tactical Officer shivered and shifted beneath the thin blanket that had been draped over him, despite still being dressed in his uniform. Phlox was busy; several crewmembers, Reed included, had been close to the blast, but some had been far less fortunate. Archer reflected that, given the hull breaches and the proximity to the blast, they had been incredibly lucky not to lose anyone. The fact that the ship was virtually devoid of crew had no doubt helped.

The sickbay doors swished open, and Archer looked up as Lieutenant Brogan swept in, a pad in her hands. She cast a quick glance at Reed, and Archer saw her jaw tighten slightly.

"It's a good thing Lee died in the blast," she spat, angrily, "if I'd have gotten my hands on the cock-headed little shit-bag I'd have taught him what the agoniser was really designed to do..."

"Your report, Lieutenant?" Archer cut in, smoothly; he'd quickly gotten used to Brogan's colourful language but most of the other crew were often shocked by her curse-laden vocabulary.

Archer had once mentioned it to Reed; the Lieutenant had simply smiled and said that nobody could swear quite like the English.

"My report, Captain, is that the ship has been royally fucked over by that traitorous tosspot and we are bloody lucky we are standin' here breathin' enough decent air to damn that bastard scrote to the arse end of hell and back," she spat back, vehemently, "Captain, if that bomb had gone off inside the sensor array monitoring station it would have gone straight up through the centre of the ship through at least four or five decks, it would have been a shit-storm of a cluster-fuck, no messin'. You and I wouldn't be sitting here right now and there wouldn't have been a whole lot of ship left for anyone to return to. The crew is returnin' via shuttlepod as we speak; I've lifted the security lockdowns and reinstated full duty shifts under Sub-Commander T'Pol's orders."

"Good," Archer nodded, "anything else?"

"Ensign D'Arcy is making a full report but he says Lee took him by surprise; he was stunned by a phase pistol apparently just before Crewman Davies was killed," Brogan replied, her tone a little calmer, "D'Arcy didn't know about Davies, he was devastated when I told him... he woke up tied up in a storage locker, before Lee took him down to G-Deck; he says Lee was going to hold him hostage if he was discovered. D'Arcy was apparently going to go up with the bomb as everyone's favourite suspect."

"Damn," Archer said, softly.

"Yeah," Brogan agreed, and then tossed another look over her shoulder at Reed, "How's he doin'?"

"Been better, I guess," Trip spoke up, as Reed groaned in semi-consciousness, "fractured eye-socket, severe concussion, a few other bumps and bruises – lucky, I guess, given how close he was to the blast."

"Still feel like Lee got off lightly," Brogan growled, tapping the pad against her palm, "still, at least the little prick's dead. Saves me the job of killin' him meself."

"Brogan," Archer's tone held warning as if chiding her, and she grimaced.

"Alright, sorry, Captain, sir," she replied, "just lettin' off steam is all."

Archer was about to reply when Phlox bustled over; Brogan excused herself and bowed out of sickbay, returning to duty. Phlox passed his scanner over Archer and then over Trip.

"Well, gentlemen, I see no reason to keep you here," the doctor smiled at them, "though please do take it easy for the next day or so, Captain, you may only have a mild concussion but there is no need to push yourself."

"What about Malcolm?" Trip asked, hopping off the bed.

"He will make a full recovery," Phlox said, airily, as Archer eased himself off the bed more gingerly, mindful of his own bruises, "he just needs to wait his turn for my Osmotic Eel to repair the damage to his eye socket..."

"Nice," Trip grimaced, "Okay, thanks Doc..."

Archer stopped by the bed that held his wounded Armoury Officer, resting his hand on Reed's shoulder. To his surprised, the Lieutenant shifted and then turned to look at him, opening his one good eye.

"Lee?" Reed murmured, through swollen, split lips, "The ship?"

"Lee's dead," Archer told him, "you saved the ship, Malcolm. You got the device out the airlock in the nick of time and your warning to polarise the hull plating came just in time to prevent much worse damage. Trip's going to be busy for the next few days but we were really lucky – you saved us."

Reed grimaced and shivered beneath Archer's touch and the Captain gripped his shoulder reassuringly.

"Get some rest," Archer told him, gently, "you've definitely earned it."

Archer waited until he was sure Reed was either asleep or unconscious – he couldn't really tell – before he and Trip slipped out of the Sickbay.

"Hey Jon," Trip said, softly, as they left.

"What's up, Trip?"

"I've just realised - it's Christmas Eve..."

"Sorry Trip – I don't think there will be much of a party today... maybe tomorrow."

Back in his quarters, Ensign D'Arcy waited patiently by his desk. Sure enough, on time, the communications system on his desk flashed up an incoming call alert – this was not coming through the ship's official channel, but through his own, private system. He pressed to accept the call, and Commander Harris's face filled the screen.

"Sir," he said, by way of greeting.

"Ensign," Harris returned the nod, "I've read your report and the reports filed by the Enterprise senior staff."

"Yes, sir."

"Your mission failed."

"Yes, sir. Lieutenant Reed discovered the tampering with the weapons systems before we were able to rendezvous with the captured Klingon vessel for the incident you had planned..."

"I'm well aware of what happened, Ensign," Harris cut him off, brusquely, "at least Ensign Lee was able to take the fall single-handedly. It was a shame you had to terminate him but it was for the best. Do they suspect you at all?"

"No sir," D'Arcy replied, confidently, "they did at first but now they're convinced I'm no longer an active agent for the Section."

"Good," Harris narrowed his eyes, "Malcolm Reed has been a thorn in my side for too long, D'Arcy. The next chance you get, I want him out of the picture, permanently."

"What about Lieutenant Brogan?"

"I'm surprised Archer hasn't thrown the insubordinate bitch off the Enterprise already," Harris scowled, "we can now think of Lieutenants Reed and Brogan as future collateral damage, D'Arcy, do I make myself clear?"

"Aye sir – but what about the rest of the crew?"

"We need the mission to be a success for the sake of Starfleet, but Archer is taking things too far with his overt friendliness to every alien species he meets," Harris replied, carefully, "an interstellar war can only serve to bolster Starfleet's military, particularly funding for weapons and ordinance; we need to be feared and respected, just as much as the Klingons, or else we'll be ripe for alien influence and suppression. It's bad enough the damn Vulcans are breathing down our necks all of the time, just waiting for us to fail... Section 31 has Starfleet's best interests at heart, you know that, Ensign."

"Yes, sir," D'Arcy responded, with dutiful conviction.

"One way or another, Enterprise will spark a major diplomatic incident," Harris continued, darkly, "I will see to it that as a result of that conflict, Section 31 and the military have all the funding and resources that we need to protect us from alien threats to our security, and you, Ensign, are now perfectly placed to help me do it. You'll be a hero."

"Aye sir. What do you want me to do?"

"For now, nothing. Archer thinks he's safe again. Let him think that for now. I will contact you when we are ready to try again in the future... for now, just await my orders. Harris out."

The next day, Reed was released from Sickbay, more at his own insistence than anything else. His right eye was still swollen and blackened and he knew from the shocked glances he drew from crewmen passing him in the corridor that he still looked beaten and bruised. Still, he got a few mumbled comments as he walked the corridors...

"Thank you, Lieutenant."

"Well done, sir."

"Good work, sir."

"You saved us – thanks, sir."

He nodded to each of them, uncomfortable with their warm sincerity, knowing that he had only done his duty and keenly aware of how close he had come to failing. Lee had almost beaten him. In desperate need of a cup of tea, he wandered to the mess hall; the ship's weapons had miraculously escaped much damage in the attack so now it was Trip's turn to be busy. Reed could obey the doctor's and the Captain's orders, and take the next day or two off. He strolled into the Mess Hall and was relieved to find it was relatively quiet; it was between shifts. Two crewmen were busy hanging paper chains around the walls and Reed realised, with a start, that it was Christmas Day.

"Thought I'd find you here," a voice from behind him made him jump, and he turned, to find Brogan holding two mugs of aromatic tea, "here – Earl Grey. My own personal supply."

"Thanks," he took the mug and inhaled deeply, appreciating the delicate floral aroma.

"Merry Christmas," Brogan gave him a lop-sided grin, "Captain says we'll be having a party in here to celebrate. You comin'?"

"I'm not a fan of parties."

"It's kind of in your honour. You have to be there."

"No, I don't."

"Hero of the hour, and all that shit."


"Captain's gonna make a speech, you know."

"I'm not going."

"I'll order you to go."

"I'm pretty sure we've had this conversation before..."

Reed did not resist as Brogan took his elbow and guided him over to where the piano sat in the corner. Her guitar was still resting beside it. She picked it up and automatically played a few chords; the crewmen putting up the decorations spared them a quick glance but continued with their work. The few others occupying the mess hall all turned, expectantly, in their direction.

"I bet you can't even see to play, with that eye," Brogan remarked, strumming a few bars of a well-known Christmas song.

"As if I need to see," Reed slid onto the stool, flexing his fingers and opening up the piano, "Some of these tunes are memorised... Do you remember this one...?"

He played the opening chords to a song, and Brogan's face split into a broad grin; "Oh, my favourite... yeah, go on, I'm sure no one will mind..."

Reed cleared his throat, playing an improvised bridge, and then repeated the opening chords, before he began to sing, in a mellow tenor voice, adding a slight slur to his usual crisp tone; "It was Christmas Eve, babe... in the drunk tank. An old man said to me, 'won't see another one'. And then he sang a song, that rare old mountain dew! I turned my face away, and dreamed about you..."

The crewmen hanging decorations had given up all pretence of working and were openly staring at the two Tactical Officers at the piano. The other patrons of the Mess Hall had turned their chairs to appreciate the impromptu performance.

"Got on a lucky one," Reed sang, a gravelly edge to his voice, "came in eighteen to one... I've got a feeling this year's for me and you. So Happy Christmas – I love you baby! I can see a better time, when all our dreams come true..."

He played a few soft notes on the piano, and then the tune shifted, becoming more upbeat. Brogan, an inveterate showman, turned towards the audience and spread her arms wide as she sang out loudly and brightly.

"They got cars big as bars, they've got rivers of gold! But the wind blows right through you, it's no place for the old! When you first took my hand on that cold Christmas Eve, you promised me Broadway was waiting for me. You were handsome..."

"You were a pretty queen of New York city," Reed interjected, and then the two of them sang together; "when the band finished playing, they howled out for more. Sinatra was swinging, all the drunks they were singing, we kissed on the corner then danced through the night."

Their voices rose in unison for the chorus; "The boys of the NYPD choir were singing 'Galway Bay', and the bells were ringing out, for Christmas Day!"

The piano swept along in a jaunty tune; most of the crew in the Mess Hall were grinning and tapping their feet or nodding their heads along to the catchy beat of the tune. Then Brogan launched into the raunchier verse.

"You're a bum, you're a punk!" she pointed at Reed accusingly, laughing as she sang.

"You're an old slut on junk," he responded, smiling despite his bruised features, "lying there almost dead on a drip in that bed."

"You scumbag, you maggot! You cheap lousy faggot, Happy Christmas you arse I pray God it's our last!"

Together, they belted out; "The boys of the NYPD choir still singing 'Galway Bay', and the bells are ringing out for Christmas Day!"

The tune softened, as Reed took on a melancholic tone.

"I could have been someone..."

"Well so could anyone," Brogan trilled back, "you took me dreams from me, when I first found you."

"I kept them with me babe... I put them with my own... can't make it all alone, I built my dreams around you..."

"The boys of the NYPD choir still singing 'Galway Bay', and the bells are ringing out for Christmas Day!"

Reed ended the song with a flourish on the piano, to raucous applause from the crew in the mess hall. Brogan laughed and took a bow, casting her hands towards Reed, who blushed slightly in response to the clapping and a wolf-whistle from somewhere near the back of the room. Wincing as his bruised body protested the movement; Reed reached for the mug of tea on top of the piano and sipped it appreciatively.

"I'm sorry your carol concert got cancelled amidst the chaos," he murmured, as Brogan tuned up her guitar.

"That's okay, we'll get a few songs in at the party tonight," she smiled back, rolling up her sleeves, and idly strumming the instrument, "you don't have to play if you don't want to; hero of the hour always gets to take it easy."

"We'll see how I feel," he replied, non-committal, "hey, Brogan?"

"Yeah, Mal?"

"Merry Christmas."

"Merry Christmas to you too, mate."