"The Letter" - Part II
Author's Note: Special thanks to Rigil Kent, who helped me immensely on this fic. I'd also like to thank Distracted for inspiring me to write this.
She had to see him.
Part of her still didn't believe that Trip was dead. It was completely illogical, but while she had no reason to disbelieve her colleagues, she still needed to physically see Commander Tucker's body for it to be real, tangible. She needed empirical evidence that the same man who had miraculously escaped death on countless occasions had been taken from her by the nameless intruders that had boarded the ship this day. That was why she had to suppress a great deal of anger at this moment.
It had taken every gram of her mental discipline to refrain from driving her fist through the keypad next to the locked door of her intended destination in a vain attempt to gain entry to the morgue. Instead, she found herself in sickbay, glaring darkly at her unsuspecting quarry, Doctor Phlox. The normally jovial Denobulan was sitting slouched at one of the room's workstations now, his expression a grim reminder that she wasn't the only one who felt Trip's loss. For all her attempts to suppress her emotions, especially the anger she felt, she couldn't help but feel pity as well. Some of the tension left her body as she reconsidered the way that she intended to approach the doctor.
The Denobulan looked up at the sound of the opening doors and saw her approach. She noted that he didn't even try to force a smile as was his usual custom in such a situation as this.
"Commander? Is there something I can help you with?" he inquired, evidently assuming her to be injured in some way.
"I would like access to the morgue," she replied as flatly as she could manage. 'I wish to view Commander Tucker's body."
Doctor Phlox immediately tensed. "I'm afraid I can't allow that," he told her. "I'm sorry, Commander, but no one is allowed to view his body."
The anger flared again, and she drew herself up to take advantage of what little height advantage that she had over the doctor while he was seated. "I must be allowed to see him," she seethed.
"You aren't the only person I've had to turn away, Commander," Phlox calmly attempted to explain to her. "No one is allowed to view his body. Commander Tucker's will was specific about that point."
T'Pol was taken slightly aback by that. "Why?"
"He mentioned being disturbed at Sim's funeral," the doctor elaborated. "He didn't want anyone to see him like that again. He wanted his friends and colleagues to remember him as he was in life."
That seemed like a very human reason. She could understand it, even as the pain and desperation welled up from within her. With effort, she fought it down even as she pressed Doctor Phlox further. He had to understand her need. "Please," She pleaded with him. "I must see him."
Phlox's face was filled with sympathy. In a way, she did find that comforting, yet in others, she found it frustrating, because she already knew what his response would be before he even opened his mouth to reply.
"I'm sorry, T'Pol," he told her, exactly as she expected him to. "I know it may be hard to believe that the commander is really dead." He sighed in open aggravation. "I can scarcely believe it myself, and I'm in the middle of writing his death certificate right now!"
The Denobulan looked at her with pain in his eyes. "I'm sorry, but I must respect Commander Tucker's final wishes."
T'Pol felt a sudden rush of emotion, that threatened to make itself past her carefully controlled exterior. She felt very hollow inside. "His final wishes." She had to leave the room and seek shelter elsewhere.
Without risking another word to Doctor Phlox, she quickly turned and left the room. She found that she didn't even care what his reaction might be, she simply had to get away from him and this room.
The corridors were a blur. She saw some of her crewmates as she quickly made her way down them, but she couldn't even look at them, much less acknowledge them.
Robbed of a chance to see her former lover one last time, she only had one recourse left to her. It was the closest she would be able to get to him now. She only paused for point-three-five seconds before entering her command override code, giving her access to his quarters.
She turned on the lights as the door closed behind her, illuminating the room Commander Charles Tucker the Third had called home for four years of his life, the final years of his life. His scent was all around her, overwhelming her senses as she realized that even this last essence of him would soon be gone forever, lost to the ship's efficient atmospheric processors. She stood just inside the door, scanning the room, and taking in everything that remained of her closest friend. Everything was in its place, a testament to the efficiency of the ship's chief engineer. Everything but the binder and the scrap of paper on his desk.
She sat down at his desk and held the binder in her hand. She gripped it tightly, hoping despite all logic that some remnant of his katra might still remain attached to the object. Disappointed, but unsurprised, she carefully placed the binder into its proper location. She then turned her attention to the folded piece of paper, which lie neglected at the far end of the desk. As she picked it up, she saw her own name scrawled on its surface, written in Trip's handwriting. Curious, she opened it.
She was immediately shocked and hurt at what she read. A visceral need to tear the letter into shreds nearly overwhelmed her. She crumpled the thin material in her hand, ready to give into her animalistic instincts before her calmer, more reasonable psyche reasserted itself. Flattening the paper on the hard, unyielding surface of the desk, she reread the words neatly written in ink.
She knew that he had loved her. Part of her had always known, just as part of her had feared that emotion and what it meant. She had felt his love for her through the bond that they had shared, just as she had felt his grief at the loss of their daughter when they had mourned on Vulcan together. When they had agreed to end their relationship, she thought he had understood the logic of her reasoning. Why else would he have agreed with her? It had not occurred to her that she had caused him such pain through her actions, that he would be angry with her. But she had selfishly closed herself off to him following what she had thought was the mutual end of their relationship.
It was selfish of her, she reflected. She had fooled herself into believing it had been to help protect him as well, but in truth it was for her protection and hers alone, so she could fully sever the connection that she had with her human mate, so she could find what it meant to be Vulcan again. She had thought that he understood, just as he had always seemed to understand. Why else would he have led her to believe so? He had distanced himself the many times she had pushed him away before, but he had never been unkind to her. And he had always been there when she'd needed him. The revelation that she had caused him such great pain was distressing to say the least.
It was a constant struggle to keep the sadness and the pain at bay. She could feel the pressure welling up behind her eyes, threatening to unleash the tears for her lost friend and lover. He had loved her even through all the pain that she had caused him, the pain she had tried to make sure he did not feel. She had asked him to stay on board, so she could stay close to him, to watch him as much as to maintain the friendship that she had so valued. He had acted completely comfortable with the redefinition of their relationship to each other. In some ways, the façade he had put on was worthy of a Vulcan.
She had finally admitted to herself on Vulcan that she loved him, even though she had buried that love away, afraid to lose herself to it. But she still loved him, and now he was gone, lost to her for the long remaining decades of her life. Never again would she see the sparkle of his blue eyes, nor his beautiful smile. She was more alone now than she had ever been before, now that she knew what she had denied herself. Trip had been the only one to truly care for her, to accept her, which was something she would never receive on Earth or Vulcan. And she had pushed him away, to his death, mere days after they had returned from laying their daughter to rest.
In part, she was responsible for his death. She was convinced of that now. What else would explain the way he had so foolishly wasted his life to save Shran and Theras when he could have easily conceived of another way to occupy the intruders while Lieutenant Reed and his people closed in on them?
She searched his closet for a large piece of luggage to accomplish her new self-appointed task with. Almost at once, she found one, emblazoned with the mission patch all Enterprise crewmembers wore on their uniforms. She gently set it on Trip's bed and opened it. Taking another moment to compose herself, she looked over the many personal items on the shelves in his room. She took the first item, a picture of his lost sister whom she had named their doomed daughter in honor of. She felt the weight of the heavy frame, and looked into the face of Elizabeth Tucker.
Reverently, she laid it at the bottom of the open suitcase, the first of the many items she would pack away in this fashion. She owed him that much.
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