"How Far Fallen"
Spoiler Alert: “The Aenar,” minor spoilers to various other episodes involving Trip.
He sits, immobile, a man who is just realizing how far he’s fallen.
Trip’s voice replays through Jon’s head. “I’ve said all I want ta say…I’ve said all I want ta say…I’ve said all I want ta say…”
The bourbon he’d taken out to celebrate with Trip is in front of him, and somehow his eyes fixate on the liquor. He remembers when Trip and Malcolm were lost in Shuttlepod One, and Trip took out the bottle he knew was stashed in the ‘pod. The two of them were drunk and had cases of hypothermia, but both of them were alive. Somehow, bourbon had found a celebratory use after that, as a measure of triumph. He wasn’t sure how it happened, but it didn’t matter.
He has few memories of the last decade and a half that don’t involve Trip, really. Some of them were lighthearted and fun: Trip showing off his commander’s pips, only to find that Jon had received his own promotion to captain. Trip insisting that his group photo of the engineering team be taken when the ship was at warp, to show off the engine. The indignant anger written on Trip’s face when he was pregnant. The first time Trip met Porthos, when his then-puppy caused Trip to fall and land in a puddle of mud, where he was gleefully joined by a small, wriggling ball of mud and fur. Other memories were somber and serious: Trip’s anguish over the suicide of the congenitor. Trip almost dying in the desert when they’d been enjoying themselves playing the intense alien sport. Jon couldn’t remember what the game was called, but he would never forget how angry and worried he was when it looked as though Trip might not survive, how he had to convince not only his friend but himself that Trip would pull through. Recently, Trip’s clinical death from the silicone virus and the ache he felt. The time they were caught up by the symbiotic, gooey alien. He recalls watching water polo with Trip, browsing alien markets, eyeing him with suspicion after his visit to Risa.
He knows that the Expanse took a toll on their friendship, knows that he was so busy being the captain who had to save Earth that he wasn’t a good friend. He knows that Trip needed him, and he wasn’t there. There are few days when he does not chastise himself for that.
Yet, he never thought that things were as bad as they apparently were. What did he not see? Despite the Expanse, Trip Tucker was his best friend. They’d been through so much since the first day Trip refused to be impressed by the name Archer, how could Trip throw it away?
“I’ve said all I want ta say…” It will haunt him, he knows. His best friend wouldn’t even tell him the real reason he is leaving. Trip is going to leave Enterprise, and he won’t even tell Jon why.
Survival training, the weird space pirates with big ears, Trip disobeying orders in order to do what was right while he was in the Forge, the light in Trip’s eyes when he talked about the warp engine, Trip’s request that Chef make pecan pie more often, the time they had a week off and toured the lunar colony, Trip’s extensive collection of brightly-colored shirts, the excitement they’d shared when Enterprise got commissioned. Trip had shared so much of his life. They were best friends.
He knows that things will never be exactly the same again after the Expanse. He does not even question if it was worth it, because he knows that it was. He is, after all, only one man. Earth is a whole planet.
Tonight, though, he is one man who has just realized how far he’s fallen.
“I’ve said all I want ta say…”
Jonathan Archer reaches for the bourbon and pours himself a glass. He downs it in two swallows. There is another glass beside his, empty. He thinks that the only other person to ever drink out of it was Trip. The captain can’t go around drinking with many people, after all. If he thought it would help, he would throw the glass against the wall. He knows it won’t.
If Trip wants to leave, there is nothing he can do to stop him. He knows that he has failed his best friend, and in doing so he has failed himself.
“I’ve said all I want ta say…”
He thought that they’d been making strides towards repairing their friendship. Especially after Trip’s death and miraculous recovery, things seemed to be resuming a sense of normalcy. Through it all, he had been blind.
He knows how far he has fallen, and wonders how he will ever get back up.
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