Dear Readers: This story takes place a short time after 'Terra Prime', and assumes you have watched the show to this point (or at least 'Bound'). Trip & T'Pol's story is so full of angst; it will take just a smidge more to set it right. So bear with me. Following series canon, by the end of season four I felt both Trip & T'Pol needed a philosophical kick in the pants. And, of course, the craptastic TATV doesn't exist. It was merely a mass hallucination.
If you watched Babylon 5, you'll see the inspiration for this story at the end of the first part (thanks Joe Straczynski).
This is my first 'real' story – so your comments are welcome. I want to become a better writer – and your input will help. Thanks!
A great big thanks to Estelle for pointing out the holes and justTrip'n for being my beta again!
Back in high school, when queried about how microprocessors worked, his electronics teacher would wave his arms and say, "it's all smoke and mirrors."
Commander Charles 'Trip' Tucker once again found himself stranded on a backwater planet hundreds of light years away from his alma mater and his electronics teacher. He had been attempting to repair his damaged communicator when he accidentally let the smoke out.
"Well, that's useless," he sighed. He would have tossed the newly created paperweight away, but his mama taught him better than that. Instead, he tucked the communicator into his pants pocket and zipped it closed. Besides, you never know when spare parts will come in handy. He put his screwdriver away and closed up his small tool kit. Trip felt his stomach grumble, so he rummaged through his backpack to find a nutrient bar. Tearing the foil wrapper open, he took a bite. "Two hundred years of space travel," he mumbled through a mouthful of dry ration, "and they still can't make these things taste good."
Trip had transported down to the surface with another engineer and two of the science staff. He had reported to the Captain a few weeks back that their dilithium crystals were cracked and needed to be replaced. That would mean using up the only spares they had left, so finding a source and collecting some would be a good idea since they were so far from home. Commander T'Pol had found this planet in the database and he had assembled a team. Scans had shown that atmospheric conditions were not suitable for shuttlepod travel. That had left them with two options: wait and find another source or use the transporter.
It had taken longer than they had anticipated getting the crystals excavated, and a storm was brewing. Racing against a storm, was starting to seem like standard operating procedure on these missions, or maybe it was just him. Once the away team got their gear packed up, everyone had managed to transport back to the ship but him. He rolled his tongue in his cheek. Figures.
The young engineer took stock of his surroundings and it wasn't good. Not that it was all that bad, but then again he grew up in South Florida. He was used to hot and humid. And it had been hot and humid, until shortly before his team wanted to leave. The winds had picked up and turned cooler. During his initial survey of their location, Trip noticed this hillside, littered with boulders and a dark crevice in the rock. Once he realized he wasn't getting back to the ship any time soon, the engineer moved quickly to gather some twigs and headed inside the cave before things got really bad. Part of his field tool kit was a small soldering iron, which worked as a firelighter in a pinch. If he had known about the cold winds he would have brought along his field jacket. But the temperature had read in the low thirties before they came down, so he didn't think to grab it. Hopefully it wouldn't get too much colder or things would get really uncomfortable. As it was, he zipped his coveralls all the way up, pulled the sleeves down as far as he could get them, and cozied up to his little camp fire. The forest (or is it a jungle?) wasn't too thick, but the canopy was dense, so he didn't have a clear sight to the sky. The sun had been filtering through the trees earlier, and he hoped after the storm passed it would still be daylight and warm things back up. Of course, getting back to the ship before that became a problem would be even better.
He started to think that maybe he should just stay on the ship for now on, but even there trouble found him. Maybe I should just go back to Earth, he thought for one brief depressing second. The thought startled him out of his reverie. "Charles Tucker III," he shouted, in a tone his father would have used, "Quit feel'n sorry for yourself!."
He stretched out his hands to the fire and rubbed them together absently. What would I do with myself back there on the surface? Design warp reactors? Build starships and watch them leave? Nothing back there but painful memories, too much loss. Maybe someday it won't hurt to go home; until then, his mom will just have to settle for letters. And he'd just have to keep coming up with reasons he couldn't visit.
The storms on this planet seemed to be quick and violent. The one that had stranded him was almost over, as far as he could tell. At least he able to scramble into this cave for shelter when the com went dead and he wasn't transported out. But just his luck, he ended up slipping on some wet rocks on the way in and had smashed his communicator. The bruise on his hip was just the icing on his increasingly soggy cake.
And so, here he sat. Rain coming down, wind howling outside. Repairs on his communicator had gone poorly, and now he waited. The fire he built was slowly diminishing, and he had run out of kindling. He took a long swig from his water pouch to wash down the dry tasting bar. At least he had rations this time; being stranding on desert planets taught him the lesson of being prepared. Pop was right; maybe he should have joined the boy scouts. After this trip, he vowed to add a thermal blanket to his pack.
It was the low growling sound that pulled him out of his musings. The cave was deep, but he had only gone in deep enough to escape the storm.
There was the sound of nails scrapping on stone.
Trip sat up straight and turned his head to the noise. The growls were getting louder. "I don't like the sound of that," he muttered. He aimed a flashlight into the depths, hoping not to see anything. The animal was getting close now. He crouched to his feet, pulse rising, grabbing the strap of his backpack. Knowing his luck, whatever-it-was coming out of the depths would consider him to be on the menu, so he did the only thing he could. With one last look back into the cave, Trip turned and ran out into the storm.
The rain had mostly stopped, but the winds were still high and the cold was biting. Trip thought that he could hear the animal coming after him. Or maybe it was overactive imagination bringing back the memory of his brother chasing and teasing him. "Give me snakes any day," Trip thought. He dashed through the trees, pushing back branches ahead of him. His footsteps splashed in the saturated ground. Something caught his left arm, he yelped as he tore free into a clearing. Falling to his knees he gripped his elbow and twisted his arm to inspect the damage.
"Damn," he bit out between clenched teeth. A branch had torn off a bit of uniform, and his cut arm was oozing blood. It had stung when he snagged the branch, but he was too busy running to give it much notice. He used some of his water and a piece of gauze to dab clean the cut and sprayed on some broad spectrum antiseptic. The cut still stung but that was all he had in his pack. Trip hoped it would be enough to stave off infection. He wrapped it with a small bandage and looked around. The foliage was thicker here, but he didn't want to venture any further than necessary. Malcolm would have his hide if he wandered off too far. All those lectures about away mission protocols and "what to do if you get lost." Not that Malcolm was one to talk; Trip swore to this day that it was Mal who caught those con-artists eye on Risa. That time their pride had taken the biggest hit, but too many away missions had taken a deadly turn over the years. His wound stung again, and he had a morbid thought. "Can't die now, Tucker 'ole boy, who would tease Malcolm?" Movie night was coming up and Trip wanted to pick one of those old flicks where a British accent equaled "bad guy."
The commander allowed himself another five minutes of rest and reminiscing, before getting back up. The commander turned back to the way he had come. He wasn't keen on going back near the cave. Perhaps if he took a different route in the same direction, he would end up near the transport site, but away from the animal. He set off, careful of branches this time.
Trip worked his way through the woods, ducking under low branches. He stepped around a bush with delicate purple flowers when the ground gave out. He fell for two seconds before hitting against a nearly vertical wall of mud and stones. He was sliding over the sticks and stones on his backside, arms flailing above his head. It was like a bad dream. "If I catch on some root, I'll break a limb," he thought as he focused on breaking, but there wasn't time to worry. Suddenly he emerged into the light, landing at the bottom of a hillside with a soft thud and a groan. He lay on the ground, dazed. Once he was sure he had stopped moving and confirmed all his limbs were still attached, he got up. And promptly sat back down. He ached all over. He moaned as he stretched his neck and shoulders. His uniform was covered head to toe in mud, and his hair stuck out at odd angles. His eyes slid shut and his lips pressed together in defeated resignation. "Well," he muttered sarcastically, "for my next trick."
After a few more moments rest, he struggled to his feet. He peered back up the tunnel. It looked as if it might have been dug out by some animal, or perhaps rainwater had washed it out since it seemed to follow the root system of a tree. Either way, it was too slippery to climb back up. Wiping his hands on his hips, he surveyed the hillside. It was steep, and slick with mud and thin grass. There was no climbing back up that way either. Maybe it would be possible if he had claws and weighed half as much. "Son of a bitch." He shuffled his weary body over to the base of a tree and plopped down.
"When did I become the universes' whipping boy?" He was wet, covered in mud, cold and most assuredly bruised. He could even feel the mud squish in his boots; he didn't want to think about where else it had seeped into. He tried to take his mind off the situation and think of what he needed to do when he got back. Ah right, the promotion letter. Despite the ache, a small smile came to his face. She'd busted her butt for four years, Anna deserved it. "Can't die down here Tucker, Hess needs her promotion." He rested his head back against the tree and thought of maintenance reports and shift schedules. His eyelids started to get heavy. He tried to keep himself awake but exhaustion finally caught up to him and his eyes closed.
He snapped awake in time to see some furry creature climb up the tree with his backpack. Trip jumped to his feet. "What the?! You've GOT to be kidding me!" He could see the squirrel-thing chewing through foil to get to his rations. Little flakes of silver fluttered down to him, followed by a good half a liter of water. It must have bitten the water pouch. "Well that's just great! Now what am I supposed to do?!" No water, no rations, no communicator. "What's that old saying about a creek and a paddle?" He couldn't afford the delay; there were at least two dozen things he needed to do in engineering by the end of the week, on top of his usual work. The cracked crystals caused half-a-dozen sensor relays to fry, so those needed replacing. Then the EPS manifold needed to be purged. He had to remodulate the phase coils to the new specs. He had a laundry list of work he intended to get done. He couldn't die down here, the ship needed him.
There was a crack of thunder in the sky. Another storm was blowing through. His eyes crossed in annoyance and frustration. He stopped fuming over the lost backpack, and sought shelter. There were no caves to speak of in the vicinity and the tunnel could soon be filled with rushing water. He didn't want to travel any further off course than he already had. The rain was starting; ice cold droplets of water pelted him in the face. How a place could go from hot and humid to biting cold was beyond him. He found a tree whose limbs at least offered a little shelter. The wind was picking up. "This is ridiculous," he muttered through chattering teeth. He wrapped his arms around himself to stave off the cold. He thought, at this rate any search party that managed to find its way through the woods and storms would find nothing but a popsicle. His cut had stopped bleeding but was still stinging; apparently the dressing had torn off in the fall and had been replaced by a layer of mud. He looked up to the little bit of sky he could see, "what did I do? What did I do to deserve this? I can't die down here, the ship needs me, the cap'n needs me." From the day they met working on the NX-alpha, he and Jonathan Archer worked together to get the Enterprise built. It was a team effort, and they toasted their success the day she glided out of space dock. Sure, they've had their disagreements, but when it got down to it, Trip didn't want to be out here without his old friend. He made a promise to Jon, to keep Enterprise flying; and he meant to keep it. A flash of lightening lit the sky and the rain picked up. "Then again," he muttered, "this is no worse than watching water polo."
He hunkered down against the tree to wait out the storm. "Next time, backpack, extra rations, and a jacket." At least the storms didn't last long. His shivering was getting worse. His injured left arm was feeling warm and throbbing. Who knows what kind of extraterrestrial bug had infected him by now. Between the alien plant and the mud, it's a wonder he hadn't started hallucinating, again. On his second alien planet ever he'd nearly committed homicide. Or would it be vulcacide? "Humf," he puffed.
It was funny really, how things turned out. "Of all the starships, on all the planets, in all the galaxies, she had to walk into mine," he said out loud. He wasn't supposed to like her. They had considered her to be condescending, stuck up, uptight, and pessimistic. So why did he bother? Why did he try to crack that shell? "Because she's a challenge," he sighed, "that's why." And Trip Tucker was never one to back off a challenge. He wasn't one to toot his own horn, but far too many times Starfleets' 'experts' would insist on something, only to have him prove them wrong. They just didn't see how it all fit together. But so often she did. For the first time he wasn't always right and it was refreshing. He began to look forward to engineering problems, because it meant Captain Archer would send her down to help. They would go at it for a good twenty minutes before finding a compromise and hashing out a solution. Sometimes he would suggest outlandish things just to get a rise out of her.
Then, they were sent to the Expanse, and everything changed. He learned who she really was, underneath. He allowed himself to think that maybe a Human and a Vulcan… well, maybe his secret dreams weren't so far fetched. Then, they came home, and it changed again, for the worse. Koss, her mom dyin', the Kir'Shara. And it never got better. He felt as if a weight was pressing into his chest, it was suffocating him. It was his own damn fault; he let her walk all over him. "Time to stop being a doormat, Tucker, and grow your spine back."
He didn't hate her for it. He couldn't. For all the misunderstandings, false starts and heartaches, he still cared. She was Vulcan. He couldn't ask her to be anything else. He cared more than he was willing to admit to. "A Human and a Vulcan. What was I thinkin'? We're better off alone."
The shivering had stopped. He was hopeful that it meant it was warming up, but his fingertips were still blue and he couldn't feel anything with them. He curled up tighter against the tree. "This issn' good." The lack of shivering meant hypothermia was setting in. It wasn't fair. "Yeeap, shiit happ'ns," he slurred. He looked around at his probable final resting place. But especially to me, he added miserably. The first real blow had been Charles, the cogenitor. He was so sure he was doing the right thing. Then Lizzie. His sweet baby sister. It wasn't fair. He couldn't die, out here, alone. His parents didn't deserve to loose another child.
He didn't want to die alone.
Why did he turn away from her? He might as well be honest with himself, for a change. It was the grief. Every time he looked at his one-time best friend, he felt that stabbing pain in his chest. It was the worst pain he could imagine. To watch your baby girl dying, and be truly impotent to do anything about it. It was more than he could bear. So he turned away; actually he ran away. It's not like she came after him. All that Vulcan control, she probably just repressed her grief. He hoped that was the case. He envied her if it were. He didn't like to think that she suffered the same pain he did. He didn't want her to suffer. He wanted her safe. He wanted her protected. Just knowing she was around was enough. It had to be.
He really didn't want to die alone.
His vision was closing in. I can't die, there's too much work to be done.
His breaths were becoming shallower. I can't die, the ship needs me; the captain needs me.
He looked ahead. There was a light in front of him. It blurred along the edges where his vision waned. There was someone there, coming out of the light. It was an angel. She was beautiful. At least now he didn't have to die alone.
His vision was nearly closed off. He felt himself falling. From the darkness he heard a voice.
**Do you have anything worth living for?**
She had been told, on numerous occasions, that humans were prone to erratic, volatile and illogical behaviors that lead to unfortunate circumstances. So when Captain Archer informed her that Commander Tucker had been stranded (again) on the surface of the planet below, there was only one answer to this outcome of events.
T'Pol's fingers glided over the controls of her science station. She was scanning for Commander Tucker's biosign, but the storm was making it difficult to get a clear reading. She could only assume he would find shelter from the storm and wait for it to clear and call for transport. She had no reason to believe otherwise.
She checked the chronometer and verified it was time for the mid-day meal. "Captain, I would like to take my lunch break while we wait for the storm to pass." He nodded in acceptance and she moved to the lift. She mentally reviewed her knowledge of the planet. Designated 4793 by a Vulcan survey vessel, it was inhabited only by primitive animal species. It was also a reasonable source of dilithium crystals. The deposits were scattered and difficult to mine, but given the current circumstances, it was only logical they attempt to extract some.
The lift stopped and she walked to the mess hall. It was only mildly busy; many of the crew very likely took an early lunch during their downtime. She inspected the day's selections and settled on a noodle salad. One hundred years of contact with Vulcans, and chef still couldn't make a decent krelia. T'Pol lifted an eyebrow at the odd turn of thought, and procured herself some chamomile tea. She found an empty table and sat, favoring her right hip. While she ate, her thoughts once again turned to the planet they were orbiting. Eighty one percent of the land masses were covered in dense jungle, with temperatures ranging from a high of thirty six degrees to wind-chills of as low as fifteen degrees Celsius. The storms, like the one currently interfering with their scanners, were frequent and difficult to predict.
Commander Tucker had transported to the surface with three other crewmen. When the storm approached, he insisted they all transport ahead of him, as any good commanding officer would. This, of course, led to the current situation. He was stranded, alone and with no means of communication. Given his history, it was quite likely he has also managed to injure himself. Perhaps in the future the Captain should refrain from including him on away missions. That would limit any injuries to shipside where he could at least receive prompt medical attention.
T'Pol received a message on her PADD. Tapping the accept key, she received a message from Ensign Sato reporting that the storm had subsided enough to re-establish communications, but Commander Tucker was not responding. Perhaps his communicator was damaged. That would be a logical conclusion. She finished eating the last two bites of her salad and took one last sip of tea. She deposited her tray at the return receptacle and proceeded back to the bridge with all due haste.
As the turbolift traveled to the bridge, she was momentarily struck with a sense of claustrophobia. But as soon as it started, the lift doors opened and it passed. She moved to her station and took her seat.
Again she checked the sensors. As reported, the storm was clearing but Commander Tucker's communicator was not transmitting. She scanned for his biosign, but the interference from the area was still too strong to distinguish between life forms. The rock indigenous to that area interfered with the ships scanners; voice communications could get through and limited scanning ability was available. There were several biosigns in the vicinity of the transport site large enough to be construed as the Commander, but she could not distinguish his human life sign from the native ones.
She looked around the bridge. Everyone was quiet. Ensign Sato sat listening to her earpiece, most likely looking for a signal from the surface. Lieutenant Reed's face displayed a small smirk; he was most likely reminiscing about one of his own misadventures with the Chief Engineer. The Captain was… fidgeting. And Ensign Mayweather looked pensive. There was only so much for the helmsman to do during a geosynchronous orbit.
Again she checked the sensors. Again the readings were the same. She absently rubbed her left arm as she reflected on the impact the gregarious engineer had had on the now somber, quiet crew. Even when Trip spent the majority of his time in Engineering, his presence was still felt. In the Expanse, he had managed to keep movie night running and had insisted that it was necessary for crew moral. On matters of human entertainment, she had learned to defer to his expertise. The sooner they retrieved the commander, the sooner the mood would lighten. The crew was always more efficient and focused when their emotions were of a happy nature.
He had been gone for fifty-six minutes now. The storm had finally passed, but there was still no word from him. She was unable to localize his biosign. Without the aid of the communicator, it would be impossible to get a lock on his location. That left one choice.
"Captain, with your permission, I would like to transport to the surface with a small team and find Commander Tucker. I have studied the sensor readings of the transport area and am therefore the most knowledgeable on the subject."
Within ten minutes she had gathered her supplies and transported to the surface with two security officers. Evidence of the storms passing was all around them, leaf litter, small broken branches, and water-saturated ground. She instructed them to spread out and search for any sign of Commander Tucker's whereabouts. Walking away from the transport site, T'Pol quickly discovered a cave. Just inside, she found the remains of a nutrient bar wrapper and a small fire. A sound caught her attention. She quickly turned and saw a large rodent-like animal, about a meter in length, move from the darkness of the cave. She flashed her beacon light and startled it. It emitted a low growl and turned back into the cave. Perhaps Commander Tucker heard the creature and retreated from the cave, dropping the wrapper in his haste. He had once confided to her that he did not like rats and surely an oversized one would warrant his retreat.
She left the cave and moved out in a straight line. It was the most logical route for the Commander to take for escape. The storm left puddles of water in its wake, but she was able to make out footprints in the mud and followed them. From the spacing and depth of the prints it appeared as if he had been running. Commander T'Pol carefully moved through the trees, following the prints. She would occasionally see a broken branch or flattened grass indicating Commander Tucker's route through the trees. A small piece of blue cloth attached to a low tree branch caught her attention. Upon inspection, it appeared to be a piece of Starfleet uniform. It was damp, quiet possibly from the rain. When she scanned it with her tricorder, traces of blood were detected.
Her hand moved to her left arm. He was injured. Although it may only be a minor wound, it was an opening for an infectious organism to exploit. Commander Tucker seemed to have a proclivity towards personal injury. Yet he managed to keep his department running smoothly and safely. He ensured the maintenance schedule was never neglected and his crew shifts were staggered so every staff member received proper rest. Yes, he handled his responsibility to his ship and crew admirably. Just that morning he sent her a promotion letter for Lieutenant Hess to approve. All it needed was his signature. She would have to bring it back to him once they've returned to the ship. Hess was ready for promotion, but then Commander Tucker had taught her well. Now if he would only handle himself with similar diligence, perhaps situations such as this could be avoided.
She continued through the jungle to a large log in a clearing where the tracks stopped. She looked around for additional prints or clues. A sense of urgency was building. Seventy eight minutes had passed since the storm had prevented his return transport. The need to find him was becoming visceral now. She found tracks along a new route, nearly parallel to the first set. Just beyond a small shrub with lavender flowers, Commander T'Pol found a hole in the ground, surrounded by broken branches and debris. The tracks did not continue on the other side. The grass around the opening had been flattened. He had fallen into the hole.
How could someone responsible for the lives of eighty two people be so irresponsible with his own? It was a widely known, yet often overlooked fact that engineering was the most important department on a starship. Without them, the ship would fall into disrepair and all other departments would be rendered moot. Commander Tucker knew this, and ensured Enterprise was well maintained. A list of repairs and other engineering tasks came unbidden to mind and she thought about how important Commander Tucker was to the ship. Not only crew moral, but his engineering skill and knowledge. There was no doubt that his engineering crew was well trained and knew their jobs well. But it took the Commander to make them work together. Where the staff was trained in particular areas of expertise, Commander Tucker understood how all the various systems functioned together. He was the lynchpin. The ship needed him.
T'Pol knelt down and shined her light down the hole. It appeared to be a tunnel of sorts, weathered out over time by animals and rainfall. She needed to reach the other end, but had no interest in sliding, uncontrolled, down a muddy hole without good reason. The science officer looked upwards as a crack of thunder echoed across the sky. A storm was quickly approaching again. She maneuvered quickly through the trees to the top of the hillside. It was approximately fifty meters to the base, and very steep. There were no apparent footholds. She could make out what appeared to be the other end of the tunnel at the bottom of the incline. She traveled the ridge another forty three meters to a section of hill that had protruding rocks which would afford her purchase. She climbed expertly the bottom and swiftly took shelter under several large rocks just as the rain and wind started. She could only hope the Commander had been able to do the same.
The rain and wind were fierce. It only lasted twenty-eight minutes, but it was long enough to drop the ambient air temperature to sixteen degrees. The wind had not totally stopped when she emerged from the shelter. She found herself shaking from cold despite the warm field coat she wore. T'Pol resumed her search for her missing crewmate, brushing aside tree branches as she marched her way forty three meters back through the thick foliage. She found a Starfleet backpack ensnared in a bush by the wind. She disentangled it and checked inside. There was a small field tool kit, but the ration packs were missing, and the water pouch had been punctured. It looked as if an animal had acquired the pack and helped itself to the contents.
T'Pol slipped the remains of the backpack onto her shoulders and continued through the trees to where the tunnel should have ended. She was shivering again and she could almost feel her teeth chatter. A brief scan of her vitals showed her internal temperature at forty-one degrees Celsius, normal for a Vulcan. She squeezed her eyes shut and inhaled deeply. T'Pol focused her mind, attempting to halt the increasingly frequent incursions. She thought about the Captain, and how he would suffer if Commander Tucker was lost. Considering all they had been though, Captain Archer should have had a mental breakdown by now. But he didn't. He and Commander Tucker had managed to bridge the distance that had grown between them in the Expanse. The Captain had his confidant, his sounding board, back. Sometimes she wondered if the Commander helped his friend with his problems so that he wouldn't have to deal with his own.
It was funny really, how things turned out. She was not supposed to like him. Like many humans, he was volatile, erratic, and emotionally unstable. So why did she bother? Why did she try to understand him? Because he was a challenge. And T'Pol was never one to back down from a challenge. He pushed the boundaries of her control. She pushed back. He tested her and provoked her. She rose to the bait. He overwhelmed her with his emotions. He frightened her with them. It was her own fault. Cast out fear, the litany said. You can do nothing until you cast out fear. I must no longer fear him. I will regain my control.
She did not blame him. She could not. Their problem had been a series of miscommunications, poorly interpreted intents and cultural rifts. He was only Human. She could not ask him to be anything else. That did not stop her from caring for this collegue… for this friend. A Vulcan and a Human, it would have been unprecedented. Perhaps he was right; they never had any reasonable probability of success.
T'Pol's left arm felt warm, warmer than usual. Her shivering had stopped, but the temperature was still very low. Her vision would occasionally blur along the edges. She could no longer ignore her connection to him; he was suffering from hypothermia. The wound in his arm was most likely infected. If he had not found adequate shelter, he would be wet from the rain. She had to find him, now. The cold wind would expedite the symptoms and he will not be able to hold on much longer. She thought of his parents; no parent should have to mourn a child. She did not want them to mourn two.
She knew that grief herself. She used every meditation technique, every method of repression to forget that day. It had not worked. Looking at him, seeing his blue eyes, reminded her of Elizabeth's blue eyes and the pain would stab at her chest. It was the worst pain she could imagine. So she turned away; actually she ran away. He did not try to bother her. He had probably released his grief by venting off his emotions like humans did; she hoped that was the case. She envied him if it were. She did not like to think he suffered the same pain she did. She did not want him to suffer. She wanted him safe. She wanted him protected. Just knowing he was around was enough. It had to be.
She felt so alone.
Her vision blurred. He cannot die; he has too much left to do.
Her breath condensed in the bitter cold. He cannot die, the ship needs him. Captain Archer needs him.
The sun was setting. Lower on the horizon, its rays shone through the trees lighting the way in front of her. Her long shadow lay out before her, pointing towards the base of a large tree.
She could see his eyes were fully dilated. She could feel him falling. From that darkness she heard a voice.
**What do you need?**
The story continues in Last Dance.
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