"Parting and Never Parted"
Disclaimer: None of it's mine. I'm just a sad little fangirl that spends her days writing fanfic and watching taped episodes of her favorite shows. Sad, isn't it? :(
Description: Archer learns how Vulcans grieve.
Author's Note: Many thanks to Lady Kate for proof-reading this for me and for helping me out with the title, because my working title sucked! Oh, and also I must ask everyone to pardon my Vulcan. I do not know the language, so I just hunted and pecked around on online Vulcan dictionaries to cobble together the sentences found in this fic. I just guessed at the grammar and syntax. One would think that with at least mild proficiency in three languages (including my native language, of course) I could make a pretty good guess, but alas I fear I butchered the Vulcan tongue. Forgive me. Surak would be ashamed of me.
Captain Jonathan Archer moved slowly through the corridors of the Enterprise. He was in no hurry. It was late-night for the ship, the alpha shift was asleep and beta shift in the middle of their duty rotation. There was a somber, quiet feel in the air. Archer wondered, if the ship could have spoken, if the Enterprise would have said that she grieved the loss of her chief engineer. It may have been only metal alloys and circuits but Archer could almost swear the ship felt sad. Her sounds seemed to echo and keen lowly, with sorrow, rather than sing and hum contently. As much as Enterprise was Archer's ship, she had really been Trip's darling more. Trip had nurtured the ship like a child, or a lover... an engineer's tie to his vessel was of a different kind than that to the captain. Enterprise may have been sent into battle on Archer's word, but it was Trip's hands and care that soothed and healed the powerful vessel when she suffered for her captain's brashness.
Archer sighed to himself and realized he was being very human. T'Pol would tell him he was projecting his own grief on to his ship. If captain and vessel were at times as one, then Archer decided Enterprise could grieve, too.
It had been two days since his big speech, but Archer didn't think in those terms. To him, it had been three days since Trip died. The memorial service had been wrapped up in the flurry of the delegation convention. That wasn't right, Trip had been shuffled in with the chaos of politics. Archer would have another, more fitting and private ceremony for his best friend when the admiralty finally came after Enterprise to decommission her. It would only be a matter of days, and the crew would have even more cause to grieve and gather together.
History would recall these days as the dawn of a new era, a time of hope and elation for the human race, but for Archer it only felt like loss after loss, agony and sorrow just behind the mask of congenial diplomacy. Trip would have seen the irony in that, and he would have gotten a laugh out of Archer for his gloomy, straight-speaking ways on the matter.
Archer found that his feet had carried him to sickbay and instead of questioning his questing legs he commanded the door open. Sickbay, like the rest of the ship, was quiet and still. The lights were dimmed for night, but knowing Enterprise's last days as an active ship of the fleet were coming to an end made it seem like the mighty ship was already powering down for a lonely death as a museum piece.
Archer stepped slowly into the medbay and for a moment thought perhaps it was a mistake. The corners and shadows in every place he turned on the ship had been packed with memories, and sickbay was no exception. For Archer, the most vivid and visceral memory of sickbay was Trip dying.
Archer faltered, came to a stuttered halt, and stood in the middle of the room for a moment and contemplated flight. He alternated between grieving for Trip and being very angry at him. He had sacrificed himself so that Archer could make it to that all-important meeting to give some damn speech. Trip kept calling it Archer's 'big day'. Archer could have slapped Trip; would have loved it if Trip was still there to slap. Archer would have given up his place in history, if that's truly what that speech was, to save his friend. He would have been late for the entire meeting, AWOL at Starfleet's chagrin, if only it would have kept his crew intact. So close to the ship's permanent place in dock and Trip had to die.
Archer was lost in his own dark places and startled faintly when he heard a soft voice. "Captain."
Archer turned and saw Phlox come out of the shadows with a PADD in hand.
"Do you need something?"
Even the Denobulan sounded somber and subdued. Trip had been close to everyone on the ship, that was just the presence he had. The scope of his influence only erupted into true clarity when it was his loss that stung them all so deep.
"No, I was just... well, I'm not really sure what I was doing. I couldn't sleep so I thought I'd walk the ship."
Phlox nodded and pursed his lips in a puffing frown.
"It feels like this place has already shut down," Archer commented sadly. The captain moved toward one of the biobeds and ran his fingers along the cleanly pressed covering. His lips tugged down into a frown, and the more he fought it the more his anguish at losing his best friend seemed to boil to the surface.
"Trip..." Archer abruptly said, then seemed to take a moment to collect himself. "He kept saying that this was the beginning of a new chapter in human history. He believed the delegation was the start of something great."
Phlox grunted acknowledgement.
Archer shook his head and looked upward. "All these years on Enterprise, all the things we've seen, good and bad, and he was always so sure mankind would rise above ourselves to become something really wondrous. He kept that faith in humanity even at times when I wasn't so sure anymore. He knew with a certainty I can't begin to comprehend that people could be better." Archer looked down and muttered lowly, "I miss that. That was missing at the delegation."
"It seemed to go well."
Archer shook his head and said, "I gave my speech, and I didn't screw up, but it didn't feel like a new beginning for mankind. It felt like a show, a facade... because I knew Trip wasn't in the back with that smile of his." Archer looked toward Phlox and the Denobulan seemed to understand completely.
"I just... I can't look to the future and not see all the times Trip won't be there to experience." Archer smirked sardonically. "Strange... being captain of the Enterprise we've seen our share of trouble, and I've lost men before... somehow, at this point, I thought everyone was safe. I didn't expect to lose anyone else so close to Enterprise being decommissioned... least of all Trip."
"I'm certain it will get better in time. Soon you'll be able to look at the future and see more than the commander's loss."
"I know, but right now... I just can't see the good days, not the way everyone wants me to, because Trip should have been there for the good days. He worked as hard as anyone on this crew, if not harder, to have those days."
Archer turned away from the biobed and faced Phlox, leaning back to perch on the edge of the bed and cross his arms in a gesture that reminded Archer very much of his late chief engineer. "Sorry to unload on you, Doctor."
"Quite all right, Captain. Quite honestly, it's good to have a chance to talk about how much Commander Tucker's absence is effecting everyone."
"Everyone misses him," Archer noted sadly. "The crew's not the same without him. The ship's not the same. I guess that will get better in time, too."
Archer looked at Phlox and noticed the Denobulan's face drawn and concerned. After ten years with the doctor Archer had gotten good at reading Phlox and at that moment the Denobulan's expression seemed to speak of more than mere sorrow at Trip's death. There seemed to be concern, as well.
"Doctor? Is something wrong?"
Phlox took in a breath and said, "I'm concerned about one of the crewmen, Captain."
"Someone in particular... who?"
Archer thought on the matter a moment. "I haven't seen much of her since the conference. She said she wanted to take some time to meditate and I told her to take whatever time she needed. I know she and Trip were friends." Archer smiled sadly. "Trip was probably the best friend T'Pol had on this ship."
Phlox nodded in agreement but that did not alleviate the worried look on Phlox's face. The doctor consulted the PADD in his hand and Archer's concern began to mount.
"Doctor? Is there something wrong with T'Pol I don't know about?"
Phlox seemed to debate answering only a moment. "Captain... I'm worried that the death of Commander Tucker will have an adverse effect on her."
Archer's expression hardened. "His death is having an 'adverse effect' on all of us."
"I know, but I mean that in T'Pol's case the situation may be much more serious than mere sadness."
"So what is it?"
Phlox looked consternated at the prospect of divulging T'Pol's personal information. "Captain... were you aware of Commander Tucker and Commander T'Pol's relationship several years ago?"
Archer was. "About six years ago. I know they were in a relationship, but that's been over for a long time."
"I'm afraid that an intimate relationship does not end so easily for a Vulcan."
"I don't follow."
Phlox frowned and sighed. "You were never told because Commander T'Pol asked me to keep it in my confidence, but... when Commander Tucker and Commander T'Pol were in a romantic relationship they developed a bond."
Phlox nodded. "When a Vulcan takes a mate a psychic bond is formed between the partners. This bond serves to bring the two individuals closer; it allows them to access one another's emotions and thoughts. It is a very intense, personal phenomena, and Vulcans do not like to discuss it with outsiders. T'Pol asked me not to tell you about it."
"You mean that Trip and T'Pol had one of these bonds?"
Archer, thrown, countered, "But Trip wasn't Vulcan."
"It appears that human and Vulcan neurology are similar enough that the bond was permitted to form. Typically this manner of bond only forms between married couples."
Archer's eyes widened. "I... I had no idea Trip and T'Pol were ever that serious."
Phlox shuffled on his feet. "For a short time, yes, it was that serious, though I do not know if Commander Tucker was ever fully aware of the depth of his connection to T'Pol or its meaning in Vulcan terms. After the death of their daughter they began to 'drift apart', I believe is the human colloquialism."
"I know... Trip was in a funk for a long time after Elizabeth died. T'Pol wasn't doing so great, either. I kind of thought they would have turned to one another to get through it rather than grow apart."
Phlox shrugged. "As did I, Captain, but romantic entanglements are unruly things."
Archer chuckled, his tone hollow and humorless.
Phlox regarded his PADD again. "You were never told this, but physiologically Commander Tucker was changed by the bond he shared with Commander T'Pol. His neurological scans changed after the bonding. Many of his brain wave patterns intensified and altered, some dormant parts of his brain were activated, areas that are normally not active in humans." Phlox looked pointedly at Archer. "They never returned to their normal levels before he bonded with Commander T'Pol."
Archer knew Phlox well enough to quickly catch his meaning. "So they stayed bonded even after they stopped seeing one another personally?"
"A Vulcan telepathic bond is permanent without professional intervention, Captain."
Archer gaped then began to suspect Phlox's thrust. "What about T'Pol? Was she changed by the bond, too?"
Phlox's expression told it all. "She was. Her brain wave patterns have been altered from typical Vulcan readings ever since she bonded with Commander Tucker."
"What does that mean, Phlox? I can tell you're worried. What's wrong with T'Pol?"
Phlox pursed his lips. "Captain... how much do you know about Vulcan couples, more specifically, married couples?"
"Next to nothing. It's not something the Vulcan ambassadors invite discussion on."
"The bond between a Vulcan husband and wife is very strong. It links them over great physical distances; through the bond a Vulcan is never alone, their bondmate is like a constant companion in their mind. In human terms, I suppose you could say it is something like having your significant other's soul with you at all times." Phlox frowned. "The dependency and strength of these bonds are such that when one partner is in distress the other experiences that emotional state. When one of the pair dies the other usually does as well."
Archer jerked upright and dropped his arms back to his sides and stared at Phlox. "Hold on a minute. Are you telling me that T'Pol is going to die because Trip did? Since they were bonded his death means hers?"
"I don't know, Captain, but I am saying that it may mean that. Since Commander Tucker was human I can't know the effect that would have on the bond, but I do know that they were bonded and I know what the bond does to Vulcans. As T'Pol is the living bondmate it may not matter what the human factor introduces into the equation... Captain, facts are that she is a Vulcan who has lost her bondmate."
"And she could die because of it."
Archer began to pace, agitated. "Then why isn't she in here? Shouldn't you be monitoring her?"
Phlox fingered the PADD in his hand. "I have been going to her quarters periodically to check on her. She will permit no more; she refused to be confined to sickbay."
"How is she?"
"She is... unwell. I had hoped that the bond she and Commander Tucker shared would not be strong enough for her to suffer the dire consequences normally associated with the severing of a pairbond, but I am now convinced that will not be the case. Her limbic system is slowing down, her synapses are going dormant, leaving portions of her brain practically inactive, and it's having repercussions beyond mental well-being. Her body appears to be shutting down."
Archer felt panic. Blind, senseless, human panic. He wouldn't lose another crewman, another friend, not so soon, not like this. "What can be done to save her? Can anything be done?"
"There is a treatment. A Vulcan telephysician belonging to a very elite religious sect of sorts called the Kolinahr would be able to treat her, to sever her bond to Commander Tucker so that she might live. It is a common therapy on Vulcan and frequently the only means by which a Vulcan can survive the death of their mate."
Archer advanced on Phlox like the doctor held some culpability in the state of his first officer. "Why didn't you tell me this sooner? We've been sitting here in orbit doing nothing while T'Pol is dying? We could have been on Vulcan yesterday!"
"Captain!" Phlox said sharply, and Archer realized what he was doing and backed off marginally. Phlox continued only when the captain seemed to have gotten some control of himself. "I have said nothing because T'Pol insisted I not bring this matter to you. I am breaking doctor/patient confidentiality to disclose any of this to you now, because T'Pol did not wish the treatment."
Archer blinked. "You mean she wants to die?"
Phlox shook his head. "It's not that she desires death, Captain... you and I cannot conceive of the trauma that losing a bondmate inflicts on a bonded Vulcan. T'Pol is in a great deal of pain, emotionally, mentally, and physically. It is not that she wishes to die, but she cannot imagine continuing to live with and endure the grief that she is now feeling. Letting the bond's effects take their course seems more of a... release or escape to her than death."
"I can't let her lie in her quarters and die because she misses Trip."
"I know, Captain... that's why I broke my oath of confidentiality to T'Pol to tell you. I believe she should be treated by the Vulcans, but I have failed to convince her. I was hoping you might be able to persuade her."
"I'm sure as hell going to try," Archer said as he strode, determined, out of sickbay.
When Archer pressed the door summons of T'Pol's quarters there was no answer. While that would have been abnormal in any case, the fact that Archer was worried only amplified his concern at the unmoving door. He pressed the summons again, more urgently, but still no response.
Without hesitating, Archer input the security override and the door slid open obediently.
The first thing to hit Archer when he stepped over the threshold of T'Pol's quarters and the door closed behind him was the ambiance. In the ten years he'd served with his Vulcan first officer, he did not often have cause to go into her personal quarters. Even after serving with the Enterprise crew for a decade, T'Pol had always maintained her strict sense of privacy. The truth of the matter was that there was probably no one on the ship who could say they had been inside Commander T'Pol's quarters enough to be familiar with them. No one save Trip.
The lights were dim and Archer's eyes took a moment to adjust. In that time his other senses were at work. There was a faint smell of wax and wick, the scent of burning candles though there was no pinprick of yellow-orange light to catch Archer's eye. The air was warmer in T'Pol's quarters than on the rest of the ship, but it did not surprise him that a Vulcan would find the human ship cool. The silence was deafening. The bulkheads were thick enough to drown out most of the hallway traffic noise, and T'Pol's quarters were so eerily quiet that it was tomb-like.
That notion sent an ominous shiver down Archer's spine and he blinked as his eyes finally started to make out shapes in the small room.
It was in impeccable order, clean to a fault, T'Pol down to the very last detail. She could probably pack up her meager possessions in ten minutes and leave the room as it was and no one would be the wiser that it had been her residence for ten years.
Archer didn't want to think that she could be gone so easily and his eyes turned to the right, seeking out her bunk.
He saw T'Pol lying on her side, curled underneath a ruddy maroon blanket. She was so still Archer paused a moment to see if she was even breathing. Barely, but yes.
He thought she had to be asleep and he called out softly, "T'Pol?"
She did not move.
Archer moved toward the bed and his heart began to race with dread. As he neared he could see her face, her eyes... she was awake. Her expression was hollow and empty, her gaze glassy and fixed on a misshapen lump of wax on her floor that had once been a candle.
Archer wanted to reach down and shake her. She had not answered her door, she hadn't answered his call, she didn't even show that she knew he was there as he invited himself into her quarters and moved toward her bed. That wasn't T'Pol, everything was all wrong. Trip was gone and T'Pol was apathetic and Archer's world couldn't take all the wrongness in so short a time.
Archer was at the side of her bed, standing inches from her, and she didn't even look at him. Her eyes remained locked on the spent, lifeless candle.
Archer knelt down beside the bunk and studied his first officer. She was breathing shallowly, her hands tucked against her chest like a wounded animal curled in a ball. Her lips were a thinly pressed line, the only sign of tension or discomfort in her otherwise pale, motionless face.
"T'Pol... can you look at me?"
Her eyelids flickered but she didn't obey.
"T'Pol, look at me."
T'Pol inhaled more than she had before, a facsimile of a sigh, but she didn't comply. She did, however, stiffened and her eyebrows drew together in a scowl.
"Phlox told me about you and Trip."
"He is dead," she said, barely audible, voice tight, and Archer blinked. He was used to her sounding so self-assured and competent... none of that strength was in her voice now.
"Yes, I know."
T'Pol's face flinched, as though beset by a physical pain, and Archer leaned closer in worry. "T'Pol?"
The Vulcan blinked slowly, her eyes tightened around the eyes, and she whispered roughly, "Pupak-tor th'at ashayam."
Archer was taken aback at the unanticipated string of Vulcan. T'Pol had always been reliable to a fault about speaking English in the presence of the Enterprise crew, such that Archer at times forgot it was not her first language. "What does that mean?" he asked.
T'Pol didn't seem to hear him. "Maf-tor th'at katra."
With a sick certainty Archer realized she was not fully compos mentis. "Sorry, T'Pol," he said with a wane smirk, "ten years serving together but I never learned to speak Vulcan."
T'Pol reopened her eyes only to stare at her wasted candle.
Archer sighed and rubbed his face with one hand. "I know it's hard... I miss Trip, too."
At Trip's name T'Pol reacted. Her eyes left their station on her candle and she looked at him. Archer was at first glad for the change, the acknowledgement that she knew he was right beside her, but that relief quickly turned to sadness. The despair in T'Pol's eyes, glittering brightly like a plasma fire behind brown, shook him. He never thought to see such powerful emotion bleed from a Vulcan like it did from T'Pol's eyes.
"Can you even understand me?" he asked wearily, almost not expecting an answer.
T'Pol stared intensely at him a moment before she said in a quavering voice, "Yes, Captain."
Archer felt a seed a hope. He could never hope to convince T'Pol if she'd slipped beyond the comprehension of English. "T'Pol, listen... Phlox told me about the bond. He told me about what could happen to you."
T'Pol didn't looked perturbed or annoyed or even concerned. She looked nothing but lost and sad and Archer was out of his mind worried by it.
"I know you miss him. I do, too, but you can't just die."
T'Pol didn't rise to his reason, she just blinked slowly.
"Why didn't you tell me when Trip... died..." Archer fought to keep his voice from cracking, "why didn't you tell me you'd get sick?" Archer, beneath the panic and desperation, was hurt. He thought she trusted him.
T'Pol tucked her hands closer to her and pulled her legs nearer to her chest. She looked like she was having a go at disappearing. "It is not fit for a Vulcan to discuss such things with an outworlder."
Archer was wounded. He thought T'Pol had stopped seeing him as an outsider years ago, that the distinction between human had Vulcan had become a matter of simple semantics.
"You would have told Trip."
T'Pol flinched visibly and shot him a venomous look. "Kroykah!"
Archer startled but didn't move from his spot. "I'm sorry he can't be here to tell you himself how stupid this is to let yourself die, but if I don't get you to see reason he would haunt me until the day I died."
T'Pol's body shook, whether with agony or rage Archer couldn't tell.
"T'Pol, please," Archer reached out his hand to touch her shoulder.
Before he could come into contact T'Pol moved away. She pushed backward on the bed and rose to crouch in the corner of her bunk and glare at him. Not since the Seleya had Archer seen a Vulcan look so feral. He carefully pulled back his hand and regarded T'Pol closely.
"You will cease to pry into my personal matters, Captain."
Archer couldn't take it. He'd lost Trip and if she had her way he'd lose T'Pol, too. Needless... so much pointless, unnecessary death.
"I can't do that, Commander." Archer gave T'Pol a hard, stern look. "I know you're hurting, but you have to know Trip would never want this."
"You do not know."
"The hell I don't, Trip was my best friend!"
T'Pol shuddered again, hands gripping the blanket at her feet and her shoulders rigid. "Pe'ew t'hy'la th'ah. Th'ashayam Trippe!"
"I can't let you do this," Archer said firmly, unphased this time by the words he could not understand. "I won't lose another friend, certainly not this way."
"Do not presume to know the proper course of action, Qomi."
"Phlox said you can be treated; Enterprise can be at Vulcan in two days. Hopefully we're not too late."
"T'Pol, please... I don't want to force you to do anything." He looked away and said lowly, "Can you imagine what Trip would think if he knew you were going to let yourself die because of him? What that would do to him?"
That quieted T'Pol, to an extent it stilled her, and she looked down somberly. Archer returned his eyes to her, hoping for a sign that he'd gotten through to her. She took a number of deep, exact breaths, then looked back at him. The anger was gone and Archer almost missed it, for her rage had clearly been masking drowning anguish. "You speak of friendship, Captain, of compassion. You ask if Trip would wish my death, yet you do not ask yourself if he would want me to suffer as I do."
Archer frowned. "Losing Trip... it will take a long time before it gets better, but it will get better in time." Archer smiled bitterly. "I know that doesn't feel like much help now. I know you miss him now–"
"You have no conception," T'Pol snapped harshly.
"I think I do, maybe not in a Vulcan way, but I miss him in my own way. He was very close to me, too."
"You do not understand," T'Pol retorted and began to shiver. A shiver that turned into raging tremors. Archer stood hastily, convinced T'Pol was having a seizure.
"You're going to sickbay, let's go," Archer reached for T'Pol, fully intent on carrying her if need be.
T'Pol at first tried to retreat but there was nowhere to go, her back to the wall. So instead, when Archer tried to take hold of her, she locked defiant, wild eyes on him. "You do not know!" she almost screamed, and she lunged at him.
She had looked so frail and weak, but even sick, Archer was no match for the Vulcan's inherent strength. Taken by surprise at her attack, he was at her mercy before he would have had time to fight her off on a good day, anyway. T'Pol grabbed one of his wrists in a bruising grip, her other hand closed tightly around his throat, and faster than Archer could process what had happened he was slammed into the far wall of T'Pol's quarters.
Archer blinked and gasped in surprise, too stunned and winded to try and get free. "T'Po..." he croaked and fought for air. She was inches from him, her face all he could see, and she was mindless in her grief. The slightest hint of bared teeth as she pinned him, then she released his wrist only to bring up her hand and press her fingertips to his face. "Ken-tor!" T'Pol growled low in his ear, an ominous rumble so far from the neutral timbre of T'Pol's normally gently modulated voice.
Archer jolted and his mouth opened in a silent scream and his muscles locked as his mind was suddenly under an even greater attack than his body. At first it was only pain, every physical sensation of pain at once, burning and bleeding and freezing and aching in sequential nanoseconds of unbearable agony. Blackness flew at him, horrifying, empty pockets of nonexistence, and he felt them find him, seek him out, cling to him, and his soul was chilled to the core. Ice... it felt like ice, no warmth, no escape, no relief from the frostbite-sting in his mind. Black thicker than night imbedded claws in his mind, sliced into his consciousness, and Archer had never known such agony. Then he recognized something. An echo, a faint hint of harbor, a sense... of Trip. Trip was there, here, wherever Archer was... Trip was there! Archer's mind tried desperately to call out to his friend, to touch him again and plead for his help all at once. The moment of elation was dashed by the blackness. It hung on the free-roaming memory of Trip, it infected him and spread from him. Archer tried, in vain, to recoil in horror. Trip's essence was a hole in the blackness, a quantum singularity that sent out and took at once. Death. Death bled from the last vestige of Trip, and it was a contagion and it fed on the very life force of Archer. He could feel it pulling at him, and Archer tried to run, to escape, but to no avail. Archer was tethered like a snared animal, twisting and pulling frantically at the trap while screeching and crying, blood-curdling screams of primal terror echoing endlessly. There was nowhere to go. All was blackness, horror, and pain, and he could not fight that. He could not win against death, it was stronger than all that Archer had in him. There was no way to disentangle from the void of death that closed in around him in a claustrophic fist, slipping past Archer's feeble defenses by being Trip. Archer couldn't shake free and flee. But there was the blanketing nothing of the black inside him. When escape was impossible there was only surrender, yielding to Trip's presence in its new guise, and anything... anything, to end the terror of his now.
Archer's mind was suddenly ripped free of the blackness and his thoughts spun, seeking purchase and anchor. T'Pol's quarters coalesced around him as though part dream, part visceral, vivid detail unlike any moment before in Archer's life. He discovered he could breathe and gulped for air. He welcomed the wall at his back as his knees wobbled and his balance titled nauseously. His senses rushed back at him and for a second he could only feel relief to be free of the blackness.
Archer didn't see T'Pol standing only inches from him until she swayed on her feet. His eyes caught the movement and tracked it. T'Pol, visibly shaken, began to step away from him.
And in that second Archer understood everything. He had been in a Vulcan mind-meld before, and only belatedly did the way T'Pol's fingers had splayed on his face make sense. He knew he had been in her mind, he knew that the fear and pain and resignation had been hers... and he truly understood because while he stood before her, spared, she continued to languish and flounder in that space within herself. For her she was truly trapped in her grief, punished for her love for Trip beyond any human ability to comprehend. She had been right, he'd had no idea.
Archer swallowed and tried to stand up straight.
T'Pol did not manage a full step away from him before her strength failed her and she went down. T'Pol slumped to the ground in a graceless, hunched sitting position at Archer's feet and she trembled and clutched her hands together in a futile effort to regain her control.
Archer slowly knelt down before her.
T'Pol flinched and looked fleetingly at him. "I... I'm sorry."
Archer didn't say a word. Instead, he reached out to her. T'Pol leaned away at first, but Archer was stronger than her resistance, and he closed his arms around her and pulled her toward him.
T'Pol stiffened and tried to fight him but she was broken and ended up held to his chest. Archer hugged her tightly and T'Pol shook and mumbled her apologies for her assault on him, but Archer didn't care about that. After what he'd experienced, he couldn't care about himself without feeling like a self-absorbed child would would wail for a splinter while others bled to death around him.
"It's going to be okay, T'Pol," he said lowly into her hair as she clawed feebly at his arms, though whether to free herself or cling to him he wasn't sure.
Jonathan Archer had mixed feelings about being back on Vulcan. The planet held so many conflicting memories for him, some of them not his own. A strange, alien part in him from his time carrying Surak's katra thought of the unforgiving, inhospitable planet as home even as he wheezed for the thin air and sweated profusely from the heat. His human physiology suffered the planet's harsh conditions even as the remnant spark of Surak made him long for the red deserts and fire plains. He had avoided the planet as much as possible for years for those very reasons... it was confusing for Archer to be on Vulcan.
Today confusion was his bedmate, but it was not Surak's doing.
Archer moved through the quiet corridors of the Vulcan hospital. Vulcan hospitals were nothing like Earth ones. It didn't feel like a hospital. The building was built to honor the ancient healers of Vulcan. The walls were a deep clay red, the air cool like a cave or cavern, and it was nearly as quiet as one. Vulcans moved silently, like ghosts in cream-colored robes, down the halls. They spared Archer, the lone human in blue, glances but little more before vanishing.
Archer knew where he was going so let the Vulcan specters pass unacknowledged.
The room was quiet, like the entire facility, when Archer stepped inside. Vulcan hospital rooms looked more like shrines, a single stone-slab bed in the center of the room, the room circular and blood-red with soft lighting to calm the patients and assist in meditation. It might have been secular but it also struck Archer as demonic. The central bed could look like a sacrificial altar if one was in the proper state of mind.
T'Pol was lying on the room's lone bed. Her hands were folded over her stomach, her legs perfectly straight and her chin slightly lifted. Her eyes were shut, her expression calm, and she looked serene.
Archer moved closer and stared down at her. He could see how Trip had thought she was beautiful. There was an elegance to her, a grace and bearing that transcended species.
Archer turned at his name and set his eyes upon a Vulcan woman standing in the doorway. It took him a moment to recognize her.
"I was told you were on Vulcan." The former rebel had found a kindred spirit of sorts in Archer since the incident with Surak's katra. She was certainly more patient and accepting of him than she was of most humans. T'Pau, her hands folded respectfully over her abdomen (as Archer had noted all the Vulcans moved through the hospital), moved into the room.
Archer gave a small smile that he knew was mostly wasted on T'Pau. "I would have called you, but this wasn't exactly a social visit."
"As I was also informed," T'Pau said and stopped when she was abreast with Archer and stood alongside the captain. "Ambassador Soval told me about your Commander Tucker."
Archer's pathetically attempted smile completely vanished and he nodded. "Yeah."
T'Pau said nothing but something in the look in her eyes seemed to offer sympathy. The Vulcan woman looked down at T'Pol's restful figure and said lowly, "His loss was most unfortunate."
Archer would not cry in front of a Vulcan, as a matter of pride he wouldn't show them tears.
T'Pau looked back toward Archer and the captain took in a breath to collect himself. He looked down at T'Pol's still face and said weakly, "Umm... I'm glad you're here."
T'Pau lifted an eyebrow at him.
"I... I need to get in contact with some people about T'Pol but I... I don't know who I need to talk to." Archer looked back at T'Pau and added sadly, "I'd like to bury her next to Trip and their daughter."
T'Pau stared a moment, surprise buried deep in her eyes, then she said, "That is a logical decision."
"She has no living first-degree relatives; Commander Tucker was her bondmate. No Vulcan will contest her interment at his side. Were he Vulcan, their katras would reside side by side in the Hall of Ancient Thought. Since he was human, this is an acceptable compromise between our cultures."
Archer sighed to hear that the Vulcans would not fight him. He didn't feel like fighting anymore.
"The healers said she'd gotten here in time, I don't understand why she didn't... I don't understand how this happened."
T'Pau considered T'Pol's body and said softly, "The procedure succeeds only so far as the patient is willing. If she truly did not wish to recover, then there was little the healers could do."
"They couldn't save her, even if she fought them?"
T'Pau looked as baffled as any Vulcan ever could. "They could have saved her body, that is without question, but what is a body without the katra to fill it?"
Archer couldn't stand Vulcan reason, not at that moment.
T'Pau seemed to recognize this and with a dip of her head said, "T'Pol's death is a loss to both our peoples. I grieve with thee, Captain."
Archer nodded sadly and T'Pau turned to leave. Before she reached the door Archer turned quickly and called out, "T'Pau?"
T'Pau stopped and turned.
"Do you know anything about Earth fairy tales?"
T'Pau seemed taken by surprise at the question but gave it due thought. "If I am not mistaken, a fairy is a fictional creature depicted as a miniature human with wings. I fail to see how the chronicles of these mythical beings is bearing on the current conversation."
Archer smirked. "Fairy tales are human stories, fables... they don't necessarily have fairies in them."
The shadow of a Vulcan almost-frown passed over T'Pau's face but she said nothing.
Archer looked back at T'Pol and said, "In them, the lovers always have a happily ever after."
T'Pau regarded Archer and his fallen friend. One weary and sad, the other the abandoned domicile of what was once a brilliant mind and katra.
"That is, of course, illogical."
Archer brushed his fingers gently over T'Pol's still, cool cheek. She looked so regal, even in death. "Illogical as hell, but it's better than how things really work out."
T'Pau watched Archer a moment. "Captain, I believe the chacteristic of your species I find most fascinating is your capacity for hope."
"Sometimes hope is all we have."
T'Pau looked once more between Archer and his former first officer then turned and left the human to his grieving.