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By Samantha E Quinn
All disclaimers in Part I.
Archer took a deep breath before walking into sickbay. Several deep breaths in fact. There were days when he would have settled on being a pilot. An engineer. An armory officer. Anything but being a Captain. *If I weren't the Captain, I wouldn't have to face the possibility of throwing my best friend in the brig.*
The painful thought was soon replaced with a feeling of anger. *If my best friend had exercised some common sense, I wouldn't be in this situation in the first place.*
*Dammit, Trip, I hope you weren't that stupid.*
But for the first time in a long time, Archer wasn't looking at the glass as being half full. It was looking as close to half empty as it could go.
With a sigh, Archer headed into sickbay. There, sitting calmly on a biobed, sat Sub-Commander T'Pol, talking to Dr. Phlox. At the sight of the female Vulcan, Archer's temper rose considerably. He was uncertain exactly who the subject of his wrath was. Was he angry at T'Pol, for being the catalyst of the situation, Trip for being in the situation, or himself. . . for being a fool.
*Calm down,* Archer instructed himself. *There's no evidence any misconduct took place. At least not on Trip's behalf.*
Yes, it was entirely possible that a trained Ambassador would lie. Entirely. *Vulcans are sneaky.* Archer reminded himself, thinking of Captain Vanik. *Still, I've never known one to tell an outright lie. . . *
He stood at the door of sickbay for a moment, contemplating that thought. The only Vulcan he really trusted was sitting in sickbay. *And having an affair with my best friend,* he said silently. Pushing that thought out of his mind, he forced himself to concentrate on the matter at hand. He was the Captain. He might not like it much, but that came above and beyond any other priority: friendships, love interests, personal feelings. Two years ago, he might not have realized that. But two years in space had added greatly to Jonathan Archer's sense of responsibility. And right now he had to act like a Captain. *I'll deal with person issues later,* he told himself.
He walked into sickbay.
"Ah, Captain Archer," Dr. Phlox greeted him. Archer contemplated briefly that the Denobulan looked unhappy to see him. Determining that to be his imagination, Archer proceeded. After all, Dr. Phlox was never unhappy to see anyone.
"T'Pol, I need to discuss something with you," Archer informed the Vulcan. When she turned to look at him, Archer was not prepared to hide his shock. As a result, he let out a small gasp of surprise.
The Vulcan looked *tired.* Vulcans don't look tired. And T'Pol shouldn't look tired. *She's had a nice, prolonged sleep.* There were deep, pronounced rings around her eyes. Her shoulders slumped slightly, shaking that always in place perfect posture. It wasn't something Archer would have noticed on a human. But on his Vulcan science officer, it was as noticeable as if she has suddenly sprouted spots.
"Is my presence that unsightly, Captain?" T'Pol asked. Her voice betrayed the slightest quiver. *Was that emotion?* Archer thought in wonderment. *Or have I truly lost touch with all reality?* True, T'Pol sometimes demonstrated feelings and emotions, although she would never admit it. Still, they were always delivered in the same perfectly controlled voice.
T'Pol was not in control. Archer didn't like it one bit. He couldn't determine which emotion it was. Irritation? While speaking to him, that was most likely.
"Captain?" T'Pol spoke again, and Archer was certain this time that her voice betrayed irritation.
Finding his voice, he finally managed, "My god, T'Pol, are you all right?"
T'Pol closed her eyes briefly before responding. To Archer, it appeared as though she were fighting a battle to control herself. Inwardly, T'Pol wondered both at her Captain's ignorance and her own inability to control herself. The anger she had at herself was only magnified by this conversation. *And yet, it has only begun.* T'Pol called upon all of her Vulcan training to remain calm before she responded. "I am dying, Captain."
That was the last response he expected to hear. He had expected the patented "I am fine, Captain." It would have been an answer he knew to be false . . . yet, he could have dealt with that answer. He had no idea how to deal with that. "Why?" he managed.
"The Pa'naar Syndrome or . . . the Trip illness?" he asked, lacking a better word.
T'Pol did not answer for a moment. Finally, Phlox spoke up. "Both, Captain." He did not add that he did not find it prudent to call it the 'Trip illness.'
T'Pol filled the gap Archer's silence left. "You had something you wish to discuss, Captain?" she inquired.
*How do I discuss this with a dying person?* Archer wondered. That was inappropriate. Callous. It was also, unfortunately, his duty. Glancing around the sickbay, he noticed for the first time that Trip was not there. He had been so distracted by T'Pol that he hadn't realized it sooner. "Doctor, where is Commander Tucker?" he demanded.
"The Commander awoke, and I allowed him to leave sickbay," Phlox replied.
Captain Archer frowned. "Why didn't you call me when he awoke?"
"You did not give any indication you wished for me to do so," replied the Denobulan.
Cursing silently, Archer turned back to the matter at hand. "Doctor, if you'll excuse us, Sub-Commander T'Pol and I-"
"No, Captain, I do not think that to be wise," replied the physician.
"Doctor Phlox, I gave you an order," Archer growled. "And I expect it to be followed.
"I am aware of your order, Captain. However, I am also aware of the nature of the conversation you intend to have with the Sub-Commander. As her physician, I feel it could endanger her health. Therefore, I intend to stay in the vicinity in case that proves to be a valid concern."
Deciding it wise not to press the issue, Archer turned back to T'Pol. "I need to know the nature of your relationship with Commander Tucker."
T'Pol looked at him sharply. "Commander Tucker and I are colleagues. He is the chief engineer and third in command of the ship. I am the science officer and second in command. As you are well aware, Captain."
If situation had not been so grim, Archer would have laughed. *I hope I have time to reflect on this in the future, and laugh in retrospect,* he thought to himself. That thought seemed more and more futile with each passing moment.
"I'm aware of that, T'Pol," Archer sighed. "I'm talking on a more personal basis."
"A more personal basis?" T'Pol questioned. "I am afraid I do not understand, Captain."
"You and Trip spend a lot of time together. Surely you have feelings that go beyond-“
“Vulcans do not feel, Captain,” T’Pol interrupted him. Again, her voice quivered, signifying a loss of control. This time, she left Archer no room for doubt. She was angry. Still, he had to press on. It was his duty.
“That is an old line, Sub-Commander,” he replied. “And one neither you, nor I, nor Commander Tucker believe. Now, if it’s fraternization you’re worried about, you don’t need to be. Since you aren’t a Starfleet officer-“
“I have not fraternized with Commander Tucker,” T’Pol informed him. “Further, it would do you well to not speculate upon species other than your own when you have limited knowledge of their lifestyles, Captain.”
Archer gritted his teeth. Sensing a confrontation between them, Phlox interrupted on behalf of his patient. “Surely, Sub-Commander, you consider Commander Tucker a friend?” he inquired of the Vulcan. In return for his services, Phlox received a glare from both the Captain and T’Pol.
“Vulcans do not have friendships. He is an acquaintance and a colleague. One whose presence is both illogical and damaging to my existence. ” Looking at Archer, she continued. “Is there reason for you to believe otherwise, Captain?”
It was very obvious to Dr. Phlox that T’Pol was clinging desperately to her well-constructed walls of propriety in order to deny what she truly felt for the engineer. Her second to last sentence caused him a great deal of grief, as he knew the double meaning behind it. He could only hope the Captain would as well.
Archer did not grasp it. *Why is T’Pol arguing what is plain as day to all of us?* he wondered angrily.
“Yes, T’Pol, I do have reason to believe otherwise,” Archer replied.
“Captain-“ Phlox began, but Archer interrupted him.
“You can stay for medical reasons, Doctor, but you will not interfere with the nature of this investigation, do you understand?” Archer demanded. There was a pause, and Phlox nodded again. Archer was certain he was being given the same look he had when he came in. Turning back to T’Pol, he continued. “When Trip collapsed, I brought him to sickbay. Frankly, Sub-Commander, you talk in your sleep. Unless you don’t recall what you were dreaming-“
She wasn’t making this easy for him, Archer thought irritably. “T’Pol-“
“I have told you, Captain. I am not intimate with Commander Tucker. He and I have not fraternized in the fashion you believe. Further, you should be well acquainted on my beliefs towards fraternization, as you have prompted me to speak them several times.”
Archer sighed. It was both a sigh of frustration and a sigh of relief. “But in your sleep, you said-“
T’Pol looked him firmly in the eye to reply. “You recall, Captain, that I once asked if you if your dreams were pleasant?”
Archer nodded, remembering the time well. It was back when he believed. . . no. Best not to go there.
“I no longer envy you.” T’Pol did not add the reason she no longer envied him. *Pleasant dreams are not so pleasant when you awaken to find them untrue,* she lamented inwardly.
Archer felt as though the wind had truly been knocked out of him. T’Pol had just admitted having feelings for Trip. “T’Pol . . if you feel that way. . . why . . . the rules of fraternization don’t apply to you. Hell, even if they did, you can’t tell me you believe I would enforce them anyway.”
“No, you would not. There are several members of the crew romantically involved,” T’Pol remarked.
*Something you never brought to my attention,* Archer noted. Yep, that pretty much proved none of this had to do with her views towards fraternization. *I’m a fool.* Archer decided. An absolute fool.
“Since the rules do not apply to me, Captain, is there a reason you wish to discuss this matter? Or was it simply a matter of personal inquiry?” T’Pol asked him.
Archer related Soval’s claims. He had to pause mid-way through his speech, at the term “affectionate”, as T’Pol grappled with a headache. When he was finished, he waited for her response.
“Then you must place Commander Tucker in the brig,” she said simply.
Both Archer and Phlox were surprised to hear her say such a thing. “But-you just told me-“Archer began, but again was interrupted.
“I told you that Commander Tucker and myself are not romantically or sexually involved,” T’Pol responded. “However, that does not prevent him from. . . having unrequited feelings for me.”
“And you believe Trip would do something like that? Try to assault an Ambassador?” Archer inquired.
T’Pol looked at the human for a moment. *Do you think I wish to believe it?* she wondered in amazement. “Vulcans do not lie, Captain. I have known Ambassador Soval for many years. If he says Commander Tucker assaulted him, then that is what occurred. Further, Commander Tucker is a highly emotional man. Thirdly, when he awoke, Trip did proposition me in an inappropriate manner.”
The question prompted another headache. This one even stronger than the one before. Deciding he had enough information for now, Archer resolved to go question Trip. But there was one small matter still left unresolved.
“Since when do you call him Trip?” Archer asked. He made his tone light, in hopes of not offending her. From the startled expression on her face, he was unsuccessful.
“I . . . have lapsed in my meditation, Captain,” she replied. “My illnesses too are taking affect.”
“Take as much time as you need off, Sub-Commander,” he instructed. “I don’t want to see you back on the bridge until you’re feeling better.” At her protests, he waved his hand to dismiss them. “You will feel better, T’Pol.”
T’Pol nodded. “You will provide Commander Tucker with the opportunity to defend himself?” she inquired. At Archer’s surprised look, she replied, “It is his right.”
“Yes, T’Pol, it is,” Archer murmured softy, even more convinced now than he had been before that she cared for his best friend. “In fact, that’s where I’m heading now. Don’t worry, Malcolm’ll be there with me. And you know he’s a stickler for protocol.”
Deciding not to take offense, Archer grinned at her protectiveness. “I’m sure he will. Speaking of which, that reminds me. Ambassador Soval requested to dine with you alone tomorrow morning for breakfast.”
“Was the Ambassador in sickbay during my . . . dream state?” she asked. Again, her voice quivered and Archer nearly swore he heard fear in her voice.
“Yes,” Archer replied. “He had to help me carry Trip to sickbay. Come on, T’Pol, I’ll walk you to your quarters on the way to Trip’s.”
“He most likely is in engineering or the mess hall,” T’Pol responded.
Archer cocked his head. “How do you know?”
“He was irritated when he left. When the Commander is irritated, he either eats or works. He does not sit idly in his quarters. Although, if he would take the time to learn to meditate, it would be immensely beneficial,” T’Pol informed the Captain.
“Why was he irritated?” Archer wondered.
Dr. Phlox spoke up. “The Commander is still feeling some after affects of the Vulcan nerve pinch, Captain. He has a sufficient amount of Adrenaline in his body which is making him slightly irritable.”
“Is it dangerous to the crew? To himself?”
Phlox shook his head. “It is not dangerous to the crew. The Sub-Commander did not believe it to be dangerous to the Commander’s health either. With her recommendation, I allowed him to leave sickbay.”
*Yes, T’Pol seems to know a lot about Trip’s well being, doesn’t she?* Archer noted. As they left sickbay, both Archer and T’Pol felt a feeling of dread. T’Pol for her upcoming breakfast with Soval and Archer for his upcoming confrontation with Trip.
To Be Continued.
A/N: Hey, I already told you what was wrong with Soval. ;) But those of you that missed it, don’t worry, there’ll be a much more blunt discussion. This darn thing is far from over.
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Two folks have made comments
Excellent! Poor T'Pol, poor Trip. Loved Phlox, wanted to shake Archer but borrowed some Vulcan reserve to resist the urge. I can't believe how callous he was in the way he spoke to T'Pol especially after hearing that she was dying. I am sure he did not mean to be like that and can't wait to see what happens next. Thanks for writing a great story! Ali D :~)
John's being heartless, isn't he? Treating poor T'Pol like that, I hope he goes easier on OMT, but somehow I don't think he will.