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By Samantha Quinn
All disclaimers in part 1
In transit, on the Water Spout
A/N: Malcolm’s speech to Trip is dedicated to everyone who has commented on their preferred ending. ;) I can’t decide if you’re all optimists who believe in everything working out or pessimists who believe I would end it un-happily. ;) Either way, you’ll get an ending soon. . .
“She can’t get married!” Hoshi exclaimed. The exclamation caused her to receive three very startled looks from Malcolm, Travis, Phlox and Captain Archer. The five were gathered in Captain Archer’s quarters, where he was explaining their latest “mission” to Vulcan.
“Why not, Ensign?” Phlox inquired.
Hoshi shook her head. “Never mind,” she grumbled. Clearly, she was in a room with three of the stupidest humanoids in the known universe, if they couldn’t figure out something so obvious.
Archer gave her a curious look, but continued. “In any event, we’ve been invited to the equivalent of a Vulcan wedding reception. We can’t attend the wedding-I’m supposing it is one of their many secrets.” The last part was said quite bitterly as Archer turned to Phlox at that point. “And since we’re all here, Phlox is going to give us all an update on Commander Tucker’s condition. I know you three must have been very worried.” Archer’s tone implied a good deal of frustration.
“We’ve been very concerned, Sir,” was Malcolm’s immediate reply.
“I know it must have been particularly hard on you, Malcolm,” Archer said sympathetically. “I’m sorry to have kept it from you. Without your help, Trip would still be in the brig. . . " Archer trailed off, not wanting to contemplate the way he’d treated his best friend. Pushing his guilt aside, Archer continued, “I want to make it perfectly clear that everything Phlox has to say is classified to the highest level. Under no circumstances does it leave this room. Is that clear?”
Hoshi, Trip, and Malcolm nodded in unison.
“Make sure you remember that. I know the rest of the crew has to be curious-especially the engineering crew. But, damnit, they’ll just have to live with it,” Archer snapped. “We’re doing the best we can, after all, considering the lack of information we’ve been given.”
As a linguist, Hoshi picked up on the rapid changes in Archer’s mood immediately. One minute, he was despondent, the next he was practically livid. Hoshi was pretty certain there was a clear target for his anger, even if she had no idea who the target in fact was. Had her friend’s life not been the topic of discussion, she would have found the tone inflections interesting.
But her friend’s life was in danger. Possibly two of her friends. It was for that reason that Hoshi did not feel badly for interrupting Archer’s self pitying dialogue. “With respect, Captain, what do we know?”
Archer gestured to Phlox, giving permission for him to speak. “Commander Tucker has transmitted a Vulcan illness-“
“From T’Pol?” Hoshi interrupted.
Phlox gave his patient smile. “We are not certain how the condition was transmitted, Ensign. However, we are fairly certain that the Sub-Commander was not involved in the process. She was quite. . . surprised to learn of his illness. At least, as surprised as any self respecting Vulcan would allow herself to be.”
*I bet she was more than ‘surprised,’* Hoshi thought inwardly. *Devastated, horrified, and pissed that they were separated, for instance.*
“How serious is the illness?” Travis questioned.
*Ah, trust Travis to get directly to the point,* Hoshi grinned to herself.
“You are aware that a treatment arrived from the Vulcan ship?” Phlox questioned. At the nods from Hoshi, Malcolm, and Traivs, he continued, “It was ineffective. His condition shows no sign of improving.”
Hoshi’s linguist’s ear heard the audible gasp that came from Malcolm at his place by her side. She suspected she was the only one, as neither Phlox nor Archer showed any signs of hearing it. Poor Travis just stood there, looking lost, alone, and younger than he already was. Although Archer was still alternating between looking angry and looking like he’d lost his best friend.
*Well, he’s pretty close to it,* Hoshi reflected.
“However, Captain Skon has given some indication that help for Trip will be found on Vulcan as well. So that is the unofficial reason we are going. Officially, of course, we are going to attend T’Pol’s wedding reception,” Archer finished. Hoshi noted that the Captain’s head drooped, and his fingers caressed a copy of an old book, as if he were contemplating something else entirely. The Ensign dismissed it. After all, certainly Archer was most certainly thinking of his best friend lying in sickbay. Who could blame him?
“Can we see him?” Malcolm asked softly. *Miraculous. Trip’s one of the few people that can crack through Malcolm’s exterior.* Hoshi didn’t want to contemplate what Trip’s death would do to the Lieutenant.
Phlox seemed to hesitate in his answer. “Perhaps it would be best, in case our efforts are not successful on Vulcan,” he answered finally. “But all four of you should be advised that Commander Tucker is suffering from severe delusions. What he says is likely not to. . .make much sense to you.”
He received four rather somber nods. “As long as you understand that, I don’t see any reason why you can’t visit with Commander Tucker. His subconscious may quite enjoy your presence.”
Archer shook his head. “No. But I’m assuming she’s better. After all, she’s well enough to get married, isn’t she?”
Hoshi couldn’t argue with that point. *After all, who gets married when they’re sick?*
T’Pol stood beside Koss in the as yet still barren parcel of ground in the Vulcan province of Tr’Nar. She waited patiently as the architect surveyed his plot of land and took the time to observe him.
He was, from all appearances, an intelligent, thoughtful, and considerate Vulcan male in addition to being an accomplished member of his field. He also held the decidedly non-Vulcan quality of being gifted at the art of conversation. Well, perhaps non-Vulcan was too harsh of an assessment, T’Pol reflected. But since returning to her home planet, T’Pol had noticed a considerable lack of conversation on the scale she had been exposed to on the Enterprise.
*Vulcans do not engage in idle chit-chat, T’Pol,* she chastised herself.
But T’Pol had learned to. As had Koss.
*Indeed, I believe he could converse quite expertly with Commander Tucker, who is an expert in the nuances of idle chit-chat,* T’Pol considered.
Unfortunately, the unexpected thought brought a familiar pain. It was not enough to render her unconscious. It was, however, dizzying enough to force a small gasp of pain from her lips. The sound was only loud enough for another Vulcan to hear. Being Vulcan, Koss was at her side immediately.
“Come, Lady T’Pol, I will take you to a healer,” he offered.
Straightening herself and repeating a mantra of Surak, she shook her head. “That will not be necessary, Koss. I am aware of my condition. I do not need a healer’s diagnosis.”
Koss looked at her quizzically. “May I inquire on the nature of your illness?”
Before departing for their journey, T’Pol had inquired from Skon the trustworthiness of Koss. The elder Vulcan had assured her that Koss had been a steady attendant to the melding meetings for over a year. He had been invited to the melder’s inner circle by the revered Lady T’Pau
“You have heard of my encounter with Tolaris?” she asked him.
Gazing at her thoughtfully, Koss replied , “With respect, T’Pol, nearly everyone involved in the melder movement has heard of your encounter.”
*I do not doubt that,* she thought to herself. “According to Captain Skon, Tolaris initiated a mating bond. Because I did not reciprocate the meld, the portion of my brain responsible for telepathy is continuing to swell.”
“The pain must be great,” Koss stated. “It is a tribute to your abilities that you do not demonstrate the discomfort at all times.”
“I am Vulcan,” she replied. “My nature is what it is. We have the ability to control our pain, much more so than other species. My lapses only occur when there is an increase in intensity in the headaches.”
Koss was quiet for a moment before he continued his questioning. “Is the conditional fatal?” The question itself was blunt. The tone of his voice however, removed any perceived harshness.
“It is,” T’Pol answered. “However, Captain Skon believes the fatality portion can be removed from the equation.”
Koss looked at her askance. “By what method?”
“Completing the meld,” T’Pol answered.
“I see. Am I to understand that to be the purpose of your wedding to Sopel?” Koss inquired.
T’Pol felt herself involuntarily bristle at the mention of the Prince’s name. “That was the original purpose of the ceremony,” she admitted.
“It is not now?” Koss questioned.
“No. A man on the Enterprise has grown ill. . . after your discussion last night, I have grown convinced that a meld may be the method in which to cure him,” T’Pol answered carefully. She saw no reason to inform him of the nature of Trip’s illness. Doing so could only cause further incrimination. *That is not the optimal choice,* T’Pol reflected. *Regardless of what Soval has done.*
“Are you and the man close acquaintances?” Koss asked.
T’Pol did not hesitate. “Yes.” The lull in the conversation prompted T’Pol to continue. She was not certain why. Having only recently been reacquainted with Koss, she certainly did not know him well enough to make such confidences. Yet something within her drove her to say her peace. *Perhaps I tell him what I should have told the Commander? In case Commander Tucker does not make it to Vulcan in time?* T’Pol dismissed the thought. It was highly illogical. Koss was not Commander Tucker. Disturbingly, however, the Vulcan beside her reminded her distinctly of the engineer.
For that reason, she continued. “He intercepted, under Captain Archer orders, the letter from your parents asking me to return to Vulcan to complete our marriage.”
Koss raised an eyebrow at her description. “While I did not read the message, I doubt sincerely the correct verb for my parents’ actions to be ‘asked.’”
T’Pol nodded. “You are correct. More accurately, he intercepted their orders.”
Koss’ mouth quirked in the Vulcan non-smile. “I have heard much about human mating habits. While undoubtedly it is not all true, he must have been surprised to learn that our parents chose our mates.”
Recalling Commander Tucker’s reaction, T’Pol nodded. “He was. His argument was . . . quite convincing.”
“It must have been,” Koss agreed. “You chose to stay.”
His words could not have affected T’Pol more if they had been a blow to the stomach. “Yes, I did. If it had not been for Commander Tucker, I would not have stayed aboard the Enterprise for even half of the first year,” she acknowledged. “Of course, his argument was highly illogical and quite. . . human. He argued that I should do what I wanted to do. His species strongly believes in personal choice and he presumed it should apply to our species as well.”
“A somewhat ethnocentric view.”
“And yet, it was enough to convince you to stay?”
Koss laced his fingers together before answering. “Then regardless of the semantics of his argument, I would venture to say that it is fortunate for our people that it was effective.”
T’Pol looked at him quizzically. “I do not grasp your meaning.”
“Surely you realize the benefits your work on the Enterprise is doing?” When T’Pol remained silent, he continued ahead, “You have managed to forge bonds during your short tenure on the Starfleet vessel that have eluded Vulcan Ambassadors for ninety-two years. Because of your efforts, our species grow closer. There are assuredly still prejudices amongst us, but do not doubt for a moment, T’Pol-a large portion of Vulcan society appreciates your service.”
“Your parents do not. Nor does Ambassador Soval. Nor does Captain Vanik. In fact, the only Vulcans who seem to ‘appreciate’ my efforts are the Vulcans Without Logic,” T’Pol pointed out.
Koss gave her a look which indicated that he would have laughed if his veins held red blood instead of green. “You have been away from our home world for a long time, T’Pol. Much has changed. There is revolution in the air for the first time since Surak. The melders are not alone in their quest for change.”
“The revolution will be a peaceful one?” T’Pol asked.
“I am certain of it,” Koss replied.
“Then I will take pleasure in seeing it succeed. I must admit, however, that I would not have thought you would have been amongst those in the revolution,” T’Pol said honestly.
“Because of my parents?” Koss wondered.
“Parents do tend to dictate their children’s behavior,” she answered.
It was a valid point. Remembering Ambassador Soval’s role in Commander Tucker’s condition, T’Pol answered, “My father and I have opposing conceptions of reality.”
“When I was a child,” Koss began, “My parents purchased a Terran puzzle depicting an aquatic scene. It was composed of 10,000 pieces but my father was under the impression it would be quite simple because it was a human creation. Surely such a naďve species was incapable of composing a puzzle that would be a challenge to a Vulcan. As I was a child, I immediately spied the brightest piece-a brilliant shade of red that closely resembles our sky during noon of a summer day. I began to try to place the piece where I believed its proper place was. My father promptly removed it. He contented there was no logic in placing a bright red piece amidst all of the blue. It was not until all of the other pieces were in their proper places that he conceded to having no other choice. The piece that had gained so much of my attention was a sample of colorful flora.”
T’Pol looked at him questionably. “Humans are not logical. I doubt they frequently employ the use of logic in constructions of their puzzles.”
Koss gave the non-smile again. “Our people’s relationship with humans has needed someone who understood that, T’Pol. It is why your mission has been successful.”
“It is late. I should return,” T’Pol answered. She was not being unkind. However, the conversation had been draining of her, mentally and physically. She also anticipated Sopel’s arrival early the next day and would need to awaken early to converse with him.
Koss understood. “I shall escort you back.”
As they turned to walk in comfortable silence, Koss spoke again. “I should like to meet this Commander Tucker while he is on Vulcan.”
“I shall attempt to arrange such a meeting,” T’Pol promised. “I believe he would find your presence agreeable.”
In sickbay, three very concerned faces were gathered around Commander Tucker. Travis, Hoshi, and Malcolm had been advised to keep their visit brief. Trip was not very coherent, and his whole body seemed to be shaking.
There was no doubt among the three that his condition was very serious.
“Dear God,” Malcolm murmured, “He looks even worse than before.” Involuntarily, Malcolm was seized with a slight grasp of panic. Trip couldn’t die. He just couldn’t. “Trip,” he said softly, “I’m not sure if you can understand us, or not, but I just wanted to let you know we-I’m here. And we’re waiting on you to get better. Happy endings, Trip, you must think happy endings. Please remember that.”
When Malcolm stopped speaking, Hoshi took it as her turn to continue. It was quite obvious that the Lieutenant was struggling to control himself. By speaking, Hoshi both spoke to her friend and allowed Malcolm to grieve. “Trip,” she whispered, “This is Hoshi. I also don’t know how much of this you can understand, but I’m routing for you anyway.” She lowered her voice even more as she bent to say softly into his ear, “And so is T’Pol.”
Their friend stirred visibly at the mention of T’Pol. He even softly whispered her name. Hoshi’s eyes glazed over at that and she was suddenly the one fighting off tears. Malcolm offered her his shoulder and she used it.
Travis glanced from the couple back to Trip. “Well,” the Ensign began, “I also don’t know if you can hear me, so you have to get better soon. You see, it seems I’ve lost a bet with the good Lieutenant Hess. So, I have to tell you, once you’re conscious, that you have a nice ass. So, kindly be alright because we’re all missing such a good view.”
Malcolm and Hoshi looked a bit startled at that. But Malcolm grinned nonetheless. He could, after all, appreciate a good bum sighting.
Phlox appeared then, with the Captain by his side. The trio didn’t have to be told to leave. They understood the Captain would want time alone with Trip. Respectfully, they filed out sickbay to give it to him.
Once they were alone, Archer turned to Phlox. “I was surprised that T’Lal did not choose to return to Vanick’s ship with Ventik. Is T’Lal going to be alright?”
Phlox nodded. “She is still a Vulcan, Captain and has the Vulcan stamina. She simply needed rest. As her offering was not helping the Commander, she acquiesced. She and Ambassador V’Lar are currently sharing quarters.”
Archer glanced down at his friend. “Do you think T’Pol can help him, Doctor?”
The Denobulan cocked his head. “I am not certain. I know she will try everything within her power. However, there is much we do not know about Vulcan medicine.”
“Or Vulcan technology, or Vulcan customs, or Vulcan Ambassadors,” snapped Archer. “You’d think that they’d realize that when they interact with other species and it has a direct effect on them, we’d have a right to know just a little about their damn secrets!”
Phlox looked at him for a moment before saying patiently, “May I remind you, Captain, that the Vulcans have been quite forthcoming concerning Commander Tucker. They have discussed very private mating rituals with considerable candor. In addition, T’Pol made appropriate arrangements as soon as she was alerted to his condition. I am uncertain what additional information or assistance you would find appropriate that they have not already given.”
Archer would not be persuaded. “I want to know what caused this! How did he contact it, if it is a ‘evolutionary’ Vulcan illness?”
“Ventik and V’Lar both seemed quite unsure of that themselves. They cannot share what they do not know,” Phlox advised.
Archer didn’t have an answer for that. Phlox took the opportunity to continue, “The Vulcans have shared something they find of the utmost privacy, Captain. I hope you can respect that.”
“I have,” Archer replied moodily. “I haven’t even said anything the Vulcan involvement in Trip’s illness in the official logs. But if he dies because of it-“
“Then you would willingly betray the trust they have placed in you?” Phlox finished for him. “You will find, Captain, that Vulcans do not believe trustworthiness an emotion. If their trust is violated, you will undo years of Vulcan and human alliance. I don’t think you would want that, nor would your father. I am certain Commander Tucker would not.”
“Trip distrusts Vulcans more than I do,” Archer argued. It was a weak point, and he knew it, but he felt like arguing.
“That would be unfortunate, if it were true, as his life lies in the hands of a Vulcan,” Phlox noted. “Happily, I suspect you are wrong in your assessment, Captain Archer.”
To Be Continued. . . .
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Three people have made comments
Very good, thank you for updating so fast. Oh, speaking for myself, I'm a strong pessimist who doesn't believe in real life happy endings, but yearns for them in stories. Stories should end on a good note, or else I'll just make up my own happier epilogue in my head. It's what I do with my shows and books. In case that confused you, it means I don't believe in happily-ever-afters, but I both love and want them. I'm odd, I know. Keep writing, it's a welcome distraction from the reports I'm supposed to be working on.
I'm gonna take the route of the optimist. It's hard enough being in the military without expecting everything in stories and fiction to turn out as bad as reality, so I'm gonna keep on hoping for that happy ending. *crosses his fingers*
Being a romantic myself, I'll just keep hoping for that happy ending. And if that fails, I also consider myself a realist.
Can't wait for more!