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Author - Shouldknowbetter | Genre - Angst | M | Main Story | Rating - PG-13 | T
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Rating: PG13, major angst.
TíPol had proceeded cautiously in respect of her target, unwilling to commit herself and perhaps blunder until she had more personal knowledge of Archer than the files revealed. She had made an early attempt to use her body to direct events but that had failed and the failure had unsettled her, delaying the implementation of Sovalís strategy and leading her down a more painful path. It was she who had been influenced by the man on whom she had determined to practice: a logical choice, Archerís friend and confidante who should have been first officer in her place. Young and impulsive, Tucker should have been easy to manipulate but it had been TíPol who had listened to his arguments and acted upon them. If she was aware that she had enjoyed the cool touch of alien hands on her bare skin, then she had merely registered it as fortunate if she were to be called upon to carry Sovalís plan to its bitterest end.
The failed attempt had made TíPol question her suitability but Soval had merely told her to persevere and endorsed her suggestion that she practise her skills on another before concentrating on Archer. There was no need for haste, her father had said. Enterpriseís mission was expected to last for years and Vulcans were patient. Short-term reverses could be accepted if, in the longer term, Archer was firmly under the influence of one of their own. So TíPol had given herself six months to study Archer and in the meantime had honed her skills on Enterpriseís chief engineer.
Despite Sovalís reassurance that immediate results were not expected, TíPol knew that she had failed her people utterly over the incident at PíJem. She had not realized at that stage just how immature the humans were; like a spoilt child, Archerís resolution only increased with her own objections. She had been unable to keep her charges away from the monastery and the consequences had been disastrous for the Vulcan government. Later TíPol would wonder if that had been the start of her active distaste for Archer. Certainly his close proximity when he forced her to share his blanket had been unpleasant, although such personal feelings had faded into insignificance in the light of subsequent events. Soval had sent word that action might be taken to remove her from Enterprise even against his recommendation and, in the meantime, had taken an active hand in the winning of Archerís sympathy for TíPol, sure sign to her that her fatherís confidence in his strategy was shaken. That knowledge had not helped her self-doubt and, perhaps ironically, she had used the carefully contrived scheme not on Archer but on Tucker, thinking that the story of her supposed rejection of a mythical betrothed would reach the captain. She had certainly gained a measure of the engineerís interest and that had soothed some of the raw edges left by her failure at PíJem, but Tucker had kept what he believed to be her confidence and Soval had been displeased when she had been forced to report the failure of the scheme in respect of Archer.
Sovalís increasing impatience with her meant that TíPol had drawn back from the beginnings of friendship with the wrong man and finally started her long delayed campaign to actively direct Archer, although she still held back from any overt use of her sexuality. That she considered a last resort and the time to use it was not yet. So she had supported Archerís decision to continue with his mission Ė although exactly what that was, TíPol had not yet deduced Ė following Enterpriseís encounter with unknown hostiles, even though logic dictated a return to Earth. When the news of her recall finally arrived, however, she was aware of relief. She had failed in her mission and Soval would be displeased, but it would mean an end to her interaction with humans, Archer in particular, and that was all to the good. Strangely, it was Phlox who first made her reconsider. He was correct in that she had lasted longer than any other Vulcan on a human ship. Should she throw away that advantage? In the end, Archer himself had decided her. Until then, she had not thought she was making an impression on the man, but his insistence that she accompany him on another pointless expedition and his subsequent reaction to her proximity when they were tied together forced her to re-evaluate her ultimate chance of success. It was that evaluation and a cold assessment of the probabilities that made her throw herself in the path of a plasma burst aimed at a fellow Vulcan and it had succeeded. Soval had praised her action, although she knew the commendation would never make it into her official record. Indeed, she was starting to wonder just how deep her cover was; it would not surprise her to learn one day that her father alone was responsible for the covert aspect of her posting.
The knowledge that she was succeeding gave TíPol fresh impetus. The incident with Tolaris was one that she would have preferred to keep private, but it had been an opportunity to gain Archerís sympathy and to demonstrate to him that she was a woman whom other men desired and she had taken it. It re-paid Soval for her misuse of his scheme with ĎKosí.
Then the danger that she had unwittingly courted during her first months on Enterprise rebounded on TíPol when Enterprise encountered a disabled ship and she had watched Tuckerís growing attraction to a woman they found there. TíPol had never experienced jealousy but it had not taken her long to identify the emotion. Shocked, she had re-evaluated her behaviour and seen where her interaction with Tucker was leading. It could not be allowed. She had her mission and Sovalís trust and that was all that mattered. She had drawn back from friendship, now all informal interaction between them had to cease, even the arguments that she now saw had been unnecessary, simply an excuse to attract the engineerís attention, just as she used flattery and a show of support to gain Archerís.
Her first success was when Archer had acceded to her request for Enterpriseís help for Ambassador VíLar. Soval had been pleased but TíPol had not, despite the positive outcome for Vulcan. She had manipulated Archer with a pretense of emotion and he had been deceived and she despised him for that and for the vacillation he had shown.
Then Archer went on a foolish visit to the home world of a man of whom he knew nothing and taken his chief engineer with him and TíPol had nearly revealed her duplicity. The excursion had inevitably gone wrong and by the time they retrieved the two men, Tucker was seriously ill. When Archer had bundled the other man into the shuttle pod, TíPol had acted without considering the consequences, drawing Tucker aside to give him the water he desperately needed. It wasnít until she happened to look up that she saw the surprise on Archerís face and realized that her concern went far beyond anything she could justify professionally. She had forced herself to abandon Tucker and turned her attention to Archer instead, but the pain had been acute and she had admitted then that she had left it too long before minimizing her contact with Tucker. She loved him, an emotion not easily given by any Vulcan and still less easily reclaimed. Alone in her cabin, she had allowed herself a few tears but her duty remained clear and emotion could not be allowed to interfere.
TíPol had retrieved her position with Archer by encouraging him to take leave, by giving him a gift, although she had wondered if the book had lacked subtlety. By then, however, she was starting to believe that Archer was not a subtle man although most certainly a possessive one. To succeed, she had to devote herself to him alone, make him believe that he was the reason for her continued presence on Enterprise Ė which was true, even if the motive was not the one she would have him believe. It was a hard, lonely duty but TíPol did not falter, if one ignored the incident when the Suliban tortured her. In her cabin afterwards, frightened and disorientated, she had wanted Tucker so badly that if he had come to her, even spoken to her, she knew she could not have maintained her pretense. But it was Archer who had contacted her and the moment of weakness had passed.
TíPol had known how well she was succeeding when Archerís entirely unprofessional conduct with the Kreetassins and his canine led to him admitting that he was attracted to her. The knowledge had caused momentary nausea but she had mastered the reaction and replied suitably, dutifully reporting the incident to Soval. Never one to pass up an opportunity, her father had again intervened a short time later with advice for promoting Archerís sympathy towards her. TíPol had not believed that Archer would be taken in by the ruse that a highly trained operative needed his help, but as usual his vanity had blinded him to reality and the scheme had succeeded despite the unexpected turn of events. She had even felt quiet pride in her acting talents in exaggerating the uncertainty she was experiencing, once the initial shock of returning memory had faded.
As her second year on Enterprise progressed, TíPol had noticed that Archer took advantage of any situation to touch her. She had told herself that she could tolerate it and focused on her mission, boosting Archerís ego at every opportunity with usually spurious statements of support for his decisions. A Vulcan would not have been given command if he had been so unsure of his judgment but Archer had responded to it and it had been her role to inveigle herself with him. Nothing else had mattered. Nothing else had really existed.
That there were other concerns in the universe than a single-minded commitment to duty had been forcibly brought home to TíPol when she learnt that her condition was deteriorating. The knowledge that the Paínar syndrome was increasing its grip had, for an instant, almost come as a relief, bringing with it the chance of escape from her mission, but sanity had rapidly returned. She would have preferred Phlox rather than Archer to argue her case with the Vulcan physicians but her interfering captain could not be expected to let such a thing rest and she had almost been grateful. Only her conviction that his concern was personal, not professional, had held her back from genuine gratitude. She had been sure by then that she could never develop a meaningful friendship with the man, for it would always have to be on his terms, not based on mutual respect and understanding.
Perhaps her father had detected a trace of distaste in her careful reports for he had taken an opportunity to come to check on her. He had challenged her objectivity, had even offered her the opportunity for escape, and TíPol had known that that was as close to an apology for forcing her into an intolerable situation as her father would ever come, but she had rejected the offer. Too much of her time had already been invested in Archer and perhaps she had too much pride Ė albeit that was an emotion Ė to fail now. Soval had left well pleased with the situation but TíPol had grown increasingly dissatisfied, perhaps because she had lost the means of retreat. She had hoped for a while that she could control Archer without sharing his bed but as time passed that hope faded. His juvenile comment about sharing chromosomes had enraged her even as it made clear where his thoughts were heading.
TíPol had been assiduous in avoiding Tucker, especially since the engineerís seduction of a woman from Krios Prime had proved to her that she had not yet become inured to her misguided and hopeless affection for him. Then he had tentatively suggested that they spend the evening together. He had not been explicit but TíPol knew well enough what he was suggesting and she had wanted to agree but dared not. Archer was easily made suspicious and even though he pretended to encourage her interaction with crew she had doubted that would extend to seeing her enjoyment of another manís company. She had not been able to bring herself to reject Tucker outright but he had still been hurt and she had seen him hurt further when Archer had insisted that she accompany him. He had sat them where Tucker would have a clear view of his captain and first officer together - claiming her as his, warning Tucker away even from friendship. TíPol had had no option but to comply, but she had deeply regretted her action a few weeks later when Tucker had refused to listen to her advice over the congenitor. If they had still been friends he might have listened but it had been a year since she given him any real sign that he was more than a colleague to her. She had not even been able to intervene on his behalf with Archer or it would have destroyed the work of months and she had known her captain well enough by then to know that he would be bitterly unfair to the younger man and accept none of the responsibility himself. TíPol had mourned privately for Tuckerís grief but there was nothing she could do; any personal approach would have brought Archerís suspicion on her head at once.
It had been almost immediately after that that an infection led to a premature pon farr. TíPolís recollection of events was hazy with a single exception. The hunger she had felt as she stared at Tucker from the decontamination chamber was something she would carry with her for the rest of her life. She had told herself afterwards that she was grateful for Phloxís intervention that prevented her from betraying Sovalís trust but it was not true. Ultimately, however, duty had triumphed. Phlox assured her she had reacted to Archerís peril even when in the grip of pon farr, but fortunately the doctor had no idea that it was her duty to Soval, not to the human, that called to her.
TíPol had known that her last defence against Archerís growing persistence was destroyed when Earth was attacked and Soval had devised the plan that would forge the final link in the chain binding Archer to her Ė and she to a man she now hated. If Archer believed that she was no longer a member of the Vulcan High Command, in effect a civilian on his ship, then the excuse she had given him months before, that it would be inappropriate to act on their supposed mutual attraction, would be removed. TíPol had initially considered asking to be recalled, but duty had held, even when Soval again offered her a way out. She had always been loyal to Vulcan and it had been too late to replace her. Then more than ever she had been needed on Enterprise to mitigate the humansí blinkered quest for revenge, but it had not been easy to endure Archerís satisfaction and the slow slide towards intimacy, his clumsy attempts at humour and even clumsier caresses. Yet worse than that had been watching Tuckerís grief and rage without offering him the help and affection that her buried emotions screamed to give.
Continued in The Bitterest End
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Two folks have made comments
Oooh, powerful stuff! I found this introspective piece of reflection on T'Pol's part very intense and quite moving. It also elegantly counterpoints differences between Humans and Vulcans in a very subtle and effective way. The *fact* that T'Pol in this story realises a love for Trip that must remain unspoken is poignant in the extreme and works to the story's advantage in T'Pol's reactions to Trip's escapades with other alien women. This is so very good and it is a pleasure to read something with such an original angle. Thank you for a great story, Ali D :~)
Oh,sad and moving and oh everything... I was misting up there for a moment Thanks for the explanation;~)