Disclaimer: I know I should be writing "The Call of Steel" but this story just jumped into my head and wouldn't go away.

Warning: Angst and Death-fic!

Thanks to be my lovely beta as always, "HopefulNebula." I don't know where I would be without her. Please read and review!



~Graveside~



It should be raining.

It wasn't fair that the sun could shine on such a day. It should be snowing, at least, letting this day pass as a blurry memory. Instead the harsh sun shone down. Archer knew it was stupid to wish for rain on Vulcan of all places but he couldn't help it. He advanced slowly along the well know path, no longer a young man. He was nearly 90 now, an old man no longer in his prime.
Enterprise was still in space, with a new captain, commanding a new crew. And the first crew, his crew were all either dead or old... too old.

"Yet we came." he muttered. "Everyone who could, came to see you." he slowly bent down, painfully aware that his body, no longer young and athletic, groaned and cracked in protest at the unexcpted movement, so different from it's usual routine. Standing a few dozen feet away, the rest of the Enterprise crew waited, paintenly for a chance to say their piece.

"I suppose you want an update of how everyone is? Never did like to be left out of anything, did you?" He asked, the ghost of a smile on his face. He stared at the simple headstone he was bent by as the words came tumbling out of his mouth, each fighting to be said.

"We all still miss you, you know. THEY all miss you. I know you find that hard to believe. Did you ever really feel accepted? I saw through you... through that mask of yours. You were unsure of your role in Enterprise, unsure of where you fit in. If only you knew, everyone accepted you." Archer paused and sighed. He raised a hand to his face and was surprised to find silent tears running down it.

"You hid your uncertainty behind your manner, hid your fears so well... hell, you hid them so well that half the time even I didn't see. I can't help but think if I'd only seen, then none of this would have happened." He stopped again, to wipe at the tears that were now overflowing, spilling onto the ground in front of him.

"Hoshi took it very badly... Malcolm told me once, that even now, nearly 50 years after it happened she still sometimes wakes up screaming. He said... he said that sometimes when she closes her eyes, she sees... that day. I think she had a problem accepting you were truly gone, no returns."

"I guess she thought you were invincible, I mean after all you came through, sorry after all we came through it seemed like nothing could hurt us... I thought you would outlive me at least, I really thought everyone on the ship would outlive me. Why did you do it? I was the Captain, it was my job to protect you and Hoshi... God, it should have been me... you always had to play
the hero didn't you?"

"I think Malcolm took it the hardest. I know you must be wondering where he is. I don't know how to say this... he's dead. Funny but I always thought that if any of us were going to go in battle it would be him, the trigger happy guy that he was. Yet you're dead and Malcolm lived, lived for years, married to Hoshi."

"Did you feel bitter about having a chance to get married and have a family snatched away from you? I-I hope not..." He gave a hiccup as a tiny sob escaped.

"It was old age. Funny, huh? After everything we all went through Malcolm died of old age. It was painless, Hoshi told me. She was with him until the very end. Do you remember when I came and told you they were getting married? It was just over 40 years ago."

"I hear Travis got offered another promotion. Yes another one. This has to be, what, his third offer at being an admiral? I hope he takes it this time. He only has three or so years before he retires and I guess it would be better if he was an Admiral than a Captain. He told me on the way here that being the Captain of the "Apollo" was amazing, but that the best years of
his life were spent aboard "Enterprise". He didn't say it but I knew that what he meant was that the best time he ever had was the time we all had on board with you."

"I don't know what to say about Phlox. He still blamed himself. Always did. So... Phlox. He started his hibernation cycles about a fortnight ago and then... He died. Something went wrong. He just forgot to make his heart pump... all his organs just stopped working and he slipped into a coma, then died."

"Goddamn you!" He screamed at the grave, the tears flowing unchecked down his lined face.

"Why did you have to die? We all fell apart because of you! Enterprise fell apart..." His aged hand scooped down and grasped a handful of sandy earth. He watched, as if from a distance, the sand trickle out of his clenched fist and fall gently back down to the ground. He bowed his head and let the memories finally wash over him.

He didn't see or hear the other members of the crew step up to the grave and pay there respects to there fallen comrade. He didn't see the glorious sunset that illuminated the area around him.

He was blind to everything, his mind trapped in the past. It was only when a hand rested on his should that he came back to the present. Archer blinked and looked up at the robed figure who was standing next to him, staring at the grave.

"So... you managed to come." Archer said, his voice making it sound like a question when they both knew it was a mere statement. The hooded head nodded.

"Why do you stay here?" Archer asked. "Why not visit Earth once in a while? Visit all your friends." Every time the crew visited the grave this same scene would play over and over. Archer would say his piece, the rest would, the hooded figure would appear and Archer would say the same lines. Never did his former crew mate answer him in words, content to simply shake a head and gaze at the grave. Archer stood up slowly and was amazed as his old friend
half turned from the grave, and for the first time in over 20 years, spoke to him.

"I visited Earth just before Malcolm died."

"You did?" he replied. The figure nodded and Archer knew that if the hood was not obscuring the face he would see a small smile.

"I visited everyone. To see them all one last time, to see Earth... just to say Goodbye. I didn't visit you, because I knew I would be able to say my final goodbye to you here."

For a few seconds Archer couldn't say a word as his mind tried to process all he had heard.

"G-goodbye? What do you mean? It's not the end-"

"I'm tired Jon!" the voice was only a whisper, yet seemed to hold power. "I'm so tired. I tried, okay? I kept going when my whole world crumbed around me. I kept going like I knew I had to. I visited countless worlds, fixed countless treaties. I was the best!"

"You still are the best! It's not over, just because you want to take the occasional nap." Archer pleaded. The robed person gave a laugh and turned back to the grave.

"I'm tired. And not just in the mind. My body is tired, it's starting to give out on me. Soon there won't be anything left of me. And I'm not going out that way." The voice stopped, then began again with diffculy.

"I-I don't blame you for what happened. Know that. I never did." Archer stared at his friend. He knew in his heart that this was the end.

"How did we come to this?" He asked. The figure raised a hand and pointed at the grave.

"Goodbye." Archer whispered, his voice at near braking point. On a sudden impulse he reached up and pulled the hood off h is friends face. He started for a few moments deep in it, memorizing the lines, the eyes. He genteel reached a hand up and brushed some off the long hair away from the other's eyes. Then he turned and walked away.

"Wait." Archer paused, then slowly turned around.

"Don't be sad Jon-"

~@~

On his temporary quarters on the Apollo, Archer sat on his bed, his mind replaying the last words his friend had called after him,

"Don't be sad Jon. It's for the best, really. At least we'll be together at last after 50 years apart, we'll be together for the rest of eternity-"

A discreet knock at his door inturped his thoughts as a young man poked his face around it.

"Sir?" he asked, clutching a pad to his chest. Archer sighed.

"Yes?"

"This came for you." The young man said, holding out the pad. Even as Archer's fingers reached for it, he knew what it would say. He nodded at the ensign then took a deep breath.

It was all there, in black and white. Archer scanned the pad, odd words jumping out at him. But only one sentence penetrated his skull.

~ Charles Tucker was found this morning, dead by the grave of the Vulcan T'Pol~

After all those years of waiting Trip was finally at peace with the one he loved. And his last words to Archer ringed through the darkness once more.

"Don't be sad Jon. It's for the best, really. At least we'll be together at last after 50 years apart, we'll be together for the rest of eternity. Goodbye Cap'n."

It should be raining.



~The End~

I hope you all understood that, about whose grave it was etc. In case you didn't it was T'Pol's grave and Trip was the hooded figure.

Please read and review!


Sethoz-Chan