Author's Note: I don't own them; I'm not sure the converse is true. I do this for love, not money.
This extended-scene story for "Zero Hour" picks up after T'Pol strokes Porthos' head. Major spoilers for that episode, and mentions that might be minor spoilers for "Impulse", "Similitude", "Azati Prime", and "Damage". It's not necessary to watch the episode to follow the storyline, but it would provide an enhanced understanding. I've always been a bit bothered by the explanation a clearly unbalanced T'Pol gave, when Phlox asked her why she'd started her experimentation. There seemed more to the story than "I wanted more," even though, from her point of view, it was true enough.
I've always been a bit bothered by the explanation a clearly unbalanced T'Pol gave, when Phlox asked her why she'd started her experimentation. There seemed more to the story than "I wanted more," even though, from her point of view, it was true enough.
I guess you could say that I wanted more, too - so I wrote it.
For those who came here after reading my Blogging from A-Z Boldly Going vignettes, thank you! That vote of confidence means a lot! I gratefully welcome any comments, criticisms, or impressions you might wish to share. I've got more for this storyline, so, if you like it, let me know! If you don't, a few words (or many) on why would help me become a better writer. That's a win/win!
I gratefully welcome any comments, criticisms, or impressions you might wish to share. I've got more for this storyline, so, if you like it, let me know! If you don't, a few words (or many) on why would help me become a better writer. That's a win/win!
A Beagle's Bedside Manner
T'Pol exhaled a soft sigh as she stroked Porthos, her shoulders slumping with exhaustion. She had worked without pause for days, between the effort to destroy Sphere 41 and serving as Acting Captain. Phlox doubted she'd found time to meditate, eat, or even sip a cup of tea. If she could find comfort and rest here, even for a few moments, it would be beneficial for her, the dog, and Enterprise.
The young Vulcan woman half-collapsed into a sitting position. Porthos rose with a soft whine, and climbed into her lap. T'Pol didn't look away from the dog as she murmured, "Doctor, will you scan me?"
"Certainly." Phlox picked up his scanner, and moved slowly to kneel beside T'Pol, careful not to disturb her. She was clearly still experiencing symptoms resulting from her trellium relapse. She would be at the mercy of her chaotic emotions for another several hours; particularly difficult for a Vulcan.
He'd last scanned her several hours ago. She'd been considerably altered at the time, but Commander Tucker had remained with her, and it seemed that they had reached some understanding regarding their turbulent and complex romantic connection.
T'Pol murmured to Porthos in Vulcan, tears dripping onto her cheeks. The small dog stretched up to lick her face, and she embraced him, sobbing silently. She was grieving, and in command of a grieving crew. It was she who must report Captain Archer's death to Starfleet, and answer for everything they'd endured in the Expanse: the loss of life and extensive damage to Earth's first deep-space starship. Given humanity's general mistrust of her people, she was likely to be rigorously questioned, even if Ambassador Soval and the remainder of Enterprise's crew attempted to intercede on her behalf.
"Well, now, that's fine. The concentration of trellium in your system is dissipating more quickly than I anticipated."
T'Pol caressed the dog's ears. "Then why am I still crying?"
Gentleness now couldn't prevent what was awaiting her, but perhaps it could offer comfort to balance the troubling times to come.
"You're grieving, and exhausted. You have moderately advanced Pa'Naar Syndrome. The effects of the trellium-D will likely be noticeable for at least the next six hours. As I said, T'Pol, it is a matter of time, perhaps more so for you than for Porthos."
"Vulcans don't cry." T'Pol dropped her forehead to the top of the beagle's head. "Nor do they embrace canines, or engage in sexual relations with humans."
"Then perhaps you are a pioneer for your species in more ways than your service aboard Enterprise." She looked up at him with wide, wet eyes. Her face was drawn and strained; she'd lost weight she didn't have to spare, these last weeks. But one issue at a time. Rest would likely bring hunger, but it must be approached delicately; her sense of duty could be a liability, or a benefit. "Might I trouble you to assist me with something, before you go, Captain?"
T'Pol's eyes narrowed at the rank. "I'm the Captain." She said it slowly, as though she couldn't quite accept the reality of it. There'd been little enough time to adjust before her revelation to Commander Tucker, and the trellium injections that had followed. For a moment, she seemed lost. Then her chin lifted. "How may I help you?"
"The imaging scanner was repaired yesterday. I need to evaluate its accuracy, before it becomes necessary in the course of a patient's treatment. In your case, more detailed scans will allow me to assess how the trellium use has affected your Pa'Naar Syndrome."
"That seems logical." But she didn't move, only held the dog , murmuring to him in Vulcan. Phlox considered. The way they had attached to one another gave him an inspiration. He could perhaps help them to find healing together.
"I could more accurately assess the chamber's functionality if Porthos accompanied you."
"That is agreeable to me. However, he may not wish to share the experience."
"Porthos seems content to remain with you. I believe he misses what humans refer to as 'snuggling'."
"I'm helping him?" Her eyelids were dropping, and her voice was slightly slurred with fatigue. Even Vulcan stamina failed, eventually.
"I believe you are. I'm also quite certain that Porthos will inform us, should he become uncomfortable."
"That is agreeable." She allowed him to guide her to her feet and steady her as she made her way to the biobed, carrying the canine. Phlox helped her to settle herself. "I am very tired," she murmured, as her head sank onto the pillow. Her eyes closed, and her breathing leveled almost immediately. Porthos regarded Phlox for a moment, then laid his head on T'Pol's chest, and closed his eyes as well.
Phlox sent the bed into the tube. There was no need to rush the process. What the Acting Captain needed most, right now, was rest.
"Trip!" It was half a wail, half a scream, penetrating and panicked, followed by the distinctive sound of a beagle in distress.
Phlox opened the tube quickly, and the dog leapt from the woman's lap as soon as he had clearance, then sat by Phlox's feet, staring up as though concerned for T'Pol.
She was shaking and sweating, staring through him with glazed eyes, trapped in whatever hallucination or dream held her.
"T'Pol?" Phlox asked softly. She didn't seem to hear him, but she didn't scream again.
Phlox administered a mild sedative. He didn't touch her otherwise; she was Vulcan, after all, and she could easily injure him, or herself, if she felt threatened. But it was clear that she wasn't going to get the rest she so needed, if he didn't help her relax. Moreover, if she couldn't tolerate the imaging tube, he wouldn't be able to complete the detailed scans that had been waiting since she revealed what she'd been doing to herself, and the alarming symptoms she was experiencing.
"Trip? Trip, I'm frightened. Hold me -" A soft, whimpering sound. He was tempted to embrace her, but, even more asleep than awake, her keen olfactory sense wouldn't allow her to mistake him for her mate. He considered calling Commander Tucker, but that was likely to result in waking her, and she needed the sleep far more than she likely knew.
Perhaps there was a way to give her the sense of her mate, without the disturbance his presence was likely to cause. "Computer, locate the playlist that was used when T'Pol was in the imaging chamber after the Seleya rescue mission, and pipe it in at her preferred listening level."
The music had calmed her, during her initial trellium-D poisoning. Now, her respiration slowed from harsh panting to something more controlled, and her body began to relax as the sounds of Terran music came gently from within the tube.
"Trip," the woman whispered, and Porthos put his front feet up on Phlox's leg, whining as he looked from the doctor's face up to the woman on the biobed, then back again. Understanding the canine's kinesthesiology, Phlox lifted him back, and Porthos resumed his position on T'Pol's stomach. Her arms encircled him, and she sighed in her sleep, comforted by the music and the physical contact.
Fifteen minutes later, a soft chime sounded from the scanner, and Phlox moved to the diagnostic screen to discover the reason for the alert.
The imaging scanner was registering synaptic damage that was inconsistent with the advance of Pa'Naar Syndrome, but which predated her exposure upon the Seleya. It was subtle, almost unnoticeable. His hand scanner hadn't been refined enough to register it at all.
He stared at his diagnostic screen for a few moments, then adjusted the scanning parameters.
The results of the scan were conclusive and absolute.
T'Pol had begun to experience synaptic damage from the first time that she had performed neuropressure on Commander Tucker. The engineer had carried trellium residue into her quarters, and she had come into skin to skin contact with him. She had been more sensitive to it due to the previous issues – the forced mind-meld with Tolaris, the mutagenic L'oceque virus, the premature triggering of her reproductive cycle, Rajiin's invasion of her mind.
Perhaps he should have anticipated this. There had been signals, almost from the first session. Small incremental changes in her body language, intonations, and her approach to her human crewmates. He'd attributed them to the neuropressure, largely because he'd learned that Commander Tucker was also performing the discipline on T'Pol. Aware of their mutual attraction, he'd found that a most positive development, and, indeed, T'Pol had seemed more comfortable on Enterprise than she previously had.
How had he not suspected this possibility, when she told him about the trellium injections she'd been giving herself? Her actions had left many unanswered questions about how a Vulcan could choose to experiment with a known neurotoxin. Even if she could logically defend that decision, on the basis of experimentation, there certainly there was no logical explanation for not having told anyone what she was doing. If he had known, he could have dissuaded her, or at least observed her for signs of trouble.
But the scans proved that there really had never been a choice, for T'Pol. Months before she boarded the Seleya, she was physiologically addicted to Trellim-D. That mass exposure had exacerbated the addiction, causing an overdose, and, from that point on, T'Pol's behavior was increasingly motivated by her need for the psychotropic compound that was slowly poisoning her.
He should have seen it. Maybe, if he had, he could have spent these last months devising a treatment plan, perhaps weaning her from the substance. He might have known to watch her more carefully, despite the rigors of the mission. He might have known, during the times she was in Sickbay, to scan her carefully for trellium levels in her blood. He might have prevented the complete breakdown she'd experienced at Azati Prime, where the levels spiked precipitously. Had she not been denied access to the compound after the Xindi assault, she would likely have taken a terminal overdose, within the next several days.
It was sobering. It was a grievous waste. Of time, and a life that had held great promise, when she joined this crew. He remembered what he'd told her, less than two hours ago. He'd intended it as reassurance, and acknowledgment of what she'd endured in the Expanse. But apparently she truly was more susceptible to mysterious realms – or at least compounds found in one.
Her life would never again be what it might have been, if she'd returned to Vulcan rather than remaining with Enterprise. Whether that was something T'Pol could find peace with, he didn't know. She did have Commander Tucker, and, without the trellium-D, she might not have overcome her natural Vulcan reticence enough to make that connection possible.
For the rest of her life, T'Pol would, at times, be required to ingest a substance that would ultimately prove fatal. He saw no cure for the addiction. Perhaps the dosage could be lessened, with medical intervention. Perhaps, when life was calm and stable, she could lengthen the time between doses.
But she would never fully recover. She would never be free.
While she slept, still unaware of her new reality, Phlox pondered the completed scans, and the evidence she presented. T'Pol was a scientist, and a Vulcan; she'd kept meticulous records, early on, of her "experimentation" with the psychotropic substance. Perhaps, that was the only way she could rationalize her actions to herself. There were fewer and more sporadic accounts once the addiction was entrenched, and he doubted the veracity of those accounts. He wouldn't ever say it to T'Pol, but he had noticed that she was as able to lie to herself as any human or Denobulan.
The records ended in concert with Commander Tucker's coma. Phlox had been preoccupied with his sudden and brief ad hoc parenting of Sim, but he knew that T'Pol was the only visitor to remain with the engineer for an extended period of time. Clearly, he had already become critically important to her mental and emotional stability. From the point of the Commander's injury, she appeared to have stopped questioning her activities, only reacting to the increasing physiological need for trellium-D as she would any other essential requirement for survival - instinctively.
The disaster at Azati Prime had claimed to many lives, but it had spared hers, by forcing her to confront what was happening to her.
But that was the past. It was T'Pol's present, and her future, that were the immediate concern.
This latest exposure had been far less disruptive than it might have been, given the amount of trellium she'd ingested. She had kept accurate records this time; Commander Tucker had presented them to him with an air of mystification and horror, while he held a nearly- hysterical T'Pol cradled in his arms, rocking her as though she were a small child. "I did this to her. She told me, and I took the news like a complete horse's ass. Might as well have jammed that damned hypo into her neck myself."
Any efforts to convince him otherwise had failed; when he learned about the origin of the addiction, he was likely to blame himself for that, as well. It wouldn't matter to him that none of them had known, then, what trellium - D was, or what it could do to the Vulcan nervous system. He and T'Pol were particularly well matched in the area of stubbornness.
Phlox was certain Commander Tucker wasn't responsible for the relapse. His reaction was undoubtedly intense, but T'Pol must have known it would be. She'd resisted telling him before now; that she had suggested that the pressures of the last days, followed by the devastating news of Captain Archer's death, made keeping the addiction to herself nearly impossible. It was unlikely that she'd been prepared for the revelation, or for his response to it.
He hadn't needed the scans to tell him that they'd resumed their sexual activities. And that emotional release had given her something that she could use, to hold to herself. Commander Tucker wasn't guilty of causing the relapse. Given the addiction, relapse was inevitable. He was guilty only of giving her a reason to live.
If she was going to adjust, and heal, she would need someone to anchor her while she came to terms with this development, and the effect it was going to have on her life. Someone with whom she could explore whatever positives she could find in this, and support her through the inevitable and considerable difficulties.
Another signal from the imaging chamber; T'Pol was rising toward wakefulness, and she needed to be told what the scans had revealed. He didn't need T'Pol to tell him that she wouldn't want to face this without support. Porthos would help, but she would benefit from the presence of the man she'd earlier named her t'hy'la. Phlox didn't speak Vulcan, but he hadn't needed a translation for the expression in her eyes when she spoke the word.
He sighed, and went to the wall comm. "Commander Tucker, please report to Sickbay at once."