Disclaimer: Not making a dime off of this, they belong to Paramount, they don't belong to me, although finally they're starting to act as if they did.
Rating: T/T, PG for language. May be archived, just let me know.
This takes place a few weeks after the events of "Similitude".
Resemblance; by Evalyn A
Tucker examined the sensor microcircuitry for discontinuities. After his warp engine modifications had been so spectacularly successful, it had become apparent that improvements to the long-range scanners were the next priority in order to prevent more disasters such as the one that had resulted when they had implemented their increased speed capabilities. "It's the Captain's birthday next week," he commented.
"Is it," T'Pol replied neutrally, handing him the microwelder he indicated.
He turned to look at her teasingly. "Don't tell me you don't remember. I thought that Vulcan memory was infallible."
"Mr. Tucker, while I am perfectly capable of remembering the birthdates of every crewmember on board Enterprise, if I were to remember all such irrelevant facts I would have little room for the important ones – such as the fact that you are about to cross-circuit the sensor coils with the deck five lighting," she replied acerbically.
He quickly turned back to look at what he was doing. "Very funny," he said after a moment. "First your memory's going, now you're turnin' into a regular practical joker. What's next, dancing lessons?" he continued with his head fully inside the field modulation assembly.
"I am merely concerned for your welfare while around high voltage circuitry, you have only just fully recovered from your last … incident," she said in a neutral tone. "And I doubt I would make a good dancer, Mr. Tucker, as I am entirely without a sense of rhythm."
"Now I know you're kiddin' me," he said, "and you're changin' the subject. The Captain's birthday, remember?"
"While you may consider my memory to be feeble, Commander, it has not failed me to that extent. I do remember what we were discussing, I simply have no idea why."
"Damn it's hot in here …we've been here in the Expanse for a few months now and we haven't had too many excuses for a good party," Tucker replied, emerging from the crawlspace and wiping his hands on his pant legs. In fact, as they both well knew, the most recent event of note had been a funeral, a thought that he did not care to linger on. "I know the crew could really use some festivities. Say a good surprise party. As first officer, crew morale is within your bailiwick, like it or not. Besides, I've noticed the captain's been a little tense lately." He looked sideways at her, wondering if she had noticed that the Captain seemed to be avoiding him – he had a hundred guesses why, and none of them made him happy.
"Very well. However, as first officer, it is also my responsibility to delegate," T'Pol said as she moved over to the status board to check on the success of the chief engineer's work. "Your modifications appear to have been successful. Keep me informed of the effect on the field stability. You can also keep me informed on the birthday plans."
Tucker watched her depart and shook his head. "Rostov," he yelled up to the catwalk, "we're goin' to need to monitor the sensor field stability for a while, set it up would ya?"
"Aye sir," Rostov replied, sliding down the gangway. "So, sir, a surprise party?" he inquired, as he started programming the status board.
"Why, are you askin' to be volunteered for the organizing committee too?" Tucker asked him with a grin.
"Uh, no sir, I think the responsibility would be too much for me at this early stage in my career," Rostov replied. "Surprise parties for the captain definitely seem like a senior officer tasking."
"Right," Tucker grumbled. He did feel more than a little trepidation; with the Captain's current mood, all bets were off as to how he would take this. "All the work and all the blame if it goes wrong. Me and my big mouth."
Chef had risen to the occasion with enthusiasm. He had taken over the menu planning and had also suggested Ensign Akito for the decorating committee, as she had a flair for converting bits of leftover debris into decorative works of whimsy.
"We're also going to need some noisemakers, or sparklers, or some such," Tucker commented to Reed. Of all of his crewmates, only Malcolm seemed to have been able to approach a semblance of normality in dealing with him, having returned to sharing occasional breaks with him in the mess hall. "Nothing too explosive, but a few little pops and bangs might be appropriate."
Reed's eyes lit up. "Perhaps I could come up with something from the leftover andalite fuses … I'll get on it right away."
"Just make sure you clear it with the safety committee!" Tucker yelled after Reed's departing form. "Okay," he muttered to himself, "food, check; decorations, check; noise, check. Music, we need music, speeches, fun and games … Hoshi!" he called out as she entered the mess. "C'mere," he indicated the chair Reed had just vacated.
She looked warily at him. "Recruiting more little helpers?" she asked, smiling awkwardly at him.
Tucker grinned. "You got me there. We're talking, music, speeches or maybe a celebrity roast, and games. Which one do you want?"
She perked up. "Games, definitely. I love games. And the roast is definitely your job. Travis will do music, won't you?" she asked of him as he sat down at the third chair.
"Sure, I can do music, although I don't exactly know the Captain's tastes," he said agreeably.
"I can help you out there, but don't worry too much about it, we want music for everyone. Lots of variety, and make it something that'll lift everybody's spirits," Tucker instructed. "This is supposed to be fun for everyone, including the Captain. We've got a week to organize this thing, so let's do a real good job, okay?" He pushed his chair back and said, "Thanks for the help, guys, really appreciate it. We're gonna have a committee meeting day after tomorrow at 2100, so be ready with your plans."
"Aye sir," Travis said. "I'll have the playlist organized."
"Maybe a little amateur talent?" Trip heard Hoshi suggesting to Travis as he departed.
"Enter," T'Pol instructed, and Tucker stepped into her quarters. She had just finished lighting the numerous candles that lit her room for the neuropressure sessions.
Trip removed his shirt and perched on his side of the cot, back facing T'Pol.
"Please commence your breathing, Commander." T'Pol no longer made casual conversation with him during their neuropressure sessions, and the atmosphere appeared charged with unspoken words.
After a few purposeful breaths, Trip said, hoping to lighten the atmosphere, "Did ya want to hear about the plans for the party?"
"Provided you can tell me without constantly turning to look at me," she replied. It was disturbing to her how the commander found it constantly necessary to look at her while they spoke, as though his words would somehow mean more if he made eye contact. In fact, the eye contact did add something to their conversations, but it seemed to have little to do with the topic under discussion. It made her feel decidedly odd, as though he was seeing something in her, something particularly fascinating … just as Sim had … she realized that she had allowed her mind to drift from his reply, that had to do with holding the party in the mess hall, and the members of the organizing committee, and –
"You are expecting me to attend the organizing committee meeting?"
"Sure, you're second in command, and you're also the safety committee," he replied, starting to turn his head.
"Please Mr. Tucker, eyes forward," she said with a hint of impatience. "I have little to contribute to such a meeting," she continued. "You may summarize the outcomes to me at a later time."
"You are the definition of the word party-pooper, you know that?" Trip complained. "Can't you just get into the spirit a bit?"
She continued to press on the areas on either side of the eighth vertebra without answering for a few moments. Despite her efforts to remain emotionally detached from the Commander after his recovery, he had an ability to get behind her defences that was most unnerving. "Very well," she found herself agreeing. "I will observe. Provided you refrain from moving for the next fifteen minutes except at my request."
He found the next fifteen minutes particularly trying as he tried to remain still while every remote portion of his anatomy itched (or exhibited other equally distracting symptoms) at intervals throughout.
The planning meeting had been held in Trip's quarters while the Captain was up in the war room going over the improved long-range field charts that had resulted from the sensor modifications. It had been a relief to spend some time with the other members of the senior staff in a situation that did not result in awkward pauses and uncomfortable glances. However, the meeting had gone well, except for some issues with Reed's selection of noisemakers – for such a cautious type his inhibitions definitely left him when there were explosives involved. Tucker wondered idly if there was some deep-rooted psychological issue that could explain it. The others had departed except for T'Pol, who had remained behind – he had suggested they might as well do the neuropressure in his quarters that night. She had worn an outfit to the meeting that he had not seen before, a peculiar shimmery shade of brownish-green that accentuated her skin as she sat on his bed waiting for him to disrobe.
"Is there a problem Mr. Tucker?" she enquired as he stood staring at her.
He turned away quickly to remove his shirt so that she could not see his blush at the direction his thoughts had been turning.
"I haven't had much chance to practice the breathing routine," he said, for once not turning to look at her as he lay down on his stomach. "This party organizin's been taking up all my spare time."
"It is important to maintain your practice routine," she said firmly as she massaged his neck with her thumbs. "You are doing well, but it is easy to regress into bad habits if you do not maintain your level of proficiency."
"Sure, I'll practice some more tonight after our session," he agreed. "But we need to talk about the speeches."
"Speeches?" she queried, pushing at the base of his skull, which evinced a grimace that was a combination of discomfort and relief from Tucker. His cerebral cortex was still a bit tender from the operation, leaving him with a dull headache most of the time.
"Yeah," he managed to squeeze out between his teeth. "It's called a roast. The idea is to develop a sense of camaraderie by exchanging personal stories and information about someone we admire. We talk about what a great guy the Captain is, tell jokes and stories about him," he elaborated.
She pondered this information. "And you would like me to contribute to this?"
"Well, you are his exec, it's expected."
"No one expects me to tell jokes," she pointed out wryly.
He chuckled. "No, I guess not," he said, trying to imagine T'Pol doing a stand-up routine. "But you can do the serious appreciation speech, that's the windup after the rest of us do the personal stories and jokes."
"Very well," she agreed. "That should not be too difficult, as I do have great admiration for the Captain."
For some reason, this statement nagged at Tucker long after T'Pol had left. For pity's sake, he'd asked her to make the speech, and he too felt great admiration for the man who was his Captain and his best friend. Admit it, it's the fact that T'Pol feels that way that's bothering you, he chastised himself. These days he only talks to her when he talks to anyone at all. He climbed into bed and closed his eyes, resolutely trying not to think of all the questions that were nagging him.
Two days later, before their neuropressure session, T'Pol said, "Would you be willing to listen to the speech I have prepared for the Captain's party? I would appreciate your constructive criticism."
Trip felt a rush of pleasure at the implied camaraderie of this statement, as innocent as it was. He sat down on the bed and settled back. "Shoot," he said. She raised an eyebrow queryingly and he rolled his eyes. "You know what it means," he prompted, "go on."
"When I first met Captain Archer," she started, "he was in the process of excoriating the most senior Vulcan representatives on Earth. I thought he was arrogant, intransigent, and lacking in the wisdom necessary to lead Earth's first interstellar starship. I was less than pleased to find that I was to be assigned to Enterprise as the Vulcan High Command's representative, in order to provide advice to the Captain from Vulcan's wealth of interstellar experience. I soon discovered that some of the adjectives I had applied to Captain Archer could equally be applied to the Vulcan High Command, and that we had a great deal to learn from each other." She continued with a description of their evolving understanding over the next two years. "I could not have anticipated the friendships that would be formed with the humans on board this ship, Captain Archer foremost amongst them. It is my sincerest hope that our friendship endures long past the success of this mission and the return of Enterprise to Earth."
Tucker sat silently for a moment, and then slowly began to clap. "T'Pol, that was a beautiful speech. I wouldn't change a thing."
Was that a momentary look of pleasure at his comments that flitted across her face? "Thank you, commander, are you sure it was not too wordy?"
"Nope, just right. But it's going to be a hard act to be in front of," he said ruefully. "You get all the good lines, I get to be the clown as usual."
She sat down on the bed beside him. "I do not know what you mean, Mr. Tucker. If you are referring to your ability to make others laugh, then I can assure you that it is unique and valued amongst the crew. And you are quite capable of giving praise and encouragement without engaging in humour, you do so many times with your team in Engineering. Although I find it continually surprising, your command style is your own and it is remarkably effective."
He looked at her, taken aback by her praise. "Well, thanks," he said, fumbling for words. "I appreciate that."
She inclined her head and indicated his t-shirt. He stripped and she placed her hands under his jawline. He closed his eyes in order to avoid gazing into her eyes in most inappropriate manner. Their session proceeded in silence for some time. Tucker pondered the strangeness of his relationship with this enigmatic, strong-minded, intelligent, gorgeous woman who had started out as antagonistic as he, and had become considerably more to him.
Suddenly, T'Pol's hands dropped to her side. "Is there a problem?" she queried.
"What do you mean?" Tucker replied, his eyes opening in surprise.
"You have been completely silent for more than 10 minutes," she stated. "That is entirely unlike you."
"Just thinkin'," he said, unwilling to amplify on his thoughts.
"Anything you would care to talk about?" she persisted. He had the feeling she knew he had been thinking about her, that she wanted him to tell her.
"No, I'm fine," he replied, unable to look her in the eyes.
"Very well," she said somewhat coolly, even by T'Pol standards, "your session for today is finished. Good night, Commander."
"G'night," he mumbled into his shirt as he pulled it on. He hesitated at the door, and then he asked "See you at breakfast?" as a kind of peace offering.
"0700?" she asked, apparently somewhat mollified.
"You're on," he smiled at her and left, slapping the wall outside her quarters with a grin, before half-jogging down the hall to the turbolift.
The birthday party had been a rousing success. The captain had been suitably surprised, and everyone had acted just the right amount of silly at the talent contest. The last crewmember had left. Only Tucker, T'Pol and Archer remained, with Chef hovering in the background tidying off the side tables, in case the guest of honour requested another last bit of refreshment. Archer smiled at Tucker, a refreshing sight after the last few weeks. "So, Trip, am I correct in assuming that this was your idea?"
Trip raised his eyebrows without answering, and Archer looked at T'Pol. "The entire crew participated, but Commander Tucker was the organizing force. I was somewhat sceptical of the whole concept when Mr. Reed first showed us the exploding scale model Xindi ship full of confetti he had designed, but I must admit that the idea seems to have achieved the desired effect on crew morale."
Archer grinned at her. "Not just the crew's, the captain's as well," he said. "Thanks, Trip," he said, slapping him on the shoulder. "I couldn't have wished for a better birthday. Well, it's been a long day," he continued, "and I need to get rid of this confetti that's been down my back all evening. See you two at breakfast?" he asked.
"Sure thing, Cap'n," Trip smiled back, and T'Pol nodded. As Archer reached the door, he paused and looked around the room one last time; then he looked at Tucker with an odd expression that Tucker couldn't read, and exited.
Chef nodded goodnight to the remaining two members of the senior staff and disappeared into the galley, dimming the lights somewhat as he left. Late as it was, Trip felt reluctant to stand up and spoil the mood of the evening. He looked at T'Pol, who also showed no signs of moving. There was a half bottle of wine left at the table. "Care for a last drink, Subcommander?" he asked. He had noticed that she had had a small glass of wine earlier in the evening. "Wine, or could I get you a mint tea?"
She pondered for a moment, and then replied, "A small glass of wine would be pleasant."
He poured them each a half-glass. He raised his glass to her, and she raised hers in return. "To friendship," he said.
"To friendship," she repeated, and they sat in silence for a time, sipping their drinks.
Why is she still here? Trip wondered to himself, idly running his finger around his wineglass. She stayed for the whole party, she even seemed to enjoy herself, in her own Vulcan way. And now she's sitting at a fancy table in low lighting drinking a last nightcap with me. You'd almost think … he looked up from his glass to see her watching him. He took the plunge and said, "Tell me about Sim."
She looked up at him, expressionlessly. "What would you like to know?"
"Everybody's been treating me different somehow, and I don't know why. I have a thousand guesses as to what happened, but no one will tell me. Phlox gives me stories about what a wonderful child he was, and then gets all teary and changes the subject, and Jon just gets this look on his face and clams up. Hoshi tells me to ask the Captain and Malcolm will only tell me that he liked key lime pie. So I thought maybe you'd be honest with me."
She took a sip from her wineglass, and replaced it on the table. "Many of the crew formed an attachment to him, watching him grow up before their eyes. It was – disturbing to contemplate that he had been created to be a tissue donor and then die within a few days."
"How much like me was he?"
"He had all your memories; at times he spoke as though he believed he was you," she replied, neutrally. "As he grew older, the resemblance became very strong."
All my memories, Trip thought to himself. Oh brother. Let's just leave that one alone for now. "Did you agree with the Captain's decision to create him?"
She did not answer directly. "Iinitially, Dr. Phlox thought that the tissue transplant could be performed without danger to the symbiont. The Captain's rationale was that you were essential to the mission, and hence to the survival of the human species."
Trip shook his head. "I wish. That's just bullshit."
T'Pol nodded. "Perhaps. Perhaps not. But regardless, your survival was essential to the Captain's peace of mind. I believe that this mission could not succeed with him incapacitated by guilt, and you gone as well. So, in the end, despite the unethical nature of his decision, it may have been the right one for him. But he now has to live with the guilt of Sim's early death instead of yours."
The implications of all of this were just beginning to dawn on him. "So did he choose to die to save me?" he asked, appalled.
She was silent for a moment. "In the end. It was – not easy for him."
Trip pondered this answer. "Well that's just great. So now I'm feelin' guilty too, because the Captain's guilty, and Sim died so I could live, and they're both my fault." He twirled his wineglass for a minute. "How did you feel about all of this?" He had used the word 'feel' deliberately; there was now no doubt in his mind that she had been affected by the entire incident as much as anyone else, although he did not know which of the many possible reasons were responsible.
She did not comment on his use of the word. "It was – difficult. I grew – fond of him."
Fond of him. All my memories. Essential to the mission. The words tumbled around in his brain, leaving him with a knot in his stomach. "So, if you'd been makin' the choice, would you have let him live?"
"It would have been less ethically disturbing," she replied, evading his eyes.
His stomach tied up even tighter.
"But the answer is no," she continued, after a moment. "Given the circumstances, it would not have been logical." In spite of herself, she found herself thinking back to the few moments spent with Sim that had left her so indelibly changed.
He observed the expressions that had flitted across her face, and his heart had skipped a few beats as he realized he was seeing signs of real emotion that she was unable to suppress. Emotion for Sim? After a moment, she looked up directly into Trip's searching eyes. She was heartachingly reminded of Sim's expression as he had revealed his feelings for her.
"There's somethin' else, isn't there?" he inquired, unable to desist despite his better judgement. "Somethin' happened – with you? What was it?"
"I think," she said quietly, "it would probably be better for both of us if I did not answer." But she was unable to drag her eyes away from his.
He felt his stomach flutter and he held her eyes. "Come on, T'Pol, I feel as if I spent a week walking around this ship, having a life with my friends, that I've lost completely. He said and did things, things that left everyone on this ship actin' like they don't know how to take me anymore, and maybe he did them because he was me, and no one will talk to me," he continued, frustrated.
He deserves to know, she thought to herself. He deserves to know everything, but how can any of us go back to where we were? To the people we were before Sim entered their lives?
He could see her thinking, still unwilling to talk to him. He was starting to feel dizzy from holding his breath, he realized, and let it out with a rush. "I'm at the end of my rope, T'Pol," he said, "Talk to me. I know the T'Pol that came aboard this ship wouldn't have taken the kind of risk that telling me could mean. But you're not that person anymore."
Watching her, he realized with disbelief that she was struggling for control. What the hell had happened during that week? Then she stood abruptly, and left the mess hall without looking back. As the doors closed behind her, Trip ran his fingers through his hair and said aloud to himself, bitterly, "Damn, Trip, you really did it this time." Then the door opened again, and he looked up to see her standing there. He stayed frozen, waiting to see what she would do.
"I believe," she said uncertainly, her eyes panning from the window over to his face, "you are correct. I am not that person." She turned again and left.
This time, he followed her.