"Some Cupid kills with arrows, some with traps."-W. Shakespearre
Archer watched Trip and T'Pol leave the sickbay. Before the doors closed he noted that they both walked in opposite directions. Trip turned right. T'Pol turned left. This, in and of itself, meant nothing. But Archer knew now it meant everything.
The sickbay, now empty, gave Archer his opportunity and he took it. "So Doctor, how long has Trip been in love with T'Pol?"
Phlox was taken aback by the question and briefly pondered whether it would be best to say nothing. But what was the point. Technically, Commander Tucker was no longer part of the crew and Captain Archer already seemed to know… "When Commander Tucker lost his sister he was having trouble sleeping. If you remember I was concerned about his mental and physical state. I suggested Vulcan neuro-pressure to help him. Commander T'Pol was hesitant as the sessions are rather intimate for Vulcans. I persuaded her that it was in Commander Tucker's best interest. And well, they became rather close."
Archer absently rubbed his new cranial ridges. Even with them, despite Trip's remarks, he didn't feel intimidating. "I haven't been a good captain lately, have I? Or a good friend for that matter."
"Captain?" inquired Phlox, unsure of where this conversation now was going.
Archer gave Phlox a sad smile. "A good captain should know his own people. It's a fine line between being a captain and being a friend and I seem to not be doing a good job at either role. I was so wrapped up in our mission to punish the Xindi and to stop them from completely destroying Earth that I wasn't there when Trip needed a friend. When T'Pol told me she got divorced, hell when she got married all of a sudden, I should have inquired more but I wanted to respect her privacy."
Phlox gave him a sympathetic smile. "You are too hard on yourself, Captain. You cannot be everything to everyone all the time. You are only one man."
Archer shook his head. "It all makes sense now. I mean they've always bickered good-naturedly, pushing each other as colleagues and friends should, but I should have realized something was going on between them romantically. It should have caught my attention when he went on shore leave with her to Vulcan. But she got married to Koss there so I just assumed… As a captain I've lost the best engineer in Starfleet over this and as a person, I've lost my friend."
"I was not completely surprised when Commander Tucker left. He was having difficulty, like any person would, of mixing work and romance."
Archer nodded recalling his conversation with Trip when he requested the transfer to Columbia. Everything made sense now. "I wish he would have told me what was really bothering him. I asked him as a friend to tell me but he wouldn't."
"He was probably worried about what you would think. Romantic relations between the crew are not prohibited but they are not really encouraged either."
"From a captain's perspective it's not the ideal situation because it leads to situations like these," said Archer understanding all too well. "But as a friend, I just can't stand by while T'Pol and Trip… So what is really wrong between the two of them? Obviously, I can understand what the problem was when T'Pol got married, but she's divorced now so… Have they had a falling out? Is T'Pol not interested in him? I can't believe I'm having this conversation." Archer laughed softly at himself.
Phlox shrugged. "I'm uncertain of the details. Commander T'Pol has been going through some difficult times. You, of course, know she recently lost her mother and then dealing with all these new Surak teachings. She probably needed some time and space to sort out everything. However, I think she cares a great deal for the Commander."
"I'm getting that impression too." Feeling worse and worse by the moment, Archer knew the depths of how truly out of touch and preoccupied he had been. "Well, hopefully it's not too late."
"Not too late?"
"Why do you think I've invited Trip to temporarily remain on board to help us with the engines?" Archer asked. "I'm going to give them a chance to sort this out. And hopefully, get my chief engineer back."
Phlox returned smiled broadly. "An excellent idea."
Archer grinned. "I thought so."