t h e w a y w e w e r e
A story about broken friendships and how the best things always happen a little too late.
Disclaimer: No, no, and no.
Big, Honkin' Warning: AU. Very, very AU. Just pretend you've never seen any of the episodes after The Aenar and that we already know all about Malcolm's sordid past. Also, T'Pol bashing abounds. 'Cause I'm a hypocrite.
Note the First: I brought the happy on a trip to New York. Sequel to A Question of Gravity.
Note the Second: This was supposed to be a single chapter thing, like Gravity was, about the time I took a swan dive off the edge of, you know, sanity.
Note the Third: This is the first thing I've written and begun posting that hasn't been completely finished. I mean, I know where I'm going with this (the first scene ever written for it is at the end) and the plot is vaguely sketched out. What I'm trying to say is that it may take awhile to get the entire thing out. But I will, I swear. And your input will actually affect this thing!
Perfect happiness I believe was never intended by the deity to be the lot of any one of his creatures in this world; but that he has very much put in our power the nearness of our approaches to it, is what I as steadfastly believe.
One: The Lost
You'll come back again
And I'll still be your friend.
—Wilco, "A Box Full of Letters"
From Whitmore's School for Girls' Weekly Newspaper
August 30th, 2156: NEW TEACHERS!
With the start of a new school year, there's always bound to be one or two new teachers. But this year—we've got the goods here at Whitmore's.
Teaching physics this semester will be Charles Tucker the III. In his last few jobs—wait for it—he was a Warp engineer aboard the Enterprise and the Columbia; and just about a year back, he was a Starfleet Captain! Mr. Tucker's classes should prove most interesting. That is, if we girls can get over his stunning good looks and Southern boy charm, of course!
Also among the new teachers Whitmore's is going to be receiving are a new music teacher and a new English teacher, Ms. Emily Lucas and Mr.…
From The San Francisco Chronicle
…Malcolm Reed, one of Earth's most brilliant minds. In his early thirties, he was the Chief Armory Officer and Chief of Security aboard Earth's first Warp Five vessel, the NX-01 Enterprise. During his tenure there, he helped to put together several phase cannons in mere hours and, according to his old shipmate Lieutenant—then Ensign—Travis Mayweather, "saved our butts more times then I can remember." (Mayweather also reminisced on those days, when Reed was one half of what the crew still refers to as the 'Disaster Twins'. He recalled with great delight some of the Twins adventures, and one of Mayweather's own jaunts outside the ship with Reed: a little comet-walk with some explosives. Mayweather still remembers Reed being upset because the symmetry of the blast was "all wrong".)
Now, Reed, Head of Weapons Development in Starfleet's Research Division, is being promoted to Captain. He's going to be given his own command of the new Daedalus class starship, the Avenger. Equipped on the ship are going to be some of Reed's own contributions to the field of Weapon's Engineering: top of the line…
I lean my hands against my thighs, breathing heavily. My hair, grown longer than regulation, hangs down into my eyes. I reach a hand up and swipe it away, before replacing the hand back down. A drop of sweat slips down my forehead as I watch curiously from my driveway.
Why are they here? I wonder to myself, staring at the men on my porch. I've been long retired from Starfleet, and it's definitely not like I want to go back: I lost too much of myself there, up there, far, far up there; a lot of me is gone and never coming back. I'm happy here in Connecticut, teaching. So it gets cold, so it snows—teaching physics is a far cry from engineering and I like it.
It makes me feel sane.
Blowing out I breath, I stand up straight and jog to my porch. He's standing there, watching me as I come up through the grass. He takes off his hat in a sweeping motion, bringing it to his chest, saying, "Captain."
"Trip now, Admiral Archer," I reply, rolling my shoulders out. Jon grins that little mysterious grin of his, but it doesn't quite reach his eyes. I suppose that old light was lost, just like parts of me, all those years ago. Too much—or is it too little?—has happened. We've changed in very secret ways. And nothing makes much sense anymore. So we stand on my porch, seven years of distance between us—and that makes no sense either. Once, we had been so good of friends and now…
"I suppose you're wondering why I'm here," he says suddenly, breaking the awkward silence that had descended on us.
"Yew suppose correctly." I stretch one arm up and then the other. He watches distractedly. Once upon a time, he would have been running with me, and so would have Porthos. But Porthos died a few years ago and Jon and I don't talk anymore. Not voluntarily of course: we drifted apart. When Hernandez died in that battle, I was given command of Columbia and Jon had been on Enterprise. There had been no time to speak.
And, after I left and I came to Connecticut to teach, I had never tried to build the ties back between us. I was lonely and bitter and just couldn't deal well with my past. So we stayed apart. It was what was best for both of us. Jon was all broken from what he had been made to do and I—I was just broken. But we never had a big falling out, not like Malcolm and I.
I don't like to think about that.
I turn back to Jon as he looks at me. There is so much space and time between us. I'm a teacher now and Jon…
Jon is one of the leading admirals now in Starfleet, but, no matter how much good he does, he'll always been the elephant in the room. He was used. Starfleet's directors sent him out to explore, a captain and his crew all filled with wide-eyed innocence and wonder. And then they set out to turn us into killers, murderers, avengers—Jon, more so than the rest of us. He did things to protect his crew, his family, to keep us safe; he did so many terrible, terrible things for us—and for Earth—that, while saving them, horrified them. So they're ashamed of him, of what they created. They used him.
Like T'Pol used me. Only, I was an experiment in emotion. I was not a savior. I was a test subject. She wanted to feel like a human and I, depressed, lonely, bitter, willing, and so very there, was whom she tried it all out on. And she made me believe, made me think that I loved her and that she loved me and wouldn't we be just so happy together? And when I realized what I had been made to believe, it had been too late. Too much of me was gone to her, sold away.
I ran. I had to get away from her and what she convinced me of, her disillusionments. But, in the process, I lost everything. All that I cared about, all that I loved—especially Malcolm, my friend, my brother. (Even after all these years, too, I still think of him as such.) So I ran because of her, of a fear of hurting Malcolm, of what we were doing. And, with running, I lost it.
I have never gotten it back. I have nothing, no one—Malcolm is gone, away from me because I hurt him even though I tried not to; Jon is a stone's through from crazy and the pink elephant; T'Pol—well, she destroyed me. Took away my love. I cannot love again because of her. Sure, there have been women—a string of meaningless relationships and faceless girls who try to comfort a pain they can't reach.
So here I am, still running. In Connecticut, teaching physics at an all girl's school. I'm running so hard, so fast, that—almost—I am (I wish I was) moving backwards. Back to when Jon didn't have the Admiral's pip, back to when he smiled and it reached his eyes. Back to those first two years, back to when T'Pol was T'Pol and I was Trip—Laughing Trip, Happy Trip. Back to when Malcolm was a tight ass Brit with a hidden wild streak that only I knew. I wish things were the same, like they had been.
I wish we were the people that we were back then.
My old captain shifts from foot to foot. His entourage—consisting of two ensigns with frowns so serious on their faces that I want to laugh—look on impassively. Jon asks, "What are you thinking about?"
There had been a time when I would have said "the usual" and he would've known exactly what I was going on about. Hell, there had been a time when he never even had to ask me. Instead of something witty and glib or a "the usual" (because times have changed, we've changed, and he doesn't know what "the usual" is for me anymore), I tell him, "The lesson plan for tomorrow."
He knows that I'm lying—it's in the eyes, Malcolm used to say to me—but he nods anyway, shifting nervously on his feet. I wonder what he wants—again—briefly. What possible use could Starfleet have with a high school physics teacher? I ask myself. Besides the obvious fact that that high school physics teacher used to be a Starfleet captain and top Warp engineer who still makes anonymous contributions to the Warp Program. Quite the job title, huh?
I stretch my legs now, one at a time, still wondering. What does he want?
"Starfleet needs you."
No. I ain't comin' back, yew bastards can't make me; not unless yew knock me out an' tie me up in a sack an' drag me all the way to ol' San Fran. So go fuck yerselves.
"No," I reply instead, forgoing my stretches and brushing past him. I open my front door and enter. (We don't lock our doors in Connecticut.) I don't look behind me as I do so and am halfway through with closing the door (still not looking) when he sticks his foot in the way, effectively shutting down my plans of, you know, slamming the door in his face 'cause I ain't comin' back. I spin around and am about to ask him just what the fuck it is he wants when he starts to talk.
Well, he's gotten my attention.
Huh. That changes everything, doesn't it?
I slide the door open, slowly. He stares at me, eyes broken like dry earth but his earth is wet and raining. His eyes never used to be like the broken earth. They used to be trees and wood and like that umbrella my mama had when I was a kid. His eyes had never, ever been broken before. He enters. I shut the door on the ensigns.
Because, while most things change, some things always stay the same and this is a family matter now.
He let's me lead him into my living room, which, had I known I was going that have guests, I would have cleaned up. Books and papers are strewn everywhere. I had been grading yesterday's tests last night and, after this morning's jog and a shower, I was going to finish them so I could hand them back on Monday. That, I believe, has just turned into what we educated men call a "pipe dream".
I clear a space on the couch for him, taking up some of the latest engineering journals (one of which I believe has an article in it by me; under a pen name, of course) and placing them in a semi-neat stack on the coffee table, next to a pile of graded tests and an old car part. How'd that get there?
"Hard grader," Jon comments, looking at the top test.
"Dumb girl," I reply. I'm not being mean, either: the girl honestly is a sandwich short of a picnic, if you know what I mean. She's brilliant in English and languages but I'll be damned is she could figure out a simple speed calculation. And she doesn't apply herself to it very well, which incurs my wrath and therefore allows me to mock her. In the privacy of my own home, of course. I sit down in a chair, asking, "What happened?"
He leans forward and presses his elbows into his knees, broken earth eyes glued to a place that I can't see. He says, "You know he got Captain a few months back, right?"
I nod, even though he can't see me, and say, "Yeah." Despite how we—I—ended our friendship those seven years ago, I kept up on all his news. I had been so proud to hear his was getting his own ship—a state of the art, top of the line ship—Daedalus class—no less. Complete with…okay, so I didn't pay much attention to the weaponry the ship was going to be equipped with, mainly because I didn't know what half of it meant but it sounded pretty sweet. I was more interested in the engine system.
That had been part of our late relationship. He was interested in blowing stuff up and I was interested in how things worked. I was the creator, he was the destroyer. But, somehow, we worked well together and bonded and became good friends. We became a team, a family.
I miss him.
"He got orders from the top brass"—it's funny to hear Jon say "top brass" now that he's one of them—"to take the Avenger out for a test drive with a skeleton crew. He brought a detail of engineers, including his chief, a medical team, some navigators, a couple science officers, two mess officers, and two security details." That's my Malcolm, I think, always hard on for security. Jon continues, "It was just a patrol, you know?"
I nod, before asking again, a little harder this time, "What happened?"
Jon looks up at me for the first time. "We received a communiqué from them yesterday that was sent approximately three days prior. They were under attack. We haven't gotten anything else from them."
"Have you sent anyone out for them?" I question. Jon shakes his head in disgust.
"They say we're too damn tied up with bringing new planets into the Federation," he growls. I clench my jaw; damn politicians can't spare a single ship to go after one of Starfleet's most promising captains? Jon says, "That's why I'm contacting you. We need you to go out after Malcolm and Avenger."
"What's the catch?" I ask, wary. Jon opens his mouth and speaks.
That night, after I fall asleep, I have the dream again.
And so begins the ecological cleansing of Trip Tucker's home.
One by one, I clean up every room in my house. I start with the living room, neatly piling all my old engineering journals and putting away those old car parts that I'd been tinkering with. I rearrange my bookshelves, separating them into two sections, fiction and nonfiction, and creating subsections for both then alphabetizing by author's last name. I slip old tests I've graded and haven't given back, lesson plans that it really doesn't make sense to have because I play it fast and loose, worksheets, graded homework, those new tests, and a whole hoard of other papers into my briefcase. I sweep the wood floors and vacuum the couch.
Next is the kitchen (nuclear holocaust; I think there may be something living in the wasteland that is my fridge), then the bathroom (I should hire a maid), then my bedroom (my closet vomited all over), and then every other room that had fallen under my reign of dirtiness.
I clean because I've already graded the tests and created lesson plans for the next, I dunno, five months and I still haven't decided. I don't know.
But this may be the last chance I'll ever get to come to terms with Malcolm. And it's very important to me, that we be friends again, because there's this big empty space in my chest where he used to be and no amount of running and other people will ever make it smaller. We became more than comrades, more than friends. We became brothers. Malcolm is my brother now and I love him as such.
And, dammit, I want my brother back.
Jon had said:
"You have to retake your rank. You have to be part of Starfleet again."