Picking Up the Pieces
A/N: Yes, I'm finishing up Two Things. Sorry it took so long. Yes, I'll continue with the other stories. And sorry that I have another one to put out there; I know it's driving you crazy. It's driving me a little crazy, too.
It rained harder that day than it had in some time … even for Miami; large water droplets fell quickly to an already saturated ground, leaving thick beads of water on parked shuttles and forming small rivers near gutters in the streets.
For some reason, despite knowing it was pouring, Archer left the hotel without an umbrella. Turning up the collar of his black trench coat, he walked fifteen blocks to the funeral. The streaks that ran down his face and clung to his hair felt good and he was too lost in his thoughts – regretting the day, regretting the loss of his friend – to notice his clothes had become completely soaked.
When he made it to the cemetery -- filled with banyan trees, crumbling tombstones and Spanish moss -- he shoved his hands in his pockets, bowed his head and headed for the Tucker plot. Each step took him past deceased Florida dignitaries (Spanish explorers, colonists, governors, congressman, warriors and judges) and finally to a hero, a hero, that children may not hear about in their history class. He spotted the gravesite … mainly because the crowd of people who'd gathered despite the torrential downpour.
Mrs. Mayzie Tucker, a slim woman in her sixties with a black dress and shining white pearls draped around her neck, buried her gray hair into her husband's shoulder. Mr. Charles Tucker II, a lean man with a thinning blonde head of hair, merely bowed his head to keep his eyes trained on the casket … the one his son occupied. The umbrella in his hand was black.
Archer eyes danced over other people gathered at this event. He caught Admiral Jeffries in the crowd, trying to blend in rather than use his rank and name to come closer; he wasn't wearing his uniform – just a black suit. A grimace worried his tan face and his thick frame slouched. Admiral Gardner was there, his form straight – legs spread barely apart and his hands behind his back like a soldier. There was Black, Smith ….
All of Starfleet's top brass was there.
All of them.
And so was everyone from Enterprise. Archer saw Hoshi – crying, locked arm in arm with both Reed and Mayweather. Reed's stiff upper lip trembled and he fished into his gray suit pocket to pull out a handkerchief for the woman next to him. Mayweather's head was bent and he took shallow breaths.
There was a slight woman with auburn hair and a black dress holding a large purple umbrella, as if it was the only one her hotel could provide, that protected her from the rain. Her face, although stoic, was sad as if she'd wrestled difficult and painful emotions and let them win. The glow that typically radiated around her was dampened and the sparkle in her eyes was gone. He noticed she clutched something in her hand, her thumb worrying over it.
Slipping beside her, he gave her a sad smile and then watched the ground.
"Dearly beloved, we're gathered here today --"
The pastor, a man with a wide-Irish face and round glasses, looked across the crowd and then down at his Bible. Even he had trouble getting the words out, as if he knew the commander and his sacrifice.
"To honor Commander Charles Tucker III as God welcomes him with open arms and takes him to his bosom."
At those words, T'Pol scooted closer to Archer and shared her umbrella with him.
"We remember Trip, the man. Gentle, caring, funny, sweet … a SCUBA diver. Mayzie and Charlie asked me to tell a story about their son. A boy of only nine years old, he managed to take apart the motor to their vehicle. When his father, upset and annoyed, came to talk to Trip, the boy smiled brilliantly. You know – the one he gave sometimes."
As a reflex, Archer nodded and smiled, and out of the corner of his eye, he saw that T'Pol bobbed her head, too. It made him wrap his hand around hers. She didn't protest, instead, she held his grip a little firmer.
"Charlie said, 'Trip, what's wrong with you? There's parts all over the garage.' Trip replied, 'I wanted to find out how it worked.' Charlie mad as all get out, watched his boy still beaming and then yelled, 'Couldn't you have just looked it up instead?' Trip said, 'I did. I just lost the page where it told how to put it back together.'"
A few chuckles filled the air. The pastor looked down at the lectern and then back at the people assembled. The speech continued, but Archer kept reliving the last moments of Trip's life … he had ever since the incident.
If he'd only sounded more resolute when the aliens came aboard, ordering Trip to stop. If he'd only refused to help Shran. If he'd only ….
Every step and action he'd taken he'd been second-guessing for the past two weeks. Being at the funeral, absorbing that his amiable engineer … his friend … was gone – as in never coming back – pushed those thoughts to the forefront. His eyes teared up and he realized with a staggered breath that the ceremony was over.
T'Pol's hand fell out of his grip and she tossed her IDIC onto the casket as it lowered and then was covered by dirt.
"I will … miss him," T'Pol mumbled.
When he gazed into her eyes, a drop of water rolled down her cheek. He wanted to wipe it from her face or join in himself, but instead his chin hit his chest.
"I will, too," he said.
Everyone began to disperse or make their way to offer final condolences to the Tuckers. As the crowd began to break apart, and Archer's eyes stayed on the coffin now being topped by soil, T'Pol leaned over.
"I'm staying in town for another night," she said.
She drew a deep breath and spoke more quietly. "I … could use a friend."
"Me, too," he said.
"Dinner tonight at the Sapphire. Six?"
"I'll be there."
The two made their way to the Tuckers. Having already talked with them before, Archer shook Charles Tucker II's hand and then hugged Mayzie. He said a few words, knowing they weren't nearly enough for having lost a son … another child. Then letting T'Pol have a few moments in private with them, he turned his damp collar up at the rain and headed back to his place.