Genre: Drama, episode addition, allusion to T/T romance
Rating: PG, for a cuss word
Archive: Please ask me first.
Disclaimer: Star Trek: Enterprise is the property of CBS/Paramount. All original material herein is the property of its author.
Summary: Sequel to my story Popcorn. As Sim struggles to cope with Trip's most recent memories, Phlox wonders what impact they will have on his surrogate son's future.
A/N: Thanks, as always, to my betas Stephanie, Jenna, and boushh.
Since, by Phlox's admittedly crude estimation, Commander Tucker's memories of Enterprise would likely have caught up with Sim sometime today, the doctor had arranged to meet him for dinner in the mess hall. Phlox arrived early only to discover Sim already seated in a back corner, his dinner and a PADD forgotten on a table beside him. He was staring out the viewport, his face filled with quiet, stunned sorrow.
He remembers. Dispensing with all thought of dinner, Phlox went directly to Sim's table.
Sim didn't turn away from the viewport. "She's dead," he said softly. "Lizzie's dead."
Phlox took a seat across from him. "Yes," he acknowledged quietly.
Sim shook his head slowly, uncomprehending. "I've been talking about her all this time. You let me go on talking, when all along, you knew..." At last he turned to face Phlox. "Why didn't you tell me?"
The doctor met his surrogate son's stricken gaze apologetically. "I was afraid I would be destroying your memories of her before you even remembered them all."
Sim opened his mouth to respond, then hesitated. Finally he slumped back in his seat, at a loss.
"You're the first human/Lyssarian symbiot," Phlox continued gently. "We didn't anticipate that you would be recalling Commander Tucker's memories. Would you rather you hadn't?"
Sim's head came up quickly at that. "No," he said fervently. "They've given me a family, a past. They've made my life feel as if it's lasted a lot longer than it has. It's just..." With a sigh of frustration, he pressed the heels of his hands against his eyes. "My head's fillin' up with all this stuff that's makin' me nuts."
"About engineering?" Phlox asked, though he doubted Sim was referring to that.
"Naw, that's easy. I mean people stuff." Sim sat forward again. "Lieutenant Reed, for instance. This morning he was just the armory officer, but now I remember we're friends. Ensign Sato, who read with me when I was a kid— she feels like kind of a sister now. And the Cap'n..." He ran a hand through his hair, looking a bit overwhelmed. "We're best friends. We've saved each other's lives, did you know that?" A look of pure joy filled his face for a fleeting moment, before fading to a wistful longing that was almost envy. "But... it wasn't me. It feels like it was, but it was him."
Phlox ached for him. It had not escaped the doctor's notice that Captain Archer had subtly begun to distance himself a few days ago, after telling young Sim the reason for his creation. Archer hadn't spoken about it, but Phlox had seen the captain and the boy developing an attachment for one another that could easily have deepened into friendship as Sim grew to adulthood. Yet Archer had pulled away instead. It was possible that, with Commander Tucker's survival still in question, the captain was attempting, even on a subconscious level, to lessen the feeling of loss that he would invariably experience when Sim's short life came to an end in less than a week's time. Phlox could understand why Archer might feel the need to step away... but judging by the captain's increasingly haunted mien, he seemed to be suffering from the emotional break, just as Sim was.
Sim's gaze was focused on something faraway. "It's all so real to me... the memories, the feelings. Getting shitfaced with Malcolm while we were freezing our asses off and thought we were gonna die... helping the Cap'n steal the NX-Beta for that unauthorized test flight, and thinking my career was over... trying to calm down Hoshi when she had to use the transporter for the first time. I remember being worried about going first— I didn't want to leave her alone..." He trailed off.
"Are all of your memories so unsettling?" Phlox asked quietly.
Sim was looking past Phlox's shoulder now, toward the door. A tiny half-smile came to his lips. "Not all of them." He looked down again, with that wistfulness Phlox had seen a moment ago. Glancing behind him, the doctor spotted the vermilion red of Commander T'Pol's jumpsuit amid the sea of Starfleet blue. She was at the drink dispenser, absently collecting a mug of tea as she studied a PADD. She left the mess hall without looking up.
Sim made a show of turning his attention to his dinner. "You should get something to eat, Doc. The pasta's good."
Evidently the subject was closed. True, Sim had progressed beyond the need to discuss every little thing with Phlox. Nevertheless, the doctor found himself wishing, as any father would, that he could help smooth the rocky path that his child was traversing.
As Phlox got his dinner, he glanced back at Sim, who was exchanging greetings with passing shipmates as he ate. Though he had become quite popular among the crew, there was clearly one person's favor that he sought above all others. It was distressing to think that he might be doomed to feel Tucker's unspoken affection for T'Pol without ever having it returned...
But really, how could anyone know for sure that Tucker's emotions alone were driving Sim? For all Phlox knew, Sim's pitifully short lifespan had been balanced by some sort of preternatural insight. It might explain why he had developed feelings for T'Pol before gaining access to the commander's memories of her. What did humans call it... "love at first sight"? A charming phrase. Phlox well knew that affection rarely had anything to do with a timeframe of acquaintanceship, or the life expectancy of the individuals involved. Either it happened or it didn't.
By the time Phlox returned to the table with his food— pasta, naturally— Sim had finished his own dinner and was adding calculations to the figures already crowding the screen of his PADD. As Phlox listened with interest, Sim outlined the proposal he would be presenting to Captain Archer to free Enterprise from the magnetic particle field in which she was mired. Though the engineering minutiae were beyond Phlox, he admired the elegant simplicity of the plan. And it was a pleasure, as always, to see Sim in his element, to hear the enthusiasm in his voice as his fingers flew over the PADD keys. For the moment, he was free of the disquieting thoughts that seemed an unavoidable consequence of his unique existence.
But what of T'Pol? the paternal voice inside Phlox fretted. Sim's feelings for her were not likely to fade in the coming days; nor did he have the advantage of decades in which to find love elsewhere. Phlox doubted that Sim had lain his heart bare to T'Pol during their impromptu tête-à-tête over a bowl of popcorn during A Night at the Opera, in full view of an audience of moviegoers. But he had a forthright way of speaking, unfettered as he was by inhibition... and he was acutely aware of how brief his life would be. T'Pol was a compassionate being, to be sure, but whether she could or would return Sim's affection, the doctor had no idea. Only time would tell... and for Sim, time was in very short supply.