One Minute at a Time
Genre: Drama, references to T/T romance
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: Spoilers for E². In the E² timeline, Jon and young Lorian contemplate a mutual loss.
A/N: This is a companion piece to another E²-verse story of mine, "Childhood Is the Kingdom Where Nobody Dies." Thanks to my betas boushh, TJ, Jenna and slj91.
One Minute at a Time
In the Delphic Expanse...
Jon had managed to go over an hour today without thinking of Trip.
Enterprise had come across a spectacular sight: an exceptionally large comet, with a nucleus almost forty kilometers in diameter and a rare triple tail. Jon had Travis take the ship on a slow circumnavigation of the "icy dirtball" as the Science section took their fill of sensor readings, and Hoshi piped live pictures throughout the ship for the enjoyment of the crew and their families.
As the bridge personnel admired the stunning sight on the viewscreen, Jon wished T'Pol were there with them. But she hadn't returned to active duty; she was still working from her quarters, not yet confident of her ability to control her emotions in public in the wake of her husband's death. Trip's death.
Trip was dead.
Even after two weeks, Jon found reminders of his friend everywhere. There was the still-startling sound of Anna Hess's alto voice, instead of Trip's easy Southern drawl, when Jon hailed engineering. There was the empty chair across the table in the Captain's Mess—the chair Anna was still too self-conscious to occupy, despite Jon's repeated invitations. There were the hollow-eyed looks on the faces of the crew he spoke with as he made his rounds.
There was the single whisky glass on the table beside him now, in the dark, deserted mess hall. No one to share a late-night drink with him, to chastise him good-naturedly about being up at all hours, instead of at home in bed with his wife. No one to chat with, as the stars drifted by. Jon missed his talks with Trip most of all.
He sat back, contemplating the comet that hung like a frozen fireball outside the viewport, as he sipped his drink...his first drink since Trip's memorial. He hadn't been sleeping; no need to complicate things with liquor. Last night, though, Esilia had been rubbing his tense shoulders, as she did every night, and telling him a story—an Ikaaran fairy tale she often told Henry, about a hero reaching Paradise. Her voice had been soft and soothing...and the next thing Jon knew, he'd awakened in her arms this morning. It was the first decent sleep he'd had since Trip died.
Jon didn't know whether to feel relieved or terribly sad, to realize that he was beginning to move forward again. Part of him didn't want to get over Trip's death. It seemed...disrespectful, somehow. But a more pragmatic part knew that he must move on, that his healing would help the crew to heal as well.
Normalcy wouldn't happen all at once, of course. Jon was, after all, sitting here at one in the morning, once more unable to sleep.
The door slid open, and Lorian entered the mess hall with that same restless, can't-sleep look that Jon knew he himself wore. Without a word, the captain pulled out a chair, and the boy sat.
Jon studied his godson. Lorian might be only fourteen, but he seemed to have matured by leaps and bounds in the last two weeks. Jon had noticed it in the subtle protectiveness Lorian exhibited toward his mother, and in the dogged strength that he had dredged up from who knew where, to get past his chronic shyness and take care of whatever mundane matters came up. But like everyone else on board, Lorian had lost his smile—that rare, glorious smile that could light up a room. Jon hoped that Lorian, of all of them, would somehow find his smile again.
"How's your mother?" he asked.
Lorian frowned faintly in puzzlement. "Jonathan...you see her almost every day. Esilia has had us over for dinner at least—"
"A son has insights that no friend is privy to," Jon said mildly.
Lorian considered the question for a long moment. "Mother is...quiet," he said at last. "She has recovered from the severing of the bond with Father, but...there are moments when I can still sense traces of her grief. I see an image sometimes...an endless blackness, cold and empty..." He fell silent, his eyes shadowed by sadness.
Jon had suspected as much. T'Pol was always composed when she and Lorian joined the Archers for dinner—too composed. "Does she talk to you about it?" he asked.
Lorian shook his head. "But we're spending a great deal of time together. I believe it helps her. I think, though, that her heart will never fully heal." Almost as soon as he said the words, he was shifting self-consciously in his seat. "It isn't logical, characterizing her grief in such poetic, human terms. She is Vulcan."
"And Trip was the love of her life," Jon said gently. "We all know that. It's been a long time since your mother thought of her emotions as shameful. I don't think she would take offense."
The boy said nothing, just sat staring at his folded hands on the table. "How are you?" Jon finally asked.
Lorian slowly shrugged his shoulders, looking completely at a loss. "I don't know. If I were Vulcan, my mourning would be long over; were I human, I would be expected to grieve publicly for some time. I find myself in an indefinable middle place... At times I feel quite capable of controlling my feelings, but then I encounter unexpected moments when the pain is so great, I think I shall die from it."
Jon felt an ache of shared sympathy. "From what I remember, that sounds about right to me."
Lorian chewed his lip pensively, and Jon suddenly found himself swallowing hard. The boy's tiny gesture was uncannily Trip-like, but Jon had never seen him do it before. He wondered if Lorian was even aware of it himself.
"How old were you when your father died?" Lorian asked.
A jumble of images drifted up from the depths of Jon's storehouse of childhood memories. Flying ship models with his father...playing with a toy ship in the doctor's office as he and Mom awaited word of his father's exam inside...watching his parents walk hand in hand along the beach, gazing lovingly at each other...peeking around the sofa as Dad yelled at Mom in confusion and frustration because he didn't recognize who she was any longer... "Twelve," he replied.
"He was ill for a time, was he not?"
Dad standing sharp-eyed and focused, proudly showing off his Warp Five prototype...Dad lying glassy-eyed and unaware in a hospital bed... "Yes," Jon said. "His illness was long and difficult—for him, and for my mother and me."
For a moment, Lorian's eyes made him look far older than any child should ever have to look. "I don't know which is worse...losing a father the way you did, or the way I did."
Carefully, Jon tucked the memories away again. "Neither one of us had a chance to say a proper good-bye, so I'd say both are unacceptable."
Softly, Lorian sighed. "I miss him so much, Jonathan."
"So do I." Jon put a hand lightly on his godson's shoulder. "You can do this, son. Just take it one day at a time."
Lorian smiled then...a wistful little thing, merely a shadow of its dazzling counterpart. "One minute at a time, you mean."
Jon's throat tightened with emotion as he returned the boy's sad smile. "Yes," he whispered. "I think we can both manage that."