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. Sequel to "One Minute at a Time." In the E² timeline, T'Pol and Lorian take the first steps toward moving forward.
A/N: Thanks to my betas Jenna, boushh, slj91, and TJ.
In the Delphic Expanse...
T'Pol still dreamed of Trip.
Her meditation sessions were fitful; concentration did not yet come easily. So she dreamed. Some were the sort of unsettling psychological forays that she had once believed were the sole manifestation of dreams...the kind that humans called nightmares. Radiation would take on the aspect of a fearsome creature that devoured Trip as he attempted to save Enterprise from destruction. Or more often, the nightmare would be the moment her bond with Trip had been severed, plummeting her into endless black nothingness—until Lorian's anguished, frightened presence had compelled her to return to the world of the living again.
Other dreams, though, were far more agreeable, reminiscent of those T'Pol had shared with her husband after their bond had taken hold. Through him, she had discovered that dreams could be wondrous flights of imagination, filled with images and sensations of indescribable beauty and delight. Trip was always with her in those "sweet dreams." She could see his dancing blue eyes and dimpled smile, hear his laughter, feel his touch as he kissed her or made love to her. She could sense their bond, strong and unbroken. She never wanted those dreams to end.
But the waking world would not be denied. And Lorian would be there, at least, providing comfort as well as need. So T'Pol would, with reluctance, let her dream-Trip fade away...until the next time.
This night there were no dreams, for sleep had never come. Lorian had returned to school today for the first time since his father's death—and T'Pol, instead of being focused by her solitude, had instead found herself virtually paralyzed by it. She had wandered her quarters restlessly, unable to concentrate, feeling adrift, and more than a little foolish. She knew she must become accustomed to life without her son by her side, an easy crutch to which she could cling...just as she must become accustomed to life with her husband relegated to her memories. But she expended so much energy now simply to maintain some semblance of control over her emotions in the presence of Lorian, or the Archers. The idea of resuming her normal duties on the bridge seemed impossibly out of reach.
Thankfully, Jonathan's announcement to the crew about the nearby comet had shaken her from her malaise, providing a task, however elementary, for her to fix upon. She had still been dutifully sifting through the Science section's sensor data when Lorian returned home. He had appeared as distracted by the day as T'Pol, and hardly spoke at dinner, but she did not pry. He would talk to her when he was ready.
Long after they had both retired for the night, T'Pol heard Lorian moving restlessly in his alcove room, unable to find sleep. She was not surprised when, soon after midnight, he quietly dressed and left their quarters. She let him go, giving no indication that she was also awake.
When he came back shortly before 0200 hours, T'Pol was at her terminal, sipping a mug of tea as she went over the latest data on the comet. Lorian seemed taken aback, and somewhat concerned. "Mother? Are you all right?"
She nodded, setting down her tea and facing him. "And you?" she inquired calmly.
He looked away. "I couldn't sleep. I had to walk." Even now, he appeared unable to stand still; he began pacing slowly around the room.
"Did something happen at school today?"
"Not exactly. It was...strange there." Lorian stopped at the viewport, gazing out at the stars. "But not the normal-strange that it always is. Typically, none of the other students show any interest in talking to me. Today they seemed as if they wanted to, but no one knew how."
T'Pol had always wished that the other children could been more accepting of Lorian. Kids are kids, Trip would say with a resigned shrug. Now tragedy had torn away the barriers of misunderstanding and jealousy that years of effort had hardly dented. T'Pol found the irony vaguely unjust.
"That's to be expected," she told Lorian.
"I suppose." He began to pace again. "But it felt...it seemed as if I didn't belong there anymore, as if I'm supposed to be doing other things."
T'Pol sensed that they were approaching the source of what had been troubling her son. "Such as...?"
"I've been thinking." Lorian paused. Then, determinedly, he turned to face her. "I'd like to ask Jonathan's permission to complete my undergraduate studies at my own pace—if possible, concurrent with the commencement of an internship in engineering under Commander Hess's supervision." Having finished, he waited expectantly, looking a trifle nervous.
T'Pol said nothing for a moment, letting the request and its implications sink in. Was Lorian attempting to escape? Trying to become his father in one monumental step? The last thing T'Pol wished was to become the instrument that cavalierly swept aside what little childhood her son had left.
She studied him now. Perhaps the brilliant mind behind those grave blue eyes had been searching desperately for renewed purpose to fill the cavernous void left by this stunning loss. T'Pol realized that the shy boy of a few weeks ago had ceased to exist the moment that he had fought past his own grief to will her back to life. Still, she hesitated. "Lorian...you are fourteen. Are you certain that you're not acting prematurely?"
Lorian seemed to have expected the question. "It is difficult to explain," he said slowly, choosing his words with deliberation. "I have a sense that I mustn't wait. There is so much to learn...and it will take far longer than I anticipated, because I'm not going to have..." He trailed off, swallowing hard.
"You're not going to have your father teaching you," T'Pol finished for him. Even she found the words difficult to say aloud.
Silently, Lorian nodded.
T'Pol's emotional control threatened to falter. It was a long moment before she trusted herself to speak again. "If you were to study at your own pace," she continued at last, "how long, in your estimation, would it take you to complete your undergraduate studies?"
Lorian cleared his throat. "A year, perhaps." His voice was admirably steady. "I would continue my tutoring duties, of course, if Professor Tadashi wished it."
A year to finish seven years' schoolwork. Lorian had been sacrificing a great deal in an effort to fit in. With Trip's uniquely human brand of encouragement and unfailing good humor, Lorian had managed. But now, any semblance of the "conventional" upbringing that T'Pol and Trip had hoped to give their son seemed an ill fit.
"The professor may prefer that you concentrate on your studies," she replied.
For the first time since he had come home, Lorian's eyes sparked to life. "Then..."
"We will speak with Jonathan tomorrow," T'Pol said.
For a brief moment, her son's face lit with a tiny, pleased smile. Then, just as suddenly, a cloud of grief seemed to descend over him. He looked stricken, his smile fading, his bright blue eyes threatened by tears. At once, T'Pol understood why: there was someone significantly absent from this rite of passage.
"Your father would be proud of you," she said quietly.
Lorian shrugged self-consciously as he blinked away his tears. "I haven't done anything yet."
"You will," T'Pol responded, with certainty. "If he were here, I believe your plan to focus on engineering would suit him."
"...Right down to the ground," Lorian murmured, almost to himself. A wistful smile made its way back onto his face as he said the phrase his father had so often used. "Thank you, Mother." Abruptly, he launched himself into her arms and hugged her.
The weeks of grief and tragedy-engendered maturity fell away from him, and T'Pol felt her little boy in her embrace again, perhaps for the last time. She gave in to the emotion she had been struggling to control these past days, and held him tightly to her, wishing never to let go.
But as with all sweet dreams, reality beckoned, inexorably. Carefully, T'Pol placed the memories of her carefree child safely alongside her treasured remembrances of her husband. She released Lorian, regarding him anew. He was a young man now, somber and purposeful, his eyes squarely focused on goals that had no further use for childhood.
"Perhaps you will be able to sleep now," she said.
He nodded. Already, his demeanor seemed calmer. "I think so. And you?"
"Perhaps," she replied noncommittally.
A month ago, her son would have accepted her answer without protest. Not so the vigilant protector Lorian had become. He eyed her with faint reproof. "You need rest."
In his gaze, she saw a glimpse of the quiet authority that Trip had utilized so effectively in engineering. Nodding in acquiescence, she rose from her terminal.
Looking satisfied, Lorian took her hand and gave it a brief squeeze. "Good night, Mother."
"Good night, Lorian." As T'Pol watched him proceed into his room, she thought, My t'hai'la is not confined to my memories alone. I see him before me...his smile, his determination, his heart. He lives on in his son.
She approached her bed, but chose to sit cross-legged on the floor beside it and light a meditation candle. Meditation was, after all, conducive to rest. As she stared into the tiny flicker of light, she found her mind clearing a touch more easily than in past days...almost as if her son's strength of purpose had renewed her own ability to focus. Perhaps now there would be no more nightmares.
As the candlelight's glow gently swept away the disquieting thoughts and emotions of the conscious world, and tranquility replaced anxiety, a single stray idea lingered in her mind: But surely there would be no harm done if, occasionally, I had a sweet dream.