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 Terra Prime. Trip and T'Pol find a way to communicate with their daughter Elizabeth.
A/N: This story was originally submitted to Strange New Worlds 9, and it is still dear to my heart. Thanks to my betas Jenna, and Stephanie, and Ludjin.
The baby's heartbeat and respirations had slowed dramatically in the past few minutes; it would not be long now. Phlox moved to the isolation chamber, donning a professional mask of calm to hide his own crushing sorrow. Slowly, Trip and T'Pol became aware of his presence. They looked up in tandem, their eyes reflecting a sadness that seemed to go on forever.
"It's no longer necessary for Elizabeth to remain isolated," Phlox said. "I thought you might like to hold her."
He saw Trip swallow hard, understanding the meaning behind the kindhearted offer. T'Pol nodded mutely, with a yearning that wrenched at Phlox's heart.
As Trip pulled a chair over and eased T'Pol into it, Phlox unsealed the chamber. He carefully lifted the sleeping child up, hugging her...holding her for an extra moment, knowing it would be the last time. Then he placed her in T'Pol's waiting arms and silently retreated to the other end of Sickbay.
Archer was still there, half-hidden in the shadowy dimness, standing watch over his two closest friends as they stood vigil over their dying daughter. He had never felt so powerless. He lowered his eyes, unwilling to intrude on such an intimate sorrow...feeling his heart breaking for Trip, for T'Pol, and for this innocent child who had been created only to die.
Trip sat cross-legged on the floor, his face centimeters away from Elizabeth's. As T'Pol gently rocked her, Trip reached up to stroke the baby's soft cheek. He studied her face, peaceful in sleep. She was so beautiful. He wanted to memorize every detail, so he would never forget.
"Does she know who we are?" he asked T'Pol. "That we're here?"
T'Pol nodded as she rocked Elizabeth back and forth, back and forth. "She senses us."
Trip could feel the sting of tears behind his eyes. It felt both wonderful, and achingly sad, to find Elizabeth now, to know her, only to lose her again. "I wish we could talk to her...tell her she's loved."
T'Pol regarded her daughter thoughtfully for a long moment. She looked hopeful for the first time in...how long had it been since Phlox told them he wouldn't be able to save the baby? Forever? For the first time in forever. "Perhaps we can."
Setting the chair aside, T'Pol sat on the floor, facing Trip, carefully settling Elizabeth in the crook of his uninjured arm. Trip cuddled the sleeping child to him, wondering what T'Pol was up to. His breath caught in his throat as he saw her touch her fingers lightly to the baby's face, finding the contact points. Then he flinched in surprise as T'Pol touched her other hand to his face in the same manner.
"Captain," Phlox said softly. Archer looked up to see T'Pol preparing to mind-meld with both Trip and the child. This would be her first attempt at melding since her problematic episode with Hoshi; she had wanted to wait until her technique improved. She'd been studying with Soval since Enterprise returned to port. Archer held his breath, hoping for her, for all three of them.
"What do I do?" Trip asked her.
"Relax," T'Pol said. "Open your mind. When you feel my presence, let me in."
Trip nodded, trusting her. He shut his eyes, focusing on her low voice. "My mind to your mind...my thoughts to your thoughts..."
He felt her, barely a whisper, easing into the corners of his mind like a warm breeze, growing stronger, more resonant. He recognized the calm, steady sweetness that was T'Pol...and beneath it, an undercurrent of heartache that mirrored his own.
"Our minds are merging..." T'Pol felt Trip's presence, strong and caring, reaching out to her, seeking to comfort and be comforted, longing to complete the connection.
"...Our minds are one." Trip didn't realize he'd spoken the words with her until he heard his voice in concert with hers.
Can you hear me? It was T'Pol's voice again—but this time, coming from inside his mind.
Yes, he replied. He could see her now, with his mind's eye. She was a shifting, quicksilver image, unmistakably T'Pol, but her face was open, unguarded, filled with tenderness and sorrow. I can see you, he told her.
T'Pol's mind-image of Trip was much the same as the countenance he showed the physical world, but his innate compassion gave him a shimmering glow. His blue eyes shone with love and anguish. And I you.
Elizabeth? he asked anxiously, hopefully. Is she—
She is here, T'Pol answered.
Trip felt the wisp of another consciousness in his mind, feather-light, like a butterfly. It flitted through his memories, like a child turning pages in a picture-book—
—And suddenly, he and T'Pol were standing in a sunlit meadow humming with bees and birdsong. He remembered coming to this place one summer with Grandpa Charles. The air here was different, though, clear as crystal with...innocence was the only word that fit. It bathed the meadow like a morning dewfall, giving everything a dreamlike sheen that felt rejuvenating, somehow. Trip breathed it in, tasted it. It was light and sweet, like a sugary confection that melted on his tongue, and he knew the source was—
Elizabeth. She was making her way toward them through the flower-dotted expanse of green dreamland, picking buttercups as she went. A petite, elfin beauty, she looked about four or five to him, with gracefully pointed ears, waist-long blond hair, and dancing blue eyes.
He and T'Pol both sensed it together. There was a serenity about this child, a purity of spirit that surrounded her like an aura. She was nothing like the monsters who had made her. She was untainted.
She saw T'Pol first. Though her face remained a perfect miniature portrait of Vulcan equanimity, her eyes warmed with gladness. "Greetings, Mother," she said, with a calm formality that Trip found charming.
T'Pol, following her daughter's example, maintained a placid demeanor, though Trip could feel her mingled affection and melancholy. "Elizabeth," she said in acknowledgment, matching the child's tone. "It is agreeable to see you."
As soon as Elizabeth saw Trip, she blossomed, a smile lighting her face like a beacon. "Daddy!" She launched herself at him, and he caught her up in his arms, hugging her close. He reveled in the feel of her arms around his neck, her sweet breath on his cheek, her unfettered joy enfolding him as snugly as her embrace.
As she pulled back to look at him, distress shadowed her fair features. She took his face in her tiny hands. "Mother, why is Daddy crying?"
Trip hadn't even realized. "He is glad to see you," T'Pol replied.
Elizabeth studied Trip's tear-stained cheeks in wonder. "These are happy tears?"
"Yes, honey," he said, his voice thick with emotion. "Happy tears." He kissed the tip of her button nose. "You know how I get when my little girl smiles at me. I'm just a big ol' softy."
Sure enough, another smile crept onto the girl's face, just wide enough to show the dimples in her cheeks. Trip gasped softly as he recognized that impish smile. It reminded him of—
"Lorian!" he exclaimed, turning to T'Pol. "She has Lorian's smile."
"Who's Lorian?" asked Elizabeth.
Trip felt a pang of sadness from T'Pol...an old pain, grown fainter with age, but not forgotten. "Lorian is your brother," she said.
"Where is he?" the child asked eagerly, her blue eyes bright with curiosity. "With you?"
Trip set her down. "He's always with us, just like you are," he said, even as he felt a stab of loss, thinking of Lorian. "I expect you'll be seeing him soon enough."
Elizabeth took each of them by the hand, and they strolled together through the clover. She had a warm glow to her now, as if she were shimmering with an inner light. "I'm glad you came," she said.
Trip felt his throat tightening. He knew it was almost time. "Elizabeth...I love you, sweetheart. I wanted to tell you."
She gave him a look of playful reproach. "I know already, Daddy." She tugged on his hand, and he leaned down low enough for her to kiss him lightly on the cheek. "I love you, too."
They continued their saunter through the meadow, Elizabeth idly swinging her hands back and forth as she held theirs, a contented half-smile on her lips. T'Pol had to muster every bit of control at her disposal to keep her voice even. "I cherish you as well, Elizabeth."
The child looked up, her expression tranquil. "And I you, Mother." She was shining much more brightly now, looking like a pixie-cute faerie from an enchanted forest, leaving a trail of light in her wake. "When will I see you again?" she asked them.
"We cannot say with certainty," T'Pol replied. "However, you need not see us to know that we are with you."
"You'll always be with us, Elizabeth." Trip kissed the blond faerie's luminous hand, and she beamed happily.
They held tight to Elizabeth's hands as she grew brighter, brighter, until her radiance was so pure and blinding that they couldn't look at her any longer. Then she was gone, and Trip and T'Pol were alone, clinging to each other.
Trip collapsed to his knees, unleashing his grief at last...weeping for the child they had lost, and the daughter they would never know, except for this tiny glimpse, here in the dreamland. T'Pol cradled him in her arms, her sorrow mingling with his as they were enveloped in darkness.
- - -
Archer saw tears rolling down Trip's composed face. Then T'Pol's hand slipped away from the baby, and Archer knew that she was gone.
T'Pol and Trip remained in the meld for a moment longer, before T'Pol slowly removed her hand from his cheek. He blinked back to awareness, his eyes meeting hers, and a single sob escaped him. With infinite tenderness, she wiped his tears away.
Trip's gaze dropped, to Elizabeth. Her face was utterly serene. He leaned down and touched his lips to her forehead, kissing her good-bye. T'Pol lifted one tiny hand with her finger, her face reflecting a grace that made her seem more beautiful, even in her grief.
Trip looked up, catching Archer's eye. The captain was across the room in a heartbeat, kneeling beside his friends. He saw pain in their eyes, but also a kind of peace. His voice trembled with shared loss as he asked, "Did you see her?"
Trip, swallowing tears, didn't trust himself to speak yet. T'Pol replied, still holding the baby's hand. "Yes. We spoke with her."
Archer's eyes glistened with unshed tears of his own. "What was she like?" he asked softly.
Trip heard T'Pol's answer in his mind, echoing through the bond as clearly as if she were whispering in his ear. It was the same as his own reply. He smiled at Archer, even as fresh tears began to fall. "She was happy."