Disclaimer: The usual. Suing is not logical since I own nothing ... not even hopes and dreams.
Genre: Friendship, Episode Addition (Cogenitor)
A/N: Wow ... I'd forgotten that I even wrote this until I found it on my hard drive, particularly since I don't much like Archer in Cogenitor ('cause he's a damned hypocrite.) Anyway...
Dinner was horribly awkward.
Trip said little, made only the slightest attempts to make conversation, and seemed more interested in eating and getting out of the Captain's Mess than anything else, including tasting his food. He kept his eyes glued to his plate and made eye contact only when absolutely necessary. Everything about him was subdued, from his physical mannerisms to the hunched-over way that he sat, and Jon realized how much he missed the old Trip Tucker.
Though she concealed it behind her usual veneer of Vulcan dispassion, T'Pol was clearly concerned about the engineer and, in her own way, sought to ease the strained atmosphere. For her, she was positively vociferous, speaking more in the hour and a half than Jon remembered her saying in the last week. Although her attempts to begin conversation usually fell flat, she continued to make the effort and Jon half-heartedly joined in. Trip barely noticed, lost in the miasma of guilt that had surrounded him since the Vissian incident nearly a month ago and hardly seemed aware of the unnecessary physical contact T'Pol made no less than six times.
Jon had counted.
For his part, Archer squirmed in uncomfortable silence, trying to come up with a way to get his old friend to open up, to stop blaming himself for the Cogenitor's suicide. He sure as hell hadn't helped much when he had snapped at Trip and his own guilt over his reaction twisted and snarled in his gut. As he discreetly observed T'Pol's attempts to draw Tucker into one of their famous arguments, Jon wondered how he could have misread the situation as badly as he had.
Trip was up and heading for the door as soon as the meal ended, muttering some excuse about being needed in Engineering, and T'Pol's surprisingly expressive eyes followed him the entire way. How did I miss this? Jon asked himself as he watched her watch him. How did I miss how close they've become? As soon as the door slid shut behind Trip, she began to ready herself for departure but Archer spoke before she could stand.
"Doctor Phlox informs me you've been counseling Trip," he said, his eyes betraying nothing. She quirked an eyebrow as she nodded.
"It seemed a logical decision to avoid such ... incidents in the future." She paused, gave him a measuring look. "Do you wish me to terminate these sessions?" Nothing about her revealed her thoughts but Jon had known here long enough to realize that she was hoping he wouldn't say yes. Damn, I really read her wrong, he thought glumly to himself and firmly suppressed uncomfortable memories about an awkward conversation in sickbay.
"On the contrary," he replied, sipping his coffee. "I'd like to make them semi-official." Her eyebrow did climb then, the only evidence of her surprise. "I think that both Starfleet and Vulcan High Command will breathe a little easier knowing you're advising Trip on interspecies relations." Too late, Jon heard the double entendre in his words and very nearly flinched but she seemed to not notice.
"What sort of progress reports will you require?" she asked, every millimeter the professional but, now that he knew what to look for, Archer could see her relief that he wasn't telling her to stop.
"I said 'semi-professional', Subcommander," he replied with a soft smile. "I don't want this to go on his official record." He hesitated for a moment before plunging on. "How's he doing?" he asked softly. Again, she gave him that measuring look and, for once, he knew what she was thinking. "I'm not asking as the captain," he said, "but as his friend." Up the eyebrow went again.
"Then, as his friend, perhaps you should ask him, Captain."
"Trip doesn't talk to me much anymore," Archer pointed out, his tone sad. He shrugged. "My fault, I guess. I came down on him pretty hard." She frowned, wordlessly reminding him that Trip hadn't been the one who ordered the Cogenitor back to the Vissians, hadn't been the one who refused its request for asylum. "You're the only one he really talks to anymore." Her eyes darted away and he realized she was slightly uncomfortable with the intimation of her closeness with Trip; it was almost amusing. "So, how is he?"
"Commander Tucker still experiences considerable remorse for the Cogenitor's suicide," she stated calmly in a remarkably cool voice. "He continues to blame himself for its death and his ... guilt is affecting his sleep patterns." T'Pol paused, studied Archer with narrowed eyes, and he realized she was determining how much to tell him. Jon wondered when he had become the enemy; was it when he became The Captain? "I have also noticed," T'Pol said slowly, carefully, "that Commander Tucker has recently become less concerned about his personal safety than he should be."
"Are you saying he's suicidal?" He couldn't believe that, couldn't imagine someone as full of life as Trip not caring about dying.
"No, Captain; he is not self-destructive merely ... less cautious than before." She almost - almost - frowned. "I have spoken with Doctor Phlox regarding this behavior and he informed me that it is not uncommon among humans suffering from extreme guilt." Jon nodded; he'd seen it before.
"He sees the pain as something he deserves," he commented, his eyes distant, his mood black. How could he have screwed this up so bad? "It's a form of penance, I guess."
"That is not logical," T'Pol nearly snapped. She was as close to anger as he'd ever seen her.
"No it's not," he replied, "but it is human." She gave him a sour look. "I need you to keep an eye on him, Subcommander. Not as the First Officer, but as his friend." Had she been human, T'Pol would have been squirming in her seat.
"I do not think that I am qualified for that, Captain." Her tone betrayed her anxiety and Jon wondered why she was suddenly anxious. Is it because I called her Trip's friend? "Surely you or Lieutenant Reed would be better suited." Archer shook his head.
"Trip doesn't want to talk to me right now," Jon reminded her. "And he's been avoiding Malcolm nearly as much as me." He finished his coffee and gave her a soft smile. "He trusts you, T'Pol, and he really needs a friend." Once more, she looked away and an awkward silence descended upon the small room. Jon wasn't sure, but he almost thought that the tips of her ears had darkened slightly. Amusement began to swell within him, washing away any discomfort that he had experienced.
"I will speak with him, Captain." She stood abruptly, once more appearing to be the professional that he had grown to respect in the last two years. "If there is nothing else..."
"No, that's it. Thank you. Have a good night, Subcommander." Archer watched her march stiffly through the door as he finished his coffee. The moment that the door slid shut, he sighed and glanced out the viewport, once more feeling the crushing weight of command bearing down on his shoulders. A rueful smile crossed his lips as he considered the conversation that he had just had and what the likely result would be.
She'll badger him until he opens up.
It was a good thing that Trip had so many good friends.