Warning: Major character death
Disclaimer: Star Trek and its characters are CBS/Paramount's, not mine.
Summary: When their attempt to have a child is interrupted by fate, how will she go on?
Author's Note: I wrote this to answer two questions for myself: Is it possible to write a hard-nosed death fic with a happy ending? And can you 'fix' TATV without breaking canon? I also enjoyed meeting up again with the extended Tucker family from Commander Tucker Proposes. This can serve as a sequel to that, but I'm not positive it's the only one. (Someday I might want to do a NotDead! version.)
Many thanks as always to my beta JustTripn (more about that at the end.)
Phlox arrived at Commander T'Pol's door with a great deal of curiosity. It had been a long time since she had requested a private appointment in her quarters.
Not entirely to his surprise, when the door opened to admit him, he found Commander Tucker there as well. While any relationship between these two was being conducted 'under the radar,' as the Humans put it, it was obvious to him that they were a couple, particularly whenever the rigors of this war landed either of them in his sickbay.
"You said you wanted to discuss something with me?" he prompted the Vulcan.
T'Pol opened her mouth, then suddenly looked uncomfortable and turned to Tucker.
"Um, well, Doc, here's the thing." Tucker squared his shoulders. "With the war winding down at last, hopefully, we wanted to talk to you about…" He shifted uncomfortably, glancing again at T'Pol. "You and I talked about this before, you know, back when…" His eyes widened and he stopped abruptly.
T'Pol said, "We wish to know how a Human and a Vulcan might attempt to have a healthy child, if they were to choose to do so."
She had put the very faintest emphasis on the word healthy.
Phlox marveled at this proof of the resilience of life, something he'd begun to doubt occasionally as the body count had mounted over the last couple of years. "Well," he said. "Assuming you prefer as natural a process as possible, the obvious way to start would be with in vitro fertilization. We'd need to do some genetic manipulation prior to implantation to make sure the child could be safely carried by T'Pol. And, of course, before that, we'd need to bring you into an egg cycle, Commander." He coughed slightly. "Which would require…"
T'Pol frowned slightly and supplied the end of the sentence: "Pon farr."
"Yes. I'm told it can be fairly easily initiated with a simple hormonal regimen, but this is perhaps not something you'd want to experience aboard ship. Do you have some time free during the upcoming leave? I have a colleague in San Francisco who specializes in this area."
"Your colleague is familiar with the Vulcan reproductive cycle?"
"My colleague is Vulcan."
T'Pol exchanged a quick look with Tucker. "She will disapprove."
"I don't think so," Phlox said quickly. "She was most helpful and sympathetic when I was trying to help Elizabeth. She also evidenced a great deal of scientific curiosity about the process Terra Prime had used. She was actually the one who told me there was no reason it couldn't work, if done properly."
T'Pol and Tucker regarded each other. Not for the first time, Phlox got a spooky feeling that something more was going on between them than he knew. Perhaps they were just very much in tune with each other. "Doc," Tucker said. "This was really an informational question more than anything. We're just exploring the idea. After all, until the war is officially over, we're not sure that actually getting pregnant is such a great idea. We could be called back into battle at any moment."
"Well, embryos can be created and stored for use as needed. If I were you, I wouldn't put off getting started. It could be that this will require some fine tuning to work correctly."
This time the glance between Tucker and T'Pol was bleaker. "I'm sorry I can't guarantee you instant success," Phlox said. "But Malon is the one who told me it should be possible. Let me set up an initial consultation with her, and then if she agrees that T'Pol is a good candidate for the procedure, you will have to decide whether to proceed."
"And me?" Tucker said, turning red. "Won't I need to…?"
"Starfleet maintains a bank of the necessary material, as you might recall, Commander. With all the potential exposure to radiation in space, it's a routine precaution. We could simply draw on that."
Tucker scowled. "Wouldn't that be like we're making a baby between T'Pol now and me back before I even knew her?"
"What an interesting way of looking at it," Phlox said, amused. "However, it's your genetic material, and any baby that results certainly won't know the difference. To be perfectly frank, after some of your radiation exposures in recent years, the material in storage is likely to have far fewer defects than anything you could produce for us now."
Tucker's face clouded. "How do we know that stock hasn't been tampered with? Terra Prime was able to get their hands on our genetic material."
"We believe that was Ensign Masaro's work on board, and they were working from tissue samples, not reproductive material. Also, Starfleet's facility is much more secure."
Tucker still looked displeased. "So, what does that mean? I'm just gonna be holding T'Pol's hand?"
Phlox turned to T'Pol. "Does he have any idea what pon farr involves?"
T'Pol frowned. "Perhaps not."
"Believe me, Commander," Phlox said. "You'll have your hands full, one way or the other. Even more so if we're going to try to harvest eggs from a Vulcan in the flush of her cycle. I'll have to ask my Vulcan colleague how one manages that safely."
"Safely?" Tucker said.
"I'll explain later," T'Pol said quickly.
"So do I have your permission to start setting this up?" Phlox said.
The Human and the Vulcan stared at each other for a long moment.
"Yes," they said together.
Then Tucker grinned. T'Pol looked as impassive as ever, but she had pulled her shoulders back in what Phlox the exo-biologist interpreted as a display of prime feminine assets aimed squarely at the engineer.
Phlox smiled. This war had been terrible. In truth, for months now he had longed to escape to the domestic chaos but relative peace of Denobula. Only his loyalty to this crew and his knowledge that Starfleet lacked enough trained doctors was keeping him here.
But recently the war had seemed to be winding down; it was widely rumored that negotiations for peace had begun.
It would be so nice to leave Enterprise behind on a hopeful note.
x x x
"You know," Trip said. "I'm kind of glad Phlox has handed us off to another doctor. Not that I don't appreciate all he's done for us, but sometimes his curiosity about things can be a little…"
His bond mate didn't look up from the Padd she was reviewing as they waited in one of Dr. Malon's small examining rooms. "Unseemly?"
He smiled. "I was going to say 'off-putting'. But yeah, that too. Denobulans seem awfully open and curious about matters the rest of us prefer to keep a little private."
"Perhaps it's just Phlox."
"His wife wasn't shy about it either. " He glanced down at T'Pol, who still intent on whatever report she was reading. "She sure made it clear to me that she wanted a taste of whatever I had to offer."
T'Pol's head came up quickly, as he had known it would. "When was this?"
"Oh, long before we got involved," he said, nonchalantly. "When she helped us install that new medical equipment, that time. Didn't you meet her?"
T'Pol's face had darkened. "Did you…?"
He knew it was wrong of him, but he just loved how possessive she could get. "No, of course not. She was a married woman. Though she and Phlox both seemed to think that was a very silly attitude on my part."
"Apparently Denobulans do not take conjugal bonds as seriously as Vulcans do."
He knew it was intentional that she hadn't mentioned Humans. If T'Pol had one great fear in their relationship, it was that someday Trip would tire of her, as she insisted Humans were often known to do. He spent a lot of time reassuring her, but he had also discovered that the occasional unavoidable spark of interest from someone else could actually be a good thing for their relationship. Which perhaps explained why he'd brought up Feezel in the first place, he realized, and suppressed a little smirk. "Well," he said, "When you already have three spouses, and they all have three spouses too, maybe adding a little more on the side doesn't seem like such a big step." He took her hand. Enough torturing of his insecure Vulcan mate for one afternoon. "You know you don't have to worry about me."
She gave him a long hard stare before she admitted, "Yes. Yet you do seem to take great delight in engendering other women's interest."
"Hey, it's just good to know I can still get a little attention coming my way. That's all."
"I fear you will have all too much attention coming your way soon," T'Pol said grimly. Trip knew she was anxious about the prospect of pon farr with a Human mate. She worried about his safety and his endurance and that he would be disgusted with her out-of-control behavior. She also was concerned about what her temporary neighbors in Starfleet housing might think. Trip had a few concerns about that himself, actually. They had been sternly instructed to maintain the fiction that they weren't even involved anymore. They could hardly pretend to be casual friends and crewmates if they were shagging each other in a feral frenzy for three days in a row in the same apartment right on base. People would talk.
Of course, it would have been even harder to keep it secret on Enterprise.
There was a soft knock on the door and the doctor entered. She was an older Vulcan woman who appeared to think it was a given that they should have children. When T'Pol had attempted to raise the ethical issues of creating a hybrid child with her, she had tilted her head curiously and said, "What logic is there in coming to me if you have any doubt that you should become parents?" Trip had liked her immediately; T'Pol, on the other hand, still seemed ambivalent about the doctor. But then she also still seemed ambivalent about what they were doing. She continually reminded Trip that this was merely the first stage of many they would have to complete and that they might never get to the final one.
"Why are you being such a killjoy about this?" he'd asked her one night, recently.
"I remember what my mother said," she'd finally confessed. "That I should imagine the shame our children would endure."
"She said that? But your mother would have loved our kids," Trip had said. "I have no doubt of that."
"I tend to agree. But she won't have the opportunity to show us that now."
"Then just take it on faith, darlin'," he'd said, taking her hand. "Sometimes that's all you can do."
Not bothering with a preliminary greeting, the Vulcan physician handed Trip a hypospray kit. "You should administer one injection in T'Pol's gluteus maximus at precisely 8am every morning for six mornings, starting tomorrow. Meanwhile, pack your bags and get your affairs in order, because the seventh hypospray will be here Friday morning at 0800. Neither of you will be in any state to travel after that. If all goes well, you'll be able to return to your regular lives Monday morning."
"We're doing it here?" Trip said, startled.
"Where else would one do it?"
"We assumed this would be conducted in the privacy of our own quarters," T'Pol said.
Malon stared at the younger woman for a moment. "T'Pol, you are truly remarkably uninformed about such matters; your mother must have died before she could explain. Most Vulcans take care of this away from home. It's much easier on any family, as well as the furniture. And of course in a situation like this we will need to take extra precautions to protect your mate."
"Like what?" Trip said. He couldn't help but feel a little insulted. T'Pol had Vulcan strength, but she was also a lot smaller than him. In his opinion it tended to even things out.
"We find that the selective use of restraints and, if necessary, tranquilizers, can make the experience much safer."
Restraints? "I'm not sure I like the sound of that," Trip said.
"You do share a mating bond, don't you?"
"By the time you've given her that final hypospray, I assure you that you will have no objections." The doctor raised an amused eyebrow.
"So, um… who gets restrained?" Please, let it not be him.
"We have found that restraining the female works better, at least at the early stages. It's the pursuit that engenders injuries and trauma, not the mating. Also, we require safe access ourselves if we are to harvest eggs. A female in pon farr is not particularly receptive to medical procedures."
Trip shared a dubious look with T'Pol. He had always appreciated her very active role in their lovemaking, and he'd never been into anything particularly kinky. But if this was what it was going to take…
"Then we will see you Friday morning at 0800," T'Pol said to the doctor. The look she threw Trip was unreadable, but he could feel her relief. Apparently she'd really been worried that she might break his neck.
He could also feel an odd twinge of excitement from her, and that surprised him.
x x x
Malon knew there was no logic in preferring some patients to others, but she couldn't help developing a special interest in her first Vulcan/Human couple.
First of all, of course, they presented a fascinating genetic puzzle to solve. She had been interested in their case ever since she had first assisted Dr. Phlox in determining what had gone wrong with the infant daughter Terra Prime had created. Phlox had contacted her even before the child died, hoping for any information that might help.
"This is very difficult for her parents," he had added. "They are quite attached to her already. They are also very attached to each other, so you should know that if this child lives she will have a loving family to care for her."
Regrettably, she had been of no help to Elizabeth Tucker. However, she had felt confident she could prevent the same issues from arising again.
She and her staff tried to provide as much privacy as possible for the couples enduring pon farr together at their facility, but it was nonetheless necessary to monitor the proceedings closely enough to know that the subjects were fulfilling their purpose there, and also to confirm that they were safe. Some couples merely went through a natural pon farr together and were able to conceive; others required further intervention, which usually meant harvesting eggs and sperm. Executing that correctly required even more careful observation and timing. Since Tucker was their first Human male, Malon was relieved that they would not need to harvest from him but could use material Starfleet Medical had provided. They had no idea what to expect in his case, though Malon feared that Human sexual stamina -- which was geared to more frequent but much less intense periods of mating -- would prove problematic.
And indeed, over that first day Tucker did prove that Humans had generally shorter periods of arousal and required a great deal more recovery time than Vulcan males in the throes of the blood fever. However, she was fascinated to see how he compensated for this in a variety of ways that kept his mate extremely well satisfied. She did not think she had ever seen a female so thoroughly enjoy the experience of pon farr as Commander T'Pol appeared to do with her Human mate.
The differences were perhaps even more pronounced in the later stages, as the fever cooled and the restraints could be safely discarded. This couple spent a great deal of the time they were awake in continued affectionate contact, whereas a Vulcan couple would typically begin to re-establish some distance. Malon wondered that T'Pol did not find such constant companionship oppressive, but in fact she appeared to be very relaxed and contented.
Tucker was also different from the average Vulcan when they went in to harvest eggs from T'Pol, in that he did not make any attempt to kill them. They had gassed them both with a sedative as a precaution, of course, but Tucker, who had retained some consciousness, didn't even attempt to threaten violence. On the contrary, he just yawned and muttered, "Thanks, Doc. We appreciate your help."
"I thought Humans were more naturally disposed to violence than we are," one of her younger staff members said afterwards, in apparent bemusement.
"Humans are said to find sex relaxing," Malon said. "Perhaps they exhibit most of their violent tendencies outside of sex, while Vulcans do the reverse."
"This has certainly been a most unusual case," the staff member said, with just the slightest flush of bronze across her cheeks.
"Indeed," Malon agreed. "It has been quite stimulating."
Five Years Later
"Shran! I thought you were dead," Jon said.
The Andorian face on the view screen grinned. "Reports of my death were greatly exaggerated. I've been working undercover."
"Not that I'm not thrilled to see that you're still with us, but what the hell are you doing here?"
"I'd prefer to discuss that in person, Captain."
Jon met him at the airlock. Shran engaged in his usual distinctive blend of bragging and bonhomie until they got to Jon's ready room. That's when the Andorian leaned in, pointing one pale blue finger in Jon's face, and said, "I'm here to tell you that if you pink skins think you can keep that cloaking device all to yourself after all the Andorian blood that has been shed in this war, you're insane!"
Jon sighed and sat down in his chair. Who else knew about this? Of course, Shran had also been known to bluff. "I don't know what you're talking about."
Shran shoved an Andorian Padd under his nose; there was their transaction on Rigel 10, for all to see.
Damn it. So much for a clean getaway. "We haven't even had time to try to take the device apart yet. You can be sure that your government would have received the full report in due time."
"It's how you define 'in due time' that has us worried. Besides, the sooner the Romulans know we have a working cloaking device, the better the current negotiations will go."
"You're getting ahead of yourself. We just took delivery yesterday. We're still just running scans on it. We're not even sure we'll be able to figure out anything about it. This is not the first time we've had a piece of Romulan hardware in our hands. This stuff has a bad habit of blowing up."
"I'd like to see it."
"Humor me, Archer. If I'm not mistaken, you want Andoria's signature on the charter this week."
Jon scowled and bowed to the inevitable. Shran wouldn't be satisfied until he saw what he had come to see. Besides, the sooner his tactical officer knew about the new situation, the better.
He left a clearly curious T'Pol in charge of the bridge and escorted Shran to the lab they'd set up for potentially explosive work. Over their objections, he'd made Trip and Malcolm swear that they wouldn't try anything more intrusive than some scans; Jon wanted to hand this particular high-risk job over to Starfleet.
The engineer and the tactical officer were both intently studying a screen when they walked in. Trip looked tired and unshaven, but keenly interested in what he was doing. Reed had made time to shave, as always, but he looked tired too. Then he saw Shran, and what color he'd had in his face drained clear away.
"Shran! We thought you were dead!" Trip was clearly pleased, if wary.
"Not yet, old friend," Shran said. He immediately moved to the device. "So it's the real thing?"
Tucker and Reed both looked at Archer, who nodded. "It's certainly armed to self-destruct like the real thing," Trip said.
Shran pulled back the hand he'd been reaching forward. "Romulans are irritatingly consistent."
"Mmm," Reed agreed. "How did you find out about this?"
"We have our sources."
Shran said, "Andoria has labs that are much better-geared to work like this."
Archer snorted, "So does Earth and it's a hell of a lot closer than Andoria. Please don't even think of trying to steal it from us. I don't need to tell you that getting this to a safe location is our number one priority right now."
Shran stared at him for a moment, his antennae stiff, then relaxed. "Agreed. Just let me come along for the ride and Andoria will have no objection at all."
"Perhaps you'd care to join us for some breakfast?" Archer suggested. He threw a meaningful glance at Reed, who was already getting up to join them. They needed to find out more about these sources. "Take a break, Trip," Archer added. "You must be hungry."
"I'm right in the middle of a scan," Trip said. "I'll join you when I'm done. Tell Chef I'm counting on some bacon."
Archer smirked. He knew T'Pol didn't approve of Trip's carnivorous tendencies, though she had stopped short of forbidding meat, perhaps because there was no way Trip would ever stand for that. Still, his friend tended to load up on what even he now called 'the bad stuff' when his significant other wasn't around. "I'll pass along the message," he said.
"Thanks," Trip said, and grinned mischievously.
In the captain's mess, Archer gave the steward Trip's message and was just greeting a hot platter of eggs Benedict when the com sounded. "Captain," T'Pol said, her voice tight. "Lt. Sato reports an unidentified incoming transmission."
That was when they all felt the explosion.
x x x
He was dead.
He'd never stand there just inside a doorway again, grinning with delight that they'd managed to get some time alone together. He'd never bury his nose in her neck and start nuzzling the point of her ear while one hand was already working on the zipper of her catsuit. He'd never nag her to try just a little piece of pie or a sip of hot chocolate. He'd never be that whisper in the back of her mind when they were on opposite ends of the ship and he just wanted to check in.
He'd never do anything ever again.
She had to keep telling herself this, because despite all the losses in her life, this one still hadn't taken on the quality of fact. A week had passed and she still expected to see him at every turn in a corridor; she expected to hear his voice in every crowd; she could practically feel his touch on her arm. When she rolled over at night she was still startled that he was not there. She did not feel him in her mind, but there were moments that felt as if she was surely about to, moments when normally he would be there, softly probing. But there was nothing.
Not even the memorial service, with its tearful remembrances from his friends and family, with the awkward Human hugs and handshakes and the countless condolences, could break her from her stunned disbelief that he was simply gone.
Perhaps it was the lack of a body to mourn over. Phlox had managed to recover bits of Trip's DNA off some of the recovered wreckage, but the explosion had blown out the outer hull and obliterated anything recognizable, except for a half-melted rank pip they had found and given her.
Perhaps it was the inanity of the cover story Starfleet was telling? They didn't want to admit that Enterprise had been in possession of a Romulan cloaking device, however briefly. It was even worse that the Romulans had managed to destroy the device -- and Trip with it -- well within Federation territory, less than a day from Earth. So they needed another explanation for a dead engineer and a hole blown in the hull of their flagship. In her opinion the one they had come up with made Trip and the entire crew look incompetent, but since the new feeds all appeared to agree that Trip had died a hero's death of intentional self-sacrifice, Humans apparently approved of idiotic suicidal impulses.
Of course, that wasn't the only thing Starfleet insisted on covering up. The memorial service had been a particularly strange affair, with everyone who spoke making strong if veiled references to the close and enduring 'friendship' between her and the Human engineer -- enough that the half of the audience that didn't know why was probably wondering why everyone else was so fixated on it. Luckily Trip's immediate family understood the need for discretion.
Even in her dazed state of numb disbelief she could see that the captain was having difficulties. Like her, he despised the cover story Starfleet had created. He had told her that he didn't like not being able to properly honor her as his friend's widow, and that he felt personally responsible that Trip had died like that, so close to home. What's more, he'd still had to deliver his speech and stay available to keep the conference running smoothly. Or perhaps those obligations were actually helping Archer, because Reed, who currently had nothing to do but debriefings, looked even worse. He was clearly being tortured by his usual strong feelings of remorse whenever they lost any crewmen, no doubt magnified in this case because Trip had been a close friend and Reed had been the one to set up their recent purchase.
T'Pol knew that Trip would not have wanted his friends to be in such pain. He would have tried his best to 'cheer them up.' However, she could not even begin to turn her attention to helping them. It was taking all her energy simply to get up each morning, put on clothes, and attempt to function.
Phlox had told her that Trip would want her to move on and have a happy life. Yes, Trip would, but Trip wasn't Vulcan. Trip didn't understand. No Human could fully appreciate what the loss of a mate meant to a Vulcan. The best she could hope for now was to serve some purpose that would keep her busy and useful until death finally embraced her. At the moment, in fact, she was immensely grateful to be a member of a military organization that would tell her what to do each day. She wanted more debriefing sessions, not fewer; she dreaded any unstructured time.
"You wanted to see me?" she asked Phlox. She knew the doctor was concerned that she had been losing weight, so she had begun to force herself to eat at regular intervals. This, too, filled up time and was therefore something she welcomed even though she found all food completely unappealing.
Enterprise's crew was all on base now, about to disperse to their varied new assignments, so Phlox had moved his practice to Starfleet Medical. His long-postponed return home to Denobula was only a couple of weeks away. He could have simply handed them off, but then Phlox had never been efficient in such matters.
"Ah, Commander," he said. "Yes. Thank you for coming. I received a package from Malon this morning."
T'Pol stiffened. She and Trip had successfully conceived three embryos with Malon's help five years earlier. They had been frozen in storage ever since. In the intervening years, classified skirmishes with the Romulans had continued, even as negotiations had dragged on. The time had never seemed right to leave Enterprise and start a family, but they had been talking about it more seriously with the decommissioning at hand. Trip had been particularly excited about that cloaking device. "We get our hands on that, and the Romulans will know for certain that we're unbeatable," he said. "We won't have to worry about them for generations. Our kids will be safe. Not to mention I'd really like to know how those damned things work."
He'd never learn how now. His death had been instantaneous. He had never even realized that the device's self-destruct mechanism had activated, for there had been nothing from him but curiosity -- why was she suddenly on guard?
In the aftermath of the explosion, she'd had a sense of something brushing past her, almost a ghostly caress. But she might have imagined it. In any case, it had been brief and it hadn't been repeated.
"Is she returning the embryos now that we will no longer require them?" T'Pol asked. It struck her as somewhat brutal to move so quickly. But then Vulcans were nothing if not efficient.
"No, that's not it. I believe you were each asked to specify your wishes in the event of your death?" Phlox said.
Oh. Yes. Malon had insisted on it. T'Pol had looked on it as a mere formality; she saw little point in thinking ahead of time about death and Trip was already her sole heir. She remembered she'd recorded, "I wish my husband to do as he desires with these embryos in the event of my death," and left it at that. He told her he had done much the same.
Phlox held up a cartridge. "This is Trip's directive," he said. "Do you wish to view it now or would you rather wait?"
Death required all sorts of rituals; here was yet another one, though surely not one many widows encountered. "I suppose I should do it now," she said.
Phlox showed her to a private viewing room and put the recording in, then left. On the monitor, the Trip of five years ago -- it was odd how young he looked, when she hadn't really noticed him aging at all -- was sitting nervously in a chair in one of the clinic's little rooms. "So you just need this on record?" he said, to someone off camera. "Just as a formality, right?"
Malon's dry voice said, "Correct. Your wishes for the embryos?"
He lowered his head and took a deep breath, then looked up, smiling. "So if you're seeing this, apparently I'm dead, darlin'," he said. "Sorry about that." He licked his lips and gave a nervous little laugh. "Look, you do whatever you want with the little guys. You want to have a baby, you go right ahead. I'd be tickled to think I might still exist at least in some form. But if you don't want to do something like that without me, that's okay too. It's real hard being a single parent. Probably especially in our case." He took a breath, let it out. "But, look, if you do have a baby of ours at some point, please make sure my parents get in some grandma and granddad time. They could really use that. I think any half-Human baby probably could really use it, too. Damn, I really hope it doesn't come to that. I want to be there." He leaned in towards the camera, "You take care of yourself, T'Pol. More than anything, I love you and I want you to be happy. That means you do whatever you need to do. Hey, you can even fall in love with someone else, have babies with someone else, just as long as he treats you right; I won't mind -- because, you know, I'll be dead anyway. Can't beat that logic, right?" He smiled crookedly and winked at her, then shrugged and straightened up. "There. Hopefully she'll never see this. I sure as hell don't ever want to have to see hers."
"It's simply a precaution, Commander," Malon's voice said, and the recording cut off.
T'Pol sat there in the small room, her heart pounding wildly in her chest, wrestling with such an overwhelming feeling of loss that she was gasping; she literally couldn't quite manage to breathe.
"T'Pol?" Phlox's voice came, eventually.
Wheezing, she stared up at him. He was a doctor. Shouldn't he be doing something?
"Ah," Phlox said, and took out his scanner. "You're having a slight… reaction. It will pass, but…" He fished in the pocket of his tunic for a hypospray and fitted something into it. He pressed it against her neck. "Better?" he asked.
T'Pol felt the rush of some sedating chemical spreading liquid calm into her bloodstream. "I don't understand," she said, as she sucked in air. Now she just felt dizzy, and a little nauseated.
"Grief and fear are similar sensations. You've lost your bond mate. You just experienced a panic attack, and don't tell me Vulcans don't panic, because I'm told by a reliable authority that Vulcans who've lost a bond mate often do fall to pieces. You just don't know about it because they generally don't go out in public when they're grieving. I was actually surprised that you handled it as well as you did, when it first happened. Perhaps it's finally sinking in?"
She blinked up at him. "I don't know how I am supposed to live without him."
Phlox smiled sadly. "You'll figure it out eventually. Everybody does. Even Vulcans."
It was true. Her mother had lived on without her father for fifty-two years. "I don't want to 'figure it out.' I want to die."
"Ah. And how do you propose going about that?"
T'Pol looked up at him in surprise.
Phlox grimaced. "I take it you don't have an actual plan for accomplishing this?"
"No." She took in a long breath and released it. "Trip wouldn't want me to."
"No, he wouldn't. I hope you'll remember that. You're just going to have to muddle through somehow. Eventually it won't hurt quite as badly as it does now. But you will always miss him. Anyone who knew him would, I imagine." Phlox's own voice caught. "He was quite a remarkable young man."
Her eyes filled. Her control was in tatters! How was she supposed to function like this? "This is intolerable!" she said.
"Of course it is," Phlox said gently. "It's meant to be."
x x x
Elaine Tucker greeted Jon and T'Pol at the front door with as bright a smile as she could manage to clamp onto her face. "Well, hello, hello! It's so nice to see you both. Come on in. Charlie's teaching this morning but he'll be home soon."
"Mrs. Tucker," Jon said, and gave her the same apologetic smile he'd used on her every other time he'd visited to interrupt a shore leave or to check on Trip when he was recovering from whatever god-forsaken adventure Jon had gotten him into. "It's always a pleasure to see you."
T'Pol said nothing, but then she never had been one for pointless greetings. She had a large box in her hands, and Elaine reminded herself that the Vulcan would have seen no logic in letting Jon play the role of a gentleman and carry it. She'd seen that little struggle play out between her son and his wife often enough, though it seemed to her that Trip usually won. Apparently Jon lacked her son's stubbornness (or excellent training) in such matters.
"Whatcha got there, sweetheart?" she asked. "It looks heavy. Would you like to put it down?"
"It is an accent light Trip fashioned from a diving helmet," T'Pol said. "Given the nautical theme of your décor, I thought you might make better use of it than I could."
"Oh God, that thing?" Elaine chuckled. "He made it in high school and then insisted on lugging it with him everywhere he went."
T'Pol looked uncomfortable. "You don't care for it?"
"No, no, of course I do. We'll find a place for it. Why don't you just put it down in the hall, there? It sure takes me back." Trip had found it in an antique shop on one of his diving trips to Tarpon Springs with a girl -- who was it? Lisa. That's right. His first major crush. Probably his first lover. But she decided not to share that theory with T'Pol. Elaine had once seen her bristle jealously over an old photograph of 17-year-old Trip with his junior prom date.
Elaine got put together a platter of lemonade and cookies and led them to the back porch, since it was a lovely spring day.
"Those azaleas are really something else," Jon said, staring out at the backyard.
"Yes," Elaine said. "Almost obscene, aren't they? I have to admit I find spring a little hard to take after one of my children has died. It feels a bit like a slap in the face. But I suppose it's a sign that life goes on."
T'Pol's eyes widened. Jon, meanwhile, was watching T'Pol with obvious concern. Why were they really here, Elaine wondered? "You didn't come all this way just to bring me a diving helmet, now, did you?" she said. "I'm going to assume there's more to it. If I'm wrong, tell me now."
T'Pol looked up at Archer.
He sighed and gave the Vulcan a slight little smile of encouragement. "T'Pol told me that she regretted not having more time to speak to you both at the memorial service. But she wasn't sure how to approach you now that you are no longer related by marriage. So I suggested that we could pay you a visit together."
"Oh, honey," Elaine said, and patted T'Pol on the shoulder before sitting down next to her. "Don't ever think that you're not related to us anymore. Trip was married to you when he died, so there's no getting out of it now. As far as I'm concerned you're stuck with being our daughter-in-law for the rest of eternity."
A Vulcan eyebrow went up. "I see." T'Pol looked, as she often did, as if she was computing out all the variables. "And if I were to marry again?"
Elaine drew back. Surely she wasn't already thinking of such a thing?
Archer was staring down at the Vulcan with surprise and dismay as well.
T'Pol said, "It's not that I will. Vulcans seldom do. But I am aware that Humans frequently remarry. I was merely curious about the hypothetical status of the relationship in that case."
"Um… well. I don't know, to tell you the truth. But if you're not going to marry again, anyway, it hardly matters." She exchanged a puzzled look with Jon.
"I was merely trying to ascertain the quality of the relationship."
"Like any Human relationship, sweetheart, it pretty much depends on what the people in it bring to it."
T'Pol looked thoughtful. "I have no family left on Vulcan. I suppose I was curious whether I should consider myself to have any family here on Earth."
Elaine looked up at Jon, whose expression was deeply pained. "Well, of course you do, darlin'."
"Your crewmates are your family too, T'Pol," Jon said.
T'Pol tilted her head up at him. "Enterprise's crew has dispersed to new assignments. That 'family' no longer exists."
"Nonsense," Jon said. "As long as we keep in touch with each other, we're family. Of a sort."
T'Pol appeared to consider this for a moment. "While I grant you that I consider many of our crewmates friends, I do not think that I would, for example, assume that I would be welcome to stay at their homes without a formal invitation, or that they would necessarily wish to be notified in the event of an illness or a major life event."
Jon sighed. "Well, you are always welcome to stay with me, and I definitely would like to be notified if you are sick or something. And I believe you may find that would extend to others in the crew, too, so long as you continue to maintain the friendships you have with them. You do have to put some effort in to maintain the relationship."
"You pretty much have to do that with any family," Elaine said, "Although most parents will put up with a great deal of inattention." She turned to T'Pol. "Honey, you are always welcome here. Any time. We are honored to be your family. Please remember that."
"Thank you," T'Pol said softly.
"So what are you both up to?" Elaine asked briskly, changing the subject, if only because her daughter-in-law suddenly looked like she was on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
Jon quickly launched into an enthusiastic and detailed recap of the conference that had just ended. Perhaps he also could also see that T'Pol was barely holding herself together.
Elaine wished she knew someone who could tell her whether this was normal for a Vulcan in mourning. Unfortunately, the one man who probably would have known exactly what to do in this situation was permanently unavailable.
x x x
Charlie Tucker liked his dead son's wife as much as he liked anybody, but that didn't mean he wanted her to practically move in with them.
"I don't understand," he muttered to his wife as he did the dishes after dinner. "Why is she still here?"
"She's taken a leave of absence from Starfleet and she doesn't have anywhere else she particularly wants to be right now," Elaine explained. "It's either here or a hotel. She told you herself."
"And you're okay with this."
Elaine shrugged. "I think she needs us. Anyway, I don't mind the company. We never really got to know her that well before, and I'd like to know just what it was Trip saw in her."
"I can tell you right now what Trip saw in her, but I don't think it's going to do much for you."
Elaine shot him a look. "There was more to it than that, and you know it."
"Brilliant and beautiful. Just like his mom. That's what Trip saw in her. There's no big mystery to it."
"That's ridiculous. I'm not anything like her."
"Argumentative, too," Charlie said. "That's something else that probably appealed to him."
"You're the argumentative one, not me."
"You just keep telling yourself that. I'm just not sure this is going to work. It feels awkward."
"Give it some time. I want to get to know her better. I want to…"
Charlie put down his dishrag and looked over. Elaine had gotten that stubborn look on her face that he recognized all too well as an attempt not to cry.
"What?" he said.
She took a deep breath and got control of herself. "I want to hear anything she can tell us about our boy. It's not like we're ever going to hear any of it from him, now."
x x x
T'Pol sat on the 'glider' on the screened porch behind the Tucker's home and petted the cat that had jumped up next to her. The cat was named Captain Morgan, for reasons neither Elaine nor Charles had explained, and in the week she had stayed with them he had frequently demanded attention in the form of caresses. He would express his pleasure with them by purring loudly and rolling to expose more of his belly. T'Pol had been pleased to discover that cats did not have as strong a smell as dogs did. She also found it oddly soothing to make another creature so happy with so little effort. It reminded her of how grateful Trip had been for their neuropressure sessions in the Expanse.
Once he'd told her, "That feels so good. I wouldn't trade this for anything."
"A warp six engine?" she'd countered.
"You know, you don't take compliments very well."
"You sure have yourself a fan there," Elaine said, coming out with her cup of coffee and a Padd. In the week she had stayed with them, T'Pol had learned that her mother-in-law seldom sat down without having something to read at hand.
"Trip told me that he had a dog when he was a boy."
"Oh, yes, Bedford. Oh my, that dog was a handful. He'd chew anything. Trip and Lizzie really loved him, but after he died I made sure we stuck to cats. Fortunately the kids were pretty much moving on by then anyway, or they might have mutinied."
T'Pol reflected that her husband's family's interest in nautical affairs appeared to extend even into their language and their naming of animals.
"If he's bothering you, just let me know. I'll shoo him away."
"He's not bothering me," T'Pol said, and continued to stroke the animal.
"So physical contact per se doesn't bother you," Elaine observed.
T'Pol looked up, surprised. "Physical contact?"
"I was under the impression that Vulcans did not appreciate it."
T'Pol regarded Elaine. Like Trip, she seemed always more curious than judgmental. "Vulcans are touch-telepaths, so they generally avoid casual physical contact with strangers, or even people they know. However, I grew quite used to casual contact after my years on Enterprise. Indeed, I now find the loss of the regular contact I had with your son somewhat … disconcerting."
"One of my friends who lost a husband to a long illness said that was the worst part for her, after he died. She said her skin got lonely."
T'Pol did not say anything. She had already admitted more than she probably should have.
"So I gave her a session with a massage therapist," Elaine said. "Would you like that?"
"A massage therapist?" T'Pol said. "I don't think…"
"Trip told me about your neuropressure sessions. It sounds pretty similar."
"Yes. I see. Perhaps so. However, I probably should not have agreed to engage in neuropressure with him. I suspect it contributed quite significantly to the bond we formed, although we were already somewhat friendly at that time. In any case, I could never comfortably experience that sort of touch from a stranger."
"Even a professional? A female professional?"
"No, I don't believe so," T'Pol said. The cat, apparently either over-stimulated or perhaps simply preferring to sleep, nipped gently at her hand, so she stopped petting him. "Traditionally it is only given by spouses, or other members of one's family."
"I'm family," Elaine said. "You could teach me."
T'Pol stared at her in surprise. "Are you sure?"
"I'm willing to try," Elaine said. "Maybe we'd both benefit. My Charlie's a doll, but he's never been too interested in massages. He gets sidetracked too fast."
T'Pol felt an eyebrow rise involuntarily.
"That's the other thing I imagine you might be missing," Elaine said, with a blush. "Though I'm afraid I can't help you out with that."
"Actually, Vulcan females react to the presence of interested males, and once we have taken a mate, we respond only to him. So without Trip, I should experience no urges."
Elaine looked stunned. "None?"
"My God," Elaine said. "No wonder you people are so logical. No offense."
"None was taken," T'Pol assured her. Her son had said much the same, when he'd learned that.
x x x
It wasn't what anyone in the family had particularly wanted or expected so soon, but Hannah and Patrick's 20-year-old son Liam had married a pretty young redhead named Brigid and made Elaine and Charlie Tucker great grandparents soon after his return from space, where he had served as an enlisted crewman during what everyone was still hoping were the last battles of the war.
T'Pol had just been introduced to her niece Maggie and was now sitting on the sofa with the sleeping one-month-old in her arms, staring intently down at the cherubic face and auburn ringlets. Brigid sat tensely next to her, probably doubting that a Vulcan really knew how to hold a baby.
"I hope you're thinking of going to university now," Charlie told his grandson. "Earning a degree. You have a family to think about."
"Aye, I know," Liam said. He and his parents and his daughter and his wife had come to Mississippi to visit while T'Pol was there, especially since little Maggie had been deemed too young for the memorial service. "I report to Starfleet Academy next month."
"Oh," Charlie said, taken aback. "Oh." He looked around rather blindly for his wife. It was bad enough young Liam had insisted on going into space during the war. He'd managed to survive that, and now he wanted to go back? "And what about your family?"
"Starfleet has housing for married recruits. We'll be together."
"Until you ship out again."
"Dad," said Hannah warningly. "Liam knows what he wants to do."
"Aye, no matter how daft it is," Patrick said, but he sounded cheerful. "But we're proud of him anyway, aren't we? Just as you were always proud of Trip."
"I'd happily trade all that pride in just to have him here with us," Charlie said, and winced as his wife kicked him and put a comforting hand on his shoulder at the same time.
"The chances of Liam meeting the same fate are fairly slim," T'Pol said, and returned the infant to her hovering mother. "Your daughter is lovely," she said. "Trip and I were hoping to have a child when he died."
All heads swiveled towards the Vulcan. "You were?" Elaine said.
"Yes," T'Pol said. "In fact, we had already created three embryos. We were simply waiting for the end of the war and the decommissioning of Enterprise."
"Then you could still have those children, if you wanted to," Hannah pointed out.
T'Pol looked up at her sister-in-law in obvious surprise. "Yes, but they would have no father. And I have some doubts as to my ability to raise a half-Human child properly by myself."
"Who says you'd have to do it by yourself?" Charlie said.
x x x
Hoshi stepped off the shuttle to a welcome sight: Malcolm Reed grinning and waving.
"I thought we were going to rendezvous at the hotel," she said, as he bundled her into a taxi.
"I couldn't stand to wait," Malcolm said, and kissed her soundly.
She melted. It was nice to be wanted by your man, especially when you worked on separate continents.
"Just wait until you hear the gossip!" he said.
x x x
Travis was staring. He knew he should stop, but he couldn't.
"Stop staring, Travis," Debbie McKenzie said, between gritted teeth.
"I just don't understand," he said. "Nobody moves on that quickly. Especially not a Vulcan."
"Maybe it's his."
"I don't see how."
"You don't know how long they carry their babies. Maybe…"
Malcolm's distinctive voice broke in from behind them. "You really should stop staring, Lieutenant."
Travis turned around happily to greet his former colleagues. "So what is the story?"
Malcolm grimaced. "We don't know. All we know is that's she's pregnant."
"Well, duh," Travis said. "I see you guys are really bringing it at Starfleet Intelligence."
"Maybe it's the captain's," Hoshi said.
McKenzie looked horrified. "No way."
"He always was pretty protective of her," Malcolm said.
"And she respects him," Hoshi said. "Who knows, maybe it's a Vulcan thing. Lose your lover, marry his best friend, something like that."
"Nobody's married anybody," Malcolm said. "I'm sure we would have heard about that."
They stopped Anna Hess as she walked by, drink in hand. "Anna! You work with the captain. He'snot the father, is he?"
Hess chortled. "Captain Archer? I don't think his girlfriend would approve."
"Ooh, the captain has a girlfriend?" Hoshi said. They all leaned in.
x x x
Jon brought T'Pol a glass of water and sat down next to her. "You're making them all crazy."
"Yes, that much is obvious."
"I'm glad you came anyway."
"You did say that one must make the effort to maintain one's friendships."
He smiled. "So I did."
She drank her water. Pregnancy agreed with her, Jon decided. She looked so much better now than she had in the aftermath of Trip's death. He'd worried, at that time, that they might actually lose her.
"Seems like you've settled in pretty well with Trip's folks," he said. Who could have predicted such a thing? "We really can't get you back at Starfleet? You could do some consulting, you know, something on a project basis. You could even work from Mississippi."
"That may interest me eventually," T'Pol said. "At the moment I have other priorities."
x x x
After the captain opened their dinner with a toast, he said, "I know that we'll have limited attention for any of our other speakers until we've given Commander T'Pol a chance to share her news, so … T'Pol , let's hear it!"
An expectant hush fell across the room of those crewmen who had been able and willing to gather for the occasion: a good fifty-three had shown up, along with some spouses and dates.
T'Pol stood up and walked to the small podium set up in the corner of the room. "You are no doubt wondering how I come to be in this interesting condition," she said. "In fact, since my Vulcan hearing remains as superior as it ever was, I know for certain that you are."
There were a few nervous titters and quite a few chagrined faces.
"If all goes well, and so far it does go well, in a few months Charles Tucker IV will be born. His father and I began this process almost six years ago, and had hoped to complete it upon Enterprise's decommissioning last year. As you know, Trip will never meet this son. However, before he died he made it clear that he would be pleased to think that some part of him would live on in this way, and with the support of his family I decided that I wanted that, too."
She paused and looked around the room, making eye contact with each member of her former crew. "Even with the support of Trip's family, I know that my son will miss having a father in his life. That is why I hope each of you will consider yourself an honorary aunt or uncle, and keep in touch with us. I want Charles to grow up knowing who his father was, and why he mattered, and I suspect it will take all of us working together to make that happen."
There was silence for a long moment, and then Reed started to clap, and then the others joined in, and there were even a few whistles and whoops.
She returned to the table. That long silence had been just a touch unnerving. She asked Archer, who had risen, "Do you think they approve?"
Archer smiled warmly at her. "I think they are delighted. You'll see for yourself later when the braver ones start asking for more details. But now I have to go be the bad guy and ask them to please keep this information to themselves."
x x x
Malon was not an obstetrician in practice, but given the special nature of the child T'Pol was carrying, she ended up monitoring both mother and child throughout the pregnancy, and hoped that she could be present for the birth.
As her time neared -- and since Vulcan and Human gestation periods were different, nobody could be exactly sure when that would be -- T'Pol took up residence near the facilities in the Vulcan Compound, which would be better-equipped to handle any emergencies. Her mother-in-law stayed with her and accompanied her to all her appointments.
When T'Pol was ultimately admitted, due to some mild contractions and bleeding, Malon quickly became bemused by the number of visitors T'Pol had -- far more than any other patient in the compound hospital. It seemed that half the former crew of the Enterprise dropped by at one time or another, as well as various members of Tucker's extended family.
"You have tired yourself with all your visitors," Malon reproved T'Pol. "And now the real labor begins."
"It was agreeable to see them," T'Pol said. "I appreciate their good wishes." She swallowed. "I fear I may have need of them."
"What do you mean?" Elaine said.
"I'm feeling … rather … odd," T'Pol said faintly.
"Define odd," Malon said sharply, checking her patient's vitals over more carefully. T'Pol didn't answer; her eyelids were fluttering and monitors on both mother and child began to alarm. The Vulcan obstetrician ran in, checked the patient quickly and said, "We need to operate at once."
Mrs. Tucker said, "What?" in a high, panicked tone.
"Now," the doctor said, and T'Pol was quickly wheeled from the room.
x x x
She was lying in her white space.
But she was lying in someone's arms, she realized. Someone who was holding her, caressing her.
Trip. She couldn't quite see him, lying as she did, but she could feel him, embracing her.
"Am I dead?" she said.
"No," he said. "A little in between, maybe."
"If I die, can I stay with you?"
"Right now you have more important things to do."
She sighed. "I'm having your child."
"I know," he said. She felt his hand caress her belly, though she couldn't see it. How odd.
"I've missed you," she said. "I wanted to hold your child in my arms."
"Have you missed me?"
"It's not like that. You'll see, soon enough. But right now you have to go back."
"But I need you."
"You've got me, darlin'. You just don't always know it. Go on back now."
T'Pol could feel the white space fading into a different kind of white, the arms she was lying in becoming less real. "Trip!" she cried.
There was a brief sensation of a parting caress, and then she was back in the hospital, listening to the steady beep-beep-beep of the monitors and tasting the stale tang of the oxygen hissing into her nostrils and wincing at the boisterous squalling of an infant.
"He's beautiful," Elaine whispered in her ear. "He definitely has his father's nose," she said. "And he's going to be just fine."
"I was with Trip," she told her.
"A hallucination," the obstetrician said. "It is caused by a lack of oxygen."
"I was with him," T'Pol insisted, though already she was beginning to doubt.
"Look at your son," Elaine said, and held him up for her to see. Pointed ears, dark hair, a sloping nose, a distinctive crease down the middle of his upper lip. Blue eyes stared as his tiny lungs filled, the better to scream his outrage at this strange new world. Utterly forgetting control, T'Pol smiled. "Give him to me," she said.
Elaine said, "You're sure?" and turned to check with the doctor, who nodded his approval. So she helped T'Pol arrange the baby on her chest. He immediately began nosing about for the breast and, once he had found it, began to suck.
"Oh , T'Pol, honey. I'm so glad," Elaine said, and sniffled.
T'Pol ran her hands over the astonishing new man in her life.
"As am I," she said.
Yet Another Author's Note: You may have noted some similarities to JustTripn's even harder-nosed finale fix story, These Are the Voyages?, and indeed I may have been influenced by it, at least subconsciously. JT and I agree that T'Leela's "And Having Writ" is still our favorite finale fix ever, so if you'd like a Not Dead! Trip and you haven't read that one, go check it out. (But leave me some feedback on this one first, please! Did I give you a happy ending? Or do you wish you could throw your monitor across the room?)