By Emiliana Keladry
Summary: Sometimes it's too difficult to say good-bye. My entry for "Time Travel Month".
Pairings: Malcolm/Hoshi, Travis/OC, T'Pol/Archer (mostly friendship, but could be taken romantically)
Setting: Approximately 40 years after the first voyage of Enterprise
Disclaimer: Enterprise belongs to ParaMount, not me. I make no gain from this.
Author's note: This is not how I usually write, but I took the challenge. This follows along after "These Are the Voyages". Yes, I am a good Star Trek fan and hate that episode. I normally pretend it doesn't exist, but this is my only fix of the finale. I would have Trip not die, but if he did die... this is what I assumed would happen. As a warning, this is a death fic, but unlike the last episode of Enterprise, it's a death that would come eventually. Please let me know what you think. :)
The Vulcan sun was high and hot above the ground, but the garden's only occupant didn't seem to mind. The woman had aged gracefully and time couldn't even tell her age. She placed the photograph in front of the tomb stone, glancing upon the young human's face. It had been so long since she'd seen him smile. T'Pol stood up slowly, leaving the grave that she had for Commander Charles Tucker III. Trip's body was on Earth, near the grave of his sister Elizabeth, but his spirit was on Vulcan in a small garden with one fountain and a few leafed plants. Her long robe whispered on the ground as she talked back into the dwelling that once belonged to her mother.
For a Vulcan home, her dwelling was decorated with unusual things. Pictures of her crewmates were scattered around the main room in frames that they had sent her. It almost looked unorganized for T'Pol, but she was pleased by the images. There was an image of Captain Malcolm Reed holding a baby boy with Lieutenant Hoshi Reed by his side. Both were smiling, cuddling their child. Commander Travis was in his dress uniform, smiling with his beautiful bride Jessica. By the sofa was a large photograph of Phlox and his entire extended family, which took an abnormally large frame. These were older pictures since the occupants were aged now. Her second favorite photograph from the bunch was one of her and Admiral Archer standing on a cruise ship with the setting sun behind them over the Atlantic Ocean. Jonathan had become her close companion after Trip's death. He was the one that she trusted the most. He'd never married, but settled down to a desk job after his best friend's untimely death. Exploring space and going where no man had gone before had fallen from his dreams and his heart. He couldn't explore without his Chief Engineer.
Her favorite photograph in the room was of her and Trip. It was taken when he had come to visit her on Vulcan before her wedding to Koss. He was wearing one of his ridiculous flowered shirts and his arm was around her back. She'd never seen him so happy. The light in his eyes was unmistakable. Trip loved her. After she married Koss, that light never fully returned to his eyes. But today, she couldn't think of Trip, the man she loved. Someone she loved, not romantically, but as family… was taking his last breath today. Phlox had called her early in the morning to tell her the news. He was dying. Jonathan wouldn't last the day. T'Pol had known that he was sick and she'd written him often, but she didn't go to see him. Though it almost sounded human… the Vulcan couldn't say good-bye.
T'Pol sat down on the floor in the main room, lighting her candle for Jonathan. She stayed vigil most of the day, not thinking or moving, just meditating. Not long before midnight, her computer beeped, drawing her from her mind. Standing up swiftly she went to her computer and sat down.
"T'Pol," Phlox's voice sounded weary and he looked like he hadn't had a good night sleep in many days. The Denobulan had aged well with few wrinkles on his face.
"Doctor," was her soft reply.
"I'm sorry. He's gone."
Silence grew for a moment between them both as they grieved the loss of a good friend.
"Did he suffer?" T'Pol murmured.
"He was awake until almost the end. I had to give him something to let him fall asleep so he didn't feel the pain anymore. He didn't suffer."
T'Pol nodded, unsure of what to say.
"Jonathan asked that I give you something. He understood that you couldn't be with him in the end and he said that this would bring you peace. I'm sending you the file. It's encrypted so only you can open it."
T'Pol received the download and prepared to thank Phlox, but found that she couldn't speak. Phlox nodded once.
"The funeral will be next week. I'll let you know of the details. Will you come?"
She nodded, hearing the choke in Phlox's voice as some of his emotion came through. T'Pol ended the transmission before Phlox could say anything more. He would understand. He'd been her doctor for years and was the only one that knew about her own illness. Humans might describe it as a sickness of the heart, but for a Vulcan… the broken mate bond was breaking her. A broken heart. T'Pol was dying and it wouldn't be old age that took her to her final resting place. She could only hope that Trip would be waiting for her there.
T'Pol downloaded the file onto a padd and moved away from the computer. She picked up the picture of Jonathan at the United Federation of Planets charter. He looked so youthful, waiting to give his speech, the speech that his father would have been proud of. T'Pol walked back out into the garden, kneeling before an empty space. She gingerly set the framed picture down, looking once more into Jonathan's eyes. Her fingers were trembling as she opened the file. It was two separate letters from Jonathan. The first one opened. It was part of a personal log taken during their time on Enterprise.
"She drives me nuts; challenging my authority in front of the crew… who does she think that she is? Yet, I save her life and she's helping us with the mission. One good turn deserves another doesn't sound very Vulcan." Jonathan was younger, clad in only his Starfleet blues. She recognized the wound in his leg. This entry was from their first mission together. "I still haven't decided whether to ask Sub-Commander T'Pol about this Temporal Cold War. My instincts tell me not to trust her."
There was a break in the log where Jonathan had paused. It resumed with him dressed in casual clothing, sitting at his desk in his quarters. "Starfleet seems to think that we're ready to begin our mission to seek out new worlds and new life. I can honestly say I'm ready and so is the crew. We've waited too long for this moment. Regarding my instincts about Sub-Commander T'Pol, I might have been wrong. I'm gonna ask her to remain on board. The Vulcan Star Charts might be helpful to us, but more than that…" Jonathan paused, and looked as if he was contemplating the next words to say. "She could be helpful. I'm not sure right now and I might regret this decision, but I need her on Enterprise."
The first letter ended right there. T'Pol made no sound as she opened the next letter. Jonathan was lying in his bed in his home. She recognized the bed sheets since she'd eaten as his house several times in the past years. Once she'd had to help him into bed after falling asleep on the couch. When he first became an Admiral he stayed up late nights and overworked himself. She assumed it was partly his way of grieving. Jonathan's eyes were tired and only puffs of white hair were still on his head. He was far too thin, but his smile was still the same.
"Hi T'Pol," he greeted. "I never once regretted the decision to keep you on Enterprise. Never. You've been a great friend to me after… after Trip died." Tears welled in his eyes. T'Pol wasn't the only one to never recover from Mr. Tucker's premature death. "You've stayed beside me more than any other member of the crew. You tucked me into bed, ate my horrible cooking, and even took a cruise with me. I can't thank you enough for what you've done. At the beginning, I wasn't sure what to think of you, but now I know… you've my closest friend. Doctor Phlox says that I don't have much time left. I wish you could be here with me, but I know that it's too hard. I understand and I'd never hold it against you."
Jonathan held up his fingers, giving the Vulcan parting greeting. "Live long and prosper T'Pol. I love you."
T'Pol paused the letter for a moment, took a deep breath and continued. Jonathan coughed into his arm, struggling slightly to breathe. He smiled at her.
"Trip always loved you. He loved you more than anyone else. Never forget that. Good-bye T'Pol."
The screen went black as the letter ended and Jonathan's words had been spoken for the last time. He was gone. T'Pol set the letter down next to Jonathan's picture and remembered his arms wrapped around her, hugging her tightly. A tear trickled down her cheek, followed by another. The two people she cared about most were gone.
"Up until about a hundred years ago, there was one question that burned in every human that made us study the stars and dream of traveling to them. Are we alone? Our generation is privileged to know the answer to that question. We are all explorers, driven to know what's over the horizon, what's beyond our own shores. And yet, the more I've experienced, the more I've learned that no matter how far we travel, or how fast we get there, the most profound discoveries are not necessarily beyond that next star. They're within us, woven into the threads that bind us, all of us, to each other. The final frontier begins in this hall. Let's explore it together."
The last line is spoken by Jonathan Archer in the episode "Terra Prime", the episode that should have been the real ending. Let me know what you thought!