Disclaimer: All things Star Trek belongs to CBS/Paramount.
Author's Note: SilverBullet (aka OldGuy) has long mourned that T'Pol didn't visit Trip in sickbay during this episode. I maintain that she did and we just didn't see it. So this is a missing scene, but not part of my 'official' series of "Missing Scenes" for each season. Also, I must credit WarpGirl (or WarpGirl's brother) for T'Pol's theory about the Trellium-D here. And many thanks to justTripn for her beta services.
T'Pol had avoided sickbay while Sim was in residence there, though complete avoidance was not possible. She found it disturbing to see the evolving clone racing through its brief incarnation of an oddly sunny childhood. She sometimes felt she was the only person on board who had truly thought ahead to how this charming boy would all too soon pass his prime and begin to decline and die. It had only become more disturbing when they realized that Sim somehow carried Tucker's own memories. Sim was therefore cursed with Tucker's understanding of what a Human life was meant to be.
Of course, Tucker's existence also seemed quite ephemeral at the moment, hanging as it did on a perfectly-timed donation of cerebral material from a mimetic clone. T'Pol wondered just how confident Phlox truly was that this procedure would work.
At least now that young adult Sim had been assigned his own quarters, she felt free to return to sickbay and visit the commander, who had been lying behind a curtain in sickbay like a piece of stowed surplus equipment. Phlox had made it clear that the injured engineer would not be conscious of anything that might go on around him, so it was perhaps illogical for her to feel that he was being neglected, but as time passed she had felt an increasingly nagging sense that he deserved her attention.
Also, she missed him. They might not have been able to make time for neuropressure sessions anyway, given the dire situation the ship was in, but whenever she managed to get time alone in her quarters, she felt his absence keenly. Those regular sessions, with their quiet talk and gentle touches, had added a new layer of understanding to their peculiar friendship.
She walked into sickbay at a time when she hoped Phlox might be away eating or socializing. However, he was still there, apparently intent on something involving one of his creatures. He barely looked up when she came in. "Can I help you, Sub-Commander?"
She gestured at the curtained-off area that held Commander Tucker. "I thought I would check on the commander."
Phlox smiled. "Of course. Go ahead."
"Has there been any change in his condition?"
Phlox's smile tightened. "No. He's stable, for now."
"And you remain certain that he is not aware of his surroundings?"
"He is sedated for a reason, T'Pol. Given the extent of the damage in his brain, any stimulus it did receive would likely be impossible for him to process coherently."
"Then perhaps it would be unwise to disturb him," she said, disappointed, but ready to leave.
"No, no, no, I didn't say that. Go ahead and visit, if you wish. Just don't expect to get any response. If it helps, think of him as being in a very deep sleep."
She went over and pulled opened the curtain.
"You're not his first visitor," Phlox added. "Lieutenant Reed went on at some length earlier, telling him all about the ship's status. There's still a stool in there, isn't there?"
"Yes," T'Pol said, and closed the curtain behind her. She stood there for a moment, at the foot of the bio-bed, unsure how to proceed. Unlike Lieutenant Reed, she saw no logic in regaling Commander Tucker's unconscious form with reports he could not take in. She was also aware that a mere curtain did not provide much privacy for anything she might wish to say, pointless as it would be to do so.
She walked to the head of the bed and stared down at the engineer's face – his forehead with its two sedator disks glowing red, that nose sloping in that distinctive Tucker way, the oxygen tube. Did that mean he was not breathing efficiently enough on his own? Her own chest tightened in sympathy. Someone must have shaved him, for there was no sign of the facial hair he tended to grow rather quickly when circumstances interfered with his daily routines.
She leaned closer. His smell, too, was overlaid with new tones – a cleanser and a moisturizer she recognized from one of her own stays in sickbay, and some sort of antiseptic. Still, the underlying scent was familiar enough. She inhaled deeply, realizing that this was part of what she had been missing. He would have been so amused. He was always so sensitive about how badly he must smell to her, and yet here she was, breathing in his scent with the same eagerness with which she prepared each new injection of Trellium-D.
Apparently her new, more keenly-felt experience of life – fueled by Trellium-D – included an emotional attachment to this man powerful enough to overturn virtually every fastidious instinct she'd ever had about Humans. She blinked, wondering if that was perhaps a sign that those careful doses were more dangerous than she had thought.
Unfortunately, she couldn't conceive of how to do without them now – especially now, without Tucker's steadying presence. She needed that liquid reassurance that she could continue to exist out here, all alone on a ship full of Humans all roiling with an even more potent mix of fear and rage and boredom and excitement than usual.
She also wanted to be ready for the day when the captain would decide they must leave her behind somewhere in order to process the Trellium ore they had stowed in Cargo Bay Two into something they could use to protect the ship (assuming, of course, that they ever made it out of the field in which they were currently trapped). Archer would undoubtedly return for her as soon as possible, but if her experiment worked out as she hoped, she would be able to prove that she had gradually built up her tolerance and could stay aboard for the duration. They would not have to pause in their journey, or double back to get her.
She had noticed that Commander Tucker and Lieutenant Reed and other members of the command staff sometimes took proactive measures without consulting the officers above them. It had concerned her as a breach of protocol in her early years aboard, and she also knew – as they themselves did – that it carried risks. However, she had also learned that it certain cases it could be quite effective. Tucker called it "using your judgment" or "managing upwards."
That was what she was doing: using her judgment. Managing upwards.
Then why not tell Phlox about it now? Why not let him confirm that her health was not being dangerously affected?
The uncomfortable, niggling thought floated up in that disconcerting way it had, requiring her to dismiss it once again with her usual reasoning: Phlox might think that any change in her neurochemistry was bad, even a benign change made for the greater good. Surely it was better to present him and the captain with her new situation only when it became truly necessary to do so.
She sat down on the stool. Without quite thinking about it, she reached her right hand up and rubbed a thumb softly across the commander's cheek. He didn't react in the slightest, of course. Abruptly, she stood and reached her other hand over, dropping both hands to his shoulders, quickly finding the familiar neuropressure points.
He wouldn't be able to breathe through the posture properly.
Neither would he be able to tense up, which was what could cause damage.
She pressed lightly, experimentally, waiting… waiting… for what? For his muscles to relax? But they could not be more relaxed. Commander Tucker was limp. Commander Tucker was a dead weight. There was none of that typical tension, that tightly-wound energy it sometimes took as much as an hour of steady effort to dissipate.
Clearly, administering neuropressure to him right now was as pointless as it would be to expect him to suddenly wake up and administer any in return.
But she didn't lift her useless fingers. Instead, she spread them out, touching more of him, caressing his shoulders in a way she would never have allowed herself when he was conscious, running her right hand up his neck to his jaw and then his cheek – still waiting, still listening for some faint thread of his unique consciousness to rise up through her fingertips.
Was he still in there? Did he have any idea how much she missed him?
The fingers of her right hand spread, questing impatiently after that absent presence.
She jumped, turning to find that Phlox was standing at the foot of Tucker's bed, the curtain she'd closed behind her still bunched in his hand.
"Do you really think that's wise?"
She stared at him. "Doctor?"
"You have a deadly syndrome you acquired through a mind meld."
"I wasn't…" His implication was absurd, ridiculous! "I'm nota melder, doctor."
Phlox just stared at her, his mouth flattening into a grim line.
She raised her right hand and spread it out in front of her experimentally … and was horrified to realize what she had apparently been attempting – utterly unconsciously. "I apologize, Doctor" she said. "I didn't realize…" What had she been thinking? How could she take advantage of an unconscious man like that?
"If I knew how to perform a mind meld with the commander, I would no doubt be quite tempted to do so myself right now," Phlox said gently. "But in your case I fear that could be courting disaster."
She stared down at the deck, overcome by shame. She must never again visit Commander Tucker when he was in this helpless state. She could not believe what she had nearly done – though surely it would not have worked anyway. He was Human, and she was no melder. She had sensed nothing in any case, not even a flicker of consciousness. Although she should probably be relieved by that, in reality it just added a heavy layer of grief to her shame. "I understand, doctor." She swallowed. "I should go."
She stopped, though she did not look up. She did not want Phlox to see her face.
"Are you sure you have fully recovered from your exposure aboard the Seleya?"
"With my extra duties in Engineering I haven't had enough time for meditation."
"You're sure that's all it is? I could run a scan right now."
"That won't be necessary, doctor. I won't … endanger Mr. Tucker again."
"I'm quite sure you would never intentionally endanger him," Phlox said. "That's why I'm so concerned about what I just saw."
"As I said, I have not meditated, and I am also somewhat fatigued."
"I see. Please get some rest, then. But if you find yourself behaving in an unconscious or uncharacteristic way again, I want you to report to sickbay immediately. Do you understand? I will be watching you. We need to schedule another scan soon, anyway."
She would have to find a way to get out of that scan. She nodded, and left as quickly as she could.
She must think about this. She must meditate. She must regain control.
But first she must make it to her quarters as quickly as possible, for she was terribly afraid that she might cry.