Regardless, I got the plot bunny while watching the Enterprise episode "Twilight," which I found rather enjoyable and decided I wanted to put a slight twist on the episode playing with this slightly more emotional T'Pol.
So, basically I hope it doesn't suck...
Summary: ‘twilight’ – a state of imperfect knowledge or understanding; ‘dusk’ – the darker stage of twilight.
Genre: Trip/T’Pol, Episodic, AU
Spoilers: Up to Twilight (will probably make no sense if you haven’t seen the episode)
Disclaimer: Characters are not mine, but please do not redistribute this fic without permission.
Author’s Note: My attempts to fix the qualms I had with Twilight, although I still thought it was a great episode. Dedicated once again to my loyal, (and probably only) reader: Suz. Thanks for all your support, and if you look closely you may just spot a mini-shout out of sorts. *grin*
“I should get back to Engineering. See you both later.”
As soon as the Captain walks out of the room, she is suddenly struck by an impulse to follow.
But not the Captain.
Commander Tucker hasn’t got far when she catches up with him. It seems his unwillingness to associate with Captain Archer has now extended to include his own Engineering crew. Instead, he loiters aimlessly in a passageway, as though the bulkheads hold the answer to all his worries.
His detached reverie surprises her, but she will not let him sway her from her original purpose.
He is startled by her. It only when he turns to look her in the eye that she sees the sheen of unshed tears. A rare occurrence. Even among one as emotional as him.
“Why are you…?” he begins. “Was there something I could help you with, sub-commander?” he continues, his air professional.
“I felt your behaviour in front of the Captain was inappropriate. Our objective is to keep him as informed as possible, and not to treat him any differently…”
He cuts my statement short.
“Excuse me?” His outrage at my assessment is clear. “I’ve known that man for over half my life. We’ve served together, fought together long before you ever came along. What gives you the right to lecture me on how to handle the Captain?”
“You are clearly not thinking rationally. You are letting your emotional attachments blind you to your obligations. We need to help maintain the Captain’s mental state. It’s merely a logical…”
“My best friend got hit by a spatial anomaly,” he exclaims, enunciating each syllable of the last word. “How is that logical? And now he can’t remember something I told him three hours ago. You expect me to remain rational?”
“You are only further proving my point, Commander,” she reiterates. “You behaviour is in no way conducive to any attempts we can make to help the Captain maintain his memories. If our actions follow a set pattern, a set protocol, maybe in time he’ll…”
She trails off, aware of how futile her own argument really is.
“What? He’ll remember what we’re going to say before me say it. If you really expect that to happen, T’Pol, you’re the irrational one not me.”
“You’re missing my point…”
“No. You’re missing mine. You didn’t like the way I handled the Captain? Wait a few hours, and we can try again. And if my manner still doesn’t satisfy you, we can try again a few hours after that. It won’t make a difference.”
“Your attempt at humour is far from appropriate.”
He raises his arms in despair and sighs.
“It wasn’t trying to be funny. I just don’t know how much more of this I can take. How much longer I can explain the same story, re-count the same events over and over, knowing that a few hours from now he won’t remember a thing.”
She can relate to what he says. At several points over the past few weeks she has reached what humans refer to as ‘breaking point.’ But they cannot give up on the Captain. He didn’t give up on her.
“We can’t just do nothing. How can I do nothing after what he…”
She pauses when she sees a new expression cross the Commander’s face. A new realisation seems to have dawned. He steps closers to her, bracing her shoulders with his hands.
“T’Pol, it’s not your fault.”
She tries to break away. She does not want to have this discussion. Especially not with him.
But his grip seems iron-clad.
He repeats. “It’s not your fault.”
She finally looks him in the eye.
“If the Captain hadn’t pushed me out of the way I’d be the one sitting in their quarters completely oblivious to what was going on around me. Completely alone.”
“That wasn’t your fault though. It was the Captain’s. It was his decision to stop and help you, not yours. He’s in this position because of who he is, not who you are. You can’t keep beating yourself up over this.”
The Vulcan in her is disgusted by her own sense of guilt and self pity, but the Commander seems to have a way of magnifying many of her more human attributes.
“If the Captain had been practical and just left me on a planet all those months ago, the ship would be lined with Trillium D. The anomaly would never have affected anyone on board Enterprise. Everything would be as it was.”
The sensation of his hand as it brushes against her cheek makes me look up again. Makes her meet his gaze.
“But you wouldn’t be here. And right now, we need you. Not just the Captain and I. But Enterprise itself. The whole crew. You’re probably the only one who could keep this all together. Keep us focused on the mission.”
He pulls back, and the hint of a smile skirts his face.
“We all know I’m far too emotional for the job. You said so yourself.”
Deciding to play along with his game she acquiesces.
“That I did.”
“So, how about we both return to our relative duties and next time we brief Captain Archer, I promise to make more of an effort to stick to your ‘format.’”
“I would appreciate that, Commander.”
He nods, and heads on his way. Maybe this time he’ll actually reach Engineering.
She, on the other hand, had a communication from Admiral Forrest that she was not looking forward to….
“I chose the logical course of action.”
“Since the Captain got sick, this mission’s taken one wrong turn after another.”
Her back hits the wall with a surprising degree of force as the doors to her quarters finally slide closed. His lips slide over hers instantaneously but his sense of frustration at her is still apparent.
As his lips slide down to her collarbone, his fingers begin to slowly but surely remove the outer layer of her newly acquired Starfleet uniform. It still catches her off guard when she glimpses her appearance in the mirror. She feels like a girl in dress-up. Like the person staring back at her isn’t really her.
Which in a way, it isn’t.
Over the past few months, she can’t deny how things have changed. The T’Pol of three months prior would never have made as rash a decision as she did today. Her actions would never have been so entirely illogical.
And she definitely wouldn’t have ended up back in her quarters sharing a decidedly passionate embrace with a certain Commander to whom the removal of her uniform was rapidly becoming second-nature.
She was certain if she took the time she would be able to find an entirely logical reason for these recent developments. That their recent behaviour was probably just some after-effect of all the tension and stress the combined situations of the Xindi and Captain Archer had caused. That this was just another form of release, much like their previous neural pressure sessions.
What was beginning to worry her was the way in which the emotions attached to this room were beginning to bleed out into their ‘real’ lives. The lives that existed outside this room. Where their actions had consequences that could affect the survival of an entire species.
She brings herself back from her reverie focusing once again on her companion, and the slow, yet not entirely unpleasant manner in which he is manoeuvring her towards the bed.
Subtlety was never one of his strong points.
As they reach the bed, she pulls back from her own process of trying to remove his garments to look him in the eye.
His lips detach themselves from her neck, and he pulls back, realising she would only speak if it were important. They’d made a silent pact long ago only to communicate inside this room when entirely necessary. Speech led to the vocalisation of certain feelings and thoughts they would rather leave unsaid. If they never spoke about it, it was much easier to deny. Much easier to rationalise inside her mind.
She’d noticed long ago that he never referred to her by her new rank. In his mind he still saw Archer as the Captain, and she for one was happy to keep it that way. If all went well she herself would soon return to her previous rank, her previous attire. And everything would return to the way it was.
Or so she hoped.
But there was something she had to set straight now.
“What you said earlier about me, Commander. About my appointment being a mistake? I need to know if you meant it?”
He pulls back, clearly flustered, and runs a loose hand through his hair. The other hand, quite noticeable stays linked to her, gently playing with the hair at the nape of her neck.
She grabs his free hand and it instinctively close around hers.
“Just answer the question.”
“I was just mad okay,” he concedes. “The Xindi managed to board us again. They got away with killing more of our people again. And we’re still no nearer our objective. I was wrong to take it out on you, but…”
He looks down as he trails off. With her spare hand she pulls his chin back up so that their eyes meet.
“What?” she presses.
The half grin that crosses his face throws her.
“You broke my ship.”
And just like that, the huge weight that had been holding her down was gone. Why she should care what he thinks is another question. One that has far too many implications to be dealt with now. Now she can only enjoy the levity of the moment while it still lasts.
“Well, technically, the ships ‘belongs’ to me, Commander.”
He quirks an eyebrow at her, the grin now in full swing.
“Oh, really?” he asks, as his lips once again slant over hers and she follows his natural momentum back onto the bed.
This respite may be fleeting, but with the world they face outside those four walls, she’s content to take every fleeting moment of distraction she can get.
The fate of the universe could wait. At least for a couple of hours.
“I won’t leave them.”
“Them? Or him?”
“There are specialists on Vulcan that can help Archer.”
“You’d take him as well?”
Everything changed when they lost Earth.
They’d failed their mission. Their people. Failed themselves.
The sobering realisation of how close the human race now was to extinction took a while to set in. In the case of Commander Tucker, his response had been denial. It couldn’t be gone. There must have still been something they could do.
But he hadn’t been on the bridge. He hadn’t watched first-hand as the world they all held so dear, decayed before their very eyes, a cacophony of flame and ash. The look within Captain Archer’s confused eyes had been soul shattering
They’d patrolled the system for several weeks, watching as the remaining Earth settlements were all systematically destroyed. Mars. Alpha Centuri. Vega Colony. All annihilated one the basis of…what?
A suggestion by some unknown figure that humans would wipe them out first? Something about the whole situation had seemed wrong from the start. Something had seemed off. Something that would never be explained. Never resolved.
But, there was no point debating the theoretics now. The Xindi had won. The human race had lost. And now their sole mission was to get all that was left of mankind to a safe haven.
She can’t remember who first suggested Seti Alpha. They aren’t really significant though. They just all needed something new to hope for. To strive for. And Seti Alpha provided this. She just hopes it lives up to the hype.
She wasn’t surprised when the High Commission contacted her again after all those years. Despite her faux ex-communication since she took command of Enterprise, she always expected them to re-appear, when they could no longer be of any credible hope to this race, offering an ‘I told you so’ and a quick way out. But only for her. Despite all their propaganda on the importance of logic and rationality, Vulcans now seemed one of the most xenophobic races of the known system to her. They were entirely selfish, focused only on the preservation of their race; on promoting their ideas. They had no tolerance for the assimilation of new ideas. New people.
After seeing the valour, courage and humility of the human race, the superior tone of their manner sickened her. What right had they had to hold back the advancement of Earth’s technology? What real claims did they have to moral superiority when they were unwilling to even sacrifice one officer to help save a fellow race from destruction?
There were days when her own reflection disgusted her.
What had surprised her was their offer to take Captain Archer as well.
She couldn’t deny that they had grown close these past few years. Ever since their daily discussions had begun to start with: “I regret to inform you our mission failed, Captain.” They had taken to talking about themselves. Their lives. Granted, he never remembered anything she told him about herself, but there was something oddly gratifying about slowly coming to know someone, almost as well as you know yourself.
She respected Captain Archer. She had even grown to care for him. But there was still a staggering difference between the way she felt about the Captain and the way she felt about Commander Tucker.
A difference the Vulcan High Command would never understand.
Whilst Jonathan (he had asked her long ago to stop using his title, and slowly she had begun to – but only in his presence, to everyone else he was still Captain Archer) had provided her a distraction, a source of reflection and escape from their outside troubles; the Commander (she still couldn’t bring herself to refer to his as Trip, and he hated to be called Charles) had been her solace.
When his world had literally ended, he didn’t break.
At least not entirely.
However, there was definitely a dulling in his sense of vitality, his thrive for life. His sole goal now was survival. Determination kept him moving forward.
He was one of the few to let her grieve with the rest of their people. Whilst many had understandably pulled away from those around them who were not of their kind - could supposedly never understand – he had let her grieve with him. He had realised that she had grown as attached to their race as anyone. Had put as much of herself as anyone else into trying to thwart the Xindi.
It was with that action that their ‘meetings’ had turned from a welcome distraction to a comfort. A form of solace. A new sense of tenderness and longing had sprung from their new situation. They now clung to the security of one another knowing there was no-one else left to cling to. No-one else to turn to.
And as much as the Vulcan in her despised it, she enjoyed that sense of dependency. Of knowing that she was needed by him almost as much as she needed him.
But the Vulcan High Commissioners knew nothing of this. They had completely misread the situation. Misread her reaction to the question. They always had focused on the obvious rather than he subtle. She hadn’t minded the disregard of her attachment to her fellow senior officer. She herself spent much of her time trying not to dwell on its real repercussions.
But their arrogance had grated her nerve the wrong way, and in as polite and rational manner as possible she had told him to go to hell.
Commander Tucker was definitely rubbing off on her.
She was not surprised to later find herself lying in his arms, retelling the whole tale.
What did surprise her was his reaction.
“Maybe you should have gone,” he announced, brushing a kiss along the edge of her shoulder. “You and the Captain could have escaped. Maybe found a cure and tried to make something of yourselves.”
She pulls back from the security of his embrace. This isn’t the first conversation they’ve had about the connection she has to their former Captain, and it probably won’t be their last.
“You wanted me to leave?” she responds, a little hurt by his eagerness to dispense with her.
Reaching out to clasp her face her announces, “Of course not. I just, know you two are close….And besides, what future could you really have on Seti Alpha? One Vulcan among many humans. What happens when you get tired of us and want an escape?”
She then sees where this is coming from. Human insecurity is something she has long since come to terms with, although it still causes her displeasure from time to time.
“Your worries are unfounded. I have grown quite accustomed to a human lifestyle and its relative costs and benefits.” The smirk on his face is indescribable. “Unless…you wish me to leave…?”
She trails off, well aware she is baiting him.
His puts his arms around her and pulls her back into her previous position leaning against his chest.
“Oh, no, you’re not getting away that easily.”
He smiles against her head, applying a soft kiss to her forehead.
“Ever since you implemented that ‘rank-blind’ relationship protocol on-board it’s been harder and harder to find someone that isn’t already paired off.”
He was referring of course to the protocol she had issued just a few months ago, via intercom to the crew. She had noticed a distinct rise in inter-crew relations since the destruction of Earth. She could understand this and therefore felt it wrong to maintain the strict Star Fleet regulations when the existence of such relationships could end up being the sole reason for the continuation of their species.
Since then, the crew had, in Commander Tucker’s words been ‘going at it like rabbits.’ She did not really understand his meaning but was happy to let such incidents occur as long as no officer’s work performance was impaired.
Also, she selfishly found the Commander’s observations and complete conviction that something was going on between Lieutenant Reed and Major Hayes rather amusing.
However, as they fell back into their embrace, the feel of his hands on her body slowly relieving any residual tension, his words continue to reverberate in her mind.
A new life for herself. Away from all of the stresses and problems of maintaining the survival of a species did hold some appeal. But would she really be willing to trade what she had with Commander Tucker for what he could potentially have with the Captain? Something that could only be realised if he were ever cured?
Such deep ponderings were not suited for such times and she allowed the Commander to regain her entire attention. At least for a little while longer.
“I can’t be in two places at the same time.”
A year had passed.
Much had changed, yet much was still the same. They had once again been faced with a sobering reality, with the realisation that there’s was the only convoy to successfully reach Seti Alpha.
And as much as she had grown to care for the Commander she had become to realise that her abilities would be of better use elsewhere. It seemed almost selfish to spend the majority of her time with the Commander when the Captain was still waking up very morning to discover his whole world had fallen apart around him and he hadn’t even remembered it. He needed someone to care for him. To help him get through the days. Her own sense of personal guilt over his situation had led her to view herself as the ideal applicant for such a position. She had grown to care for the Captain and it would not, she hoped, feel like too much of a sacrifice.
But in choosing to go along with the plan she would have to entirely cut herself off from the life she had been living. Enterprise had been her entire world for so long that she was unsurprisingly reluctant to leave it.
And then there was him.
They had deliberately kept things as uncomplicated as possible. Putting as little text to the relationship as they could manage. But there had been moments, numerable if she were honest, when she had strongly desired to change that policy. To make unspoken words said. To finally create something substantial. Real.
But there was always something holding them back. Their relative pride. Their shared desire to seem professional at all times. They were both well aware that their relationship had not escaped the notice of the crew, and that they were in no way being condemned for it.
Yet they still held back from entire autonomy. Maybe at heart they were just both too frightened at what the outcome would be if they ever voiced what they truly felt?
Regardless, she had made a decision. She could no longer put her own needs above those of one who had come to rely on her so completely. Aside from herself, few of the crew came to visit the Captain. For some, such as the Commander, it was simply too painful. For others, as sad as it was, they had simply learnt to forget. Or at least ignore.
But the Captain deserved better than that.
She just wasn’t looking forward to telling the Commander, and future Captain of her plans.
When they finally made Seti Alpha’s system, she invited him to the Captain’s old office for a briefing on their plans for re-colonisation.
Then mid-conversation she dropped the bombshell: She was resigning and leaving Enterprise.
His response was unsurprisingly bewildered, but as she explained her reasoning and sense of duty to the Captain his demeanour seemed to change. He returned to the old arguments of how it wasn’t her fault, how she didn’t have to leave Enterprise to help the Captain, how she was still needed on board.
“You are more than equipped to command the vessel, Commander.”
“Whilst that may be true, we still…I still…”
She couldn’t restrain her sigh.
“Hard as you try you can’t honestly think of a practical reason for me to stay onboard, can you Commander?”
And that’s when he said it. The one thing they had deliberately skirted around for all this time. The words hit her body with a shock as heavy as that piece of debris that had started all their troubles:
“T’Pol, I think I’m in love with you.”
The silence that followed was cloying, seeming to absorb everything around them. She couldn’t even hear the usual background sounds of the engines and various electronic chatter of the ship’s systems.
She could feel his eyes on her and finally looked back up to meet his gaze, her own gaze as steely as her resolve.
Her response catches him a little off-guard but he recovers quickly.
“What makes you so certain of that?”
“Because I won’t let you,” she responds.
His eyes seem to search hers realising the true meaning of her statement. Whatever they may or may not have had, it has to end now. She’s leaving and he can’t stop her.
The look of sadness and resignation on his face seems to pierce her very heart.
He turns away to look out of a window, characteristically running a loose hand through his hair. In a decidedly dramatic and very un-Vulcan-like gesture she closes the space between them, turning him round to capture his mouth in a kiss.
As he responds and deepens the kiss, the true gravity of her decision begins to dawn on them both. This is goodbye, if not literally, then at least in terms of their relationship. They will no longer be able to turn to one another for the comfort and security they’ve come to depend on. As her hands reach up to tangle within his hair, she is certain she feels the hint of saline of her cheeks. Whose tears they are she won’t hazard to guess, doesn’t want to know.
As they slowly part, they maintain eye contact, and then both look away taking a moment to regain composure.
He is the first to speak.
“Was that all, Captain?” he asks, his voice rather strained.
The silence once again seems deafening.
“I think so, Commander. Dismissed.”
As he turns and exits the room, her words seems to echo within her mind.
“Well, we can’t just run up the white flag.”
Even after all these years, the double-meaning of his statement isn’t lost on her.
He’s referring to her. Them.
Despite the passage of time, there is still as distinct connection between the two of them. As expected, she slowly grew to hold Jonathan in a higher regard, to care for him more deeply than She had before. It could hardly be unexpected.
What was unexpected, at least to her, were the residual feelings she had retained for the new Captain.
And contrary to all her efforts, that way that she had still found herself returning to old habits.
It was hardly a frequent occurrence, but every now and then when the strain of taking care of a man who couldn’t even remember what you’d said the previous day got too much, she would find herself outside his quarters.
Initially he had found her unexpected arrivals a surprise, but over the years his expression had changed, replaced by something she couldn’t begin to quantify. His motives were unknown to her after all this time, but he had never turned her away, and she grateful for that if nothing else.
It was always a characteristically speechless affair, mainly about the need for comfort and solace rather than the need to converse and catch up. But every now and then he would ask her how things were progressing. She was always deliberately vague, but she appreciated his interest. The process was probably far from painless for him. Or maybe he’d become numb to it all now. Learnt to live with whatever he could get and no longer question it.
She couldn’t read him now. And she hated that.
But it was all her own doing, and she couldn’t take back what she’d done
Or could she?
If Dr. Phlox was correct they may be able to turn this all round. Correct their mistakes. Save Earth. Save Captain Archer. Maybe even whatever had existed between herself and the Commander. That thing which now only existed in some latent, suppressed, and almost lacklustre format.
But if that were true, and they were to end this reality. She had one thing she wanted to do. One thing she had been meaning to do and say for over a decade. Those words that had still remained unspoken by her, though voiced so irrevocably by him.
She loved him.
Not in any fantasy, happily-ever-after manner like in all those old movie he used to subject her to. But real love. That never-ending ache within oneself for another. An ache that was more painful than fulfilling, but which held constant sway over her heart and mind.
Her Vulcan masters had always drummed into her how illogical the concept of love was. And they were right. Who would willingly choose to feel such a way? Who would ever have conceived that she would end up so completely bound to another being? And a human at that.
But she was, and there was little use denying it anymore if everything was to be reversed. If this lifetime was soon to enter into oblivion.
Therefore when they heard the Xindi begin to fire on the ship both her and the Captain made a run for the bridge. Their reasons were most likely sharply contrasted but their goal remained the same.
She, to her credit, once again had a mission. A true purpose. And this mission she was determined not to fail.
As they reach the ladder leading up to the bridge, they both pause when they hear the sickening scrape of metal and a mighty explosion.
“The bridge is gone.”
She’d failed him again.
Please let me know what you think.