Human Mood

By Asso

Rating: G

Genres: romance drama angst

Keywords:

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Chapter 1

Human Mood

By Asso


Rating: PG-13.

Genre: Romance, as usual for me. But - as in my previous story “Art’s Forms” - there’re also drama and angst (STILL MY PERSONAL ANGST, OBVIOUSLY!) and a little morsel of humour, I hope.

Summary: But, one day, will Trip and T’Pol finally think Enterprise is not their life? Well! I think so! And Archer…

Spoiler: It’s obvious once more, is it not?

Disclaimer: Star Trek: Enterprise is owned by Paramount, not me (Heigh-ho!). No infringement intended, no profit made.

AND…

A very great thank to pdsldl.
Well! AdmittedlyjustTripnand Linda took an initial and helpful glance at my job, but the final and real Editor was pdsldl.
She was capable of helping me in many, many ways, not only correcting my writing: this was the minimum, believe me!

NOTES

Somehow, as “Art’s Forms” was a prequel of “Destiny”, this story is a sequel, but it’s also connected with “The Force” and with “Art’s Form” itself. Consequently it could be a good thing, if the readers were so kind to cast a glance at those other Fics. But obviously this is not strictly necessary: I think this story can be read regardless of the stories I mentioned above. Anyway… please once more: tell me you enjoy this fic! ‘BEGGING FACE’

Ah! The words in Italic between (*…*) mean the thoughts. (It seems to me I said this at some other time.)


Part One

Evening - Archer Quarters.

It's late and I'm sleepy, but I want to remain awake a little bit yet.

This is strange, somehow. I’ve want to find relief in sleep for months, for years to be honest, and now that I'm finally able to taste the peace I missed, I want to put off my sleep for a bit, because… I want to think, for a little while, before I give in to.

The fact is that I want to relish, for some moments, the relief I found tonight, allowing my thoughts to flow freely in my mind, now that I can afford to do it.

I go toward the window and look at the space beyond it, thinking of how far, away from the life I expected, I have come ... and how far from my friends. From my closest friend.

The Xindi, the Expanse, our mission… Enterprise… Nothing else existed for me.

I turned myself into a withdrawn man, and my friends… both of them… thought I wouldn’t want to help them.

And I can't avoid the shame and guilt that, somehow, they were right.

I had suspected long since there was something between Trip and T'Pol, even if I was unaware it was such a deep relationship – such a romantic, intimate relationship - until that night in the sickbay, when Trip became nearly mad because T’Pol was dying from that Orion Device, and, in his despair, he disclosed to me and to the Doctor their love.

I look into the depth of the void of space. That night I became privy to their love for sure, and cast my soul into a void deeper than the void of space.

I played the cold fish, I didn’t say anything.

I didn’t seek to help them, to give any solace to Trip, to listen to him, or try to guide T’Pol through her Vulcan doubts, through her fears. As their Captain or as their friend.

Why? I immerse my look into the darkness of space, while daring finally to fully reveal to myself that I didn't want to face myself, after that night.

I saw her searching for her path and, while she was fumbling for it, I offered her… that ship's compass. “Should help keep you pointed in the right direction” , that’s what I said to her. This would have been a sign of real friendship if it was coming from a friend who was unaware. But I knew what the right direction was.

And I didn’t do anything. It was none of my business.

What a thought for of a real friend!

Why did I behave like this?

I stare into space and it seems to give me the response that I well know. And it' hurts.

Men sometimes feel a nasty enjoyment when they see denied to others the joy denied to them.

And I… am a man.

I saw them fall apart, and I didn't lift a finger.

It… was none my business. I was the Captain, my other duties came first.

When that virus appeared to kill Hoshi and was about to take Trip, I saw T’Pol’s despair, even in her Vulcan way, I knew what those words meant. “Captain, if Commander Tucker becomes conscious…” But when Hoshi and Trip came back to life I didn't want to think about the meaning of her words.

I didn't move to talk to her.

Vulcans are Vulcans. They are private.

I had no right to intrude.

Sure.

But that wasn't the reason.

I didn’t want to understand… to really know… of the deep feelings which tied my two friends together, because…

… because men can be envious and mean, even when they think they have the highest ideals, but are lost in a dead end cul-de-sac because of a woman's look.

A woman… who is not theirs.

I close my eyes in grief, while remembering the day when Trip told me he wanted to leave Enterprise.

I asked him the why, as if I didn't know why! And I didn’t do anything. Again. It was his life. It was his right to go away from Enterprise, from me… and from T’Pol!

I drift into the depth's of space remembering the moment Trip and T’Pol found themselves again, after they saved us from Orion pirates. From slavery.

I looked away again. I ignored them again. I was the Captain, my other duties took precedence.

I didn’t want to intrude… again.

To hell I didn’t want to intrude! I didn’t want to recognize it, - once again! - in spite of all I had seen and known, the unmistakable reality of Trip and T’Pol’s love! Because…

Because… Because…

T’Pol…

How she is beautiful! And desirable.

With that Vulcan air.

With that mysterious… enthralling… fragility, alongside her strength.

But… she’s not mine.

She’s Trip's.

My friend.

The friend I allowed to live when I allowed Sim to exist.

But why? Because Trip was my friend… or because of our mission?

But whether it was unfair or not, for whatever reason I did it, I did, claiming to ignore all consequences, to ignore that I was playing with Sim’s life and feelings. And Trip’s.

And T’Pol’s.

And Phlox’s, too.

I was alone, but I wanted to be alone.

Erika…

I didn’t even think of her, and she was there, waiting for me. After the Expanse I understood that she would have been there, if I had wanted to take up her on her invitation, that something deeper could have developed between us. But I was Archer, the Captain. The great Captain! The Captain whom Destiny had played such awful tricks on, as if nobody else had ever suffered because of fate. The weight of the whole world was weighing on my shoulders. On mine alone. Oh sure!

As if T’Pol wasn't tremendously alone, on Enterprise, far away from her home and in disgrace with her own people; as if Trip wasn't alone when he felt me pulling farther and farther away from him and everyone else, so focused on our mission.

And they, my two friends, joined their solitudes, they comforted each other.

And they were no longer alone.

And I remained alone, moronically alone, and in my solitude I forgot I had a friend… two friends, who expected something, a little word, a gesture, from me. That never I gave them.

I was far away.

Trip lost his sister… and I was far away.

T’Pol was with him, not me.

The cold Vulcan woman who makes all people feel uncomfortable and in awe... this woman was with him. Because… she loves him.

And I, engrossed in myself and in my aim, aware of their love and their troubles, became only the Captain, the great Archer, respected and admired by everybody, but somehow stifled from acting as a true friend should have to do.

And they perceived it, and that is the guilt I feel inside. That forces me to relive all this now, this night when I’ve found the will to make up for my errors and for lost time.

They lost their daughter, and I didn't want to think closely about what this daughter meant, about the meaning of what we found on Masaro’s database.

Sure! I allowed them to recover in full liberty on Earth! But did I tell them anything about their future? Didn’t I tell them... Be sure, be tranquil, don’t worry. Enterprise is your home!

I didn’t talk to them. To Trip. To my friend. I let Malcolm speak to him.

I played the Captain role, yet again, close to my friends, but not too close, not the way I should have been.

Why?

WHY? Because of… envy. And jealousy. Yes. Envy and jealousy.

And stupid bumptiousness. Foolish hubris.

I’m not a fool. I know my qualities. They exist, obviously; any man has his own virtues. But this night I can't deny the murky lump that drove me time and again.

And this lump was made with envy. And jealousy.

Is it possible? Is it possible that such despicable feelings were capable of overcoming my qualities? Of turning awareness into bumptiousness? Self-confidence into hubris? Sympathy into pettiness? Little by little? Almost without me noticing it?

I close my eyes in awareness. Yes, it is possible.

History is teeming with such examples, men can become the shadows of themselves because of envy and jealousy, even if they are pursuing the most noble of the aims.

And I am a man.

But this night… – I open my eyes with assuagement - this night I found again myself, the lump inside me faded away, and I’m capable of mustering up the courage to scrutinize the depth of my soul, and to face the truth.

And, inevitably, Lorian comes to my mind, along with my thoughts and reaction when Phlox told us who his father was.

And I can’t disregard why I behaved as I did.

Envy. And jealousy. As always.

I was far away, at that time. As always. And if I think of when I met the old T’Pol of the other Enterprise, I feel again the unavowable sensation I felt then. I was in front of the living demonstration of the destiny which would happen to Trip and T’Pol, sooner or later, in one way or another. I asked her if she wanted to see our Trip, magnanimously, sure. But I knew she wouldn’t want to see him! And how artful I was, how much tact I used, offering to other T'Pol the sight of a past which never would return for her! “That might be awkward.” she told me. Awkward? Much more, I think! But nous is not exactly my forte, that’s for sure.

Bumptiousness. Hubris. Blind pettiness, under the magnanimity's mantle. As always. And Envy. And jealousy. As always.

Me. The Captain. Their friend.

Always far away, always! Always… the Captain! The Captain I wanted to be! To such an extent that I was at last about to lose my friends forever, after what happened when Trip was kidnapped. After T’Pol’s public breakdown.

After the fear of losing Trip. And together with him also T’Pol.

But finally, thank God – The relief I feel inside me is unspeakable - thank God, that same fear took me to the light, it made me understand in the end, made me free, capable of chasing away my demons, the demons that they probably – surely - suspected, but that, mercifully, they never wanted to disclose. The long and gory fight I struggled within never has been brought to full light, and I was blessed to not have lost their respect, or their… admiration.

But it was almost too late, because after Trip recovered with T’Pol constantly being with him and after they finally understood what they had to do, I was about to lose them forever because they thought I would remain far away, I wouldn’t want to be at their side, I wouldn't want to aid them in their challenge, in their flying in the face of an universe unready for them and for what their relationship means.

They thought that, because they thought… I only was the Captain, nothing else besides that!

They needed a friend, the closeness of a true friend, the closeness of the man I used to be before the Expanse, before my silly jealousy and my foolish solitude blinded my eyes and dried up my soul. So, in the end, when finally they fully understood that their destiny had to be as one, they didn’t think of me as their friend, the friend who would and could help them. They decided to go away, because they thought there wasn’t any other way. They believed I wouldn’t comprehend… their love. Their needs. And help them.

Until now, until this night!

I close my eyes, again, in relief.

Until this night.

This night I remedied it all. This night I didn’t lose the opportunity, my last opportunity to regain their friendship and confidence. And my self respect.

I found peace again.

I found sleep again.

I open my eyes and look at the window. On its transparent pane, as on a screen, the scene flows as it occurred before my eyes, a little while ago, here, in my room.

I relive it, pensively, with dazed amazement, with bittersweet enjoyment.

What happened brought us to the point of no return.

My friends. And me.

The scene - words, actions, gestures, thoughts, emotions - streams slowly in my mind.


Evening - Archer Quarters - A bit earlier (In Archer’s memory)

The doorbell interrupted the course of my thoughts.

“Yes?”

“It’s us, Captain. May we come in?”

“It’s us.” That was T’Pol’s voice from behind the door. The meaning and the potency of that “Us” had struck me mightily. No need to say anything else. “Us”. Me and my man.

“Sure, T’Pol. Please enter.”

They entered my room, passing together through the door. Trip walked slowly, supporting himself with a cane and leaning on T’Pol’s arms, which were holding him strongly. And tenderly. Her eyes were observing his face attentively and fondly, scrutinizing him considerately.

“Captain, may my T’hai’la…”

My T’hai’la! Not Commander, and not even Trip! My T’hai’la! Barefacedly and frankly! And by then, Hoshi had explained to me the meaning of this word, which T’Pol had first cried out when we were looking for Trip.

“… may my T’hai’la sit? He still should not overexert himself.”

I smile lightly, thinking of the sigh of frustration which escaped from Trip’s mouth.

“Hon…”

“Hon!” Barefacedly and frankly, with that hoarse voice witnessing his condition, Trip was addressing himself to T’Pol. And T’Pol was clearly enjoying this appellative… making him silent, by delicately placing her right index finger on his mouth. Addressing him, barefacedly and frankly, with that other name, the meaning of which Hoshi had also explained.

“Hush, Ashayam! Please!”

And - I swear - what tenderness, what a look of… of love in her expression! What a tense concern!

“You can’t argue with me, Ashayam!”

I would wish that those who believe that Vulcans are only empty husks had been able to see the loving gaze she darted off to him, fonder than any gaze bestowed on any one else, and I also would like them to have heard the tone, the endearment T’Pol chided Trip with.

“You don’t want me to suffer again!”

I was speechless! Speechless hearing her words and her amorous tone. Speechless seeing the scene that was taking place before my eyes. Speechless observing the enjoyment of my friend, the trustful and blissful acquiescence with which he nodded… to his woman. No doubt about that!

I tried to draw their attention, clearing my throat.

“Ahem…” ‘cough’.

They turned to me, almost marvelling at my presence. Then the voice of my First Officer rose quiet and sure.

“Please forgive us, Captain.”

Again! US! As if they were only one person!

“May my T’hai’la sit?”

“Sure, T’Pol. No need to ask for permission.”

“Thanks, Captain.”

I can yet see the endless care with which this unknown T’Pol helped my weak friend to seat himself in the armchair, and the way she placed herself to his right side, standing, placing her left hand on his right shoulder, with a loving, possessive gesture.

“We…”

We! Once again! Once again the sensation that she was talking as if they were only one person!

“We felt the need to thank you for all you did for us, and…”

“T’Pol, what the hell are you talking about?”

“I’m talking about your indulgence and your broadmindedness, Captain.”

“Indulgence? Broadmindedness?”

“Yes. You allowed me to be closer to my Ashayam during his recovery time…”

“But T’Pol…”

“Supporting me in my neglect of duty…”

“T’Pol!”

“Comprehending my need to stay with…”

The stunned marvel I felt replenishes me again, while I’m brooding over the words she had murmured, lowering her eyes.

“… with the purpose of my life.”

At T’Pol’s words, Trip’s hand went to her hand, which was still lying on his shoulder, and he began to stroke it amorously.

I tried to pull myself together, so as not to reveal the extent of my dazed amazement, and at the same time I was fighting against my inner shame. Indulgence! Broadmindedness! From me, from the deaf and blind man I had been!

“T… T’Pol, I think Phlox was right, when he said that he’d found… a family here, and…”

Her eyes jerked up, looking steadily at me, and she interrupted my babble, while the look of her… mate was fixed attentively on my face. Very, very attentively!

“Exactly, Captain. A family.”

Her look lowered softly onto Trip, then she resumed talking, again staring at me.

“I, too, have found a family, here. I found… the companion of my life.”

Plainly, simply, directly. As a true Vulcan acts.

“We have talked over between us, Captain, and we think we must speak to you openly and explicitly.”

Her hand was clenching his shoulder, as if searching for courage; and his hand was clenching hers, as if to give her the strength.

A quick glance between them.

A swift nod from him.

Then she resumed talking, with determination, under my attentive look.

“Captain, I know that you’ve known about us for a long time. I know my T’hai’la informed you …”

I can swear that I was able to see in her eyes a flash of guilt and regret.

“… of my crazy and… illogical stubbornness in denying my feelings for him; of the way…”

Another sad shadow in her look.

“… I caused him undue suffering…”

A glance of infinite tenderness at her mate.

A sweet clinging of their hands.

“… and mine.”

I had never guessed a Vulcan might openly sigh like she did, before continuing.

But I never could have guessed she might become the Vulcan she is now.

“Until I accepted – willingly - his…”

This time a flicker of warm amusement crossed her face.

“… his roguish invitation, after he and I … ”

Pride, now! Patent and palpable.

“… together defeated those so-called Female Orion Slaves. Until…”

A sorrow so deep, now, on her face, and on her man’s visage, while their hands were strictly grasping each other; a pain so powerful, that I felt my heart fracturing.

“… until the… death… of our daughter. Until I…”

Trip forcefully clenched her hand, in that instant, and she stopped her words, staring into his eyes, which were looking at hers, as if he was telling her things that needn't be said.

She leaned on Trip even more, like he was her pillar, her backbone. And in that moment I knew that what was between them was only theirs. Something that I could never know. A secret... made with unbounded comprehension.

She went on. Quietly.

“After that, the only road we were able to travel was…”

Had it been a hint of happy smile, that had lightened her face?

“… a shared road. Our shared road.”

A short pause. Then, she straightened herself and kept on.

“Captain, we know you knew… that all of you knew.”

Gratitude? Yes. This her face showed, while shame was clenching my heart. Gratitude! For me! For the man who did not dare to look into his soul’s depth!

“We know you and our friends, all the crew, were pretending to be unaware of our… involvement, so as to allow us to live our… our…”

Here voice trailed off, unable to utter that word, and her man’s voice superseded hers, in her aid.

“Our love.”

She nodded, decidedly, keeping on.

“…covertly. Against Starfleet’s directives.”

“T’Pol…”

I attempted to interrupt her confession, conscious of how difficult it was for her; but she stopped me, with determination, holding Trip's hand even more tightly.

“Captain! Please! It’s important.”

I nodded, silently. And she went on, talking for them both.

“But now things have changed. Now… after… after my T’hai’la has been…”

What pain on her face!

Pain, yes! But frankly I don’t think there could be Vulcans who might disapprove of her for so patently displaying this emotion, if they had to bear an infinitesimal crumb of the pain she had to suffer through.

Trip’s hand powerfully squeezed hers, and, with evident effort, she continued her speech. She preferred to skip over what she had been alluding to.

“Things have changed now, Captain. Now it’s impossible… and illogical… to ignore what I am…”

A glance full of love at her man.

“… for my Ashayam. And what he means…”

Overflowing with love.

“… to me.”

I sat back down on my chair, guessing what she, they, were about to tell me.

Observing my two friends attentively, I spoke, low and slowly, afraid of what they might say.

“What do you mean, T’Pol?”

A pause. Short. Tense. Another nod from Trip.

“Captain…”

With evident difficulty she moved on to tell me the real reason they had wanted to speak to me.

“Captain, it’s impossible for you to permit us to stay openly together in violation of Starfleet regulations. And it’s impossible for us to… ”

I’m sure. It was a true smile, even if swift, that lightened her face.

“… it’s impossible for us to not be together. So…”

“So?”

I noticed I was holding my breath, waiting for her next words.

“So, Captain…”

A deep sigh, very human, from her, and another strong grip of their hands.

“We have decided to hand in our resignations.”

I leapt from my chair.

“T’Pol! Trip! You cannot…”

“Captain, please excuse us, but this is the only thing we can do.”

“The hell you can! I…”

“You, Captain… you and all the crew cannot ignore the reality. What… what happens if it were brought to the light that our relationship had been hidden in the penumbra, with everyone’s tacit consensus and everyone's friendly complaisance? It would be unfair and impossible to act as if nothing has occurred.”

My voice rose with a hint of exasperation.

“T’Pol, Trip! Listen to me. You…”

T’Pol’s voice, quiet and sad, interrupted me once more.

“Captain, please. We don't want to sound disrespectful. On the contrary.”

“What…”

“What sort of respect would we be showing, if we asked you to permit us to live our relationship openly on the ship under your command? Disobeying Starfleet’s orders, and, what's more, forcing the crew and our friends to risk their careers for us?”

“T’Pol…” “And then…”

Her voice rose strongly, with a tone quite far from her usual Vulcan manner.

“We are tired, Captain. I… am tired of living… discreetly!”

My eyes widened after hearing her utter these words.

“Yes, Captain. The horrible injuries my Trip…”

MY TRIP! HER TRIP!

“… had to bear, the… atrocious sorrow I had to feel in seeing him so badly hurt, the … the heartbreaking pain that was killing me in sensing his life seeping away, the… the fear… the terror of losing him during the endless time that he was fighting between life and death…”

It almost sounded as if she was on the verge of becoming overwhelmed by the unstoppable flow of these horrendous memories, incapable of tolerating such powerful emotions.

Emotions! Yes!

But… Vulcans… don’t feel! They can’t feel, or rather, they have to control their feelings, because these feelings are too strong. And if they do feel… they can be… destroyed by the potency of their emotions.

But maybe…

Maybe… maybe she is better able to bear them, with Trip’s help.

Or thus it seemed to me, judging by the sudden placation which had descended upon her as Trip’s arm encircled her waist, holding her tightly, in an obvious attempt to calm her down.

Breathing long and deep, closing and then opening her eyes, she went on.

“All this, Captain, has made me understand clearly and perfectly, finally, that I no longer want to be… discreet.”

She turned her face toward Trip, staring at him steadily and advisedly.

“I want to be free to look at my T’hai’la and be proud to be his woman. And proud that everyone can see my pride.”

I hadn’t even had time to marvel at her sentence when she decided to astonish me completely.

She leaned her head closer to his, their eyes staring each at others, and she spoke softly to him.

“I want to be free to call you Ashayam. Openly and with no discretion. My Ashayam!”

For the first time the staved voice of my friend rose to deliver an entire phrase. And it was simultaneously teasing and loving, as if he wanted to alleviate T’Pol’s noticeable tension, but, at the same time, was unable to hide what he was feeling.

“Darlin’, aren’t Vulcans the personification of discretion?”

Honestly, I believe my jaw dropped on the floor when I heard her answer.

“Have you been bonded with another Vulcan by chance?”

And that wasn't the end!

“Getting even with me, Hon?”

I was trying to lift my jaw from the floor.

“Yes. But, to respond to your question, Ashayam…”

Luckily my chair was just behind me. I fell in it, listening to her subsequent words.

“… I think no Vulcan female would be capable of being… discreet… once bonded with you. She would probably be tempted to cast discretion aside. I… am experiencing how hard it is to be Vulcan and discreet while bonded with a Human. With you. But…”

Luckily, luckily, I was seated!

“… I don’t believe another Vulcan female - any other female – could experience this any differently.

I swear! I saw and heard all that! Clearly! She said it as if bantering.

“Don’t you think so, my…”

A sort of teasing with a serious caveat.

“… Ashayam?”

I was speechlessly watching my two friends, and I plainly perceived – finally, for the first time – what really existed between them.

The soft chuckle of Trip and the sparkling of his eyes, countered with the mild laugh shining in the eyes of his mate, made me indeed understand, the cosy harbour they had found at last at the end of their plagued sailing.

And I felt happy for them.

Yes! I felt happy! Really! Forgetful, finally, totally, of my stupid, dull jealousy.

And… also I felt… something sad… inside. A sort of pain. An aching desire to have what they have, and what I perhaps will never have, if I’m not capable of choosing between a life and Enterprise.

I was so absorbed in these thoughts that T’Pol's voice surprised me.

“Captain…”

Both of them were looking at me, now, still in the same position, Trip resting in the armchair with his right arm embracing T’Pol’s waist, and T’Pol standing to his side, leaning on him, her hand lying softly on his shoulder.

“Captain, please forgive us again. Our conduct is very improper. My conduct is very improper!”

I tried to soften her self-chastening.

“Oh, but I understand. All of us can understand.”

I was unable to restrain my words.

“You two have pined for each other for too long, and it is perfectly understandable that now you want to openly express your joy…”

“Exactly, Captain.”

She interrupted me, gazing at me with a strange and unfathomable look.

“And this is an emotion I don’t want to give up.”

(*She… doesn’t want to give up… this… emotion! *)

“I’m sure that, with the passing of time and with Trip’s help, I will be capable of living more easily with this emotion, still keeping to the path of being the Vulcan I am. Like…”

She threw a quick and grateful glance at Trip.

“…like my T’hai’la desires. But, in any case, I want and will always want to savour all this openly, at last!”

Her eyes became terribly serious.

“Captain… Never again will I be the same T’Pol that I was. It’s has been a long time since I’ve been that T’Pol. And this fact… ”

A long breath of perceivable uneasiness came out of her mouth, while Trip held her firmly again.

“… this fact has been terrorizing me. I didn’t know how to handle it. I wished to remain the same, and I wished to change. And… and I experimented with some… dangerous options.”

I frowned, incapable of understanding her meaning. But an imperious stare from Trip warned me not to ask anything.

“Then, little by little, I found my way.”

She turned her look toward Trip, watching him, their eyes locked together.

“I followed… my heart.”

(*Now she's going to kiss him! Kiss him! *)

I smile to myself. This was the thought, which flashed through my mind at the sight of her, leaning toward her mate.

But the kiss I believed she would give him didn’t happen.

“And now I know perfectly that my heart was right.”

I studied her attentively. And Trip. Then I asked her.

“T’Pol, why are you telling me all this?” She has been crystalline in her response.

“Because you have to know, Captain. I have told you. We have talked between us, and Trip said that I have to tell you everything. And I agreed with him. You must be aware of how things stand, so you can understand why we have brought you our request.”

“T’Pol…”

“Captain, we need to be together to handle this thing. We want to be free to… to…”

Trip’s helping voice. Again.

“To love each other, Darlin’”

“Yes! Openly! We cannot do this here, on Enterprise, and we cannot ask you to retain us and fail in your duty. So… please, Captain…”

There was a true glumness, in her voice and in her posture. The same look was on Trip’s face.

“… Let… let us go. We must leave.”

The cruel way with which I played my cards to make them reverse their decision hurts me yet. But I had to make them understand.

And I didn't want to lose my friends. Surely not after I had regained myself.

I didn’t want to lose their day to day companionship, but I also didn’t want to… to really lose them.

I spoke with a hard voice.

“Where, T’Pol?”

I still see clearly the wounded look with which she looked back at me.

She knew what I meant.

Like Trip.

I stood up, to emphasize my words with my posture.

“Where? Where, Trip?”

“Captain…”

“Do I have to remind you of the words of the maniacal leader of our enemies… your enemies, Trip, when…”

“Captain!”

“… when he was spewing his rancour, his dire hatred for your mate, T’Pol…”

“Captain! No!”

“… when, captured and manacled, he was bellowing that his spirit, the spirit of Terra-Primers, wouldn't die, wouldn't find peace until…”

“CAPTAIN!”

“…until Trip’s death!”

“CAPTAIN! WHAT THE HELL!?!”

Trip’s voice exploded with rage, while he was attempting to stand up.

While on T’Pol face had appeared that same expression I’d seen when that damned Terra-Prime worm shrieked his whacky threats.

Panic!

No other word describes that expression!

Panic!

Visceral and blind!

“Calm down, Trip! Calm down!”

My voice rose powerfully to take control of the situation. I had to play my cards right.

My tone mellowed, as I turned to T’Pol.

“Calm down, T’Pol!”

Then I addressed both of them. Quietly.

“Calm down, Commanders.”

Now, I had to open their eyes, completely.

“Do you believe that there’s a place, anywhere, where those…those bastards can't reach you? Where there are no stupid fanatics that would be pleased to have the chance to do you harm? How could you live without Starfleet's protection? How? And, unfortunately, I don’t think the Vulcans are going to be disposed to giving you a hand."

Their faces were lackluster.

“T’Pol, Trip. I understand your reasons for wanting to go, but you cannot leave Enterprise.

I will never forget the way she turned to her mate. I think… Oh, I know nobody will believe me! But… Desperate. Yes. Her expression could be so defined. Desperate.

She addressed herself to Trip, searching – desperately – for a solution.

“Trip. What… what can we do? I…”

Desperate. Yes.

“… I don’t want to… I don’t want to…”

“I don’t think this is necessary, Hon.”

The face of my friend changed. It was no longer sallow, and right after he uttered those words, he turned to me. Grinning and blinking at me.

I smiled.

He had understood.

I called, with a low voice, the name of my First Officer, amused by the astonished expression on her face, her head turning alternately toward me and toward her rascally man.

“T’Pol.”

Her eyes were agape and puzzled, and marvellous. And, honestly, in seeing them, I felt a sharp pang of envy for Trip. Indeed justified, now, that’s for sure!

“T’Pol, didn’t you say that you have found a family, here?”

“I did, Captain.”

“And shouldn’t a family protect its members, at any price?”

“Captain…” “I think this is as true on Earth as on Vulcan, right T’Pol?”

“It’s true, Captain. But…”

“And shouldn’t a true family allow its members to live their life happily, the way they want to do it, without problems?”

Frankly it was wonderful to observe the light that little by little was growing in her eyes, and the way she was clenching Trip’s hand firmly, while the understanding was opening a road in her mind.

Her voice was a hopeful, sweet sigh.

“Captain… Trip…”

“Stay here, T’Pol. Stay here with Trip, with…” – I stressed my words – “with your man. This is your home, here you two can live blissfully together, savouring openly your love, as you want. Be sure that no one will be less than happy to protect you. Here you will be safe, under the protection of your friends.”

“Captain… and Starfleet? What about Starfleet?”

I straightened, gazing at her with an intense expression, my tone underlining with force the meaning of my words.

“That is my problem, T’Pol.”

Trip’s cheerful voice interrupted my talk.

“Well, Jon!”

Jon! Trip was calling Jon again! After so much time! His… friend Jon!

“I don’t think they would like to run the risk of losing… ahem… one of their better engineers, the… uh…the best, right Jon?”

My laugh joined Trip’s laugh, while T’Pol was still looking baffled at me, then at her mate, then at me.

Then it happened.

That devil of a Vulcan female leaped up on her feet and with a few rapid steps covered the distance separating us.

She halted in front of me, gazing steadily at my eyes.

“Jon…”

JON! She called me… Jon!

“Jon, to be bonded with a human, with the most illogical of Humans, …”

I’m sure there was a playful tone in her words.

“…has its difficulties, but also its sunny side. You had inside you Surak’s Katra, so you can understand. You can comprehend that to be bonded means many things, such as sharing moods."

The light on her eyes was sparkling like stars.

“I think, Jon, Human mood has its value, sometimes.”

And, while saying that, she put her mouth near my cheek.

I heard the whisper of her voice to my ear.

“Thanks, Jon.”

And I felt the soft touch of her lips on my cheek.

A kiss! Like the one she gave Trip on her wedding day, as Trip told me!

Well, maybe not exactly like that one, but in any case… a kiss! Slight and all the same heavy. Heavily meaningful.

A Vulcan’s sweet kiss of gratitude.

Then she detached her lips from my cheek, moving backwards to look at me with an expression I will never forget, as I stared back at her with bamboozled eyes.

Until a jazzy sound shook us. A guffaw, amused and sonorous.

The damned guffaw of her damned man.

At the sound, she looked at me with a strange expression, with… a leer in her eyes. Then she turned quickly, and almost ran toward her laughing mate.

She stopped on front of him, looking purposely and steadily at him, his laugh dying in his throat.

“Do you find my behaviour funny, Ashayam?”

I would be happy if those who believe Vulcans can’t express feelings had been able to hear the tone of that Ashayam.

“Oh well! No, Darlin’! That is yes! Uh…No! Yes! Well! You know… Vulcans don’t… Well! You… Jon… I… ”

I can't help but smile to myself, the thought reoccurring to my mind that I had while I watched that scene.

(*Poor Trip! *)

Then, suddenly, another thought struck my brain.

(*How is it possible that she, T’Pol, the Vulcan T’Pol, is behaving like this before me? She’s a Vulcan, damn it! Decorum is important to her. Intimacy is the first thing to protect, for her! How is it possible? *)

She softly placed her hands on Trip’s shoulders, without detaching her eyes from his.

“As I said, T’hai’la, Human mood has its value, sometimes.”

And, after saying that, she leaned her face toward his, until her mouth was one inch from his mouth.

I was watching speechless, unable to move, or even to think. I was intruding on something I wouldn’t have ever believed might happen.

Before me! Before… ME!

“I hope, Ashayam, you don’t find this funny also.”

I remember the stunned refrain which was whirling in my head.

(*How is it possible, for Pete’s sake? I can understand she has changed, but this!*)

Trip was motionless, without words, his eyes agape and stunned… while her lips placed a quick kiss on his, slight and sweet!

She then lifted her head swiftly, as if abruptly realizing what she had done.

She closed her eyes, for a short instant, breathing deeply, clearly ashamed of what she had done.

Then she opened them, locking purposely at Trip, and for some moments everything seemed unmoving, bated, while Trip was still staring at her with a surprised and dazed expression, a mirror of the one which was on my face.

(*How is it possible, holy crap!? How? I’m aware now that Trip’s mood can influence her, but she’s still ... Dammit! She’s T’Pol! *)

And then in Trip’s eyes, suddenly, a light appeared.

I don’t know. It was as if something inexpressible, beyond words, had passed between the two of them.

He turned toward me for a brief moment, looking at me with a strange expression. I was able to recognize a sort of mixture in the blue of his eyes. Amusement, understanding, awareness. And purpose.

Turning again to stare into her eyes, he raised his right hand and spoke with a solemn voice.

“Vulcan mood has its value also, Hon.”

And he offered his forefinger and his middle finger to her. She promptly imitated him, joining her fingers to his with that Vulcan gesture that I know is a gesture with which Vulcans show the depth of the connection linking two souls to each other.

Two hearts which love each other unconditionally and indissolubly.

Finally they separated their fingers, and she straightened, turning herself to look frontally at me and then sat on the armrest of Trip’s chair, femininely and at ease, placing again her left hand on his shoulder, her arm lovingly encircling his neck. Her thumb sweetly caressing Trip’s shoulder!

Their expressions serious and quiet. Fixed on me.

And I understood, and felt glad, at peace. I would be able to sleep again.

You’re our friend, Jon. You’re capable of understanding us, to such an extent that you want to help us fulfil our needs, in spite of everything, even in spite of yourself. You’re our friend, Jon. The best. The friend who is allowed to share once in a lifetime a tiny nip of what we’re to each other. Of our intimacy.

That was the meaning of T’Pol’s behaviour, of the exchange of looks and of… thoughts, I think, between her and Trip.

T’Pol was giving me such a honour!

And I would have someone to talk to again, to share my thoughts with and also... my decisions. No more stupid solitude. Trip, and T'Pol, would be at my side, like in past days. And better.

I felt a new lightness in my soul. I spoke jocularly, with a playful tone, joking, with the purpose of mitigating the atmosphere.

And I wasn't able to resist.

“Well, T’Pol! It seems that when you said you were tired of acting discreetly, you knew very well what you were talking about.

Trip didn’t seem particularly amazed at what occurred then, but obviously I can’t claim that my knowledge of Vulcan females is as deep as his.

T’Pol, still in the same position, raised her eyebrow in her usual way, while stroking Trip's shoulder with her thumb mildly and almost absent-mindedly, which was amusedly contrasting the absolute Vulcan non-expression now on her face.

Looking perfectly innocent, she spoke calmly.

“Are you insinuating, Captain, that I’m behaving improperly?”

“Oh… well…”

“I assure you that you are mistaken, Captain.”

“I am… mistaken?”

“Absolutely, Sir.”

“But… ”

“My behaviour is merely logical, Sir.”

“Logical?”

“Captain, as the First Officer of this ship it is my duty to see to crew efficiency.”

“Eh? Oh certainly! But…”

“Yes, Sir. And efficiency is highly influenced by mood.”

“Sure, T’Pol. But…”

“Yes, Sir. And mood is highly influenced by personal gratification.”

“Uh… yeah, sure.”

“And I must be counted as part of this crew.”

“Eh? But naturally, T’Pol!”

“So I too must be gratified in order to maintain a high mood, in order, in the final analysis, to augment my efficiency.” “O… of course, T’Pol! But…”

“Sir, I have reason to believe that, in this particular circumstance, what I did was absolutely useful for my personal gratification, ergo for my own mood, ergo for my efficiency.”

“Oh my, T’Pol! Truce! Truce!”

“I don’t understand, Sir.”

I wasn’t able to restrain myself.

I wanted to measure, if possible, this new and unbelievable and explosive mixture of Vulcan logic and Trippical humour that my First Officer now embodied.

I looked at the deadpan face she was designedly displaying, the same air of absolute innocence still about her, while her mate was desperately attempting to smother his chortles.

I spoke mimicking her Vulcan formal phrasing.

“Very well, T’Pol. In my personal opinion, your devotion to your job and your ability to carry it out, are really remarkable. Actually, I expect that Commander Tucker's efficiency will considerably improve, judging from his present mood resulting from the gratification you gave him in the fulfilment of your duty.”

I’m sure. This time my jaw ran the risk of shattering by how my mouth got agape at her reply.

“As to that, Captain, I can assure you that I’m capable of doing much better for heightening his… efficiency.”

I remained speechless and motionless for a moment looking at her impassive face. Then I burst into laughter, unrestrainedly, unable to prevent myself from guffawing at her last unthinkable and allusive witticism.

I looked at the way she lifted her eyebrow again… still sitting comfortably and utterly at ease on the arm of the chair, still with her hand lying on the shoulder of her mate, still with her thumb caressing him, still with that look of sheer naturalness on her face… while my laugh was mixing with the laugh of that damned lucky man.

My Chief Engineer.

That lucky bastard!


Evening – Archer Quarters – Present Time (Archer’s remembering finishes)

I shake myself. Enough now. I’m sleepy and I want to sleep. I can do it placidly, now, and I want to do it.

I turn around and walk toward my bed. I slouch down onto it, and I go sprawling on it, lying on my back, my head resting on my arms crossed behind it.

But I can’t yet sleep.

I wasted my time, unconsciously pursuing a forbidden dream, while… someone… was offering me…

But maybe I have time.

Three days, we must stay here three days.

Maybe… maybe I have time.

Maybe… I can make up for lost time. Maybe… - I spring up from my bed - I can!

“Ensign Berlusconi.”

“Sir?”

“Open a communication channel with Columbia. Captain Hernandez.”

“Yes, Sir.”

I wait impatiently. Finally her face, strong and sweet, appears on the screen. I recognize her office, and she is alone. We can talk without fear that someone can hear us.

Her voice, slightly confused, goes out from the communication panel. “Archer? What do you want at this time of day?”

I pretend to be professional.

“Captain, how long are you staying on Earth?”

She looks at me with perplexed eyes, but she responds to me, with an uncertain voice.

“Three days, Captain.”

I feel a sort of twinge inside me.

“Very well, Erika.” – I stress her name – “We have to stay here three days too. We, you and I, have time to talk. Will you meet me tomorrow?”

She looks at me with puzzled eyes.

“Is there something important we need to talk about?”

I speak dryly. “Yes.”

Her eyes blink, while she tries to comprehend.

Enterprise? Columbia? Something else?”

I try to keep my professional tone, while I reply. “Something else.”

Her look gets more and more perplexed. “Something else?”

I emphasise her name even more, in my response. “Something else, Erika.”

An understanding light appears in her eyes. “Should I guess that this something is not about Starfleet?”

“It’s not, Erika.” I gaze at her. I repeat. “No.”

She plunges her eyes in mine. How deep are they! She talks, softly and purposely. “I… think we can meet tomorrow morning. Where?”

“Pier 39, at 9.00 a.m., before that new San Francisco Carousel, handcrafted in Italy.” I look at her intensely. “I hope we will be able to have breakfast together.” I stress my words. “Not a working breakfast.”

She looks at me designedly, as bantering. “And lunch?”

I smile, and speak again, with teasing tone. “And dinner?”

Her look mirrors my tone. “By candlelight?”

I take a deep breath. “Night is sweet, this season, on San Francisco Bay.”

She gets serious, now, and her dark eyes shine. She speaks again, slowly. “I think I’ll be able to have the whole day off, tomorrow.” The shine in her eyes grows. Her voice slows. “I think I can take the night off as well.”

I reply with low voice. “Me too.”

She continues looking steadily at me. Her voice is mild as she speaks. “See you tomorrow morning.”

I talk under my breath. “Tomorrow morning…” I dare. “… darling.”

She opens her eyes wide for a brief instant, then regains her controlled and professional behaviour. “Tomorrow morning…” She emphasizes her last word. “…Jon.” She stares at me briefly and intensely yet. “Hern… Erika out.”

The screen becomes dark.

I stay one moment before it, trying to tidy up my thoughts, then I smile broadly and return to my bed. The smile didn’t leave my face while sleep envelops me little by little, my eyelids becoming more and more heavy.

Finally I allow myself to surrender to sleep, basking in the vision of my coming day, thinking of the words I will say to Erika, of the time we will have together.

But an unexpected and comforting thought enters my mind. (*Erika will be capable of understanding me and of giving me a helping hand, of giving me the right suggestions and the right advice. She will be on my side. *)

Indeed. Because my task in the next days will be difficult and onerous. It will be very hard to justify Trip and T’Pol’s relationship with the Starfleet's admiralty, not to mention the Vulcans. Who knows about Soval… It seems to me that he holds Trip in high esteem; he has called constantly asking about Trip’s conditions during his recovery.

Anyway I cannot fail, I mustn’t. My… my friends put faith in me. I cannot, mustn’t disappoint them.

And then – but how is it possible that such roguish thoughts can occur to me, now, while I’m falling into the sleep I have been waiting for? – the unfolding of the new situation will have its benefits. My ship – I sneer – will gain some space, that’s for sure.

Her quarters or his? His, obviously. They are roomier, more fit for two people. It will only be necessary to change the bed, it’s too small.

(*Or maybe…*) This last impish thought makes me chuckle while the sleep almost is about to win its battle, at last. (*… Maybe this is not of such importance! *)

And at this thought, I can’t help but burst into a loud laugh, the sleep once more defeated by the merry-go-round which swirls this night in my mind.

Joyous, liberating, taking utterly away the heavy stone that was ground into my heart until tonight, the words explode out of my mouth, from the depth of my chest.

That lucky bastard!

Yes! That lucky bastard. The friend I have regained!


The End of Part One.

Gosh! Would you have thought Archer were so deep? No? Me neither! Well! Wonders never cease.

Anyway, I hope all of you were able to understand the meaning of “Human Mood”. But, otherwise, I think you will better understand when you will read this story’s second and final part. (Oh, please! Read it! Please!)

 


Comments:

Linda-one-of-two

I like the way you pick a theme and carry it out.  Also, you included here a lot of Archer's history.  I find it hard to remember that much of it unless I have newly gone through watching the entire series recently.  Good job, Asso!  I like the way you have Archer go through his guilt feelings and then find out Trip and T'Pol don't hold him to blame the way he holds himself to blame.  What he sees as neglect, T'Pol sees as caring enough to give them some privacy.  Well, a Vulcan would appreciate that.  Trying to work out a plan so they can stay together on the ship is an interesting idea and a challenge for Archer.  I look forward to seeing how you have him accomplish that!   

Asso
Thanks to everyone. :Des, I think Archer has to be a character more complex than the one he has been shown on screen.Sometimes I believe the characters in the show were imprisonned in ill-judged stereotypes.If you think of T'Pol: back-and-forth, back-and-forth, back-and-forth...Oh but stop please! Stop! :s
Dinah
"… because men can be envious and mean, even when they think they have the highest ideals, but are lost in a dead end cul-de-sac because of a woman's look." What a great sentence! This conversation came at a good time for Archer as well as for Trip and T'Pol. It was a real wake-up call for Jon. Through Trip and T'Pol's happiness he began to realize what he was missing. Erika would be a good match for him. Fortunately, his jealousy and envy didn't turn into negative emotions. I was also glad to see Archer stand behind his two friends by trying to convince them that resigning from Starfleet wasn't in their best interests. Well done, Asso.
evcake
Thanks, Asso. The beauty of friendship is one of the things that Star Trek has always been about, and it tends to get neglected sometimes.
anaM
It is easy for me to see Archer through your eyes, you express his feelings, motives and missgivings in a very believable way. And I always thought he makes a nice couple with Erika :)
bluetiger
The way you have explained Archer's feelings of jealousy totally work for the way he behaved in the expanse. The way he drew away from Trip and T'Pol could clearly be to keep from acknowledging the feelings they had for each other. Very nice work! I will be waiting for part two.
panyasan
Nice fic, Asso. While I think that Archers attraction to T'Pol and hence his jalousy is a one time thing, his pondering about him drifting away from T'Pol and Trip makes sense. There were some very amusing lines in this fic and I like the subtle ways you wrote about the tenderness between them (like the gentle thumb rubbing). You protrayed Trip and T'Pol as very great hearted people, thinking of Jon as their best friend, because - like he thinks himself - he hasn't been acting like it. I really like the call to Erika and how you decribed it. Good for the both of them!
Reanok
I like Archer's portrayal in this story and his thoughts and reflections on Trip
Robert
I like this vary much. I like the way you describe the inner flow of feelings and thought.As always please more, more, more, more, more, more ...Thanks for your work
pdsldl
You managed to smooth out the first part. Much better. The conversation between the three is still my favorite part of this.
framework4
Nicely done.
BnB
This requires further digestion and contemplation. it cannot be properly evaluated at oen sitting. Like good whiskey, you don't gulp it. You sip it.

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