Title: you, in your robes
Author: Vesper (Regina)
Warnings: character death
Codes: Archer, T'Pol, future fic
Spoilers: Season 3, some Trek history
Summary: After the war, Archer makes a visit to Vulcan.
Disclaimer: Star Trek is owned by Paramount. The story is mine.
Archival: Permission to Warp 5 Complex (EntSTCommunity). Anyone else, please link to my website. Please keep all my headers intact.
Notes: Title from "Full Circle" by Loreena McKennitt. I struggled to put this idea down for a while, and until I watched "Twilight" it didn't come together, and then I had to finish "Sono". This has been jossed all to pieces by now, but who cares? Let's just say my backstory is different and leave it at that.
The shuttlecraft panel emitted a warning beep and Archer looked down, noting the hail came from the surface, as he'd expected. A few more minutes and he would be entering Vulcan's atmosphere. He opened the channel. A brisk voice said, "This is Sethor, Customs Authority. Please state your reason for visiting, personal or business, and your length of stay."
"This is Admiral Archer of the United Federation of Planets. I'm just here to visit a friend for the day."
"Personal, then. Please transmit your ship registry and final destination coordinates."
Archer replied, "On its way."
"Enjoy your stay."
Archer coughed in surprise. A polite Vulcan, by God. Of course, he then thought. The newer generation was a little more sensitive to the niceties of other cultures. A decade of affiliation had certainly made a difference.
He broke through the atmosphere, just as the sun slipped over the mountains in the far distance. He slowed the craft down, admiring the way the mountains stood out with fierce brilliance against the red sky.
He sighed, resisting the lure of the mountains and the urge to point his craft toward them. He could not and would not let his second thoughts get the best of him. With renewed determination, he continued on his course. Within minutes he caught sight of T'Pol's family house and spied a figure standing before the doors. He squinted.
She was wearing robes not unlike the first time he met her. She waited until he touched down before walking to meet him. He winced against the already hot air that pushed against him as he opened the craft's door. Feeling under-prepared, he avoided T'Pol's gaze by focusing on closing the door. Having squelched the childish desire to hide, he turned to face her, smiling.
"T'Pol," he said, "you haven't changed at all."
She turned her body to the side, a wordless invitation to follow her. He fell in step beside her as she led them back to her house. She said, "The same cannot be said about you."
He touched a hand to his head, fingering the grey streak that had grown in. He smiled again, self-conscious. "You can't have expected ten years to have not left its mark, could you?"
They entered the front hall and she locked the doors behind them, with a finger press to the pad beside the doors.
"I suppose it was too much to hope for," she responded. "Although, it has treated you kindly."
"You don't look half-bad yourself." Archer paused there, considering whether he should say more. T'Pol's face showed no signs of age, but her appearance was much as it had been the last time he'd seen her, her hair soft around her shoulders. He weighed the risk and opted to broach a comment. He continued, "I always thought that look suited you. Trip would have--"
"Please come this way, Admiral."
She swept in front of him, her robes whispering behind her and Archer, stung by her quick interruption, took a few moments to follow after her. That had gone badly. Of course it had. What else could he have expected? He'd rattled her, however, and that gave him a peculiar thrill of pride and guilt intertwined.
He said, "I think, after all this time, you could call me Jonathan."
She swiftly turned to look at him. A moment, and then the barest dip of her head as she acknowledged the request.
"Very well," she answered and continued to lead him into a sitting area. She asked, "Would you like some tea?"
"I'd love some," he said. She nodded and went into an adjoining room. He looked around at the clean-lined furniture, the layout designed for utmost convenience, the lack of ostentatious decoration. It was pleasing and restful to the eye.
Beside a chair was a small table. A grouping of photographs were clustered on top of the glass surface. Curious, he drew closer. There were the faces of Malcolm, Hoshi, one with himself, his arm thrown across the back of Trip's shoulders. He picked up one he had a duplicate of--Hoshi, sitting beside Malcolm, both of them not looking at the camera, but down into the face of a newborn baby. He smiled, then jumped as he heard T'Pol say, "He liked having them there."
Archer placed the photograph back and turned to face her. She was putting a tray down. He said, "And you kept them around."
"They are mementos."
He joined her, taking the cup she'd prepared for him. 'Pictures of friends,' he thought, ' none of herself and Trip.' He sipped from his cup and then said, "Malcolm sends his greetings and requests that you not send your god-daughter a sehlat."
His attempt at levity was rewarded with a sparkle in her eyes. She said, "The domesticated varieties are less troublesome than one would think."
"I've seen them. I think you might be wrong there."
"Eire would be more than capable--"
Archer set his cup down into its saucer. It clattered against it, and the tea sloshed against the inside edge of the cup, but not over. T'Pol's eyes focused on him, Archer noticed, not on the cup.
"T'Pol, you know why I've come, don't you?"
"I would not venture to guess."
"It's been ten years."
"I am aware of the passage of time."
"We, all of us, want to honor his memory by coming together. I came to invite you."
"I fail to see how my presence would be beneficial. The past is past. If I choose to decline?"
He let out a puff of air and shook his head. "That's your choice, but can't you see, we want you--I can't believe this. T'Pol. You were his wife."
"I was there, T'Pol. I saw how devasted you were. You might have hidden it, but I know."
"All wars have their casualties. I do honor his memory. I only choose to do it alone."
He stared at her, as if by doing so, he'd break something down in her. When she didn't react, he let loose an angry huff of air, saying, "God. All this time and you haven't changed. I thought-- I was sure-- You were always welcome in our midst."
"Jonathan," he snapped, not intending to use such a savage tone. He closed his eyes and brought a hand to his face, turning slightly away from her. In a softer, wearied tone he repeated, "Jonathan." He turned back to her. "I knew it," he said, "I should never have come here. You're still the same rock and I don't have the energy to wear you down."
"Jonathan, you do not understand."
"I think I do. I get it. You aren't unfeeling, you simply just don't care. I thought, given enough time...but that's the problem, isn't it, T'Pol. Too much time."
"Perhaps. You are right. It is not a place I can be any longer."
"And there's no place for me here, much as I wish. I should have known better.... I've been foolish, T'Pol."
She looked at him for a long moment, as though weighing his statement. He grit his teeth and tried not to give away more than he already had.
She said, "I disagree. I have learned that it is not always foolish to seek an answer to a long unanswered question."
"So, here I am, no better and much lonelier."
"But at peace, as am I."
"Are you?" He looked at her, coming to the only conclusion. "You are. You've used the time to get there."
She did not reply. 'Of course not,' he thought, 'there was nothing else to say.'
"I should be going," he said. "No sense in wasting."
She walked him out. At the door, he turned to her.
"I'll miss you." And there was more there that he would not say, could not say.
"Live long and prosper," she answered.
He nodded, resigned. "I'll try. Goodbye, T'Pol."
She followed him out into the hot glare of Vulcan and stood away from his shuttlecraft. He didn't expect, when he looked out after he lifted off, to still see her there.
She was, and he watched her robes whipping around her, her face as impassive as ever. And this, he knew, would be the image of her he would never forget.
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