The Green-Eyed Monster
Main characters: Archer, Tucker, Reed
Rating: PG-13 for theme.
Warning: DEATHFIC, AU and dark theme.
Spoilers: Vague for Season Three.
Archive: Warp 5 complex. Anyone else, sure, if you want it just let me know.
Beta: I don't have one! All constructive criticism is therefore most welcome.
Summary: Jealousy is an ugly thing, especially under these circumstances.
A/N: Set at some point just after the conclusion of the Xindi arc. Like I say, this is dark but it's an idea that just kept nagging at me and wouldn't let go. It's a bit of an experiment for me, not my usual narrative style at all so I hope it works. Thanks for reading!
Jonathan Archer hates the fact that he's jealous, but he misses his best friend, Charles 'Trip' Tucker. He hates it enough to pretend even to himself that he doesn't feel envious of Malcolm Reed. He knows that it's wrong, and logically he shouldn't feel like this, but he can't help it.
The psychiatrist Jonathan has just been talking to hasn't picked up on the jealousy yet, but there's so much other stuff to work through that perhaps it's just a matter of time. Jonathan hopes he can keep it buried from her, doesn't want to see the disgust on her face. It's bad enough he has to see her at all.
He still recalls - word perfect - the conversation with Admiral Forrest when they returned to Earth:
"We're granting all your crew extended leave, Jon. Command don't want Enterprise to go anywhere until after the new year. Give everyone some time to... regroup." He'd waited for Jonathan to respond, but what was there to say? "We shouldn't have sent you back out there so quickly. After the Expanse... we should have given you some time."
"We were fine, we wanted to get back out there."
"You needed time... Then maybe... " Forrest hadn't finished that sentence; Jonathan found that everyone he spoke to seemed to find it difficult to finish sentences these days. Too much had happened, too much that no one wanted to talk about.
Jonathan had cleared his throat half-heartedly. "It was an accident." And it was. Maybe that's what made it so tragic. An overburdened plasma manifold ruptured turning that section of Engineering into an inferno. It was sudden, unexpected and, from what they could gather from the only eye-witness, horrific. After everything they'd gone through in the Delphic Expanse, after all the deaths on the mission, not to mention the lingering effect of the deaths on Earth, that it was an accident seemed all the more cruel. "Just an accident," he repeated. His voice had sounded oddly hollow.
"You shouldn't blame yourself."
Jonathan's head had snapped up at those words but his denial caught on his lips. He was accountable for everything that happened on Enterprise, he was the captain. He was the captain who'd pushed for his crew to leave dock early yet again, but, unlike the last two times, there was no urgent mission to embark upon, just an ageing man with itchy feet.
"There's someone we'd like you to see. A doctor from the Ashburne, you know, the -"
"- Psychiatric Hospital. Yes, I know."
"She's very good... She's been... helping Mister Reed, I believe."
Mustering all his remaining strength he had tried to sound normal. "I don't need to see a shrink, sir."
"It's not a suggestion, Jon." The Admiral had said it softly but in a tone that brooked no argument. "Not if you want to sit in the captain's chair again."
So he'd gone to the Ashburne, because he wanted to be back on the Bridge, back in charge of Enterprise. Because there was nothing else in his life.
And he still comes to the Ashburne, twice a week, Sunday morning and Wednesday afternoon. But he's not sure whether he wants to be declared fit for duty anymore.
The doctor's office is at the end of a long corridor on the third floor. He's been hearing rumours about the third floor all his life. The third floor is where they send the officers who don't get declared fit for duty. It looks no different to the other floors, but Jonathan recognises several of the faces - heroes from his past, men he'd aspired to be like now losing their minds in their old age. He shudders when he thinks about it.
One side of the corridor is lined with windows that look out over the manicured grounds. The sun is streaming in; the sky over San Francisco is bright blue. He thinks it should be beautiful but he can't feel it.
The other side of the corridor is windowed too, but looking into the building. This bright Sunday morning all the internal curtains are drawn back. He can see doctors in their offices, patients in the common rooms, friends and relatives making cups of tea and chatting to their loved ones.
Jonathan sees Malcolm on the other side of the transparent aluminium wall; this is the only way their paths cross these days, with a meeting after one of Jonathan's sessions. Malcolm, however, hasn't noticed his former captain yet. He's arguing, Jonathan realises, but there's a small smirk on his face even as he gesticulates wildly and draws the attention of the room's other occupants. He calms down after a few seconds, a reaction to placating words Jonathan can't hear, and moves a pawn on the chessboard in front of him. Jonathan can't tell if Malcolm's winning, not that it matters. Jonathan can just about make out the sound of Malcolm's voice, his accent less pronounced now he's relaxed, chatting amiably. He strains his ears, wishing, not for the first time recently, that he were a Vulcan.
"Trip, that has to be the worst joke I've ever heard!" Malcolm shakes his head and tries to glare at his companion but he's smiling despite himself and Jonathan knows that only Trip has ever been capable of bringing down the Brit's defences like that. They always seemed happiest in each other's company.
Jonathan drags his palm across his face and reminds himself that it's wrong to be jealous.
Spotting Jonathan, Malcolm waves cheerfully then beckons the older man over, raising his voice to shout through the window, "Morning, sir. Come and give Trip a hand, he's losing horribly!"
Jonathan sighs. He doesn't really feel up to this right now, he's had a stressful session deciding what he ought to tell and what he still needs to hide, but he owes it to Malcolm, and to Trip.
Before he can move he hears a shout: "Captain!" He turns at the sound of footsteps hurrying toward him and sees the doctor holding out a folded umbrella. "You left this in my office. Here..." He takes it, absently. He's forgotten that it was raining earlier, it looks so pleasant now. Sunshine after the rain, that's how it's supposed to work, isn't it?
The doctor gestures toward the chess table. "He always asks after you. Every session. I think he's quite genuinely concerned about you."
Swallowing a painful emotion he can't identify, Jonathan nods, not trusting himself to speak.
"Well, I'll let you get off then. It looks like he's waiting for you. Playing chess is a good idea, keeps the mind focused."
He sighs, a deep gusty sigh. "He's playing against Trip."
The doctor shoots the ex-lieutenant a sympathetic glance. "Ah, yes. I should have realised. He's been exhibiting far more lucidity recently... I thought we were getting somewhere." She sounds as though she's reporting the disappointing findings of an experiment. Jonathan wants to walk away, wants to walk into the warmth outside and really feel it for once. But he can't drag his gaze from the scene.
So they stand, shoulder to shoulder and watch a perpetually one-sided game unfold. One man, detached from reality, moving the pieces randomly; capturing a knight, knocking down a king, following no discernible rules. In the ghostly reflection, Jonathan can see the expression of professional curiosity on the doctor's face. He tries not to notice the heartbreak clear on his own.
Two of the finest and most brilliant officers he'd ever had the pleasure to work with are gone and the burden of that will always rest on his shoulders, regardless of what the official reports say. Trip has died, and Malcolm has retreated into a fantasy world where he doesn't have to deal with what happened or what he saw. A world where he can spend a lazy Sunday morning playing chess with his best friend, laughing and joking. For all he's lost, Malcolm seems happy now. He seems to be at peace. He doesn't see the empty chair; doesn't hear the silence. He sees a grin on a tanned, blonde-framed face; hears a soft Southern drawl. Jonathan wishes he could see, and hear, and be with Trip again. Just once more. If only to say goodbye.
Jonathan Archer hates the fact that he's jealous, but he misses his best friend.