Title: "To Sleep, Perchance"
Category: Post-ep for "Strange New World." Trip & T'Pol. Gen. (What do you want from me? It's the third episode, guys.)
Summary: Vulcans do dream.
Sub-Commander T'Pol doesn't usually dream.
When she does, the dreams are vivid and confusing, reminders that she needs to ensure quality meditation each day, that she has experienced unusual things recently, and that she is very far from home.
Every day on the human starship is something unusual. She is studying this species more up-close than she was even on their home planet, now that she is constantly surrounded by their culture, their customs, the sound of their voices and the scent of their alien biology in the air.
A nasal numbing agent takes care of the worst of that and silent meditation usually soothes the rest, but she dreams of strange, clawing shadows her first few nights on the Earth ship, after rescuing Archer from the Helix, and now, after nearly losing her mind on an alien world.
Temporarily losing her mind. The psychotropic pollen that made walls seem to move and control slip away was easily remedied by the medication Doctor Phlox sent down by transporter, but Commander Tucker's phase pistol very nearly made that altered state her final one.
Losing her tight grip on reality as the humans around her slipped into insane, horrible, emotionally consumed versions of themselves seemed familiar at the time, like something she had dreamt before.
It does not seem likely, barring more psychotropic spores, that she will follow her human crewmates into madness. There is no reason for her to be pondering it in her quarters after jerking awake from the sensation of fingers peeling back her skin.
The threat to her calm reason must be something other than a dream, logically. A physical weakness, most likely. Hunger or thirst or the detoxifying antidote still coursing through her system.
Two of those she can address, though she usually avoids eating at non-designated hours. At 0330 the night shift is on duty and the mess hall is likely to be empty, so at least she won't have to explain her unusual behavior to anyone but herself.
If she weren't hungry, or thirsty, or tired, she probably wouldn't have felt the sharp twinge of irritation at seeing that she was wrong in her assumption, and she was not to be alone in the mess hall at 0330.
"Sub-C'mmander." Commander Tucker doesn't look much more pleased to see her than she is to see him, she observes, along with the observation that his unusual inflection is much thicker at night. His accent means that it takes more effort for her to parse out his words when he speaks, but she doubts that's the main reason she doesn't understand him.
She reflexively searches his shape now for the violent, illogical, uncontrolled creature she saw on the Minshara-class planet, because it seems unlikely that it was truly just the pollen that made him threaten to split her in two, rather than an impulse that is always there and only restrained by a tenuous self-control.
"Commander Tucker," she bows her head slightly in greeting, then turns her attention to tea and a bowl of soup that Chef has left in the warmer overnight.
When she moves to sit at the nearest table to the door, Commander Tucker says drily, "Well, you don't have to sit on the other side of the room. The pollen's all gone, remember? I'm safe."
She can't tell if he's attempting humor. Using his foot, he pushes the chair across from him out from the table where he's seated, by the window.
Like most of the engineer's behavior around her, it seems like a challenge.
She joins him. Although the tables in the mess hall are the same as they always are, they illogically seem smaller when they are alone in the room and facing each other across one.
Strangely, Commander Tucker says nothing.
She had actually considered, over the past few weeks, that perhaps he is physically unable to be quiet for any length of time. Ordinarily, she appreciates silence with her meals – a desire she has learned to put aside in the face of her oft-requested presence at the Captain's table – but tonight, it agitates her further.
She surprises herself by speaking first. "Are you fully recovered?"
"According to the doc," he says with a shrug. "Yeah, I think I'm back to normal." He rubs his ribs and gives her a wry smirk. "Thanks for using the stun setting. You?"
She checked his weapon after disabling him in the cave. It wasn't set to stun. She regards her crewmate with the suspicion the experience of the Vulcan High Command trained into her – humans are dangerous and destructive and must be handled with caution.
"I am no longer experiencing the effects of the pollen," she replies.
Tucker rubs the back of his neck and leans his chair back precariously. "I was having crazy weird dreams, though. Do Vulcans dream?"
The shadowy fingers seem closer than they normally do when she's awake. "No," she answers.
Tucker nods and looks back out at the stars. "I can't imagine that. Must be nice sometimes, though."
The soup is settling strangely in her stomach, full of foreign spices as it is, and she notices how easily she lied to him. She believes her people are right to withhold things from the humans until they have proven that they are ready for them, but she wonders now if that means humans – Archer, Tucker, Crewman Cutler – are right not to trust her.
She hedges an correction to her earlier statement, assuring herself that it's not to assuage a human-like emotion of guilt. "Vulcans do have thoughts while sleeping, but it is rare."
"My mama always thought there was meaning in dreams," Tucker says. T'Pol pauses on the word mama and decides, from context and her study of English roots and word construction, that it must be a maternal caretaker of some kind – probably a colloquial term for mother or foremother. "She says you've gotta figure out what it means and do something about it or else they won't stop."
"There is some meaning in everything," T'Pol tells him. "However, that does not necessarily indicate that it is relevant enough to one's life for action to be taken."
"Just the universe bein' random?" Tucker doesn't appear to be eating the slice of pie in front of him, merely dissecting it with his fork.
"Nothing in the universe is truly random."
He glowers at his pie. "Is that a Vulcan saying?"
She responds with a similarly sharp tone. "It is one of the primary tenets of science. Even on Earth."
She has no further interest in the unnecessarily spiced soup she's eating. She was wrong to expect to find solace and calm outside her quarters.
"It is nearly 0400."
He sighs. "Yeah. Must be nice not to have to worry about nightmares. Hey, Sub-Commander," he touches the edge of her tray before she can lift it off the table. "I'm sorry about the whole..." he mimes a weapon with his hand slicing vertically through the air. Splitting her in two.
"There is no logic in apologizing for actions that were not your fault."
He twists his mouth into an unrecognizable expression. "Logical or not. Seems important to tell you that I don't really want to..."
"Kill me?" she supplies.
"I don't. That was just the psychotropic whatever talking. I'd like to say I wouldn't have shot you, but-"
"You were victim to your emotions."
He looks right at her with an unnerving intensity that she has seen only once before, accompanied by a phase pistol. "That's not what I'm really like. Just because we have emotions, it doesn't mean we're gonna hurt you."
She lifts her tray from beneath his hands. "I am not concerned." Another half-truth, perhaps, but she has not yet been among humans long enough for Captain Archer to convince her that complete honesty is warranted. At that moment, despite Commander Tucker's intense and emotional gaze, she believes that he's telling the truth, as much as he knows it. "Good night, Commander."
Back in her quarters, she forgoes sleep to do what she should have done upon waking up from her not-quite-nightmare: meditate. Alone.
As she breathes in the calm of her quarters, interlaced with the faint smells of soup and pie and tea and Commander Tucker still lingering on her clothes, she envisions herself on a wild, desperate ocean and slowly regains control.
The afterimages of the dream fingers peeling at her skin are still there, in the candle-thrown shadows that remind her of the cave, but she mutes them with her focus until they're manageable. Soothing. Gentle.
When she returns to bed, she stays asleep until morning, but she dreams.