"Final Graduation" Part VII

Author - bat400 | Genre - Alternate Universe | Genre - Angst | Genre - Deathfic | Main Story | Rating - PG-13
Trip * Malcolm Fanfic Home

Sequel to: Final Graduation (Part 6)
Author: bat400
E-mail: batfic400@yahoo.com
Part: NEW, 7/8
Rating: PG-13, for some violent images
Codes: R, Tu, A, Hayes violent images, deathfic, AU to canon Xindi Arc.
Betas: Quiz Mistress, M.S.
Archive: Any houseoftucker, Warp Five Complex, EntST*. All others request please.

Summary: The full measure of devotion. Alternate ending of the Xindi Arc. A shorter version of this story appeared under the title, "Graduation Day."

Disclaimer: Characters, places, and various incidents belong to Paramount. No monies were requested or received for this fiction. Header quotations from the works of Dickinson.


I measure every Grief I meet
With narrow, probing, Eyes--
I wonder if It weighs like Mine--
Or has an Easier size.

I note that Some--gone patient long--
At length, renew their smile--
An imitation of a Light
That has so little Oil--

I wonder if when Years have piled--
Some Thousands--on the Harm--
That hurt them early--such a lapse
Could give them any Balm--


Part 7.

Reed had not made an appointment, but took the chance and headed for Archer's office at a time that had been blank on his former captain's public schedule. Better to see him personally. Equally by chance he saw Jonathan Archer heading out the building, carrying a small bag in one hand.

"Admiral Archer," Reed called out, "Sir!"

Archer turned scanning for the voice and smiled as Reed approached him. "Malcolm," he said, "It's good to see you again." And he looked as if he did think that it was good. Reed tried to hide the mental wince that he felt sure this body must be showing. Archer had, almost from the very beginning, called most of his crew by their first names. Only a few of the older personnel escaped this familiarity.

"How are you?" Archer asked, and Reed managed what he hoped was a fairly natural sounding, "Well, sir. And you?"

"Fine, fine," he answered. "Except that I feel like I've left something back on Andoria. I think I'm getting too old for this much travel. What brings you over on this side of the campus?"

"Admiral, I wanted to speak to you about the information I forwarded to you. The proposal for a portion of the new academy curriculum."

Archer nodded, but seemed preoccupied. "Yes, yes. I skimmed through it, Malcolm. You're looking for some support to try to change the training. I'd like to talk but, there's someone I have to see. We'll have to … ah, can you come with me? I'm going over to the Convalescent Center."

"Starfleet Medical, sir?"

"Yes." Now Archer looked decidedly less tentative. "Yes. Yes, why don't you come with me? Yes, that would be fine. We can talk on the way." And Reed followed Archer in the direction he had turned to.

Archer continued, "I'm sure Jim Hayes would like to have another visitor."

Reed stopped abruptly. "Major Hayes?" he said, dubiously. "I'm not sure that's such a good idea, sir. You remember how he always reacted to me, then, after ..."

"Malcolm," Archer chided, as if this were only a minor problem. "That was two years ago. Jim is much better these days. His wife and son have even come to visit him lately."

Reed cautiously followed Archer and caught up to him walking. Reed had not seen Major Hayes since he had gone off the Enterprise at Jupiter station with the other casualties. Chang had gone with him to get him to go easily. Reed had not said good-bye. It would have been hard on both of them, and Chang had had his hands full as it was.

Reed came back to his purpose as they walked. "Admiral, I feel these suggested courses and training modules would have a great deal of support if they were presented correctly. They're the result of more than my advisement --"

"Yes," interrupted Archer, "I saw the list of names you included as contributors. A lot of good people -- Starfleet and the military. The problem is that we may need to be giving more consideration to presenting a more open and 'positive' stance in our exploration. Not every species are the Xindi. Not everyone we meet will be an aggressor, ready to attack us without provocation, or because of ignorance or a mistaken impression of us."

Reed had told himself before that he had to remain calm and logical, and as friendly as possible. But how could a man who had seen what Archer had remain as stubbornly naive? "But Admiral, we can't determine how another species will react to us on a first contact. Sir, an 'open' and 'positive' stance results from the confidence that familiarity with tactics and security produces. It isn't that we're hiding anything; it's that we're prepared to handle anything. I'm sure General Shran would find that to be a familiar and comfortable stance."

Archer smiled and gave Reed an appreciative glance. "I'm sure you're right in that. The Andorians consider a good offense to be the best defense."

"It's served them well, sir."

"But we're Human, not Andorian. We've got other more -- recent -- considerations."

"With respect, sir, it's because we were forced into an untenable position that we had to make the choices -- hard choices -- that were made." Reed thought, choices you made, Captain Archer, some good, some desperate, some utterly wasteful. "We ought to give the academy graduates the best possible foundation, the widest latitude to find the best solutions possible in missions of exploration. That's what a heightened training in tactical advantage could bring." Reed suddenly realized the strain of emotion coming into his voice.

Archer stopped and turned. He had that sympathetic, yet somehow condescending, look on his face. "You really have your heart set on this, don't you, Malcolm?" Archer reached out with his free hand and placed it on Reed's upper arm. "I know the mission into Xindi space was hard for you. It was hard for all of us, but I'll always regret what happened to you down there on the Hive World."

It wasn't as hard for me as it was for others, Reed thought, trying not to flinch under Archer's hand. Dammit, what was the matter with the man that he couldn't see? When Archer had saved him out in the Romulan minefield Reed had been doped to the gills to allow him to function, and had foolishly revealed all sorts of personal information he never would have normally shared with Archer. Ever since then his commanding officer had somehow felt free, felt, what? Obligated to try to comfort him. It had happened several times with these damn little touches. The worst was when they were both still suffering the immediate aftereffects of the Loquek virus. And Archer's touch, "something" rolling off him had done nothing but send a silent alarm into Reed of "cower, hide, placate, fear." Phlox had speculated that some sort of pheromones had affected the three of them, made them act out some level of "pack" behavior. The thought was sickening to Reed. He was glad that the whole episode was as dim and insubstantial in his memory as it was.

But he still remembered pacing the decon chamber, and a voice, a strange, alien voice, trying to speak to him. Trip had told him later that it had been him. "Damn, I'm glad you're okay now!" Trip had said. And Reed had thought at the time, I'm glad you saved us.

Reed focused back to Archer, repeating a variation of one of the many possible phrases he'd gone over ahead of time, "I wished it hadn't happened, sir, but surely you want those who follow you to be able to respond as well as you did, and better, to the dangers they'll face?"

Archer let go of him and they continued to walk. It was in late fall, but only slightly damp, and still pleasant enough to be out in shirtsleeves.

"So, you and Captain Bromhead think a year's worth of training in place of the current plans is the best course?"

"At this point, yes sir," said Reed, his hopes racing.

Archer fell silent. They had reached the big research hospital of Starfleet Medical. The Convalescent Center was on the grounds. They passed through a security gate, into an interior courtyard. There was a staff member there who obviously recognized Archer. Her face fell and became guarded. But she responded to Archer's hello, saying, "Yes, Admiral Archer. Tuesday. I think Jimmy is out in the garden waiting for you now."

Reed's apprehension was high. He recognized the Major immediately among the figures out in the garden, but more for what Hayes wasn't anymore than what he was. Hayes wasn't confident, still, mature. Hayes wasn't someone Reed might have ever been envious of, someone Reed might have worried might take his place, professionally.

Hayes was sitting on the edge of a stone wall, sort of a planter, with riotous colorful flowers and shrubs behind him. The wall was high enough that his feet did not touch the ground, and he idly swung his legs and drummed his heels against the stones. He ducked his head slightly and repeatedly, and carefully watched the other patients, doctors, aides, and visitors, his mouth hanging open a bit. It looked like the scar tissue at the back of his neck and head had been removed. Hair was growing there normally, but had come in white, giving him an odd bicolor look.

Hayes saw Archer from across the courtyard, and his face lit up in joyous, childish happiness. He jumped down from the wall and ran toward them. Reed flinched when those eyes caught hold on him, and Hayes jerked to a stop about three meters away from them. Hayes half turned as if he were going to run, and a frightened, cringing shiver ran through him.

Archer slowly advanced, "It's all right, Jim."

"Hello, Major Hayes," Reed said.

Hayes slowly raised a trembling hand and pointed at Reed. "You were there," he said, "You were there when they caught us."

Archer stood between them, but close to Hayes. "Now, Jim, it's okay. Malcolm has just come to visit you."

"They caught us," Hayes whimpered, "They caught us and hurt us."

Archer continued in a soothing, low voice, "Yes, it was really bad there. But, Jim, what did Malcolm tell you, hmm? What did Malcolm say?"

Hayes stood still. He looked at Archer and cautiously said, "Lieutenant Reed said, someone would come and get us. Someone would come and take us back to the ship."

"That's right," Archer said, nodding encouragingly to Reed.

"Yes," Reed said, "Major, I told you that Sergeant Chang and the others would come and find us."

Reed had said that, anything to quiet the frightened wails Hayes had let out in his pain and fear. Reed would have told Hayes anything to keep the level of hysteria in himself at low ebb. He had known that his own people and the other MACOs would certainly want to mount a rescue, but he had not known if it was remotely possible. He had desperately hoped that Archer wouldn't throw anyone else to their deaths if there was no chance of getting them back.

"See," said Archer, smiling at Hayes. "See? Malcolm was right, wasn't he? T'Pol and the others came, didn't they?"

Hayes started to smile a little bit, and visibly relaxed. "Yeah, he was right. You were right. They came and got us. We even brought Marino back, too."

Reed smiled uneasily at Hayes. This might have been me, he thought. Poor bastard. Cole had insisted on retrieving Marino's body. Hayes had been horribly frightened by the corpse when he had first seen it. But he had abruptly stopped screaming when Chang had pleaded, Be quiet or the Xindi will come back. That had stopped him. Stopped him so completely that it had taken Phlox and the MACOs two days after their return to the ship to get the Major to speak again.

Now that Hayes's fears had suddenly abated, he turned to Archer. "Did you bring me something today? Something good?"

"Yes," Archer said, bringing up the bag. "I found some nice, ripe pears."

Hayes eagerly took the package, licking his lips, and immediately took out and bit into one of the pears, making loud, appreciative noises and rocking slightly on his feet as he took big juicy bites. After momentarily ignoring Archer and Reed, he looked up, a bit shamed faced. "Let's go sit down," he said, and reached out with a sticky hand and grabbed Archer by one wrist and tugged him over to a bench.

Reed followed, noting how Archer went along with Hayes' impulsive actions. When Hayes had finished the first pear, he reached for another, and Archer gently suggested he save it for later. "You'll get a stomachache if you eat too much at once," Archer said. And then he listened carefully as Hayes began a rambling description of the things he'd done since the Archer's last visit.

"They say I'm getting better at the anger thing. We pretend to get angry and then we think of the things to stop us getting angry." Hayes abruptly turned to Reed. "I have no inhibitions," he said loudly and brightly, a bit like an eight year old might say, I have a red bicycle. And Reed nodded, as if it were news to him.

Phlox had said that the Major's intelligence had not really been diminished by the brain damage, but that parts of the brain that controlled judgment and inhibition were simply gone. Overnight he had gone from being a man with supreme control to a lad with almost none. A boy who was just under two meters tall, who could drop you with a few kicks or punches, and who was knowledgeable enough to operate complex weapons. They hadn't been able to leave him alone for a moment on Enterprise, except at night, when Phlox gave him sedatives to keep him sleeping. Phlox had stopped prescribing alternative therapies.

Archer now asked, "Did you see your wife and Paul this week?"

Hayes suddenly went pale and then his face fell, the mouth turning down, his eyes squeezing shut. He began to weep with great heaving sobs. Reed felt horribly embarrassed to see the Major in this state, but he took his cue from Archer and sat still, waiting. When the tears finally slowed a little, Hayes was able to choke out, "We were playing, and Paul did something dumb. I got mad at him, and yelled at him, and he was scared of me." And Hayes began to cry again.

Archer turned to Reed and said, "Paul is Jim's son --"

"He's only six," Hayes interrupted, tears still tracking down his face, "he doesn't understand. Maybe Roberta won't bring him back any more.”

This was almost more than Reed felt he could take. Everywhere he looked, everywhere he thought, from the scars on his own body when he looked into the mirror in the morning, to the lists of casualties in the news casts, to Major Hayes acting out a cruel parody of himself with the shards of personality he had left, everything was twisted and wasted and wrong. Reed again was moved to say almost anything to Hayes, just to stop this flow of fear.

"Major Hayes, I'm sure your wife will explain it to him. I'm sure he's a very bright boy, and he'll understand."

Hayes gulped and nodded, and then catching sight of something, he suddenly reached across Archer and grabbed Reed's left hand. The Major's grip was as strong as ever. The tears were stopping; something new had attracted his attention.

Hayes gripped Reed's hand. "You ought to stop doing this," he said, "it won't help if you have to keep on doing it."

"Doing what?" asked Archer.

"The exercise," Hayes said. "The exercise with your fingers and thumb." He curiously examined Reed's hand. "I bet you think about him all the time, don't you?"

Reed just starred at Hayes. Yes. Of course, it had been Hayes. Now he remembered. In some strange way he had let Hayes share a tiny bit of his grief, years before, by merely admitting to him that he had needed help. Hayes had been a practical man and had offered him a practical solution. It hadn't worked completely, or for very long, but there it was.

"What are you talking about?" said Archer.

Reed pulled his hand back and said to Hayes, "Yes, it doesn't work anymore," and acknowledging Archer again, "Something the Major taught me, years ago, on the Enterprise. Just something. "

"Oh, right," said Hayes mischievously, "Yeah. A secret. Not for the CO. It might make him worry. Like when we fought. God, that hurt when you kicked me. But I got you back. Your face looked like crap for days." And he laughed.

Reed suddenly smiled and nodded, "Yes, you got me back. That was a stupid fight, wasn't it?"

"You were being a real asshole," said Hayes. "But I'd been sneaky. I wanted to really show you guys up. Make you pay attention to us."

"I know," said Reed. "I was an arse. And you were a sneak."

Then he asked Hayes, "Major? Is there anywhere around here where we could get something to drink?"

"Oh, there's a coffee mess, just inside."

"Would you go get us some coffee?"

Catching Reed's drift, Archer nodded. And Hayes jumped up and ran off.

Archer said, "See, I told you it would be fine. He's less afraid now."

"You visit him regularly, sir?"

"Yes," Archer looked at the ground for a moment. "I owe it to him."

Reed thought, the tip of the iceberg. He said, "It's something you can repay. The Major can use your help; he's still here. There are people we can't help anymore. The crew we lost in the Expanse."

Please, he thought, agree with me.

Archer nodded. He said, "You shouldn't feel guilty, Malcolm. You did your best, we all did."

Reed bit down on his anger and outrage. Don't bugger this up, he thought. Don't get angry.

"But sir, the crews and officers that are coming after us, don't they deserve to learn from our mistakes?"

"Your curriculum? For the new Academy?"

"Yes, sir."

"It's a large set of coursework and drill. Practically a school by itself."

"There's going to be a school of Engineering. Why not one for Tactical Studies?"

"A school for warfare?" Archer said incredulously.

"For avoiding it, sir. And if unavoidable, for dealing with it in the quickest, most appropriate way, so the real mission of Starfleet can go on. This is the set of skills that can support the real mission: exploration. You can make this happen, sir. People will listen to you. You've commanded; if you say this would have made your job easier, more effective, with fewer lives lost --"

"I understand." Archer said, sighing heavily. "I'm just not sure, it's a tremendous undertaking."

"Don't you think we owe it to them, sir? To the friends we've lost? This 'school,' if that is the best way to present these courses, it's for them. The people who wanted to explore. And who had trained to be explorers, but had to fight a war instead. This can be a memorial to them."

Archer was thinking. He was still with Reed.

"Sir, who? Who among those we lost on the Enterprise; who had the greatest love of exploration? Who joined for that reason? Who was the most amazed and full of wonder? Who wanted to make your father's engine take us out, out to explore the stars?"

Archer had a moist look in his eyes. Reed steeled himself for the inevitable hand on his shoulder.

Archer said, "I know you miss Trip, too, Malcolm. I know you feel guilty about that ship getting away, but you shouldn't. You did everything you could."

Everything short of mutiny, Reed thought. Everything short of throwing you in the brig and keeping Trip off that ship. I can't do this, Reed thought, his head hanging, not looking at Archer now. He wanted to do nothing so much as grab that hand off his shoulder and break every bone in it.

Finally, Reed looked back to Archer. He spoke softly, and he could hear his voice shake a bit and he tried to keep his anger out of it. "Admiral Archer, I know he was your best friend." Just keep going, Reed thought, tell Archer what he needs to hear. "What Trip wanted to do -- exploration -- it needn't be put aside or forgotten in either an effort to improve our defenses or our diplomatic skills. Trip shouldn't be forgotten. Tactical Studies aren't 'for' the tacticians, in command or in security. They are for the explorers. You want us to explore. This will let Humanity do just that. And a school would be a practical, undying memorial to those that we lost."

"A memorial for Trip?" Archer furrowed his brow. His tone was serious, questioning, but somehow, positive. "Malcolm," he said, "the exact curriculum, that will take experts, but do you think I could convince the committee?"

"Sir," Reed said, alight with expectation, "with your advocacy and the support of the specialists I've already collaborated with, I know this line of study can be added to the training in some way. Maybe not by the opening of the Academy, but within a few years."

"The Tucker School," Archer mused aloud.

"To support the dreams of exploration," Reed pressed.

Reed could imagine Archer, asking for better security and tactical training, asking for improvements, asking for lessons to be learned. The object lesson personified. He didn't care what Archer thought. He didn't care if Archer wanted to believe that he had been the best possible man for the job. If Reed and Bromhead and Wojnar could get this training begun, none of the rest would matter.

Suddenly Hayes came running up, slopping coffee everywhere from the three cups he was gripping together.

"Hey, hey!" he shouted. "Something's happened! Something with the war!"

Reed saw that people were rushing into the building entrance. The three of them hurried to join the crowd. The entryway was packed, but somewhere just out of sight there was a monitor of some kind, and the volume was turned up on a news broadcast.

"… USS Columbia and the cruisers Baltic and Caspian are in a 'stand-down' condition at the edge of the disputed border, fourteen light-years out from Andorian space. USS Enterprise and a battle group of frigates and support vessels are behind the lines, along with light cruisers from Andor. The Baltic, commanded by Captain Saad Jabr, reported approximately four hours ago, just received by Echo, that a ceasefire has been negotiated with the Romulan fleet --"

The crowd erupted in excited conversation. As the broadcast continued, it was revealed that a ceasefire had been announced and verified by other Earth ships, as well as independent Tellarite merchant vessels that appeared to have been mysteriously in the area. It was the first ceasefire in the three-year-old conflict.

Eventually it was obvious that any other news would be slow in coming, and the crowd began to disperse. Back outside, Hayes could hardly contain his excitement and ran to other patients and staff to speak to them.

Archer had a look of happy satisfaction as he said to Reed, "Perhaps the days of exploration are going to be back sooner than we thought, Malcolm."

"I hope so, sir, but it's going to take a lot, I'd imagine, to get to the end of this war. I find it hard to imagine real peace with an alien species who've apparently destroyed every ship that’s come into their hands, and self-destruct rather than be taken prisoner."

"Malcolm," said Archer, shaking his head, "you've got to learn to have some level of trust. But --" he cocked his head, "perhaps it's best not to get our hopes up." He let out a sigh, "I wish I was out there instead of Greenberg."

I'm terribly glad you're not, thought Reed. But on a certain level he commiserated with Archer. Reed wished he was there, too. He hoped that this was a good sign. He hoped Travis and Hoshi were all right.

Turning to Archer, he said, "But we have things to do here, sir." And he held his breath waiting for Archer's answer.

Archer squared his shoulders and said, "Yes, you're right. The Tucker School. How do we get started?"

A fire, a bright blazing fire was in his heart as Reed answered, "I suggest you meet, very soon, with Captain Bromhead and myself. And ex-committee meeting of the curriculum group just as soon as we can arrange one."

Archer said his good-bye to Hayes, but as he and Reed began to leave the courtyard, Hayes called out, "Lieutenant! Lieutenant Reed! I want to talk to you." And Archer went ahead.

"What is it, Major?" Reed asked.

Hayes earnestly asked, "Will you come back and see me, again?"

Reed was surprised. "Well, ah, I could, Major. Is there something you want? Something you need here?"

"No," said Hayes in a small pitiful voice. "It's just. It's just. You're the only one who's called me 'Major' in a long time. Everyone here calls me 'Jim,' or even 'Jimmy.' I hate that. They all treat me like a little kid." Tears had started in Hayes' eyes, and there was a catch in his voice.

Reed heard himself saying, "I wouldn't treat you like a child. You don't deserve that."

Hayes sniffed loudly. He smiled at Reed and said, "Maybe if you come back we can talk about the war; what's going on. We can talk about the force field work you do."

It was hard to keep in mind that Hayes hadn't lost the knowledge he'd gained over his life, just the judgment. Reed said, "I will come back and visit, but I don't think I can do it very often."

"We can talk about the Enterprise," continued Hayes, headlong and chattering. "We can talk about the people we knew, we can talk about what happened. The doctors here, they don't want me to talk about it; they just think I get all upset. It's like they want me to forget everything, just because some of it's bad. That's stupid." And a worried, fretful look came over Hayes. "Do you think that's stupid?"

Reed was silent for a moment, and then said, "No, Major, I think you're right. There were good things, too." I don't want to forget them, Reed thought. Even if it hurts, I don't want to forget.


It appeared that the ceasefire would hold, and a few days later Ensign Liu decided it was a good enough reason for a party, and set one up in a public park one evening after work. Reed had not planned on going, but after exercising at the gym, he turned in the direction away from his apartment and toward the place. As he approached the block of trees and lawns it was getting dark and there was just a touch of chill. Reed considered that it was late enough in the year for a jacket.

He heard the sounds of laughter, and could see the silhouettes of his co-workers surrounding a small glow. This park allowed open flames most of the year in special fire pits. They were gathered around one now.

Reed paused. Perhaps he shouldn't intrude. He had told Liu that he wouldn't attend. He was very busy, arranging for the ex-committee meeting of the Academy Curriculum group. Archer had agreed to most of the details Reed and Wojnar had stressed. Reed was worried, but he had a good feeling about the effort -- the first good feelings about it he had had since he had started this endeavor. He couldn't let Trip down. It was too important.

A party seemed so frivolous. He had work to do. When he was busy, things didn't hurt so bad.

Crewmen Bennet and Witlow came up on him in the dark. "Lieutenant Commander," Bennet cried out, "I'm glad you came."

Reed stammered a greeting and before he could say that, no, he wasn't coming to the party, he'd taken a bowl of something fruit-smelling from her as she awkwardly balanced it and a small cooler. The people at the fire heard their voices, and called out to them.

"Come on! Everyone is here."

Reed found himself following the women, coming into the glow. It wasn't the same. Maybe it would never be the same. The other hearths were not as cheering. The fires were not as bright. But Reed thought that Trip would have busted him down to a second class crewman if he'd just stayed out in the dark and frozen to death. Maybe, slowly, Reed felt he might be able to get warm at these other, lesser, hearths. The light of the fire still seemed a very long distance ahead of him.

And he had work to do. Maybe making some light for someone else. Reed didn't think he could ever do as good a job at it as Trip had done. But maybe he could try. There were a lot of people freezing out in the dark. He should try to help them.

End of part 7.

Final Graduation (Part 8) is a continuation of this story.


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