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False Starts- Ch. 4
False Starts and New Beginnings
Rating: R, Romance, Drama
T'Pol had walked Ambassador V'Lar to her temporary quarters after dinner. They had walked in silence, V'Lar only commenting on how much she enjoyed visiting Enterprise and Captain Archer's company. She commented again on their growing trust and friendship, which T'Pol quickly acknowledged. She had left the ambassador several hours ago and had returned to her quarters to meditate. T'Pol had found her mind on Commander Tucker and so was unable to focus her thoughts. Now, as she stood outside his quarters, she silently admonished herself her illogical need to see him. What she was going to do was wrong and she knew it. She looked both ways down the corridor before keying in the security override. The door slid open and she stepped into the darkened room. The light from the passing stars illuminated the figure lying in the bunk. T'Pol closed the door then moved silently to his side, looking down at him. Her concern for him had been warranted. He was caught in the throes of a nightmare, his brow creased, his head rolling from side to side. She knelt and took his hand in both of hers and gently stroked his fingers like she had done the night before. She whispered the calming Vulcan words she had learned as a child from her mother. The commander slowly ceased his movements and his face relaxed. T'Pol moved the desk chair to the bunk and sat down quietly. She found an odd calmness come over her as she watched him sleep. She still wondered at his ability to affect her; how he alone had awakened feelings she had never experienced before. He had quickly become the most vital part of her life.
T'Pol made sure she was gone before Commander Tucker awoke in the morning. As she approached her door, she saw Ambassador V'Lar walking towards her. T'Pol kept her expression neutral but an uncomfortable feeling settled in her stomach.
"T'Pol, may I speak with you?"
"Certainly, Ambassador," she replied. She opened her door and let the older woman enter first. V'Lar sat down on the bunk and motioned for T'Pol to sit next to her. They sat in silence for several minutes before the ambassador turned to the younger woman.
"Your Commander Tucker reminds me of another human male I knew many, many years ago," she began. T'Pol tried to hide her reaction to V'Lar's reference to the commander but not before the other Vulcan caught it.
"Yes, T'Pol. I know."
T'Pol looked down at her hands which she held clasped tightly together in her lap. "Ambassador," she began. She met V'Lar's eyes. She saw no disappointment in them, just concern.
"His name was Nathaniel. He worked for Star Fleet as a diplomatic liaison between Earth and Vulcan just after we'd made first contact with humans. I was young and just embarking on my career. We met at a gathering held on board one of our Vulcan ships. Nathaniel and I talked deep into the night. I found him a curiosity at first. He was one of the first humans I had ever met. By the end of the night, he was far more than just a--- curiosity. I was drawn to him." V'Lar turned so she was facing T'Pol. "Over the next few months, we worked closely together. I found his volatile nature quite---pleasing. He was passionate and when he spoke, his eyes lit up, just like your commander's. He is so much like Nathaniel, T'Pol."
"Did you become involved with him?"
V'Lar sighed then nodded. "Yes. I grew to care for him deeply and he felt the same for me. We even discussed marriage but we were both afraid of the repercussions of such a union. One day, we were careless and a colleague of mine discovered us in a---compromising position. He immediately reported the incident to the High Command." V'Lar turned away from T'Pol and became silent. Several moments passed before she continued, her eyes downcast.
"I was taken to P'Jem where they," the ambassador paused and drew in a deep breath. "Where they aborted my unborn child. Yes, T'Pol. We conceived a child, but they said such a child could not live and that I had brought great shame to our world. They did not even give the child a chance, to see if he or she could survive." She paused again. "I then underwent the Vilara. The memories were gone for years after but slowly they came back to me. I suppose one can never fully erase memories that carry with them such great emotions."
T'Pol was stunned. "What happened to Nathaniel?" she asked finally.
"When I was able to remember, I knew too many years had passed; that Nathaniel was dead. I did search for any record of him. I hoped he had found someone to marry, someone who gave him children. I discovered, though, that he had been killed in a shuttle accident soon after I was taken to P'Jem." V'Lar turned to T'Pol now, a look of quiet desperation in her eyes. "The accident was never investigated, T'Pol."
"You believe the High Command had Nathaniel killed?"
"I have no proof but that is what I believe. You must end your relationship with Commander Tucker, T'Pol. Immediately."
"Ambassador, with all due respect, many years have passed and the dynamic between Vulcans and humanity is much different now. I realize a union between a Human and a Vulcan would still be offensive to some but I do not believe the High Command would resort to---murder to stop it." T'Pol rose and walked to her view port. V'Lar remained seated on the bunk.
"The colleague who reported me was Soval," the ambassador said softly. "He was repulsed by my relationship with Nathaniel. I know his opinions have not changed. And as you know, he now holds a position of great power within the High Command." V'Lar stood and crossed the room to stand next to T'Pol. "Those who hold power are old and they retain their old beliefs. Perhaps in the future, when all of them are gone, a Human/Vulcan union will become acceptable but right now, it is thought to be abhorrent. You must end your relationship, T'Pol. For Commander Tucker's sake and for your own."
"We will be discreet," T'Pol began.
"I was able to see your feelings for him, T'Pol. What if it had been Soval instead of me?"
"I cannot," T'Pol replied quietly. "He is my life."
V'Lar took T'Pol's arm and turned her to face her. "Are you willing to risk HIS life?"
The two women looked at each other then T'Pol shook her head.
"Have you mated with him?"
"No," replied the sub-commander. She looked down.
"That will make the separation easier, both emotionally and physically." V'Lar put her hand under T'Pol's chin and lifted it, a very human gesture. "You have experienced something few if any other Vulcans have, T'Pol. Hold onto that, cherish that, remember it always. But trust me when I say you must let it go."
The ambassador then turned and silently left the room. T'Pol turned back to gaze out the view port and allowed the pain to overwhelm her.
The hot water felt wonderful as it beat down on Trip's back. He felt fairly rested. He remembered having nightmares but they hadn't awakened him like they had on prior nights. For that he was thankful. Trip closed his eyes and his thoughts wandered to T'Pol. He saw her face and he smiled. She was everything to him, he realized. Life without her was simply unacceptable. He chuckled at how Vulcan that thought was. He turned off the shower and quickly dried himself then stepped into the main room to wrap his injured ribs and to get dressed.
As he was finishing zipping up his uniform, his door chime sounded.
"Come in!" he called, turning to the door. He smiled when he saw it was T'Pol. His smile instantly faded when he sensed something was wrong. She stepped into the room and closed the door behind her. She stood in silence looking at the floor. Her posture was rigid, her hands clasped firmly behind her.
"This will not work, Commander," she said quietly. Her face was impassive.
Trip swallowed. "What?"
"We are not compatible, Mr. Tucker. Your emotions are too disturbing."
"You're surrounded by emotions everyday, T'Pol. If they disturb you so much, why do you stay on Enterprise?" asked Trip evenly. He crossed the room to stand in front of her.
"YOUR emotions disturb me, Mr. Tucker. You are far too volatile and unpredictable. I require stability in a mate."
"What's going on, T'Pol? Where is all this coming from?" demanded Trip. "A few nights ago you said you could love me. That you might already love me."
"I was wrong."
Trip laughed without humor. "You were wrong!" He threw up his hands then dropped them to his sides. He looked down at her but her eyes remained downcast. "Look at me and tell me that."
T'Pol lifted her chin and looked into his eyes. "I was wrong."
"You can't lie to me, T'Pol. Not to me. I know you remember? I can see it in your eyes," he whispered. He placed both hands on either side of her face then gently leaned in to kiss her lips. He felt her tremble then she brought her hands up to his face. The kiss became more passionate. Trip dropped his hands and wrapped his arms around her, pulling her tightly against him. Her hands moved back to rest in his still damp hair. Then she pushed him away from her and he stumbled, nearly falling backwards.
"No, Mr. Tucker," she said firmly, her breathing heavy. "I cannot do this. I will not do this."
She turned and walked out. Trip moved to his bunk and slowly sat down. He leaned forward with his elbows on his knees and put his face in his hands. His broken wrist throbbed at the pressure placed on it but he ignored the pain. Why, he asked himself, utterly confused. Why?
Jon managed to hobble to his dining room for breakfast. When he opened the door, he found Malcolm and V'Lar already seated. He smiled and greeted them. His armory officer rose and helped him to his chair then sat down again.
"Where are T'Pol and Trip?" he asked. As if in response, the door slid open and T'Pol stepped in. She moved to her seat in silence. Jon noticed that she kept her eyes fixed on the table in front of her.
"Have you seen Trip this morning, T'Pol?"
"I do not make a habit of keeping track of the commander, Captain," T'Pol responded evenly. Jon exchanged a look of surprise with Malcolm. The ambassador remained silent, her eyes downcast as well.
"Okay. I wonder where he is. He's not usually late to a meal." Jon turned and hit the button on the commpad behind him. "Archer to Tucker."
A few moments passed before the engineer responded. "Tucker here."
"Are you joining us for breakfast, Trip?"
"No, sir. I'm pretty busy this morning. Please send my apologies to the ambassador."
Before Jon could respond, the commline closed. He immediately knew something was wrong with his friend as did Malcolm by the questioning look on his face. Both Vulcan women remained quiet, there faces unreadable. Several moments of uneasy silence passed then Malcolm cleared his throat.
"Did you sleep well, Ambassador?" he asked.
"Yes, Lieutenant. Thank you," replied V'Lar with a slight nod of her head.
"We should be arriving at Talazor in about four hours. I imagine you're anxious to see the high premier?" said Jon. He leaned back in his chair as the steward put a plate of hashbrowns, toast, and scrambled eggs in front of him.
"Yes, Captain, there is much work to be done," responded the ambassador. She picked up her fork and carefully speared a piece of fruit.
Jon looked at Malcolm who just shrugged slightly in response. The meal continued in silence.
After breakfast, Jon made his way slowly to engineering with Malcolm's help. The lieutenant left him at the door then headed to the armory to begin his shift. Jon hobbled in and looked around for any sign of his chief engineer. He caught the attention of Lieutenant Anna Hess who quickly came over to him.
"Good morning, Captain," she greeted with a smile.
"Good morning, Lieutenant. Have you seen Commander Tucker?"
"Yes sir. He's doing some maintenance on some of the power relays in one of the access shafts. Would you like me to get him?"
Jon nodded. As Hess walked away, he moved over to Trip's workstation and sat down in the chair. A few minutes later he looked up to see his filth- covered friend walking toward him. He was wiping his dirty hands on a cloth.
"Missed you at breakfast, Trip," Jon said with a smile.
"You pulled me away from my work for that, Cap'n?" the engineer responded, clearly irritated.
"Of course not. I was just wondering if you were okay."
Trip sighed in exasperation. "I'm fine, sir. Now if you'll excuse me."
"Not so fast, Commander," Jon said as Trip turned to leave. His friend stopped at the use of his title. Jon could sense the tension in the engineer so he immediately lowered his voice. "Trip, what is it?"
Trip's shoulders dropped in resignation and he turned around. He was still wiping his hands on the cloth. "There's nothing wrong, Cap'n." he managed weakly.
"It's T'Pol." The engineer walked over and leaned against the workstation next to Jon. "She suddenly decided this morning that she doesn't want anything to do with me."
"That explains her mood at breakfast. What did she say?"
"She said I was too volatile; that my emotions disturbed her." Trip hesitated a moment. "I kissed her, Cap'n, and she kissed me back." He sighed and threw the cloth on the floor. "I don't understand what's going on."
"Do you want me to talk to her?"
Trip shook his head. "I'll talk to her later. Maybe after Ambassador V'Lar leaves."
"Do you think the ambassador is behind T'Pol's change of heart?"
"I don't know, maybe," said Trip quietly. "I think I love her, Cap'n. I don't want to lose her."
Jon had never seen Trip so disheartened before and he hurt for him. The captain carefully stood up then laid a comforting hand on his friend's shoulder.
"Why don't you take the rest of the day off, Trip. I think Enterprise will survive a day without her Chief Engineer."
"Thanks, Cap'n. But I really need to work right now, you know? Keep my mind busy."
"All right," sighed Jon. He patted Trip's shoulder then watched his friend walk slowly away.
"Archer to Tucker."
Trip grunted then backed his way out from under the console on which he'd been working. He reached up and hit the commpad.
"Trip, I know you're busy but Ambassador V'Lar has requested you pilot the shuttle pod down to Talazor."
"What? Cap'n, I'm up to my ears in work down here. Can't Travis or Malcolm take her down?"
"She specifically asked for you, Commander."
Trip instantly knew when the captain used his title that the ambassador was with him. He tipped his head back and closed his eyes.
"Give me ten minutes to get cleaned up, sir. I'll meet you in the launch bay," he replied evenly. He called for a passing ensign to finish up the project he'd started then hustled out of engineering, cursing mildly under his breath.
Nine minutes later he stood next to Shuttlepod One waiting patiently for his passenger to arrive. He heard the door open and looked up to see the captain, ambassador, and T'Pol approaching him. He saw that Captain Archer was using a set of crutches.
"Thank you, Commander Tucker, for taking time out of your busy schedule to shuttle an old woman down to the surface," said V'Lar with a single nod of her head.
"No problem, ma'am. Happy to do it." Trip hoped his forced enthusiasm was convincing.
V'Lar turned to the captain and extended her hand. "Thank you, Captain, for your hospitality. I will no doubt see you and your fine crew again one day."
"You're always welcome, Ambassador," replied Archer awkwardly taking her hand. He managed to remain balanced between the crutches.
The Vulcan woman then turned to T'Pol. They spoke to one another quietly in Vulcan. T'Pol quickly glanced at Trip then back at the older woman and nodded. Their brief exchange ended and they looked at each other for a long moment. Trip noted a hint of sadness in T'Pol's eyes and quickly made the assumption it was due to the ambassador's departure.
The engineer helped V'Lar into the shuttle then climbed in after her, turning to close the hatch behind them. He settled himself into the pilot's chair and ran a quick pre-flight check. Once the bay depressurized, the shuttle was lowered out the doors and released. He kicked in the engines and turned the shuttle towards Talazor.
"We should be landing in about twenty minutes, ma'am," he said over his shoulder to the ambassador, who sat to his right. "How long will you be staying on Talazor?"
"I anticipate two months. Perhaps longer if my continued assistance is required," V'Lar replied.
Trip concentrated on the controls in front of him; silently wishing that time would move faster.
"May I ask you a personal question, Commander?"
"Sure. I can't promise you I'll answer it, though."
"Fair enough," replied V'Lar. "Do you truly believe it is wise to pursue a relationship with Sub-Commander T'Pol?"
Trip swung around in his chair and glared at the older woman. "With all due respect, I don't think that's any of your business, Ambassador," he responded coolly.
V'Lar nodded her head in acknowledgment then she looked at him directly. "You are so much like him," she said quietly.
"Nothing, Commander," said V'Lar quickly.
Trip turned back around and looked out the front view port at the green and blue planet. "Besides there may be no relationship to pursue," he mumbled under his breath.
"That is for the best."
Trip closed his eyes and exhaled his breath slowly. Those damn Vulcan ears, he thought angrily.
"Why do you say that, ma'am?" he asked keeping his voice as even as possible.
"Our two worlds are not ready for such a union, Commander Tucker. You would no doubt be endangering your career as well as the sub-commander's. Perhaps you'd be endangering more."
"You don't seem repulsed by the thought, Ambassador."
"I am rare among Vulcans."
"You sure are," Trip whispered. He turned back in his chair to face the older woman. "You talked to T'Pol, didn't you?"
V'Lar simply nodded her head once.
"I thought so. You had no right!" Trip felt his face warm with his anger. The Vulcan woman just looked at him, a strange look in her eyes.
"I had every right, Commander," she replied quietly. "You may not understand why right now but it was imperative that T'Pol end her involvement with you before it was discovered."
"Why, for the sake of our careers? To hell with our careers! We love each other!"
If Trip didn't know for certain it was a Vulcan who sat in front of him, he would have sworn her lips briefly turned up in a slight smile. She looked at him for several moments in silence.
"What?" he finally asked feeling uncomfortable under her unwavering stare.
The woman shook her head and looked away from him. "There is much more at stake here than your careers, Commander. If you truly love T'Pol like you say you do, then you will not pursue a union with her."
"Well, it seems you've already taken care of that, Ambassador." Trip turned quickly around and began the landing sequence.
"I am sorry," V'Lar said softly. "It is for the best."
"Whatever you say, ma'am," Trip replied quietly but with vehemence.
The shuttle landed gently on the landing pad a few minutes later. Trip could see the crowd of Talazorians waiting as he brought the pod in. He powered down then turned and rose to his feet. Avoiding eye contact with his guest, he moved around her and opened the hatch. He climbed out then turned to help V'Lar out. High Premier Colthera stepped forward and greeted the Vulcan woman with a wide smile.
"V'Lar, my friend!"
The two women bowed reverently at each other then grasped hands quickly. Colthera then looked past the ambassador at Trip.
"Commander Tucker! You're looking well!" she greeted.
Trip smiled. "Thank you, High Premier. I'm feeling better everyday."
"Good, good," replied Colthera. "Would you like to join us for our mid-day meal?"
"No, thank you, ma'am. I should be getting back to Enterprise."
"Very well. Please convey my thanks to your captain for bringing the ambassador to us. Good luck on your journey and may our paths cross again."
"I'll do that, ma'am, and thank you," replied Trip, bowing. He turned his attention to V'Lar and nodded his head. "Ambassador."
"Commander Tucker? May I have a word with you before you leave?" asked the Vulcan.
Trip sighed but he stood his ground by the open hatch as she approached him.
"I know it should not matter, but I do not want our parting to be an unpleasant one. I find your company rather enjoyable, Commander. I can see why T'Pol feels the way she does about you. But please believe me when I say what I did was for your very lives, not just for your careers."
"Well you clearly know what's best for us, Ambassador," Trip replied. "Enjoy your stay on Talazor, ma'am."
Trip climbed into the shuttle and closed the hatch behind him. He peered out the view port to see V'Lar looking back at him. Her face was impassive but he saw a dark shadow of sadness in her eyes. He moved to the pilot's seat and prepared for his departure.
Dinner was quiet; too quiet as far as Jon was concerned. He looked at both his dining companions. Trip was merely pushing his food around his plate, his eyes downcast. T'Pol was eating slowly. She would occasionally look across the table at Trip then return her eyes to her meal. Her face was as expressionless as always.
"So, T'Pol. Did you enjoy your visit with the ambassador?" asked Jon. He saw Trip shift in his chair at the mention of V'Lar.
"Yes, sir," T'Pol replied, looking at the captain. She quickly returned her eyes to her plate.
"Good," Jon said. He paused again, looking at both his officers. He set down his fork and put both elbows on the table, leaning forward on them. "I know you two are having problems but I need to make it clear that your personal lives will not interfere with your jobs. Is that clear?"
"Of course, Captain."
"No problem, Cap'n."
Jon sighed. "Are you going to be able to work together?"
"Okay. That's enough," Jon said, suddenly feeling like a parent. "You two need to talk things out and you need to do it now. Trip, you first."
"There's nothing to say, Cap'n. T'Pol and I are fine with each other," replied Trip with a forced smile. He glanced across at the Vulcan science officer.
"Commander Tucker is correct. We are indeed---fine," said T'Pol.
"Well then I guess my work is done here, huh? If you'll excuse me," Jon said, completely exasperated. He stood up and reached for his crutches, which he had leaned on the wall behind him. He hobbled to the door and punched the button to open it. He turned his head to the room's remaining occupants. "Good night you two."
T'Pol watched the door slide shut behind the captain. She then turned her attention to the man sitting across from her. He was staring at his plate, idly stirring his mashed potatoes around with his fork. His behavior was oddly endearing to her. She looked at his mouth and remembered the sensations it caused her when it pressed against hers. She felt the now familiar flutter in her stomach at the memory, the flutter that only this human male was capable of initiating. He looked up at her and it was her undoing. She knew she was in for a long night of meditation.
"Ambassador V'Lar and I had an interesting conversation on the flight down to Talazor," the commander began. "I'm a little confused, though, by something she said." He put his fork down and leaned back in his chair.
T'Pol simply arched an eyebrow in response and waited for him to continue.
"She said that what she did by talking to you, by convincing you to put a stop to us, was somehow saving our lives. Do you know what she meant by that?"
"You would have to ask the ambassador what her meaning was, Mr. Tucker," T'Pol replied. She dropped her gaze to her half eaten bowl of broth then looked back up at him.
"Well, gee, since it seems I won't be seeing her anytime soon, perhaps you'd care to enlighten me." The engineer leaned forward placing his arms on the table and he fixed his eyes on hers. She looked back at him, noting the intensity of his gaze.
"Do you trust me, Mr. Tucker?"
He looked confused. "What?"
"Do you trust me?"
"Of course I do, T'Pol. What does that have to do with anything?"
Without thinking, she did a very human thing and reached out to cover his hand with her own. "Then trust me now," she said.
The commander turned his hand over and gently grasped hers, rubbing his thumb back and forth over the backs of her fingers. He sighed and looked back at her with calm eyes.
"I won't give up on you, you know," he said softly. Then he smiled and T'Pol felt her heartbeat quicken. He released her hand and stood then turned to the door. He looked back at her, still smiling. "Good night, T'Pol."
She sat in silence, looking at the door as it slid shut behind him.
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