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Author - plumtuckered | Genre - Episode Addition | Main Story | N | Rating - PG
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A/N: This story is more or less a bridge between episodes. The action begins at the end of “Extinction” and carries through to the end of “Rajiin” so there are spoilers for those episodes.
This is all just guessing on my part, of course, but there were apparently some things that happened between the characters that led them to the lighter moods at the beginning of “Impulse”.
Also, the ‘connection’ I mention is only speculation.
Reviews are greatly appreciated. I haven’t written this much T’Pol in a while so any advice on keeping her Vulcan is very much welcomed.
DISCLAIMER: I don’t own Enterprise or any of its crew.
The mess hall was quiet when Trip Tucker entered. At 0400 he was more than slightly relieved to see it vacant. At least it meant that the others were still getting some shut-eye. He absently rubbed at his tired eyes.
Enterprise’s chief engineer wandered over and grabbed himself a cup of coffee then settled down at a table. He hated the quiet times the most. They were the toughest. As hard as he fought not to think about her, his mind always drifted back to Lizzie.
The commander started, jerking his hand and slopping coffee on the table.
“You okay?” asked Jonathan Archer.
Trip wiped up the mess with his napkin. “I’m fine, sir,” he replied somewhat tightly. “I didn’t hear you come in.”
“You were pretty lost in your thoughts. You sure you’re okay?”
Archer sighed. “Can I sit down?”
“Be my guest.”
The captain sat across from Trip. He cradled his coffee cup in his hands and studied it intently.
Trip watched his commanding officer with interest. “You’re up early,” he said.
Archer kept his eyes on his cup. “T’Pol and I are going down to the deuterium station this morning.”
“Ahhh.” Trip sat back in his chair, his eyes still on Archer. “So how’ve you been?” he asked conversationally.
“I’m doing okay. You?”
Trip sighed. “Fine, sir. I’ve been just fine.” He pushed away from the table and stood. “I’d better shower before my shift. Good luck on your mission, Captain.”
“Trip, wait.” Archer reached out to grab the engineer’s arm.
Trip paused, waiting for the captain to continue. When there was only silence, he pulled his arm away.
“Can we talk?” asked Archer suddenly. He looked up and met Trip’s eyes. “Please?”
The commander’s shoulders sagged. He’d been waiting months to hear those words from his friend. He sat back down, nodding at Archer.
Silence hung over the room for several long moments.
Trip leaned forward, his forearms on the table and waited patiently for the captain to begin. “You’re looking better,” he offered.
Archer looked up. “Itches like hell,” he said with a hesitant smile. “Phlox gave me something for it but Porthos won’t even come near me when I use it.”
Trip nodded. The captain did look better than he had only days before. The commander still couldn’t quite believe that an alien virus had mutated Archer, Ensign Hoshi Sato, and Lieutenant Malcolm Reed into another species. If it hadn’t been for T’Pol’s wondrous Vulcan K cells, the three would have been lost.
The commander sighed. “So what do you want to talk about, Cap’n?”
Archer shrugged. “The mission,” he began. He looked across the table. “Us.”
“Us, huh?” Trip asked tentatively. “What about ‘us’?”
“Come on, Trip. You’ve been keeping me at arms length for a long time now and I’d like to know why.”
Trip was exhausted and despite his best efforts to maintain his control, he was immediately irritated. “You have got to be kidding,” he retorted, his voice growing louder. “You’ve spent months giving me the cold shoulder treatment. Half the time we’re on duty, you don’t even look at me. And I’m keeping you at arms length?”
Archer looked momentarily startled. “Calm down, Trip. And what do you mean, the cold shoulder treatment? I thought you needed some space.”
“Space?” Trip laughed without mirth. “My sister was killed along with seven million others and you thought I needed space?”
Archer remained silent but he held Trip’s eyes steadily.
Trip swallowed his anger. “I didn’t need space, Captain. I needed a friend.” He stood, accidentally knocking over his chair. “You know, I don’t think you’ve ever even said you were sorry about Lizzie.” Then he quickly left the mess hall and his captain behind him.
Trip headed to his quarters. He thought briefly about going to the sub-commander but decided quickly against it. T’Pol would be preparing for the away mission. She was probably already in the command center waiting for Archer. The truth of the matter was that he really didn’t want her to know he hadn’t slept a wink.
The engineer entered his quarters only to find himself pacing back and forth. “Breathe,” he advised himself pinching the bridge of his nose. “Deep breaths. Relax. Just like T’Pol taught you.” He stood still and closed his eyes, immediately feeling more in control.
The door chime brought him out of his light trance. He felt the irritation rise again briefly for he knew who was in the corridor. Before he could respond, the door slid open to reveal Archer. The captain hesitated at the threshold and Trip thought he would simply walk away. Instead, the older man entered and closed the door behind him.
Trip was standing in the middle of his quarters. Jon could feel the tension hanging in the air between them as he entered the room.
“I’m sorry, Trip,” the captain began quietly. “I guess I thought you needed space because that’s what I needed after my father died. And with this mission---.”
Trip sighed and waved his hand. “You’ve had a lot on your mind, Cap’n. I should have seen that.”
“Still no excuse.”
“You’ve got a whole crew you’re worrying about not to mention all of humanity,” Trip said with a slight understanding smile. He moved to his bunk and sat down heavily. “And I’ve been doing okay. T’Pol’s helped a lot.”
Jon sat next to his friend. “T’Pol?”
“Yeah. She’s been giving me Vulcan neuro-pressure. It’s like a massage. Helps me sleep.”
“You have been looking tired.”
Trip looked at the captain in surprise.
Jon chuckled lightly. “What, you thought I hadn’t noticed?” he asked. “I’m glad she’s been able to help.”
They fell silent.
Trip leaned forward and rested his forearms on his thighs. “You don’t have to take this on by yourself, you know, Cap’n. You’ve got me and T’Pol and the entire crew behind you.”
Jon shook his head at Trip’s perceptiveness. He sighed. “I know but you’re my responsibility. I’ve already lost one crewman. I can’t let anything happen to the rest of you.”
“We all agreed to come out here. We all knew exactly what we were getting ourselves into. Don’t take us on your shoulders as well.”
Jon sighed again. “This may very well be a suicide mission, Trip.”
“I know that and so does the crew so stop worrying about us,” Trip replied firmly.
“Trip,” Jon began.
“No, Cap’n. You worry about the mission. Don’t worry about the crew. I’ll do that. You just find the bas----,” Trip stopped suddenly and took a breath. “You just find the Xindi.”
Jon looked at his friend. Trip’s tone of voice was in direct contrast to his body language. The captain could still see the tension in the shoulders and Trip’s hands were clasped together firmly in front of him. “So tell me about this neuro-pressure,” he said keeping his voice light.
Trip shrugged. “Like I said, it’s kind of like getting a massage.” The engineer stood and wandered over to his view port. “Lots of deep breathing. Real relaxing.”
“You don’t look very relaxed.”
“I missed my treatment last night. T’Pol’s still recovering from that last away mission so I thought she needed a break.”
Jon stood and moved to Trip’s side. “Trip,” he began.
Trip smiled but didn’t look at the captain. “You worry too much, Cap’n. I’m fine. Really. The neuro-pressure---.”
“Has helped you sleep. But has it helped with what’s going on inside you?” Jon saw Trip’s jaw muscles tighten. “Don’t lie to me, Trip.” He put his hand on his friend’s shoulder and was surprised when Trip shrugged it off.
“I’m not lying to you, Cap’n,” the engineer replied tightly then he smiled again. “I’m fine.”
Jon watched his friend. He’d known Trip for almost a decade and he knew him well enough to know he wasn’t being truthful. The engineer was walking a tightrope and if Jon pushed too hard, he knew Trip would fall. Unfortunately, Jon reminded himself, the mission had to come first. He’d let the commander continue with his act for a while longer but he made a silent promise that he’d keep a closer eye on him.
“Shouldn’t you be meeting T’Pol?”
Jon nodded. “Yeah. I guess I should.” He turned to leave but stopped. “Trip?”
“I’m sorry about Lizzie.”
Trip turned his head and met Jon’s eyes. There was a great sadness Jon had never noticed there before and it shook him. How could he have been so blind? Then the shutters went up and Trip smiled. He simply nodded his head then turned back to gazing out his view port.
Sub-commander T’Pol looked up at the man standing beside her. “You still look unwell, Captain. I suggest someone else accompany me on this mission. Perhaps---.”
Archer shook his head. “I’m fine, T’Pol,” he interrupted. He stared at the command center wall screen on which the planet Narellus was displayed. “The deuterium station is here,” he continued, pointing at a spot on the brown planet. “From what the hauler pilot told us, we should find the chemist there.”
T’Pol furrowed her brows slightly when the captain scratched absently at his chest. She could still see the vague outline of the ridges on his face; ridges left over from his transformation into a Lo’quek. He still looked worn from the experience.
“Damn it,” the captain cursed in obvious frustration as he dug his nails into his arm. “It’s starting to itch again.”
“Captain,” T’Pol said. “It is not logical for you to leave the ship while you’re still recovering.”
Archer glared at her. “I said I was fine, Sub-commander.” He scratched his chest again then cursed.
T’Pol remained silent. The captain was a changed man since the Xindi attack on Earth. He was moody and distant and T’Pol knew when not to push him.
“Alright,” Archer sighed reluctantly. “You’re right. I’m not feeling up to par yet.”
“I will ask Commander Tucker to accompany me then.”
“I’m not sure he’s up to it either.”
Archer turned to her. “He’s going through a tough time. I’m not sure putting him on an away mission is a good idea.”
“I was unaware that you’d noticed,” T’Pol replied evenly.
“Of course I’ve noticed,” Archer bit back then his face softened. “Just because I’m focused on this mission, T’Pol, doesn’t mean I haven’t seen the changes in Trip. Or in anyone else for that matter.”
“Of course, Captain. I apologize.”
Archer dropped his head. “He is the best one for this mission though,” he relented then he paused. “Alright, you and Trip it is. And take security with you, too. Lieutenant Reed if he’s feeling up to it.”
T’Pol nodded her head then turned to leave.
The Vulcan stopped and looked at her commanding officer. The face that had become hardened over the last few months was suddenly the face of the Archer of old.
“Keep an eye on Trip?”
“Of course, Captain,” T’Pol replied.
“What’s that smell?”
Malcolm Reed turned his head enough to see his friend from the corner of his eye. “Sorry, Commander,” he apologized sheepishly. “The salve the doctor gave us for the itching is a bit pungent.”
“I’ll say,” Trip replied. “It must really be bothering T’Pol.”
“I had Dr. Phlox give me a nasal inhibitor just before we left. The odor is still quite unpleasant but it is not unbearable.”
“I should have seen the doc myself,” muttered Trip. “You sure you’re up to this, Malcolm?”
“Yes, sir. Feeling much better actually.”
Minutes later, Malcolm carefully maneuvered the shuttlepod until it lightly touched down on the landing platform. He gazed out the front window at the dark gray structure, which stood against the dark gray sky. He could see a light mist falling as he watched a handful of people milling around what appeared to be the main entrance into the big structure.
“Who is it we’re looking for again?” asked Trip from where he sat at the back of the ‘pod.
Malcolm swiveled in the pilot’s chair to look expectantly at the Vulcan sub-commander.
“His name is B’Rat Ud. He is supposed to have the formula for synthesizing Trellium-D,” T’Pol replied.
Trip stood. “Well let’s find him then and get back to Enterprise. I don’t like leaving her with all these damned anomalies around.”
Malcolm smiled. “I’m sure she’ll be fine, Commander,” he replied.
The three officers exited the ‘pod then made their way through the mud slick pathway to the entrance.
When they entered, Malcolm gasped. “I guess deuterium is a hot commodity here in the Expanse.”
The officers stood just at the edge of the crowded main chamber where several different species encircled a central stage.
“Is this an auction?” asked Trip quietly.
“It appears so,” replied T’Pol.
Malcolm put his hand on the butt of his holstered phase pistol then followed Trip and T’Pol further into the cavernous room. He noted briefly how comfortable they seemed together then he cursed himself for getting distracted. They were under his protection and he needed to focus on his responsibility not on whether or not there was a blossoming relationship between the two senior officers.
T’Pol approached a table behind which sat a short, rotund alien male. The male handed the Vulcan a blue card then motioned for the three to move aside.
“We’re looking for a chemist named B’Rat Ud,” said T’Pol. She set the card down on the table. “Can you tell us where to find him?”
The male looked bothered but he picked up a data padd and scanned it quickly. “He hasn’t arrived yet. Now if you’re not going to join the bidding, please step aside.”
They moved to the side of the table.
“Looks like we beat him here,” said Trip. He crossed his arms over his chest. “I wonder how long we’re gonna have to wait.”
T’Pol stepped closer to the commander. “You didn’t sleep last night,” she said matter-of-factly.
Malcolm couldn’t hide his surprise.
“Come on, Malcolm,” sighed Trip irritably. “She’s helping me sleep. You already know that.” The commander turned to the woman at his side and his features immediately softened. “I thought you needed your rest.”
“I would have helped you, Mr. Tucker.”
“I know,” replied Trip.
“2100 tonight, my quarters.”
Trip smiled and nodded.
Malcolm watched the interaction with great amusement. The two actually seemed oblivious to what was happening between them. Before he gave his amusement away, the lieutenant quickly turned to look out at the crowd. He’d definitely have to give his friend a hard time later.
A commotion on the stage brought both Trip and T’Pol to Malcolm’s side. The bidding was beginning and the crowd shifted closer to the auctioneer. Several people came up behind the three officers, pushing and shoving their way forward. T’Pol and Malcolm managed to stay together but Trip was caught in the wave and pulled into the middle of the crowd.
“Do you see him?” asked T’Pol as she craned her neck and scanned for their chief engineer.
“No,” replied Malcolm. “There he is.” He pointed to Trip who was now several meters away facing the opposite direction. “What’s he doing?”
Malcolm watched as his friend moved off quickly through the crowd, a sense of urgency in his stride.
“Hey, you there!” shouted Trip trying to be heard over the din of the crowd. The Xindi humanoid looked directly at the engineer then turned quickly and pushed his way through all the people.
“Hey!” Trip yelled again. He pulled his phase pistol and held it discreetly at his side as he followed the Xindi through the crowd. Adrenaline was coursing through his system making his body tremble, the heat of his anger and revenge forcing him forward.
Without thinking, Trip turned a corner then suddenly stopped. He stood face to face with four Xindi all pointing phase rifles at him. The commander cursed his stupidity as he raised his hands to show his surrender.
The male he’d been following stepped forward and grabbed Trip’s pistol from his grip. “Notify Degra that we have a Human,” he said over his shoulder to his companions.
Trip hit the deck but lifted his head to see two Xindi fall. Then he was hauled to his feet, a strong arm wrapping immediately around his throat.
“Drop your weapons or I’ll kill him!” ordered the leader as he held Trip in front of him, a rifle stuck painfully in the engineer’s side. Trip struggled against the firm hold. He threw an elbow backwards into the Xindi’s abdomen. A blow that would have doubled over a human had no effect on the alien. His reward for his efforts was the tightening of the arm around his throat.
Even with his airway constricted, Trip continued to fight. He threw his head back and connected with the Xindi’s nose. The man grunted in pain but held the engineer fast. Trip could feel himself being pulled backwards as stars appeared before his eyes. He looked at Malcolm and T’Pol who had lowered their weapons.
“Take that one, too,” directed the leader to his one remaining companion. “Degra will be even more pleased with two Humans.”
“What about the Vulcan?”
“No!” Trip rasped. He dug his heel into the top of the Xindi’s foot and the pressure suddenly disappeared from his throat. The engineer turned and launched himself into the man’s mid-section sending both men careening into a wall. As they hit the wall, Trip heard a cracking then both men broke through and tumbled to the floor. The engineer heard another cracking and the floor gave way, then he was falling.
“Commander!” yelled T’Pol. She peered through the wall to see the gaping hole in the floor.
“Do you see him?” asked Reed as he came up beside her. He had taken out the remaining alien with a well-placed shot from his phase pistol.
T’Pol shook her head. “No.” She swung one leg through the wall and gingerly placed her weight on the edge of the opening in the floor. Satisfied it would hold her, she climbed through then knelt and gazed into the dark pit. Her hand found her scanner and she pulled it out of its pouch and flipped it on.
“There is one human life sign approximately twenty meters below us. I am also detecting---,” she paused momentarily. “---one Xindi life sign.”
Reed expelled a breath. “We’ve got to get him out of there.”
T’Pol did not acknowledge the lieutenant’s comment as she had long ago grown accustomed to the human need for stating the obvious. She stood and slipped her scanner back into its pouch.
“I’ll go back to the shuttle and get a rope,” Reed said then he turned to leave.
“Lieutenant,” T’Pol called. “Be careful. These may not be the only Xindi at the auction.”
Reed nodded then disappeared.
T’Pol opened her communicator at the same time she took in her surroundings. She was thankful the altercation with the Xindi had so far gone unnoticed by the participants who were still busy bidding in the main room.
“T’Pol to Enterprise.”
“Enterprise, Sub-commander. Go ahead,” came Sato’s reply.
“We have a situation, Ensign. Please advise the captain.”
“I’m here, T’Pol. What happened?”
“We encountered four Xindi humanoids, Captain,” T’Pol explained. “Commander Tucker fell into what appears to be an old underground tunnel network with one of them. Lieutenant Reed has gone back to the shuttle to retrieve a rope.”
“Is Trip alright?”
“He is not responding but I am detecting his life signs.”
“I’ll have Phlox standing by. Let me know as soon as you have him.”
T’Pol leaned over the hole again, her ears straining. She tipped her head as the sound of scuffling reached her. Then she heard the sound of Tucker’s voice. He was in distress. Her eyes darted to the opening in the wall. Reed had not yet returned. When her Vulcan ears picked up the grunt of pain, T’Pol made an illogical decision---and jumped.
“Anything, Hoshi?” asked Jon as he paced back and forth in front of the ensign’s station.
“Where are they?” The captain wandered back to his chair and sat down heavily.
“Sir!” said Hoshi suddenly. “It’s Lieutenant Reed!”
Jon hit the comm. “Lieutenant, what the hell is going on down there?”
“We have a problem----,”
“I know, Malcolm. Now what’s going on? Have you found Trip?”
“I’m going to need some assistance, sir. When I returned to the spot where the commander fell, there were three more Xindi.”
“I don’t know, Captain.”
“Where are you now, Lieutenant?”
“I’m back in the main room, sir, trying to blend in as it were.”
“Stay there. I’m on my way with some back-up.”
Jon stood from his chair and looked at Travis Mayweather. “Ensign, you have the bridge.”
Trip found himself lying face up in shallow cold water. He sat up quickly and looked around. Wherever he was, it was dark. He looked up to see a shred of light coming from above his head. He remembered falling but he’d slid at an angle a ways first before the bottom had dropped away.
The engineer stood up and squinted his eyes in an effort to penetrate the gloom. Then he was slammed back against a rocky wall and the breath left his body. Gasping, he made out the features of his attacker who had him pinned. The Xindi’s face was twisted in rage.
Quickly gathering his wits, Trip brought his knee up hard into the area he hoped was the alien’s groin. The man backed away immediately. Trip could see the dark shape moving and he could hear the Xindi’s feet slopping through the water. The engineer still gasped for air so he stood unmoving with his back against the wall. He watched his adversary’s every move.
“Give it up, Human,” hissed the Xindi. “Your species is no match for mine.”
“Then why murder seven million of us if we’re no threat?”
The alien made no reply. Instead he rushed Trip again and knocked the commander’s legs out from underneath him. The engineer fell with a splash into the water, grunting in pain as his knee twisted. Trip’s hand hit something hard and he closed his fingers around it. As his enemy kicked the engineer brutally in the side, Trip yanked the Xindi rifle from under the water and swung it awkwardly, making a connection with the other man’s kneecap. The alien yelped out and stepped back into the dark shadows.
Trip struggled to his feet, his hand still clutching the alien weapon. His knee throbbed but it held his weight. Movement followed by a splash drew the engineer’s attention to his right and he turned his head.
The Xindi struck from the left, sending the commander to the ground again. The two men rolled, both caught up in a struggle for the rifle. Trip lost his grip on the weapon but managed to use his legs to push the alien off him. There was the sound of rocks falling then a blood-curdling cry for help.
Trip stood and turned to T’Pol. The Vulcan was climbing to her feet unharmed.
The engineer then followed the cries for help into the darkest shadows. “Where are you?” he asked.
“I’m down here!”
Trip could hear and feel the water rushing by his feet. He lowered himself to his hands and knees then crawled tentatively forward, following the flow of the water. When his hands hit a small rock wall, he stopped. He could hear the Xindi just below him. Moving carefully along the little wall, he came to the place that had been broken away. Water rushed over his hands and he could hear it falling over the edge. The commander lay flat on his stomach and reached down until his hand found the alien’s wrist. He closed his fingers around it.
“Please don’t let me fall!” pleaded the Xindi.
T’Pol suddenly appeared beside Trip. “My scans do not detect a bottom,” she said quietly as she held her scanner in front of her.
“I dropped the rifle when I fell! I didn’t hear it hit anything!” yelled the alien. “Please help me!”
“Commander,” said T’Pol. “The pilot of the probe was reptilian, not humanoid. You know that.”
“He still has Xindi blood flowing through his veins,” Trip replied.
“Please don’t let me fall!”
Trip closed his eyes and his fingers loosened their grip.
“It is your decision, Mr. Tucker,” said T’Pol calmly.
“Please!” cried the Xindi frantically. “I’m slipping!”
“Damn it!” hissed Trip. He closed his fingers around the alien’s wrist and reached down with his other hand as well. “Help me, T’Pol.”
As Trip kept a firm hold on the other man and began pulling him up, T’Pol held on to the engineer. Together they managed to bring the Xindi out of the pit.
The man rolled away from the edge and sat up. “Thank you,” he said breathlessly.
Trip remained silent.
T’Pol heard a low buzzing then braced herself when the Xindi reached into his pocket and pulled out a device.
“Have you got the Human?”
Even though it was dark, T’Pol could still see the Xindi looking at Tucker. She reached down and hooked her hand under the commander’s arm then pulled him to his feet.
“No. He and the Vulcan got away into the tunnels,” said Teegar.
“We’re coming down to help you find them. We can not let the Human get away.”
“Understood,” replied Teegar. He shoved his communicator back into his pocket. “Go!”
T’Pol gripped Tucker’s arm with one hand while she pulled out her scanner with the other. “This way, Commander.”
Tucker hesitated, his eyes locked on the face of his enemy. “Why do they want me?” he asked.
“I honestly don’t know! Now go before I change my mind!” replied Teegar.
T’Pol pulled Tucker down a dark tunnel, her scanner still held in front of her. Only after they’d walked several meters did she release her grip on the commander. He walked beside her in silence, clearly favoring one leg.
“You’re injured,” said T’Pol.
Tucker shook his head. “Just twisted my knee a little. It’s alright.”
“Let me know if you require assistance.”
Tucker nodded. “Sure thing,” he replied absently.
Keeping an eye on the engineer, T’Pol pulled out her communicator. “T’Pol to Lieutenant Reed.”
“Reed here. The captain’s here as well, Sub-commander. Where are you?’
“I’ve found Commander Tucker. We’re in a tunnel which leads to the surface approximately four kilometers west of the landing platform.”
“How is Trip, T’Pol?”
“I’m fine, Cap’n. A little bruised is all,” Tucker replied. “We’ve got a problem, though.”
“Yes, Captain. The Xindi are in pursuit,” responded T’Pol.
There was a long silence.
T’Pol looked at her companion, his face lit somewhat by the scanner she held. “Perhaps we should extend your treatment tonight, Commander.”
Tucker smiled. “That bad, huh?”
“Archer to T’Pol.”
“Looks like the auction is over but Malcolm says there’s another one in an hour. There are too many people around for us to get back to where Trip fell without drawing unwanted attention. But Enterprise has found you on its sensors. We’ll take one of the ‘pods out to pick you up at the other end of the tunnel.”
“I don’t need to tell you two to be careful.”
“We’ll be alright, sir. Just make sure you’re waiting for us at the other end.”
“You got it, Trip. Archer out.”
T’Pol flipped shut her communicator and put it in her utility pouch. She examined her scanner.
“How far behind us are they?” asked Tucker.
“Curious,” replied T’Pol. “They are heading down another tunnel.”
“Okay, so either Teegar gave them the wrong directions or they know something we don’t.”
T’Pol arched one brow and looked at her companion. “Their tunnel will intersect with ours just short of the surface.”
“Great! Just great! Maybe we should go back and try to climb out,” offered Tucker. He stopped and reached a hand down to rub his knee.
“Without assistance, climbing out is not an option, Commander. We will stand a better chance if we get to the surface where the captain and the others will be waiting.” She saw him wince. “Do you require my help?”
“Nah,” replied the engineer. “We better pick up the pace.”
Their progress was painfully slow in the dark and for T’Pol, painfully quiet. She stole glances at the commander, concerned at his uncharacteristic silence. “Are you alright?” she asked finally.
“Huh? Oh, yeah. I’m fine, T’Pol. Just thinking.”
Tucker nodded but did not reply.
“Are you questioning your decision to save his life?”
“No,” said the commander. “Not that.”
Silence hung between them for several long moments.
“I just----.” Tucker began then he stopped and bit his lower lip.
T’Pol moved closer to Tucker’s side as they walked. “Commander?” she urged.
The engineer sighed. “It’s just that,” he began again. “Sometimes I feel like Teegar did when he was dangling over that bottomless pit.”
“I don’t understand.”
“I’m hanging on with all my strength, T’Pol. Clinging to the sides, trying to crawl out. But I can feel myself slipping---.”
“Into the pit,” T’Pol guessed.
T’Pol thought briefly about the commander’s analogy. “Perhaps you should let yourself fall,” she said finally.
Tucker stopped walking. “What?” he asked incredulously.
“We must keep moving, Commander,” said T’Pol. She took Tucker’s elbow and urged him forward as she carefully contemplated her next words. “You are clinging to your anger and your hatred like you are clinging to the sides of the pit. Is that correct?” She didn’t wait for his response. “In my observations, your crewmates have---reached down to help you on numerous occasions only to have their efforts refused.”
“That’s not true,” replied Tucker tightly.
T’Pol looked up at the commander.
Tucker remained silent.
“Since you are tired of holding on but you refuse the assistance of your friends, then the only option left is to let go.”
T’Pol kept her eyes on her companion. “I will be there to---catch you,” she said.
Tucker stopped and stared at her. The Vulcan took his elbow again and urged him to keep moving. They fell into a long silence.
“You would really do that?” asked Tucker finally.
“Yes,” replied T’Pol simply.
“Why? I mean after all we’ve been through, I would think you’d just step aside and watch me fall.”
“Perhaps if this were two years ago, I would.”
Tucker snorted. “Yeah, we did kind of get off on the wrong foot, didn’t we?”
“Thanks, T’Pol. I’m not sure I’m ready to---to let go yet. But it’s nice to know you’ll be there when I am.”
The two walked on in silence.
“Can I ask you something?” asked Tucker suddenly.
The Vulcan nodded.
“Since we’ve been doing this neuro-pressure, I’ve felt---a closeness to you. Is that normal?”
“It is common for humans to experience an attachment to their caregivers.”
“Yeah,” replied Tucker tentatively. “But this is different. When I’m around you, I feel physically more calm and well---sort of comforted by your presence.”
T’Pol stopped and looked up at the engineer. “That is not possible,” she said quietly.
Trip took his companion’s arm. “Come on. We need to keep going,” he said. “What’s not possible?”
“You are a human.”
“Vulcans are not a tactile people, Commander,” T’Pol began hesitantly. “We do not openly touch one another like humans do.”
“I’ve noticed. Why is that?”
T’Pol paused. “Touching is a very intimate act for Vulcans.”
Trip was confused. “But you let the cap’n touch you and you’re giving me neuro-pressure treatments.”
“I am not comfortable with the captain’s incessant need to touch but I know it is simply his way of conveying his feelings for his crew. I have therefore schooled myself to accept it.”
Trip nodded. “Then you must be absolutely miserable giving me neuro-pressure.”
“I am not---miserable, Commander,” replied T’Pol.
“But it must make you uncomfortable. Why did you agree to do it?”
“You were in need of my assistance.”
“Listen, T’Pol,” said Trip. “You don’t know how grateful I am that you’ve helped me especially now that I know how unpleasant it’s been for you but we can stop. The doc has these----.” He screwed up his face. “These mud leeches that’ll help me sleep.”
“There is no need to stop your treatments, Commander.”
“But I don’t want you to be miserable.”
“As I stated before, I am not miserable. You will come to my quarters this evening at 2100 as we agreed.”
“Mr. Tucker, would you prefer mud leeches or neuro-pressure?”
Trip couldn’t help but smile. “Alright, alright, 2100 it is.”
T’Pol looked at her scanner. “We have approximately two kilometers to go,” she said.
Trip nodded absently. “Wait a minute. You didn’t explain why I’m feeling what I’m feeling when I’m with you.”
T’Pol seemed suddenly uncomfortable. She looked up at him for a fleeting moment then returned her eyes to her scanner.
“T’Pol?” urged Trip.
“As I said earlier, touching is a very intimate act for Vulcans. When we touch, there is a connection made, a mild bonding of sorts between the two individuals. We therefore only touch those with whom we share a certain level of trust and affection. Since you are not Vulcan, I made the erroneous assumption that you would not be able to feel this connection. I apologize for my error.”
Trip felt his face flush suddenly. “I don’t mind,” he replied. “Its kind of nice actually.”
“I find it---pleasant as well,” replied T’Pol. Then she looked up at him quickly. “As long as it continues to help you sleep, we will continue with your treatments,” she added.
Trip watched his companion wondering briefly if it was possible for a Vulcan to get embarrassed. He thought about dropping the subject but his curiosity got the best of him. “You had to know when you offered to help me that you would feel this---this bond with me but you did it anyway. Why?”
“You are a vital member of this crew, Mr. Tucker. It was clear your exhaustion would soon interfere with your ability to perform your duties. I was merely doing what any first officer would do for a member of his or her crew.”
“Ahhh, so you would also do this for Lieutenant Reed or even the cap’n then?”
T’Pol looked up at him sharply. “Dealing with your emotions is quite enough, Mr. Tucker.”
Trip gave her a sideways smile. “I take it you don’t feel comforted in my presence?”
His Vulcan companion simply arched an elegant brow at him in response. “Although I trust both the lieutenant and the captain, I do not desire a connection with them,” she continued. She looked away quickly. “I do not believe it’s appropriate---.” She stopped suddenly and put her arm out to stay the commander. “There are voices,” she whispered. She looked at her scanner.
T’Pol shook her head. “Xindi.”
“Ah, hell,” hissed Trip. “Now what do we do?”
“Captain Archer and the others are in the tunnel as well however they are behind the Xindi.”
“Your phase pistol?”
“It was damaged when I jumped,” replied T’Pol. “We have no other choice then to proceed.”
Trip pulled out his communicator. “Tucker to Archer.”
“We see them, Trip. And I have a feeling they’ve seen us, too. We’ve got Major Hayes and five other MACOs with us so we outnumber them. Malcolm’s guessing they’ll try to reach you to use you as hostages.” Archer paused. “We’ll get you out of there, don’t worry.”
“Easy for you to say,” Trip muttered under his breath. “Aye sir.” He closed his communicator and shoved it back in his pocket. He could see beams of light in the tunnel ahead of them. “There they are,” he whispered. T’Pol stood close to him, her arm touching his. An odd sense of calm washed over him and he took a deep breath.
“Don’t move!” Teegra ordered. Gone was the Xindi who had let them go just an hour before.
While Teegra held his rifle and light directed at Trip and T’Pol, his three companions circled behind them. Using their weapons, they shoved the two officers forward as Teegra fell in beside his comrades.
Malcolm nudged his commanding officer with his shoulder. “Captain, they’re just around the corner. They’ve got Trip and the sub-commander with them. I suggest we hold up here.”
Archer looked around. “Not much cover.”
“No, sir,” replied the lieutenant. He turned to Major Hayes. “You’re sure your weapon is set for stun?”
“Yes, Lieutenant,” Hayes replied tightly. “I don’t want Commander Tucker or Sub-commander T’Pol harmed either.”
“I know, Major, I just don’t like the idea of shooting our own people.”
“Neither do I, Malcolm,” said Archer. “But there isn’t any other way. Now lets spread out.”
Malcolm moved his body flush against the wall and he crouched down. He could feel the now familiar rush of adrenaline as he prepared for the battle ahead. His heart was hammering as he watched the streams of light turn the corner followed by four Xindi. Trip and T’Pol were held in front of the four as shields.
The darkness exploded with the flashes of phaser fire then all was suddenly quiet. Quick and efficient, thought Malcolm proudly. He looked around at his companions and saw no casualties. Quick and efficient, he thought again.
Archer was already moving forward to his two fallen officers.
“Are they alright, sir?” asked Malcolm as he knelt beside the captain.
Archer nodded. “Yeah,” he replied. “Lets get them out of here.”
The captain pulled Trip up and hefted him over his shoulder while Malcolm did the same with the sub-commander. They headed quickly back to the shuddlepod which rested just outside the entrance to the tunnel.
Once on board, Archer piloted the ‘pod back to the landing platform. He set it down then turned to look back at Trip and T’Pol. “Get them back to Dr. Phlox, Malcolm. I’ll take the other ‘pod back.”
“Aye, Captain,” replied Malcolm. “What about the chemist, sir?”
Archer looked up at the ceiling momentarily. “I completely forgot about him.” He swiveled back around and looked out the front view port. “The second auction should be going on now. I’ll go back inside and find B’Rat Ud. You get back.”
“Captain,” said Hayes. “My team and I will stay here as well. Just in case.”
“Good idea, Major.”
Archer, Hayes and the other MACOs climbed out of the ‘pod and Malcolm slid over into the pilot’s seat. He watched Archer go back into the complex with the major while the other MACOs remained hovering around the other ‘pod. The lieutenant glanced back quickly at Trip and T’Pol who were lying quietly side by side on the floor then he ignited the thrusters and lifted off.
Four days later, Trip stood outside T’Pol’s quarters. He hesitated, wondering if he should bother her then he took a deep breath and hit the door chime.
Trip opened the door and stepped into the candle lit room.
“Are you ready to begin your treatments?” asked T’Pol. She was kneeling on some pillows, a candle burning to her right.
“Well, um, about that,” Trip stammered.
“After what you’ve been through today, I mean with Rajiin attacking you and all, I thought maybe I could return the favor and give you the treatment tonight.”
“That isn’t necessary, Mr. Tucker.”
“I know,” replied Trip. He knelt down in front of T’Pol. “But I’d like to if you’ll let me.”
T’Pol looked at him for a long moment then nodded her agreement. “Very well.”
T’Pol stood gracefully and moved to sit on the bench. Trip averted his eyes as she unbuttoned her pajama top.
“I am ready.”
Trip looked back to see the Vulcan lying prone across the bench. She looked so small and fragile but he knew from experience that those looks were deceiving. He moved to kneel at her side then rubbed his hands together to warm them.
He glanced at T’Pol’s face then placed his fingers on either side of her spine. “Tell me if I hurt you.”
T’Pol nodded and closed her eyes.
As he pressed his fingers up T’Pol’s back, Trip could feel the tension leaving her body. She exhaled then moaned and Trip stopped afraid he’d hurt her. But she remained still, her eyes closed.
The engineer tentatively began applying the pressure again. “T’Pol?”
“What do you feel?”
T’Pol opened her eyes and looked back at the engineer. “I don’t understand.”
“From me, through this---this connection. What exactly do you feel?”
T’Pol closed her eyes again. “I feel your anger.”
“Oh hell, T’Pol. I’m sorry. Maybe we should stop this.”
“I think we’ve already agreed that neither one of us wishes to stop.”
“But if all you feel is my anger----.”
“I also feel your compassion for your crewmates, and your inherent goodness, Mr. Tucker,” T’Pol continued. She paused. “And I feel your grief.”
Trip pulled his hands away, suddenly overcome. “Lizzie,” he whispered. The tears welled up suddenly and he tried to sniff them back.
T’Pol sat up and looked at the engineer. Trip immediately averted his eyes.
“I also feel your strength, Mr. Tucker. And it---calms me.”
“It does?” He looked up and met T’Pol’s dark brown eyes.
“When I resigned my commission, I lost myself, my identity. Your strength has helped me to adjust to that loss.”
Trip held T’Pol’s eyes. “Did you ever think that maybe by leaving the High Command, you’ve actually found yourself, T’Pol?”
T’Pol lifted a brow. “I had not considered that.”
Trip smiled. “Well maybe through this connection of ours, you should try to pick up some of my wisdom, too.”
“I have not felt any---wisdom, Commander.”
Trip chuckled. He sniffed and wiped his nose with the back of his hand. “Alright then,” he replied awkwardly. “Why don’t you just lay back down then so I can continue?”
T’Pol looked at him squarely. “Please do something before you begin.”
“For you, anything,” Trip said.
“Please wash your hands. You have been wiping your nose.”
Trip grinned. “You got it.” He got to his feet and headed into the bathroom. When he emerged with clean hands, T’Pol was stretched out over the bench again. He knelt beside her and continued the pressure up her back in comfortable silence.
When he finished at the base of her neck, T’Pol was sound asleep. Trip sat back on his heels and smiled. He stood and pulled a blanket from the bunk then laid it over T’Pol’s sleeping form. He gently urged her to sit up as he secured the blanket around her shoulders. The Vulcan looked at him with unfocused eyes and Trip couldn’t help but chuckle softly. He lifted her to her feet and helped her to her bunk.
After he’d settled T’Pol under her covers, Trip bent and lightly kissed her forehead. “Good night, T’Pol,” he whispered. Then he turned down the lights and left her quarters.
“Why am I not surprised to find you here?”
“Hey, Cap’n,” replied Trip. He sat at a table cradling a glass of milk.
“No neuro-pressure tonight?” asked the captain.
“Nope, I gave T’Pol the treatment tonight. Figured she needed it more than me.”
“How’s she feeling?” asked Jon as he sat down across from Trip.
“I think she’s okay. Just exhausted.” The commander looked up at Jon with an odd look in his eyes.
“Have you forgiven yourself yet?”
“What do you mean?”
“For bringing Rajiin on board.”
Jon sighed and he shook his head. “I really blew it, Trip. I nearly got Enterprise destroyed, gave the Xindi vital information, and nearly got both you and T’Pol killed.”
“I’ll admit bringing her here wasn’t one of your brightest moves but you were under her influence. You weren’t thinking clearly. And neither was Malcolm or he wouldn’t have let you bring her aboard in the first place.”
“I keep telling myself that, Trip, but it doesn’t help.”
“You did find out they’re building a bio weapon, Cap’n.”
“Helps to explain why they wanted me back on Narellus,” Trip continued. He rotated the glass in his hands.
Jon sat back in his chair and looked at his friend. “I’m scared, Trip,” he admitted quietly.
“We all are,” Trip replied simply.
“Doesn’t it bother you that the man who’s supposed to save the human race is scared to death?”
Trip shook his head. “It would scare me more if you weren’t afraid.” He leaned forward and looked squarely at the captain. “You’re the right man to lead us, Cap’n. Don’t start doubting yourself just because of Rajiin.”
Jon couldn’t help but smile. “You’d follow me off a cliff, wouldn’t you?”
“I’m glad you’re here, Trip. I’m sorry about the way I treated you in sickbay earlier.”
Trip waved his hand. “Don’t worry about it. Your mind was elsewhere.”
“I was pretty hard on T’Pol as well.”
“She understands. She’s got us pretty well figured out, Cap’n.”
“Well I think I’ll back off and give her a break for a while anyway. She deserves it.” Jon looked at the scratches still visible on his friend’s forehead. “How’s the head?” he asked, his eyes still focused on the wounds.
Trip reached up and gingerly fingered the cuts. “Nothing serious.”
The engineer sat back in his chair and took a sip of his milk. Jon thought he still looked exhausted but he seemed more at ease, more like the Trip of old.
The captain leaned forward. “Trip,” he began. “I read in your report about what happened with Teegra. I just wanted to tell you I’m proud of you for saving him.”
Trip shrugged. “I guess I realized in that moment that I wasn’t a killer after all.” He took another sip of his milk then contemplated the glass in his hands. “I still want them to pay, Cap’n. That hasn’t changed.”
“I know,” Jon replied. He hesitated, watching his long-time friend. “Trip? If you ever need to talk---.”
“I know where to find you,” Trip replied with a smile.
A real smile, Jon noted happily. The captain realized suddenly how long it had been since he’d really seen Trip smile. Then he realized how long it had been since he himself had been happy about anything.
“And if you ever decide to unload some of that burden you insist on carrying, you know where to find me,” Trip continued.
“In T’Pol’s quarters?”
Trip’s cheeks flushed and he laughed, his eyes dropping immediately to the glass he held between his hands. “Very funny.”
Jon smiled. “I know where to find you. Thanks, Trip.”
Trip pushed away from the table. “Well I think I’ll go check in on engineering. See what’s going on down there.”
“You should really try to get some sleep. You’re fast becoming the resident insomniac around here.”
Trip chuckled. “I will---later, Cap’n.” He finished off his glass of milk. “Night.”
“Good night, Trip.” Jon watched the commander as he walked to the door. “Hey, you want some company?”
The engineer turned around then motioned with his hand to the captain.
Jon stood and joined his friend. He put a hand on Trip’s shoulder. “You know, about you and T’Pol, there’s this rumor I heard---.”
Trip rolled his eyes. “Cap’n, she’s just helping me sleep. That’s it.”
And for the first time in months, Jon felt himself laugh.
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A whole mess of folks have made comments
aw, this is a lovely little fic. I found the interactions all quite plausible. The TnT interaction was especially nice, but the exchanges between Mal and Trip and Archer/Trip were very nice too.
This was a great in-between story. It tied in very well. I loved the conversations between Polly and Trip and him and Archer. Very realistic to the show. Fantastic job!
I loved it! The idea that good-hearted Archer still exists-somewhere-is great. This was a great healing piece, I loved it. It was great to see Archer and Trip get back what they had, even if it's only a small step. And an interesting point, that even though Trip is sleeping, he's still torn apart on the inside. Just a thought though, when he finally lets himself fall into the pit, who will he rely on to catch him? T'Pol will obviously be there, but how important will Archer be?
It could have happened just that way...wish it had.
I loved this, especially all the dialogue between Trip and T'Pol. Some nice little insights and it was good to have the Captain being more like his old self at last. I haven't seen any of the third season but those darn Xindi sound like really chilling enemies. Well done and thanks! Ali D :~)
I have to tell you, this is one of the best Trip/T'Pol fics I've read yet. Easily among my top five favorites. The easy rapport between Trip and T'Pol, acknowledged by each for what it is, is fantastic in this story. Really a great story, and I hope you continue it in other pieces. Very well done!
Ditto the above comments. This story had everything - friendship, subtle romance, adventure, it flowed so nicely. Really good.
Plum, if anyone can make me like Trip/T'Pol it's you. This story is well done as always and I found the dialogue very plausible and in character. You've written T'Pol well before and are continuing it here. Of course I like the fact that Jon finally lightened up a bit as well and that the two men regained some of their earlier camaraderie. Bravo!
This was a terrific story, and it seems to fit so well between all those episodes. Oh, if only we could've actually seen some of this stuff on the screen. Oh well. I'll have to settle for imagining it as you've written it. Great job!
Your best! Loved the interplay and dialog between the characters. A great story and one of my favorites!
Excellent! Very well written...great bridge between the eps. I thot the interaction between all the characters was spot on and I particularly loved Malcolm's observations of TnT. Looking forward to your next story!
This is a beautiful fic! I love the way you wrote about Trip and T'Pol, AND Trip and Archer. The friendship between them has always been one of my most favorite aspects of the show and you just made me remember how much I've missed them together. I hope you write more about them, not just about Trip and T'Pol (though I love them to bits!).
Couldn't agree more with every comment thus far expressed. You never disappoint with your stories, and the humour was there as well as the action. I especially loved the part where T'Pol insisted that Trip washed his 'snotty' hand before resuming his ministrations...
Great, now more, please.
I'm pretending to avoid Season 3 spoilers but I'm glad I let myself read this story because it was great. I particularly liked the Archer/Tucker interactions - and, needless to say, the T/T ones.