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Author - Shouldknowbetter | Genre - Angst | Genre - Drama | Genre - Romance | Main Story | R | Rating - PG-13
Fan Fiction Main Page | Stories sorted by title, author, genre, and rating
Remember is part of a series. You may wish to start at the beginning. The complete series is as follows:
7. Cry Havoc
And the alternate endings:
9. "The Rainbow's Foot" (coming soon)
10. "Golden Lads and Girls" (coming soon)
“Do you know what time it is, commander?”
Reluctantly, Enterprise’s chief engineer looked up from the screen he was studying. “1900?”
“After 2100.” In some annoyance, Reed reached out and swung the screen away. “Are you still sulking because T’Pol stayed on Earth with Captain Archer?”
“I am not,” Tucker wrenched the screen back, “sulking.”
“Then why are you down here every hour of the day?” The armoury officer folded his arms, rather in the manner of a head master about to deliver a rebuke. “I admire your dedication, Commander Tucker, but I think you’re taking it a bit far.”
“I’m not working.”
“Not working! Those were warp field equations.”
“Good eyes, Lieutenant!” The sarcasm wasn’t friendly although a moment later Tucker sighed and rubbed thumb and forefinger over his eyebrows, looking up with a slight shake of his head. “Sorry.”
“What’s wrong with you?” The other man’s voice was unusually concerned. “I’m the one who gets depressed, remember. You’re the one who’s always so bloody cheerful it makes me sick.” He frowned. “Has T’Pol dumped you?”
Tucker grimaced, leaning back in his chair. “Nothing. It’s just … D’you know they’re gonna set up a Warp 7 project? I’ve been trying to catch up on the research.” He shook his head, almost in despair. “I’m always so damn busy keeping the ship running, I’m way behind.”
Reed gave his friend a suspicious look. “You’re not having second thoughts about space exploration, are you?”
“No,” but Tucker’s expression gave him at least half the lie.
“You need some exercise. Come on.”
Grudgingly the engineer deactivated the screen and followed Reed out of his office in Enterprise’s Engineering deck and into the main compartment that was still showing signs of the massive repair and upgrade schedule that had been necessary after the pounding the ship had taken during her run in with Pushkin. Automatically, Tucker diverted to check the status of one of the half completed jobs and Reed grabbed his arm. “No, you don’t.”
He got a heavy glower. “What gives you the right to start acting like my mom?”
“When they decide if it’s war or not, I guess.”
It was Reed’s turn to grimace. “Good thing Captain Archer’s first contact with the Klingons went well. At least there’s one human whose life they think has had some smatch of honour in it.”
“Don’t get literary, Lieutenant.”
“You definitely need a break. I thought you had hordes of family to visit.”
“I’ve seen them.”
“One weekend? That was quick!”
“That from the man who had lunch with his parents and came back in a foul mood.”
“I never claimed we got on!” Reed took another look at his friend’s unhappy expression. “Why don’t you go and see T’Pol?”
“Because she’s staying in the Vulcan compound in San Francisco.”
Reed gave up. Sometimes people just wanted to be miserable.
Archer returned sooner than anyone expected. Tucker got the news the next day that his captain’s shuttle was due to dock in five minutes when he was heavily involved in an argument with the head of one of Jupiter Station’s repair crews who thought she knew Enterprise better than he did. He scowled, muttered under his breath and paused only long enough to deliver a final harangue on the woman’s likely fate if she didn’t accept his advice before heading for the locking port. If Archer expected his ship to be ready for space, he was in for a disappointment and Tucker wasn’t feeling very diplomatic at the moment. Three weeks by himself, without his girlfriend, on a ship staffed by a skeleton crew, no chef, and preposterously tight timescales meant that Enterprise’s chief engineer was not a happy bunny – and that was before adding in personal problems that he had no idea how to address. Archer might regret this visit.
The message hadn’t mentioned that the captain was going to be accompanied by Admiral Forrest. Tucker had anticipated that T’Pol would accompany her captain – although he was in such a black mood that he doubted she would have taken the opportunity to visit him – and had had every intention of grabbing her the moment she was through the hatch. Even he couldn’t bring himself to do that in the presence of the admiral, however. He just had to pull himself up to attention and hope he didn’t look as grubby as he felt. “Admiral Forrest, sir, I wasn’t expecting you. Cap’n,” the look he turned on the other man wasn’t very friendly, “welcome back.”
“At ease, Commander Tucker.” Forrest’s tone was pleasant enough. “I’m afraid I didn’t give Captain Archer the opportunity to warn you. I wanted to see for myself how Enterprise’s re-fit is going.”
“It’s going like the reports say it is, sir.”
Archer intervened before Forrest could take offence or Tucker deepen the hole he had started to dig for himself. “There’s a change of plan, Trip. Enterprise has to be ready to ship out in ten days.”
“No!” The protest was vehement. “No way, cap’n! We need another three weeks, maybe a month.”
“I’m afraid we don’t have that long, commander.” Forrest nodded to Archer. “Let’s get started on that tour, captain, and see what can be done to speed up the process.”
Tucker let the captain and admiral precede him down the corridor, dragging a hand through his hair. Just how much worse could things get? He got the answer to that when he turned to T’Pol, hoping for at least a quick hug while the other men weren’t looking. Her expression was so severe he nearly stepped backwards as she brushed past him to followed Archer and Forrest. Maybe Malcolm was right and she had dumped him. Had he ever told her that humans expected to be told if their partner decided to call off a relationship?
They finalised the new work schedule at last and Tucker nearly groaned when he heard Archer invite Forrest to stay on board for dinner. That meant the chief engineer would be obliged to attend as well and all Tucker really wanted to do was shut himself up in his cabin and indulge in a damn good howl. If T’Pol had left him … She still hadn’t really looked at him since coming on board and she’d just spent three weeks back amongst Vulcans. Maybe she’d met someone else. Maybe Archer had … Tucker managed to stop himself. If he was about to accuse his best friend of snatching his girlfriend, he really was starting to lose it. “Cap’n, you may want to re-think that invitation. Chef’s on leave. We’re on food packs.”
It was Forrest who replied with a model answer. “That’s quite all right, commander. I’ll eat whatever’s available.”
Archer gave Tucker a friendly pat on the shoulder. He had started to worry about his friend hours before but with Forrest present there wasn’t a lot he could do about it. “Go get cleaned up, Trip. We’ll see you in my dining room in half an hour.” Maybe there was one thing he could do. “I’m sure you’d like to do the same, sub-commander.”
It didn’t work. The only response was a twitch of one eyebrow and a cool answer. “That will not be necessary, captain.”
There was no mistaking the hurt that crossed Tucker’s face as he turned away and Archer grimaced. He didn’t know what game T’Pol was playing but it wasn’t a nice one.
There was meatloaf for dinner. Tucker wasn’t surprised. He’d had meatloaf for lunch so it was inevitable that it would appear on the menu again. He really wished he’d stayed in bed that morning. Eventually Forrest and Archer ceased exchanging polite and non-controversial conversation and Tucker took the opportunity. “Why do we need to have Enterprise ready in ten days, cap’n?”
The guilt that crossed the man’s face relieved a little of Tucker’s tension. “Trip, I’m sorry, I forgot you wouldn’t have been receiving the full picture up here.”
Archer leant back in his seat, fingers playing with his water glass. “You heard the result of the official inquiry into Dexter’s conduct?” Tucker nodded although that didn’t stop Archer from summarising. “Guilty as charged. There wasn’t really any doubt of the result, not with the evidence you and Malcolm presented, but there are a lot of people within Starfleet as well as out of it who still don’t accept the verdict. Earth government apologised to the Klingon Empire for Dexter’s conduct, but it protested his execution.” Archer saw Tucker wince and nodded. “That didn’t go down well. The Klingons interpreted it as a criticism of their judicial system and rejected the apology. They’ve started attacking any human ships operating in what they consider to be their territory, although I’m informed that the borders of that territory have never been clearly delineated, which makes it hard to avoid. Starfleet vessels have been dispatched to patrol the area to protect our shipping but it’s a vast area and the warp 2 ships can’t cover it effectively.”
“So that’s why Enterprise is needed?”
“No. Not yet, anyway.” Archer glanced down at his plate then up at Tucker again. “The Vulcans have been persuaded to mediate. The Klingon Empire has stamped and shouted but will probably come to the table. Enterprise is to transport the human and Vulcan delegations to Qo’noS where the talks will take place.”
“The Klingons stipulated,” T’Pol interjected, “that Captain Archer must represent Earth.” The look she turned on her captain was approving and Tucker managed a half-hearted grin.
“Nice one, cap’n.”
“It’s a responsibility,” Archer said dryly. “Enterprise leaves to rendezvous with a Vulcan ship in ten days time to pick up the nominated mediator then heads for Qo’noS. Trip,” his voice was cautious, “the Vulcans have selected Soval for this.”
“No! The man’s a …”
“Ambassador Soval is an experienced diplomat!” Archer cut in, still aware of Forrest’s presence if Tucker was not. “I’ve seen him in action.” He grimaced but it had to be said. “He could pull it off.”
“That doesn’t change a damn thing!”
“You have a problem with Ambassador Soval, Commander Tucker?” Forrest asked in the manner of one who wouldn’t accept a positive answer but the engineer didn’t take the hint.
“Yes, sir, I do. As far as I’m concerned, the man’s a criminal and …”
“Ambassador Soval has been with the masters of Gol for the last nine months.”
This time it was T’Pol who spoke over Tucker’s objections. “He has been performing the rite of Kolinahr. Earth should be grateful that he has agreed to come out of seclusion to accept this mission.”
Tucker met dark brown eyes that had become utterly unreadable to him again. “Is that what you really think, sub-commander?”
It was Archer who answered. “She’s right, Trip. You have to accept this. We all do.”
“Fine.” Tucker had had enough - more than enough. He threw his napkin onto the table in front of him. “If you’ll excuse me, captain, admiral, I want to run over the resourcing of those schedules again.”
Archer nodded permission and watched unhappily as the engineer left. Trip looked rough and now wasn’t a good time for histrionics. Forrest was also looking doubtfully after the man. “What do I need to know, Captain Archer?”
“Nothing, admiral. Nothing at all.”
Her eyes widened slightly, although he had already turned away. “Charles?”
The only response was a faint shake of his head and she crossed to stand beside him, hand on his shoulder. “Charles, what is wrong?”
He scowled up at her, leaning away from her touch and she felt his pain echoing through her now that they were close again; she had not realised that the bond between them would attenuate with time spent apart as well as with distance. “Wrong? Oh, just that you never called me or wrote to me and then you treat me like I don’t exist when you see me again.”
“It is not possible to make private transmissions from the Vulcan compound and you know that I must be discreet.” For once T’Pol decided that the bare truth was necessary. “I missed you, Charles.” She stroked his cheek. “But I cannot … indulge myself … when we are in public.”
Tucker shivered in hope. “You still love me?”
For once her eyes held his when he asked that question. “My feelings for you remain unchanged.”
He gulped and snatched her into his arms, pressing his head into her neck. “Do that to me again and I’ll break your neck,” he mumbled but T’Pol could hear the shake in his voice and the relief coursing through him.
He didn’t move from her arms, head still buried against her. “I’ve got a headache.”
T’Pol sighed. Tucker always thought that she wanted sex. “I will help relieve it.”
“That’d be nice.”
“Then come to the bed.” She slid from his lap, tugging him towards the bunk where he stretched out on his back, eyes screwed up in pain as he rubbed at his temples, reminded of just how bad the headache was. He’d had some humdingers ever since V’Lar had melded her mind with his and with T’Pol’s to convince her that he was still alive. Phlox said there was no connection but Tucker didn’t believe him. Warm fingers moved his aside then began to move in small, slow circles, pressing firmly, gradually working their way over his scalp. “You should have taken the medication the doctor prescribed.”
“Didn’t realise it had got so bad.” At least he didn’t feel sick this time. T’Pol hated it when he threw up, mainly because she had to clear up afterwards. “Jeez, I’ve missed you!”
“Do not talk.”
He ignored the sensible advice. “I’ve had a really crap time. Why’d you stay on Earth so long?”
“Captain Archer wished for my advice and support.”
“You could have visited.”
“There was no opportunity.” Diplomacy was no respecter of personal needs. “Be still, Charles.” This time he did as she said and fell asleep not long afterwards. T’Pol watched him for quite some time, lying quietly at his side. Tucker was deeply unhappy about something and she was not convinced that she was the sole cause.
“Yeah.” He opened his eyes to smile up into the exquisite face leaning over him. “Sorry about that.”
“I believe I was at least partly to blame.”
“Yeah, you were real horrid.” The curvaceous body settled itself comfortably at his side when he tugged and he sighed with pleasure. “Are you staying on Enterprise now?”
“I believe that is Captain Archer’s intent.”
He grimaced at the fact that her presence was at the whim of their captain although there was nothing he could do about it. “Not that we’ll get to spend any time together. Not with that repair schedule to meet. Jeez, I’m so damned tired of fixing stuff!”
T’Pol raised her head from Tucker’s shoulder, gazing down at him in concern. “I understood that you enjoyed such work.”
“Yeah, I did … I do. Just done too much of it lately, I guess.” He raised a hand to catch her chin, preventing her from looking away. “Are you really OK with this business with Soval?”
“The rite of Kolinahr is not something undertaken lightly, nor is it an easy discipline.”
“So you think he’s paid?”
“Vengeance is illogical but … yes.”
“I don’t.” She began to run the backs of her first two fingers over his face and he smiled reluctantly. “You still like doing that?”
“Why should I not?”
“I thought I’d convinced you human kissing had a lot more going for it.”
“It can be pleasant.”
“Pleasant? Can be? Darling, have you forgotten already?”
There was a teasing light in her eyes and Tucker grinned in answer and pulled her head down to remind her how much she enjoyed him kissing her – the human way.
“I did recommend that you refrain from exerting yourself.”
“No way.” He had a hand pressed over his eyes. “I needed that.” She regarded him with exasperation and slid from the bed, not pausing when he groped blindly after her. “Don’t go. T’Pol!” She returned, pushing him flat again to press the hypospray to his neck. “You could have massaged me better again.”
“Massage encourages you to sleep, nothing more. If your head still aches, Charles, you need medication.” She settled beside him on the pillow, stroking his hair, and Tucker sighed, moving his head to press against a smooth thigh.
“I think not.” Gentle fingers soothed his temples again. “You need to rest.”
“I’d rest better if you were here.”
“Of course.” After she had checked the logs to see how long he had been working. Charles was exhausted and he’d lost weight in the few weeks since they had last shared a bed. That knowledge made T’Pol feel fiercely protective and that was most irrational when he was a grown man, quite capable of looking after himself; she needed to meditate on the matter. Then she would look after her human until he lost the shadows under his eyes and laughed at her again.
Archer leant back in his seat behind the ready room desk, regarding his chief engineer with amused tolerance. “Which part of ‘that’s an order’ didn’t you understand, Commander Tucker?”
“You can’t order me to take leave.”
“I just did. Trip, I’ve had both Malcolm and T’Pol in here this morning because they’re worried about you and I’d already reached the same conclusion. You need a break. Now get your sorry butt off this ship and don’t come back for the next seven days.”
“Can’t I stay here? Read? Go the gym?” Spend as much time in bed with his girlfriend as humanly possible.
“No. You’ve got half an hour to pack. The shuttle leaves at 1200.”
Tucker groaned. Why the hell was this happening to him? “Cap’n …”
“Have fun, Trip. Dismissed.”
Tucker wasn’t even remotely resigned to the idea of being sent away from Enterprise when he reached the launch bay. He just couldn’t believe that Archer was doing this to him. His only hope was that T’Pol would agree to his suggestion that he hide out in her cabin for the next week but he couldn’t really see her agreeing to something that even he thought was illogical. He tossed his bag in through the open hatch of the shuttle pod and looked around in frustration. She should have been here, he’d said 11:55 and T’Pol was never late.
“This is yours?”
He swung round to see the Vulcan woman eyeing the bag he had thrown into the shuttle pod with disfavour. “What are you doing in there?”
“Waiting for you.” She shifted the bag into a designated storage area and Tucker boarded the shuttle, looking suspiciously around for a pilot.
“Who’s flying this thing?”
“Crewman Rostov.” T’Pol turned to regard him calmly. “Although you or I may take the helm for the outward journey if you wish.”
It took a moment to sink in then he stared. “You’re coming too? I mean … are you just dropping me off or …” He didn’t dare voice his sudden hope and she looked at him in well controlled amusement.
“Captain Archer’s orders were most specific. I am to ensure that you receive adequate rest and recreation.”
“Son-of-a-bitch.” Tucker was starting to grin although he couldn’t entirely believe the sudden change in his fortunes. “I didn’t think Vulcans needed to take time off.”
“We do not. As I stated, I am under orders to care for you.”
“Orders?” He wasn’t entirely sure he liked the sound of that; T’Pol could be very literal minded. “Does that mean you’re gonna be on duty the whole time?” On duty meant no touching, no kissing and certainly no spending all day in bed.
“Yes. However,” she came to stand before him, head tipped back to look into his eyes, “I believe my duties could be described as unconventional.”
Tucker waited until they were clear of Jupiter Station then leant back comfortably, feet on a handily placed console, already getting into the swing of being on leave. “So, where are you taking me?”
“Captain Archer recommended a small accommodation unit in a mountainous region of northern Europe. He described it as isolated.”
“Sounds good. What about food?”
“That has been taken care of.”
He got a disapproving look. “Captain Archer suggested that you look in the emergency storage locker.”
Tucker chuckled and went to investigate, already sure of what he would find. He owed Jon big time for this one.
Tucker smiled as the warm hand began to caress his chest and tilted his head back. “What are you doing down there?”
“Is that a hint that I’ve been ignoring you?”
“Hardly. You have frequently asked questions regarding the Vulcan interpretation of warp theory.”
“Yeah, and not answering was real unfair.”
“The information is classified.”
He tossed the PADD to one side and shifted to pull T’Pol down beside him, stroking her hair back from one ear. “Have I ever mentioned that you are most beautiful thing that ever happened to me?”
“The information is still classified.”
Tucker didn’t smile. If anything, his expression grew more intent. “I mean it,” he whispered softly as his fingers continued to caress her soft skin. “I love you, T’Pol. Never doubt that. Ever.”
The rush of emotion from him was so intense that T’Pol felt her throat constrict, not in response to the declaration of love but the grief behind it. “Charles?”
She raised a hand to his face. “What is wrong?”
He shook his head, not in denial but in an attempt to control his own feelings. “Right now?” His mouth was half smiling although it didn’t reach his eyes. “Not a damn thing,” and he lowered his head for a searching kiss that T’Pol returned with all the strength of her forbidden affection. Most of the grief had left Tucker’s eyes when he pulled gently back, to be replaced by a hint of his usual teasing. “Ever made love in front of a log fire, sub-commander?”
“I believe not.” Their only opportunity had been on yet another away mission gone wrong, but Sato’s presence had made that impossible.
“Now that’s a serious gap in your education.”
“Then you had best remedy the situation. At once.”
He got a pitying look. “The aurora borealis. An atmospheric feature typical of this latitude, involving …”
“I know that.” He drew her into his arms, back to his chest as he turned them to watch the display. “But I never saw it before.”
“Crazy, isn’t it?” he added softly some time later. “You travel hundreds of light years then come home to find your own planet’s as beautiful as anywhere.”
The underlying note of sadness was back in his voice again and T’Pol squirmed around in his embrace to look up at him. “Charles, why will you not tell me what is wrong?”
Reluctantly he withdrew his gaze from the sky. “Because it might not happen.”
“You are not making sense.”
“Nothing new there then.” He bent his head and kissed her forehead. “I love you.” He had said that a great deal over the last few days.
T’Pol slid her hands up to his shoulders, aware of his continuing sorrow. “If I correctly interpret the human definition of that emotion,” she paused but only to move her hands higher, clasping them behind his neck, “then I feel as you do.”
Tucker shook his head, laughing a little. “Nice one, honey. I really thought you were gonna say it then.”
“Is it so important to you that I verbalise what you know very well?”
He was silent for a moment, staring down into the calm face that he could nevertheless read as well as a human’s; T’Pol’s eyes gave her away every time. “Maybe. Just sometimes.”
“Then I love you.”
He shivered, a small inarticulate sound escaping him and kissed her as hungrily as if they had not spent a great deal of time over the last few days indulging themselves. They were both short of breath when they separated by a few centimetres and Tucker raised an unsteady hand to T’Pol’s face, running the backs of his fingers down her cheek. “Meditation time?”
She raised herself up for another long kiss, eyes warm and smiling although he had never coaxed her into a recognisably human smile. “I believe you would say ‘bed time’.”
He laughed shakily. “You have to meditate. We’re due back on Enterprise tomorrow. No one wants a cranky first officer.” She pressed sensuously close and his breath caught. “Although a cuddly one’s good.”
“Then you should take advantage of the situation.”
Tucker’s chuckle was more normal that time. “You’re wicked, you know that?”
“You taught me to be so.”
“Yeah. Good teacher, huh?”
“Indeed. Do you wish to take advantage of me?”
“Oh, yes. But you have to meditate afterwards.”
“Definitely! I am not taking a randy Vulcan back to Enterprise.”
“Cap’n?” Tucker was the first of the pair to acknowledge Archer’s presence. “What’s up?”
“Sub-Commander T’Pol, Commander Tucker,” they had still been hand in hand – an unusual enough occurrence on Enterprise – but separated at their captain’s harsh and formal greeting. “I have something for you to see.” They exchanged a quick look and Archer anticipated. “Now, commanders.”
“Of course, captain.” T’Pol spoke calmly but if Archer had taken the time to look, he might have noticed that his first officer was uncharacteristically ruffled by the peremptory order.
They followed him in silence to the ready room where Archer flung himself into his chair and reached for the monitor. “Take a look at this.”
It was a video clip from an Earth-based news network – not one of the more respectable ones – with a commentary superimposed. It started innocuously enough with a shot of the Northern Lights while the voice-over set the scene. ‘For over ninety years, since Zephram Cochrane was privileged to make first contact with the Vulcans, we’ve been led to believe that they were cold, unemotional, unaffected by the messy passions of humanity. Yet one of our reporters has uncovered a story that could change forever our austere view of the Vulcan people. These scenes were filmed last night in the north of the European Federation.’
The picture quality wasn’t of the best since it must have been shot at long range and in poor light, but it was unmistakably Tucker and T’Pol, spooned together as they watched the light show in the sky. ‘The individuals have been identified as Commander Charles Tucker of Starfleet and Sub-Commander T’Pol of the Vulcan Science Directorate, both currently assigned to the warp 5 ship Enterprise. Commander Tucker, known as Trip to his friends, has something of a reputation with the ladies and he has evidently made another conquest.’ On the screen, the image moved in for a close up, Tucker and T’Pol facing each other now, eyes locked together, the love between them so blindingly obvious that it didn’t need the passionate kiss to prove the point, although the editor had left that in anyway. ‘Evidently Vulcan women are as susceptible to a romantic setting and a handsome man as any other. We have contacted both the Vulcan embassy and Starfleet on this matter. The Vulcan ambassador refused to comment, but Starfleet issued this statement: ‘Relationships between officers serving on Starfleet vessels have been and always will be discouraged.’ Is this the end for our pair of star-crossed lovers? Other news on …’
Archer flicked off the screen and glared at his horrified officers who had watched themselves in stunned silence. “You’ve always known you had to be discreet.” His normally pleasant voice was hard. “How the hell did you allow this to happen?” There was no answer. “Well?”
“We didn’t know there was someone watching.” Tucker sounded dazed and when Archer flicked an annoyed look at T’Pol it nearly killed his temper. She looked sick.
“I don’t care if you thought you were in the middle of the Sahara desert! How did the press find you?”
“I dunno.” Tucker ran a hand over his face. “I guess … someone we met talked.”
“You were seen!”
“Of course we were seen! We went walking, we met people. What did you expect us to do, cap’n? Stay in all day?”
Archer turned away to stare out of the ready room view port, currently showing not deep space but a portion of Jupiter Station. He knew he was being unfair but the other two didn’t seem to realise the damage they might have done. “Do you know how much persuasion it took to get the Vulcans to mediate with the Klingons on our behalf?” He swung back, eyes on his first officer. “Of course you do, T’Pol was there. You two know you’ve been a scandal waiting to happen. I repeat, why the hell weren’t you more discreet?”
“We were!” Tucker was losing his temper despite his best efforts. “We didn’t even hold hands if there was anyone else around.”
“I think, commander, that a human and a Vulcan just being seen together outside of an official capacity is enough to start speculation.”
“So what d’you want, cap’n? An apology? Because you’re not gonna get one!”
“Am I? Because …”
“Stop!” Both men jerked around to face T’Pol who was staring at them wide-eyed, shaking as she gripped the back of a chair. “This is … unseemly. I … I will …” She gasped, biting her lip so hard that a trace of green appeared, and lunged for the door.
“T’Pol!” Tucker grabbed for her but she struck him away and fled and Archer caught the engineer’s arm before he could follow her. “Let me go, cap’n. She needs me.”
“She’ll have to wait. What’s going on with her, Trip?”
His friend pulled roughly free, still furious although struggling to contain it for the Vulcan woman’s sake. “Do you have any idea, cap’n,” deliberately he threw the other man’s words back at him, “how seeing those pictures made her feel? Knowing that everyone has seen what should be private? For T’Pol, it’s like … being seen naked. Maybe worse.” Tucker had few inhibitions about his own well-honed body. “I’m sorry we screwed up but Soval knows damn well that T’Pol and I are lovers – and if he tries to back out I’ll make public what he did to T’Pol and Starfleet can give me a dishonourable discharge for it. Now, if you’ll excuse me,” this time the tone was biting, “T’Pol needs me.”
He left and Archer thumped a fist into the back of his chair in frustration and tried to ignore the distorted frame of the chair T’Pol had been holding.
“Yes, you can. C’mon, T’Pol, we’ll do it together.”
“I cannot.” She sounded unutterably distant. “I am no longer Vulcan.”
“I disgraced my people. They will no longer accept me.”
“You don’t know that.”
“T’Pol, you’re just upset, darling. You’ve not meditated anything like enough the last few days. You’ll feel better when you have. C’mon, now.” He lifted her gently and caught his breath. “Shit.” Her right hand was torn and bleeding, presumably from having been slammed into a plasma screen. “Let’s get you to sickbay.”
“There is no point.”
“There’s every point.” She didn’t resist when Tucker gathered her into his arms and that worried him even more. T’Pol should protest like crazy if he tried to carry her through Enterprise’s corridors, not lie bonelessly against him.
Phlox turned to look reprovingly at the first officer and chief engineer where they sat side by side on a biobed. “How often have you meditated over the last seven days, sub-commander?”
“Vulcans must meditate every day.”
“I’m aware of that, but it doesn’t answer the question.”
The Denobulan frowned disbelievingly and looked to the human for confirmation. Tucker grimaced. “Most days but not at all yesterday or today.”
“You have a severe hormonal imbalance.” The doctor pressed a hypospray to T’Pol’s neck. “The result of a lack of meditation and,” he looked repressively at Tucker, “excessive sexual activity.”
“I can’t believe that you are unaware, Commander Tucker, that there is a close relationship between Vulcan physical and mental well-being. If Sub-Commander T’Pol does not meditate, her hormone levels become erratic. If her hormone levels are disrupted it is harder to achieve the concentration necessary for quality meditation. When you add to that the stimulation produced by intercourse, the result is an unpleasant one.”
The doctor sighed. “Sexual activity in Vulcan women affects their hormone levels as their bodies try to increase the probability of conception.”
“Please, commander, try to pay attention. Sub-Commander T’Pol is not pregnant. In fact, I believe medical technology is at least fifty years away from being able to produce a viable human-Vulcan hybrid. What I am saying is that the combination of sexual activity and lack of meditation has made the sub-commander ill.” He turned his attention back to the woman. “I am relieving you of duty for 24 hours, sub-commander. I have given you something to help stabilise your hormone levels, now I want you to return to your quarters and meditate. And I recommend that you abstain from intimacy of any description for a week.”
T’Pol managed a half-hearted glare and slipped from the biobed, heading for the door. Tucker grimaced and followed, nodding his thanks to Phlox. “Sorry,” he said once they were in the corridor and T’Pol spared him a brief glance.
“I could’ve tried harder. T’Pol … what you said before … about being disgraced …”
“It is a fact.” She was calm again, Phlox’s medication already having a positive effect, but Tucker could still sense her despair.
“What are we gonna do?”
“I do not know.” She halted outside her cabin and Tucker could feel her withdrawal. “I must meditate.”
“OK. Can I see you later?”
“I will return to duty tomorrow.”
She disappeared without another word and Tucker groaned, rubbing the back of his neck. Work was the best distraction available and there was undoubtedly a whole heap of it waiting for him in Engineering, but first he had to find Archer and see if he needed to blow his career to clear up the mess he and T’Pol had unwittingly created.
There was a long pause then the man admitted, “Mom called.”
“You’d not told her about T’Pol?” Archer was surprised. The tight-knit Tucker family didn’t usually have secrets from each other. Everyone else, yes, but not from each other.
“She wouldn’t have understood.”
“That you were in love?”
“That I was in love with a Vulcan. I never made much secret of what I thought of them.”
“So what happened?”
“I told her it was none of her business.” Wearily Tucker raised his head. “That went down real well.”
“She loves you, Trip. She’ll come round.”
“Go to bed. Let T’Pol look after you.”
“She’s not talking to me either.”
Archer sighed, knowing there were no easy clichés to utter on that subject. “You still need to get some rest. We break orbit the day after tomorrow and I need a chief engineer.”
Tucker straightened painfully, flexing cramped muscles. “You got one, cap’n.”
“Good. Now get out of here.” The captain watched his friend leave with something close to pity. Sometimes life just sucked.
“I will retire immediately, Captain Archer. I do not wish to be disturbed for the remainder of our journey.”
Archer frowned. “Shouldn’t we work on our strategy for dealing with the Klingons, ambassador?”
“My role is that of mediator. I can assist neither side. If you have questions of procedure, address them to T’Het.” The young woman behind him inclined her neatly cropped head, eyes not moving from her superior.
On reflection, the studied ascertain of neutrality did not surprise Archer. “Of course, ambassador. Your quarters are ready. If you’ll follow Sub-Commander T’Pol, she’ll ensure that you have everything you require.” He wouldn’t have asked her to perform that duty but she had stubbornly insisted.
“I prefer another escort.” There was no inflection to the bald statement but it was final and the Vulcan hadn’t even looked at the woman who had saved his life a year before.
“You are a disgrace to your people. I withdraw such friendship as I had towards you.”
She walked away and T’Pol stood staring after her. The gesture had been foolish when she knew the result but she had felt the need to try.
“Are you ashamed?”
T’Pol turned to look up into Tucker’s questioning eyes; it was the first time they had spoken in days. “I am not ashamed of you.” It was inefficient to use Vulcan when she was infinitely more fluent in English but some things were better said in a language no one else would understand. “I am shamed by my own behaviour.”
“I understand that but …” He shook his head in frustration and switched to English. “T’Pol, we could be only days away from war. If that’s gonna happen … isn’t it better to face it together? At least we’d have each other.”
“No.” She had not eaten a great deal the last few days. She had been intending to collect a mug of tea and return to her cabin for further mediation.
“You may not hold me in public.”
“But everyone knows!”
Tucker followed her, shaking his head, but too depressed to argue.
Without speaking, she crossed to perform the task for him, responding to his surprise only once she had stepped back. “Commander Tucker has experienced similar problems in the past.”
“I’m glad to know Trip’s taught you something useful.” He shrugged into his jacket, grimacing at the tight fit. “What can I do for you, sub-commander?”
“We have entered orbit around Qo’noS.”
“None. The coordinates of the negotiation site have been transmitted. Lt Reed can detect no heavy armament in the vicinity. However, he wishes to carry out a closer inspection.”
Archer shook his head as he bent to respond to Porthos’ plaintive request for attention. “I think we’ll have to take this one on trust, sub-commander.”
“Then lets give them a taste of it.” He held up a hand to halt T’Pol’s continuing protest. “Is Soval ready?”
“So I understand.”
“Ensign Sato is already waiting in the launch bay.”
“Then I’d better get going.”
The man pulled a face, blowing out his cheeks. “I guess it could have been worse.”
“There was a lot of shouting.” Sato appeared the most drained of the lot. “If you’ll excuse me, sir, I want a shower.”
She left muttering, ‘earplugs’ and ‘nasal numbing agent’ under her breath and Archer managed a tired grin after her as T’Pol looked questioningly at him. “Are talks to continue, captain?”
“They are.” He nodded to the Vulcan man who had maintained a disdainful distance from the rest. “Ambassador Soval thinks we made a good start.”
“I’ll take all the encouragement I can get. Will you be joining us for dinner, ambassador?”
“No.” He began to move away and Archer extended the invitation in a fit of hospitality.
“No.” She had learnt her address from Soval himself although she added something in Vulcan as she followed the ambassador and Tucker stiffened.
“Now that’s not nice!” Her eyes widened in shock and he glared back. “Yeah, the monkey speaks Vulcan.”
“T’Het.” Soval’s sharp command pulled her after him but even the brief exchange had enraged Tucker.
“You wanna be careful, T’Het.” He wasn’t looking at the woman. “Another six years and you might wanna think about looking for another job. If Soval …”
“Charles!” T’Pol’s furious intervention cut him off before he could finish his condemnation but Soval had already turned although his expression remained blank and his tone gave away absolutely nothing.
“Review your own conduct, Commander Tucker. You have destroyed her.”
He left them standing there and Archer did not have the heart to rebuke Tucker for his profoundly unprofessional outburst. He had never seen the engineer look so stunned.
The talks continued the next morning with further table thumping and very little progress that Archer could detect, then he thought that things had taken a turn for the worse when Sato approached him in the lunch recess, white and shaking. “Hoshi.” He reached out to grip her arm instinctively, visions of an assault rising to the fore. “What happened? Are you hurt?”
She shook her head firmly and took a couple of deep breaths, standing a little closer to him than normal. “No, sir, I’m fine. One of the Klingons took me outside – at knife point.” Archer’s grip tightened and she grimaced, visibly calming now that she was back in her captain’s protective presence. “I don’t think he meant anything by it. He just passed on a message.” She glanced around and dropped her voice. “Chancellor Girkon wants to talk to you, captain. Alone.”
“That would not be wise.” They looked around to see that Soval had joined them. “Leaving the main chamber would leave you open to attack, Captain Archer. There are plenty here who would prefer to be done with words and progress immediately to war.”
“And if the chancellor’s not one of them? Refusal could be just as damaging.”
“Sorry, ambassador, but I’ll accept any risk to avoid conflict. Hoshi, were you given instructions?”
“Yes, sir. Coordinates and a time, late tonight.” She pulled a face. “The instructions said to use the transporter.”
“You will not attend.”
Archer looked down his nose at the Vulcan. “I don’t think that’s your call, ambassador. Now, shall we get back to work?”
A burst of raucous laughter from a group of Klingons reached them and Archer turned in time to see T’Het stalking towards them, her expression stiff with disapproval. “What was that about?”
For the first time since Soval had come aboard Enterprise, there was some emotion in his expression and it was disgust. “The Klingons have become aware of what your first officer has done. It is a source of great amusement to them and T’Het bears the brunt.”
Archer winced. It was a low blow and for once entirely justified. He only hoped T’Pol wouldn’t get to hear about it.
“Sub-commander, can’t you make the captain see sense?”
“Rarely,” she said dryly and addressed Archer herself. “If we do not hear from you, we will retrieve you thirty minutes after the initial transport.”
“That’s very kind of you, sub-commander, but do I have to remind you all who’s in command here?”
“That is not necessary. Once you have left Enterprise, I will be in command.”
He glared at her and turned a thoughtful eye on Tucker who was behind the console, running extensive diagnostic checks. “Don’t look at me, cap’n.” The engineer confirmed the coordinates for the third time and shrugged apologetically at his friend. “I’d pull you out after fifteen.”
Archer shook his head and stepped into the transporter chamber, taking the phase pistol Reed held out. “It’s set to kill, sir. I recommend you leave it that way. The stun setting doesn’t appear to work on Klingons. We’ve selected a beam down site approximately fifty metres from the location specified by the chancellor. You should have enough cover to get close without being seen.”
“Thank you, lieutenant. Would anyone else care to tell me how to handle this?”
“You would be well advised to leave your communicator channel open, captain,” T’Pol offered. “We will be able to keep a lock on your position, thus reducing extraction time.”
He cocked his head to one side in a disbelieving glare, but did as she recommended then nodded to Tucker. “Energise, commander.”
He faded from existence and Reed frowned, arms crossed. “Should I follow him down, sub-commander?”
“I do not believe Captain Archer would appreciate the gesture, lieutenant. We wait.”
The beam down site was dark after the artificial lighting on Enterprise but the delay while he waited for his eyes to adapt gave Archer the opportunity to run a personal body check that confirmed he still had all his extremities. The transporter had its uses, but he still wasn’t convinced that decomposing and recombining people was one of them. The darkness resolved into varying shades of grey and Archer began to edge his way forward, a wary eye out for movement. His show of confidence to Soval and his officers was just that, a show; he didn’t trust this set-up any more than they did.
Despite his caution the appearance of a figure out of a deeper than usual shadow caught him by surprise and he had his phase pistol in his hand before he realised it. “Chancellor Girkon?”
The figure shifted again and he caught a glimpse of the face before a throaty laugh confirmed that it wasn’t the man he had been expecting; it wasn’t even a man. “Do I look like a warrior, human?” She came closer and Archer might have conceded that she was handsome if it hadn’t been for the teeth. She was certainly more spectacularly built than … well, almost any other woman he had ever encountered. It was an effort to drag his eyes up to her face.
“Where’s the chancellor?”
“Waiting for you. Come.”
“He said alone. I thought that went for both of us.”
“He is alone. How else could he get free of his guard but by visiting his mistress? Are you coming, human?”
He followed her reluctantly, but if the Klingons had wanted him dead, surely they’d have acted by now.
The house was only metres away, thick-walled and narrow-doored, well defended against forms of attack a few centuries old, although Archer wondered if the apparently ancient building was reinforced with modern materials. From what T’Pol had told him, civil unrest was common on the Klingon home world. Girkon was seated at a table, a tankard in one hand, a disruptor in the other. “He came alone?” he asked the woman and when she nodded tossed the weapon onto the table within easy reach. “Then you’re a fool, Archer. Drink?”
“Drink!” The white haired Klingon banged his tankard onto the tabletop. “I insist. What pleasures does an old man have left but blood wine?”
“Women.” His self-confessed mistress poured another tankard although it was evidently for herself, not Archer. “Power. Assassination. Old fool!”
“Huh! You see how she treats me, Archer? Never let a woman rule you. It saps the will, the mind, the body.”
“The invitation, chancellor?”
The most powerful warlord in the Klingon empire leant back in his chair and Archer was caught by surprise at the intelligence in the man’s eyes. It never paid to underestimate an enemy. “If we fight, Archer, who loses, Qo’noS or Earth?”
“I don’t care to answer that.”
“Then I’ll answer. I lose. I am the chancellor of the Klingon Empire!” He accompanied the declaration with a bang of his tankard. “My ships will lead the attack. My ships will sweep yours aside and reduce your planet to rubble – and maybe you’ll destroy one or two of my warbirds in the process. There are other factions who can count on the loyalty of some of our captains. If I lose too much of my fleet, maybe one of them will think, ‘Ah, that old man Girkon, we can defeat him and take the power he has held for far too long.’” He grinned showing a mouthful of decaying teeth. “What do you say to that, Archer?”
“I’m in no position to comment.”
“Huh!” The tankard hit the table again. “Damn Vulcans! Trained you to speak and to say nothing. Talk to me, human. Can I count on your cooperation?”
“To defeat Earth? No.”
“Fool! To save my honour. I’m Klingon! My greatest wish is to die gloriously in battle, not to spend my old age in bed with bad women and good wine. We must agree a peace, Archer, but that tame Vulcan of yours must force me to it. Tell him so.”
“Let me get this straight.” Archer couldn’t quite grasp the fact that Klingon politics was as devious as any other, if rather more violent. “You don’t want a war with Earth.”
“Yes!” The captain had no idea what the tankard was made of, but it was damn good stuff.
“But you can’t say that publicly.”
“So you want Ambassador Soval to use threats to force you to accept peace.”
“Yes! We’ll make a politician of you yet, Archer. Now go. You interfere with my drinking.”
“If Soval …”
“Enough! You have stayed too long.” The woman was bundling Archer from the house. “Don’t fail me, Archer, or I will cut out your liver and eat it before your eyes.”
Somehow the captain just knew that was no idle threat.
Soval, once persuaded out of seclusion, listened with a patience that surprised Archer when he reported on his encounter with the Klingon chancellor. “It is possible,” the Vulcan said in conclusion, “that you have stumbled across a faction of the Klingon empire that does indeed favour peace – however questionable their motives.”
“But can you do anything to help?”
To Archer’s surprise, the ambassador did not reply immediately but crossed to stare out of the ready room’s view port. “I know that you have questioned my motives in agreeing to mediate this conference, Captain Archer. Indeed, I have debated this matter deeply myself. Each time, my conclusion is the same.” He turned back, expression neutral. “If your planet and the Klingon Empire come to war, I doubt the ability of the rest of this quadrant to remain unaffected. The logical conclusion is that we will all be drawn into your conflict. The consequences would be grave, perhaps disastrous, over-turning a stability that has existed for centuries. That, I cannot sanction.”
“Stability?” Archer’s tone was scathing. “I’ve seen the result of that stability. Slave trading, arranged marriages, piracy …”
“Peace, captain. For the majority, peace and a life devoid of conflict. You and your species threaten to destroy that.”
“If you’re talking about doing away with complacency, then fine! I’ll accept that.”
“But not all of us think as you do, Captain Archer. The human way may not be the best for all species you encounter.”
“Freedom? Equality? The right for self-determination?”
“Are all over-simplistic when applied beyond your own planet. What gives you the right to interfere, captain, when the Vulcan people have held back for two millennia? How would you have reacted had we Vulcans imposed the discipline of Surak on humanity?”
“That’s cultural. I’m talking political.”
“They cannot always be separated.”
It was Archer’s turn to inspect the view. “Let’s get back on track, ambassador. Will you help force a peace on the Klingon Empire?”
“I will.” The captain swung round, shocked at so unequivocal an answer. “Not for any reason you would understand, Captain Archer, but yes, I will bring about a peace here.”
“Then thank you.”
“Save your thanks. You do not comprehend the price either of us may pay.”
The next morning, there was little sign of a change in the direction of the talks that Archer could detect but he had to admit that he was prepared to trust the sincerity of both Girkon and Soval. It seemed crazy to put his faith in two aliens, neither of whom had ever given him concrete evidence of goodwill – or even tolerance – towards humanity, but he did and on those grounds he was prepared to play a waiting game. His confidence suffered a severe blow, however, after the midday break when the Klingon chancellor failed to return.
“My instructions,” Archer said slowly, trying to judge the implications of that one, “were to treat with the chancellor of the Klingon Empire.”
“Who is not here! I am, Archer, I am.”
“So I see.”
“Coward!” There was contempt even in the single word. “Honourless! You will see how Klingons deal with your kind now.”
“A problem?” Soval’s calm interjection was most welcome to Archer and that was not something he would ever have expected.
“Apparently, ambassador,” Archer got in first, “Chancellor Girkon is indisposed.”
“Why should you care, Vulcan? He is not here. I am.”
“I trust the chancellor is expected to make a full recovery.”
“Do you have evidence of Chancellor Girkon’s transfer of responsibility for the conduct of these talks to yourself, Vice-Chancellor Murhuk?”
“No. Why should I?”
“Because without such authority, we are unable to continue. The stipulations that bind this conference are quite clear.”
The Klingon at Soval, his fury evident, but the Vulcan gazed back with no sign of apprehension and eventually the former swung away. “I will get this authority.”
“Excellent. I will give you until tomorrow morning. Until then, proceedings are suspended. Good day, Vice-Chancellor Murhuk.”
Soval waited until the Klingon had moved away then headed for the doors. “I believe that we should return to your ship, Captain Archer.”
“What’s going on, Ambassador Soval?” Archer demanded once they were in the shuttle pod and en route for Enterprise; he had had the patience to wait that long.
The Vulcan raised an eyebrow at the captain’s naivety. “I deduce that the vice-chancellor has become aware of Chancellor Girkon’s desire for peace and is taking measures to ensure that war is declared between Earth and the Klingon Empire.”
Archer rubbed a hand over his mouth. “You think Girkon’s been assassinated?”
“Then we have to find Girkon before Murhuk has a chance to act.”
Archer took a couple of frustrated paces away and swung back. “I’ll get Malcolm on it.”
“Discovery of which could precipitate the very war we all wish to avoid.” Soval looked up from his folded hands to regard Archer with some calculation. “Another approach suggests itself.”
The party from Enterprise showed signs of tension when it arrived on Qo’noS the next morning, perhaps the most obvious being that between Soval and T’Pol. T’Het had reported sick with an acute attack of gastroenteritis. Since the much vaunted stipulations of the conference demanded that Soval’s aide had to be Vulcan, there had been little option but for T’Pol to fulfil the role although both parties had conceded with reluctance and Tucker had insisted that he accompany the party, not prepared to leave his girlfriend in the ambassador’s company without his supervision, even with Archer present. It didn’t make for a good start to the day, nor did Murhuk’s aggression as he presented his authority to continue the talks in Girkon’s absence. Soval did not protest; the signature was either genuine or too good a forgery to be questioned and the blood could have been extracted without Girkon’s consent.
It was clear from the first that Murhuk’s agenda was different to that of his chancellor’s. He rejected every proposal without even a pretence of listening so that it was only Soval’s skill – and, Archer suspected, the Klingon’s lack of intelligence – that kept the proceedings on course until mid-morning. When they paused for refreshment even the Vulcans were looking tense and Soval spoke sharply to T’Pol as she would have left his side, reaching out a hand to detain her. She pulled away with some vigour and Tucker was at her side in an instant, bristling. “Don’t you touch her!”
The ambassador cast a disdainful look at the human engineer. “You do not own the woman, Commander Tucker.”
“Nor do you. Hell, you can’t even say her name.”
“Indeed, not. You have made it impossible for her to ever be accepted into Vulcan society again.”
“Well, perhaps that’s better for her!”
“Trip.” Archer was at his friend’s side, attracted by the conspicuously raised voices. “Leave it.”
“Why the hell should I? I’m not the one who attacked T’Pol. Are we just gonna ignore that because right now it’s convenient to have Mr Rapist here on our side?”
“Commander Tucker,” Archer’s tone brooked no disobedience, “that is quite enough.”
“No, it’s not, cap’n. You know I’ve objected to this from the start and now you’ve made T’Pol …”
“Tucker, shut the hell up or I’ll break you back to where I found you!”
“Oh, so it’s like that now, is it, cap’n? I tow the line or lose my job? And then what? Because if you think that once I’m out of the way you can have T’Pol yourself, you’re wrong.”
“Mr Tucker, you’re relieved of duty and as soon as we’re back on Enterprise, I’m convening a court of enquiry – and you can rest assured I’ll dredge up every instance of improper behaviour I’ve ever covered up for you!”
“No.” The interjection came from T’Pol and as Archer and Soval turned towards her, she drew a phase pistol, its aim steady on them. “That is not acceptable. Charles,” she spared him the briefest of glances, “no other choice is left to us.”
Tucker shot her a wide-eyed look, glanced back at his captain and then nodded grimly, backing to her side. “Yeah, I guess you’re right.”
Without removing her gaze from the two men in front of her, T’Pol addressed the interested crowd that had gathered. “Vice-Chancellor Murhuk, will you grant us political asylum?”
The Klingon gaped and one of his colleagues bent close to growl something into his ear. “Why?”
“There is no way for a human and a Vulcan to live together except in exile from both their own species.”
“What’s in it for us?”
“You’d get me.” Tucker looked over at the vice-chancellor, a faint smirk playing round his mouth. “I’m the best damn engineer Starfleet’s ever had.”
“Trip,” Archer’s voice was strained, “you can’t do this.”
“The hell I can! You’ve all forced us to this with your petty ideas of what’s right and proper.”
The Klingons had been whispering together and now Murhuk nodded. “The Klingon Empire grants asylum. Move this way, Vulcan, human.”
Together, Tucker and T’Pol backed away from their former colleagues, the woman still holding the phase pistol, and a group of Klingon warrior closed around them, whisking them from the room. Soval glared at Murhuk. “I protest this behaviour.”
“Protest away, ambassador.” The Klingon was grinning. “It’s legal.”
For a moment more the Vulcan stared at him then turned his back and stalked to the other side of the room. Archer hesitated then followed.
Tucker and T’Pol were escorted directly to a room a little distance from the negotiating chamber and thrust inside not exactly roughly, but with enough force to suggest that non-cooperation wasn’t an option. He sighed, glancing round at the lavish furnishings. “That went well.”
T’Pol came to wind her arms around his neck, kissing his mouth then sliding her lips towards his ear. “The room is undoubtedly under surveillance.”
“Yeah.” Even under the present circumstances he shivered at the feel of warm lips caressing him and nuzzled his way towards an ear in his turn. “What do we do now?”
“We don’t have long.”
“I am sure the door is guarded. We await a better opportunity.”
“Pity they took the phase pistol.”
“Indeed.” T’Pol pulled back to regard her companion’s face. “Charles, what are you doing?”
He stopped edging her towards the bed, but only to scoop her up into his arms and place her there instead, stretching out at her side and capturing her mouth. “We’re persecuted, remember?” he breathed into her ear a moment later. “Probably not been allowed to make out in months.” He kissed her again, smiling against her mouth as she responded. “Just adding a touch of verisimilitude, sub-commander.”
The other man’s gaze was determined. “We delay, Captain Archer. We delay and trust that your officers are successful.”
The Klingon was grinning at having caught them out. “You, human, come with me.”
Tucker also sat up, draping himself over T’Pol. “Why?”
“To prove your loyalty to the Klingon Empire. Come.”
He shrugged indifferently. “OK.”
“No.” Both human and Klingon frowned at the woman. “I will accompany him.”
Tucker rose to his feet, moving away from the bed. “You heard him, honey. I’ll see you later.”
“No.” She followed him to stand nose to chest with the Klingon, glaring up into his face. “He is completely untrustworthy with women. I will accompany him to … supervise.”
The Klingon leered at her then looked over at Tucker, amused. “You let her keep you on a leash, human?”
“Well,” Tucker shrugged again, “the sex is good.”
“There’s nothing of her! Too small, too thin.” A hard stare caught his attention. “Too annoying.”
“You’ve not heard about the training Vulcan women receive?”
“Well, my friend, let me put it this way: I bet there are a few things she could teach Klingon women, if you take my meaning.”
“Huh!” The Klingon laughed heartily and gestured at the door. “Come then, both of you.”
He was still chuckling when they emerged into the corridor and Tucker punched him in the stomach, which gave T’Pol the opportunity to apply a Vulcan nerve pinch that left the huge man sprawled on the floor. Without needing to speak, they dragged him into another room close by and T’Pol snatched up the disruptor. “Training?” she asked sarcastically as they hurried along the corridor and Tucker grinned even as he kept a wary eye out for other Klingons.
“That was not your implication.”
“It worked. D’you know where we are?”
“Approximately. If our orbital mapping of this complex was accurate, we should be within 100m of an auxiliary control centre.”
“I sure hope you’re right. I don’t think these people are gonna believe we just got bored.”
“What of it?” Soval’s voice was politely enquiring. “Why should you think I spoke of Vulcan involvement in a projected conflict between Qo’noS and Earth?”
The auxiliary control centre was guarded but not very well. The two guards fell to disruptor fire that did a great deal more damage to bodies than phase pistols and were dragged inside, where Tucker took up a position by the door, leaving T’Pol to figure out the computer system.
“Get a move on, honey,” he encouraged a few moments later. “It won’t take them long to figure out what we’re doing.”
“Thank you for your advice,” she said dryly and finally accessed the right file. “I have located the chancellor.”
“Where is he?”
“The other side of the planet.”
“Damn it! Are you sure?”
“We need Enterprise.”
“Perhaps not.” T’Pol was studying a device on the far side of the room. “Charles, I believe that to be a transporter.”
“Maybe.” Tucker left his post at the door to run a cursory eye over the control panel. “But we can’t use it.”
“Because I don’t read Klingon and even if I did, there’s no saying what safety standards this thing’s designed to.”
“Whatever the risk?” She came to join him, eyes intent on his. “Both you and Captain Archer have used that phrase recently. I believe that it applies equally in this case. Or does it only apply when the risk is yours?”
“T’Pol, darling, you are not going through that thing.”
“We have no choice. Charles, I trust you to make it work.”
“Hell,” he muttered, already studying the controls more carefully. “OK, give me the coordinates.”
“I know who I am. More wine!” With a mental sigh and a tolerance developed over three years of close association with humans, T’Pol located a large jug and provided the man with a re-fill. He lifted the tankard to her in a salute and drank deeply. “Ah, blood wine, a good clean vice. Help yourself, woman, then take off your clothes and perform for me.”
She regarded him severely. “Chancellor Girkon, I am Sub-Commander T’Pol, currently assigned to the Earth vessel Enterprise.”
“Ah! The Vulcan with a human lover. Good for you, girl, good for you! Never could stand Vulcans. Humiliate them, that’s the thing.”
“Chancellor Girkon, we believe that you are being confined against your will. Is this true?”
“Could be, could be. I underestimated Murhuk, curse his name. Never trust anyone, girl, and never underestimate them. That’s how to keep power.”
“Too late. Murhuk will have declared war hours ago – and I will stand by his decision.”
“Ambassador Soval and Captain Archer have undertaken to delay Vice-Chancellor Murhuk. Chancellor?”
He regarded her shrewdly, less inebriated than T’Pol had initially thought. “You have transport?”
“We have access to a transporter.”
“Bah! Cursed things, never use them. Splitting you into … No!”
The sparkle enveloped them both before Girkon could complete his protest and then they were back in the auxiliary control room, where Tucker exchanged a relieved look with T’Pol even as he pointed the disruptor at the centre of the chancellor’s solid chest. “Sorry about that, sir.”
“You tricked me, girl.” The Klingon’s voice was a low growl, which T’Pol hoped was better than a roar.
“Of necessity, chancellor. Had your acceptance been more precipitate, I would have warned you.”
He growled again and headed for the computer outlet. “If I’ve been murdered once by that infernal device, then why not again? Set these coordinates.”
“The barracks of my personal bodyguard. I’ll not walk into Murhuk’s sights with only a pair of half-grown aliens to protect me.”
The ensuing fire-fight was noisy and confused, leaving the non-Klingons entirely unsure who was on which side and, indeed, which side if any they should be supporting. Tucker and T’Pol edged their way cautiously around the edge of the battle, their progress somewhat hampered by the fact that they both kept trying to shield the other from danger, and finally sprinted the last few metres to end in a heap behind the overturned table where Archer and Soval had taken shelter. Archer gave them an approving nod. “Nice work.”
“Tell me that when it’s over,” Tucker muttered and pulled T’Pol closer to him as an energy beam sizzled the edge of the table. “Who’s winning?”
“Your guess, commander, is as good as mine.”
“The odds favour Chancellor Girkon,” T’Pol observed calmly, for once ignoring the fact that Tucker had an arm around her. “He brought a sizeable contingent of warriors with him.”
“However,” Soval contradicted, “Murhuk would have been foolish not to ensure that all present here were loyal to him.”
T’Pol looked over at her former mentor, meeting his eyes for the first time in over a year. “I do not believe that Murhuk’s intelligence is of a high order.”
On the other side of the table silence fell and the small group taking shelter stiffened.
“Archer!” Girkon’s voice echoed impressively around the chamber. “Soval! Show yourselves.” Human and Vulcan exchanged looks and rose slowly to their feet, ignoring the silent protest of the other two, to find that the negotiation chamber now resembled a charnel house. “Huh! Cowards!” Fortunately, the Klingon chancellor’s tone was jovial. “I rule here. Do you acknowledge me?”
One of Soval’s eyebrows rose. “I see no reason to do otherwise, Chancellor Girkon. I am pleased that you have recovered from your … indisposition.”
The Klingon grinned and started forward as the rest left the shelter of the table. “I am Girkon, Chancellor of the …” He got no further. Soval’s dive caught him in the stomach and sent him flying as the disruptor beam sliced through the air where Girkon had been standing.
There was an immediate fusillade of shots that reduced the already dying Murhuk to a bloody mess but Archer and T’Pol barely noticed as they both rushed to Soval’s side. Gently, teeth gritted, Archer rolled the Vulcan over, provoking a groan that even a student of the masters of Gol could not suppress. Sure it was hopeless, the captain looked up at T’Pol for confirmation and was surprised by the emotion on her face, even as she shook her head; regret was the last thing he had thought to see. Soval moaned again and forced his eyes open, his fading gaze moving over Archer to fix on the woman behind him. “T’Pol,” there was green blood running from his mouth, “remember … who … you are,” and then he was gone.
T’Pol drew in her breath sharply and stepped backwards, a hand reaching for Tucker as he came to stand close behind her, eyes hard and unforgiving as he looked down at the dead man.
Archer rose slowly to his feet and found Girkon too looking at the dead Vulcan, although after a moment the chancellor raised his head to meet the human’s eyes. “He died well,” the Klingon said quietly, “and with honour.” Then he raised his voice again. “Hear me! I am Girkon, Chancellor of the Klingon Empire! Today, the Vulcan Soval saved my life. As honour demands, I grant his last wish.” He turned, arms raised, eyes fierce on his followers. “There will be no war with Earth in my time.” The arms fell in a ritual gesture of absolute authority. “I am Girkon, Chancellor of the Klingon Empire. My word is law.”
When Archer returned to Enterprise from Soval’s memorial service, he found Tucker in Engineering, puzzling over a failed power coupling. The captain hesitated and seemed to take a deep breath before moving to the other man’s side. “Trip.” The engineer looked up. “T’Pol wants to see you. On Vulcan.”
“Granted. Shuttle Pod 2’s all prepped and the destination’s set. Trip,” Tucker paused, already a few paces from the captain, “do you want company?”
“No. But thanks all the same.” The latter was an after-thought as the engineer disappeared through the doors of Engineering and Archer grimaced, wondering if he should have insisted, but somehow … he had a feeling that a decision had already been taken on both sides.
Tucker landed the shuttle pod neatly beside the rocky knoll that had been the programmed destination and let himself out into Vulcan’s thin, dry and blazingly hot atmosphere, grimacing at the high gravity. He still didn’t like desert planets, particularly heavy desert planets.
T’Pol was waiting for him at the base of the tumble of rocks, a formidable plasma rifle slung over one shoulder. “Sehlat?”
“They do hunt in this area.”
He smiled, looking around. “I thought it looked familiar. Are you indulging in a fit of sentiment, sub-commander?”
She looked steadily back, not hiding the emotions he had always aroused in her. “Yes.” In reality, they might never have been there together before, but it was the scene into which alien anthropologists had dumped them when they had finally discovered that their attraction was mutual.
They stared hungrily at each other for a few more seconds then Tucker sighed. “I guess we have to talk.”
“Yes.” T’Pol turned to lead the way up the knoll and Tucker followed, glad of the occasional hand she reached down to help him up the steep bits. The view was nearly worth the climb, although Tucker slumped to the ground the better to appreciate it, hugging T’Pol close when she sat beside him. “I cannot return to Enterprise.”
She lifted her head from his shoulder to stare upwards. “You are not surprised … nor angry.”
He gazed sadly back. “We always knew it couldn’t last. I love you but if you hadn’t broken it off … I’d have had to.”
“You have known,” there was acceptance and understanding in her quiet voice, “for some time.”
“Not the when.” Tucker’s voice was growing husky. “Just that … we didn’t have much longer.” He swallowed. “After Enterprise got back to Earth, I went to see mom. She kept asking when I was gonna settle down, have kids.” He drew another deep breath. “And we can’t.”
“I’ve always wanted a family. T’Pol, I love you so much …” His eyes were full of tears and she raised a hand to his mouth.
“I too have spoken with my mother. She is adamant that this is my last chance to return home. Charles, I care for you very deeply, but I cannot give up my family, my heritage for you. I am Vulcan. I must remain so. I understand why you feel the same.”
“I shouldn’t. I’m human, we’re supposed to be adaptable.”
“You are as traditional as I.”
He drew in a shaky breath and pulled her tight into his arms. “I’m gonna leave Enterprise too. Starfleet have offered me a job on the Warp 7 project. I can’t turn it down, it’s too big a break.” Then he went back on every painful decision he had made over the past weeks. “You could come live with me on Earth.”
“I want you to.” He was crying unashamedly.
“I fear we would very swiftly come to regret such a decision.”
He gulped, struggling to breath evenly. “Yeah, I know, but … Oh, jeez, T’Pol, it hurts … and I still think it’s the right thing to do.”
He took a couple of heaving breaths. “What about you? What will you do?”
“I will return to the Vulcan Science Directorate.”
“There won’t be a problem because of me?”
“Since I will seem to repent my folly, no.”
“Will you …” Tucker hesitated, eyes creased in pain. “Will you remember me? You said before …”
T’Pol leant forward and pressed her mouth to his, tasting the salt of his tears. “I thought then that my feelings for you were destructive, changing what I strove to be. I believe that no longer. I do not wish to forget you, Charles, nor what we have shared.” She stroked his face gently, knowing it was for the last time, trying to control her own grief, to be strong for him.
“What about the bond? Do we have to get it undone or something?”
“No.” That had hurt as much as her decision to remain on Vulcan. “I consulted a master. He could not explain the nature of the bond between us, nor how it came to be formed, but he believes that if we are apart it will simply … atrophy.”
Tucker winced and she knew that he felt the same sharp regret. “Just like that? I thought it was more … permanent.”
“As did I.”
He tried unsuccessfully to laugh. “I guess two people always think they have something special together.” She kissed him again. “Are you gonna be OK without me? After Soval …”
“I am recovered. I no longer need the reassurance of your presence. I enjoy it, but I do not need it.”
“Oh, jeez, T’Pol, this is so hard.”
She stroked him again. “It is the right decision to make.”
“Still hurts like crazy.” This time it was Tucker who instigated the kiss and T’Pol felt his desperation as it deepened. “There’s a shuttle pod down there,” he mumbled into her hair when it was over. “Come make love with me, T’Pol. Just once more.”
There were tears in the eyes of them both as they stumbled down the hill to ensure that for the rest of their lives the interior of small spacecraft would bring back memories of love, loss and bitter-sweet pleasure.
“No.” His friend frowned. “But I’m gonna be.”
“OK.” No point yet asking Trip if he wanted to talk. Archer did the sensible thing and threw an arm around the younger man’s shoulders, urging him down the corridor. Trip would talk when he was ready and if he didn’t his captain would just invite him to dinner one night and ply him with bourbon until he did.
In her father’s garden where she was supposed to be meditating, T’Pol watched instead the point of light that was a Starfleet vessel until it abruptly disappeared then slowly lowered her gaze to the man who had come to stand before her. “Father.”
“I have always found a flame to be a better focus for my meditation than a star.” Branek lowered himself onto a bench close by. “I am pleased that you have returned to us, daughter.”
“As am I, father.”
“You may lie to your mother, T’Pol. Kindly do not do so with me.”
“My decision was correct.”
“I concur and in time you will cease to care for your human. All things change, T’Pol, even Vulcans.” She back over at him, distress clear and Branek gave a mental sigh and held out a hand, sighing aloud as she came to rest her head against him. He blamed T’Pol’s maternal grandmother for filling the young girl’s head with stories of the humans that had been handed down within her family, but he also blamed himself. He had indulged his daughter in her impressionable youth – a fact his wife never tired of pointing out – just as he was doing now. “You are my daughter, T’Pol, for whom I have great affection. We will deal with this together, but perhaps we will not tell your mother of this conversation.”
“I have great affection for Commander Tucker.”
“I think we will not tell your mother that, either.”
“I miss him.”
Branek sighed again. “Then you must learn otherwise.”
Remember me when I am gone away,
Have a comment to make about this story? Do so in the Trip Fan Fiction forum at the HoTBBS!
A whole mess of folks have made comments
Oh so GOOD! I really like this series, and I love how you wrote Trip and T'pol. And Soval and here having their first civil conversation in a gun fight is just too good. Really great work, though the end is soo sad. Please, keep writing!
My goodness, that was SO sad at the end. I really have enjoyed this series, and as I see there are two more parts, I'm assuming that our lovers will meet again, hopefully with a happier ending...
Post again soon, please.
I loved everything except the parting at the end. This was too cruel for words. Broke my little heart into a pile of shrapnel. A great story, but I don't want to accept the ending. Sob. Yep you guessed it, I'm in denial... Terrific writing, now please please PLEASE, put our little pair back together again! Ali D :~) Hunting for more hankies...
I LOVED this entire series!!!...you're an expectional writer and this has been a beautiful journey. I even enjoyed your final installment regardless of how painful it was. Just how something so strong and so right was destined to end tragically. My emotional attachment to this story is proof of how great it truly is. I look forward to more of your work!!!
I agree with the above comments. I knew it was coming, but the ending was still so sad. I guess I also became attached to the characters as written and was upset that they couldn't have a happy ending. I'm anxious to see what alternatives you propose with the other two upcoming parts. Keep writing about Trip and T'pol - great stuff.
this is really the best ending...cuz we know it would all end like this...but i luv your stories
i really loved this series. it was truly one of my favourites. the ending was very touching and it made me cry....i realise i cry far too often for this to be any type of compliment on your beautiful writing, so i will add that i've never cried quite so hard. lol. i am, however, looking forward to those two alternate endings very eagerly, and i hope they are a little happier...purely because i fear that all the tissues in the world will never be enough otherwise! thanks again for the wonderfully story.
Wow!! what a angst. My mind is twisting and turning waiting for the next instalment.
Hurry!! please, before I have an heart attack from anticipation!
Oh man... please tell me that it won't end like this... it's beautiful, but it's so sad! I think there's more regret in forgetting what you once loved than in having it taken away from you.
Positively wonderful! Although that was a very sad ending to their affair. I can't wait for the other stories! Keep it up, you are a marvelous writer.
I have so enjoyed this whose series. It is so well written and beautiful. Now I am crying because the ending is so sad, but appropriate. I am going to read the last two chapters.
The only thing keeping me from reaching for tissues is the fact that you have two more stories in the series. This one was hard to read. You could sense the end long before it happened. I found Trip's request that T'pol remember him especially touching in light of the events of TATV. That's what I get for reading fic two years after it was posted. Great job.
Even though I've read the whole series a few times, this one always makes me misty eyed. Well done.
I am not a fan of startrek and only have seen perhaps parts of Enterprise during it's first season, but even then I remember Trip and T'Pol having the greatest chemistry. Your story was reccomened by a livejournal friend and it is GREAT! I have read the whole "Logical Proposal" series to this point as quickly as possople! The characterizations are excellent and the plot itself is so engaging I was really interested in seeing how things progressed, beyond just seeing how the two main characters got together.