Living Among the Thorns
Living Among the Thorns
Disclaimer: I don't own this or the characters, and there's no money being made.
Summary: Enterprise is still trying to find that Xindi weapon, by whatever means necessary.
Charles 'Trip' Tucker moved around in his bed, tossing and turning. Sweat dripped off his brow as he moved once again, knocking his covers off and nearly falling to the floor when he jumped up. His eyes were wide and he was breathing hard. It took him a few minutes to compose himself, quickly he walked into his bathroom, and splashed cold water on his clammy skin. After drying his face he looked up in his mirror. Dark circles now were seen in his normally cheery eyes. His enthusiasm was cut off by dreams that haunted him, and emotions that controlled him. His entire life was now consumed with the feelings he could no longer hide. Guilt, anger and perhaps, most powerful... sadness. But he had learned to cover each up to a point when around the crew. He'd make a few jokes, entertain his people... anything to make sure that they didn't see the tortured soul that he could see in the mirror.
It had been days since the Captain and Sub-Commander's little trip to the year 2004. And the crew was working hard to search though data after data after data of information until they could find something that would help them on their mission. Trip had worked hard to find what they were looking for, looking at computers that Archer had found in the possession of the Xindi. Trip's only regret was that he couldn't have been there to kill those bastards himself. He knew all to well that such a feeling was dangerous, but that didn't seem to matter anymore. Things were steadily going from bad to worse in a short amount of time and Trip no longer let his reasoning get in the way of his more volatile emotions. He let them go, hoping that perhaps they could help in the mission they all now found themselves in.
Solemnly, he walked away from the mirror, too disgusted to look at himself and the state he now found himself in. As his anger towards the Xindi flourished, he was slowly losing his grip on who he used to be. He didn't want to stop the feelings though; the more he hated the Xindi, the more he was willing to do whatever he could to stop them. Now, sleep and rest were nothing but an obstacle that would keep him from the vengeance Lizzie deserved. He had been avoiding Sub-Commander T'Pol with a passion, focusing now solely on finding the Xindi and stopping them. He hadn't eaten since two days ago and although he felt weak, he paid the weakness no mind. The doctor was concerned, but Trip avoided him and did whatever he could to make the man believe that everything was okay.
But of course, it was not. Trip was lying to everyone. He had lied to T'Pol, to Phlox, to Malcolm and to even himself. Things were not ‘okay,’ and perhaps never would be. Even if he killed the Xindi, he knew that such would do him no good. He knew about killing all too well, and to kill for someone who had been hurt already by that same person would do nothing for him. It would not stop the pain he felt, the sense of loss. It wasn't just because he'd lost his little sister, but because they never even allowed him a chance to say goodbye. He'd never quite told her just how much she meant to him. He knew she had known, but he should have said it. He should have told her how he felt. He was finally beginning to realize just how important life was, and how important it really was to live life to the fullest.
But at the moment, he knew it was too late for that. All that was left was anger and pain that would probably never leave him. He was soon becoming a sad and lonely man, but he knew that perhaps that had always been his future. After all, he never could seem to just settle down and live life peacefully. What kind of a life could he possibly find, out in space where almost every second it seemed like yet another race wanted to kill him and his friends? Was he fooling himself all along when he talked to Malcolm about little Charles Tucker the Forth? How in the world could he have such a wonderful life now, when the only thing left in his heart was the anger he had towards the Xindi?
Maybe he'd never have what he always wished for. After all, life never did come out the way a person wanted it to. He'd realized that in all his life that most of what he thought would happen never did. As a child, he wanted to be nothing but a starship captain. Yet now, he was content with chief engineer. When he was little, he had dreamed of ocean waves and scuba gear, yet now he stood on a ship in deep space. And perhaps his dream of loving someone, of having a relationship with a woman was yet another dream, never to be given to him because of the growing resentment that he now let over take him. It was true, he had brought it all on himself. He didn't have to be angry, he didn't have to hate them, he didn't have to feel so sick at the mere sight of them... but he was all those things, and so much more. And what was worse, he didn’t' want to let go of those things anymore than he wanted to let go of his sister.
Trip shook his head, then got dressed into his uniform, he knew he wasn't on duty for three more hours but it was quite obvious that he wouldn't be sleeping. So instead he got dressed and decided to make himself useful for a change, instead of wasting air with something as unimportant to him as sleep. At first he had dreamed of sleep, but now, sleep was the last thing on his mind. Instead in his mind was one thing, and one thing only. The thought of killing the Xindi, and stopping them from taking anymore innocent lives.
Jonathan Archer had been awake for a long time. A very long time. He was quite aware of how much time had passed by as he sat in bed, tired beyond belief yet having no luck in extinguishing such drowsiness. Finally he gave up and allowed Porthos to jump into his lap. He gave the dog a scratch behind the ears and watched as the little dog moved on his back and let his left leg shake in shear pleasure of what his master was doing to him. Archer couldn't help but allow a small smile to form on his lips, but it soon dissolved into nothing as he felt all amusement pass into something he was still trying to struggle with. The pressure of what he was doing had gotten to him, hitting him full force since that day he and Trip had shared a drink and talked about what he was now to carry on his shoulders squarely.
"The weight of the world. Literally." Archer looked at the dog, not a care in the world. The dog lived to eat and sleep and please his master. That was all, he didn't have to worry about a single thing but when he would get fed and when he'd sleep. That was all that the dog had to concern himself with. It was funny, Archer was never one to be jealous of the canine... but in those seconds as he realized that the dog had no worries or cares at all, he *did* feel jealous. Archer wished he could have that kind of peace of mind. But he knew that for as long as the weapon that could destroy earth was out there, his peace of mind would be nothing but a dream.
Archer paused, stopped petting his cute little dog and gently lay back down in bed, looking at the ceiling as he thought of just what he had to do now. He knew that since the mission had started, that he had changed. He wasn't himself and he could see that the crew was worried. It had come to him like a slap in the face when he'd found himself yelling at one of Trip's people because of a mishap that ended up shutting off sensors for an hour or so. He'd never seen Trip so upset when he saw one of his people being yelled at. And Archer knew right then just what he was doing.
"What the hell's wrong with you?!" Trip had yelled, taking the angered captain to a place where they were alone as they stood in his office, the door closed behind Trip.
"Trip! I want those sensors back on line now!" Archer had yelled back, not wavering for a second.
"I realize we're all on a mission here Cap'n, but look at yourself! What, are ya tryin' to make the girl cry? She's only twenty, maybe twenty one! She made a mistake! It happens!"
"In the Expanse we can't afford to make these mistakes! We have a mission to complete! And if I see one more outburst from you Commander, I'll send your ass to the brig for insubordination!"
Archer had used his rank intentionally to remind him of who he was, and what he was doing. But the Commander wouldn't be intimidated. He lowered his voice though, trying to keep his cool. "I can understand that ya want things ta go right, because of how important this mission is... but the next time you go off on one of my people just because you're in a grumpy mood, I'll go off right back on you. And I don't care if I NEVER get out of the brig. I won't let ya yell at my people just because you’re upset! Wanna let out some anger, good idea, just don't do it to me or my crew. We have enough to deal with!"
Archer had never been so angry in his life, and when Trip had let out those words, it had taken everything he had not to smack the man senseless. "You’re out of line Commander!"
Trip put his hands on his hips. "Maybe so, but that still doesn't give you the right to come in here and do nothing but yell. You want this mission to succeed? Then stop doin' this ta us! We don't deserve your anger! We're on the same team here. And frankly Cap’n... I'm tired of bein' treated like your punching bag. We're all hurtin'! And some of us don't have the luxury ta just yell and scream when somethin' doesn't go our way. Just let us do our jobs, we'll get sensors back online as soon as we can." Trip left Archer in shock. The door closing to leave him alone with his thoughts.
Archer never thought of what he was doing to people by his shouts at them. And when he finally left the chief engineer's office, it wasn't until then that he saw what he was doing to himself and the crew as he watched that same woman who he'd reprimanded fighting back tears. He could hardly walk as he saw her wipe away the tears and work hard to make him proud. He'd been such a jerk, and he knew that things would not be changing anytime soon. Anger still overwhelmed him, and there was nothing he could do about it anymore. He was no longer in charge of his emotions. All that was left was hate and anger, two things that he could no longer suppress, or rid of.
The mission had changed him, just as it had changed the rest of the crew, and there was nothing he could do about it but sit helplessly, watching as things got worse and worse every damn day. He held no hope for the future anymore, and even if he did stop the weapon, he held no hope that Enterprise would survive it, and return home with no permanent damage. They were already hurting. And there was nothing anyone could do. Enterprise was alone this time, no Vulcan ships close by to help, he was on his own. And for the first time in his life, he was scared of just what being alone would mean for them, and for Earth. For the first time in his life, he doubted himself, and he doubted Enterprise.
Sub-Commander T'Pol had a lot to think about. So much had happened to her, in such a short period of time. Something she had believed in was shot to hell, as Commander Tucker would say... and she wasn't sure she liked the thought of the Science directorate being wrong. She'd hoped that Archer was wrong, that something else was going on... but obviously, this man Daniels had taken them to another time... time travel was possible. The thought was terrifying. That there were people out there able to change time as they knew it to their will. For a moment she wished time travel weren't possible, then perhaps they would not be in the Expanse. And the seven million people on Earth never would have died.
And then there was also something else in her mind, that she couldn't get rid of. Since Sim told her how he felt about her, she had been having trouble sorting out her feelings. Things that at first she was sure of, now she wasn't so sure of anymore. And she had no idea what she would do with the new information given to her. Sim hadn't known if the feelings he felt for her, where his or Commander Tucker's. T'Pol had a similar time, trying to figure out the Commander. He had been avoiding her since he had been woken up, with the knowledge of Sim's death and just what had happened.
Commander Tucker, was someone she knew she admired for his talent as an engineer. They worked well together, and she knew all to well that he was a better engineer than some Vulcans. If he were Vulcan, he'd be on one of the best ships that Vulcan had built and his career would have been a good one. But there was also something else in there, something she felt that she couldn't quite ignore. A feeling that she'd never once felt for. She couldn't identify it. The emotional reaction she got was overwhelming, but had learned to deal with it. Yet she couldn't help but wonder how long she could keep this new feeling to herself.
Her affection towards the Commander was turning into something much more... powerful. And she hadn't even realized it until he was put in a coma, just how much she missed him and just how much she was struggling without him. It was painful for her, more than painful. She could hardly focus at times, her thoughts remained solely on him and at times, she even dreamed about the Human. Never in her life did she ever think she would be this close with of all people Commander Tucker. But his emotional state since his sister's death had changed him. He was different.
His jokes were nothing but a ritual, he kept his real emotions hidden from the world, but she could sense them. Even during the neuropressure, she could see his hidden feelings clearer than perhaps even he could. They were swallowing him whole, and T'Pol had tried many ways of trying to help him let go. She always told him, that he could always talk to her about whatever it was that bothered him, but of course he denied that anything was wrong and tried to go on with his neuropressure treatments. She couldn't help but feel a sudden pain in her stomach at his suffering.
It was awful for her, to see him in such a condition. He was loosing himself in anger, and she knew that she'd loose him completely soon if she did nothing. She couldn't let that happen. She would do whatever she could to help him. No matter what, it was just a matter of how to go about in helping him. After all, Commander Tucker was always difficult. She had always found it hard to get him to confide in her, what she knew of him was his past, but he never really told her how he felt about certain things. And when she would ask, he'd get out of it by telling her some joke, or laughing then tried to tease her. Anything to get her away from finding the feelings he had been trying to hide all this time. But she saw through him.
As T'Pol sat on her floor, trying to meditate, she couldn't help but wonder if she could ever really get a good hour's meditation without thinking of the Commander. Ever since Sim had told her what he had said, and ever since the kiss she'd given him which even she had trouble accepting... she couldn't seem to think of anything else. And now it had begun to affect her REM patterns. Her meditation was always taking forever because she could never focus, her thoughts always went back to him. It was starting to really bug her. She would have to speak with him soon, or she'd never be able to sleep again! She had to talk to him about what was going on, and soon. Her feelings for him could no longer be ignored.
Ensign Hoshi Sato sat quietly on the bridge with really nothing to do but wait and listen. She had, had yet another sleepless night and was having trouble thinking clearly. It seemed like everyone had trouble sleeping. Her bunkmate was always up at night, they'd talk for hours until finally one of them would get tired. Most of the time though, it was her bunkmate and then she was left alone to her thoughts. Most of which were on the latest developments when it came to their new mission.
She'd noticed a few changes with the crew, and even with herself. Her personality was not enough anymore, she wanted to change, and she could see the change coming out. And since she had been in the Expanse, she knew that things would have to be different. Everyone was changing. The Captain was about as hard as a rock. T'Pol was loosing sleep as she could see from the growing lines that were under her eyes. Commander Tucker she could also see was loosing sleep and seemed to be suffering a lot for it. Many of the crew were talking that perhaps the Commander and T'Pol were doing more than neuropressure.
But Hoshi knew that the rumors weren't true. She could see it in their eyes. She knew something more was going on, but she could tell they hadn't gone so far as to actually have sex. But she could tell there was something new there, something unexplainable that was eating at both of them. She wondered secretly if perhaps the two were closer and maybe beginning to feel something else towards each other. But because of Commander Tucker's many problems, she could tell that those feelings were going the wayside. Part of her knew that he was having trouble, but since he wasn't close to anyone, it would be hard for him to talk about it.
He had been close to the captain, but lately the captain wasn't good for anything but finding the Xindi. That left him with Malcolm, but their relationship seemed to fade as well. And she knew that her and Travis were although considered his friends, could not ever know what was bugging him. That left T'Pol, but since Sim died, the two had pretty much been avoiding each other. She hadn't seen them in a room together for more than a few seconds. She wondered if Commander Tucker would ever be ok again. But secretly doubted that it would happen anytime soon. That was when she heard the beeping sound coming from her console.
Hoshi tried hard to figure out what was going on when Malcolm spoke up. "Captain, we have a ship in range."
Hoshi looked up at Captain Archer. "The captain says he wished to speak with you, should I put him on the viewer?" she asked. Archer nodded and then a face appeared on the view screen. There in front of them sat a very strange looking creature. His skin was golden brown with just a touch of red and his hair went down to his shoulders, it was black with red lines going through. His eyes were red also, with just a touch of gold and she could see a few ridges on his forehead and on the brim of his noise. They looked much like Doctor Phlox's yet his were far more pronounced.
"Good morning, Captain. I've heard many things about you. The Earth ship in search of the Xindi." He had a kind smile on his face but Hoshi made sure not to be fooled by his kind demeanor. She'd been fooled before, and wasn't about to be fooled again.
Archer stood and walked closer to the screen. "You seem to know us, but I know nothing of you." Archer pointed out. The man laughed.
"I'm so sorry captain, my name is Captain Halias. I heard of you from a few other traders and thought that perhaps I could help you." Captain Halias explained. Archer straightened.
"You can help us find the Xindi?" He asked. Captain Halias frowned.
"I wish I could, but there is something I can do. I made a few trades with a Xindi cargo ship not too long ago.—captained by a man named Torlic. Perhaps you've heard of him? He's a well known traitor. He had an accident while trying to process Trillium D for his ship, he lost two of his main engineers, including his brother, in the accident. I heard he was looking for work. I've also heard that he's carrying some VERY special cargo. You may want to speak with him." Hoshi couldn't help but smile. Anything was worth investigating, and she couldn't help but wonder what was in their cargo ship that was so special.
"Thank you, Captain. That's very kind of you to help." Archer said simply. Halias nodded.
"When I was first in the Expanse I didn't really get much help from the people who lived here, I am glad to help." Archer walked closer, till he was right next to Travis.
"So you’re not from the Expanse?"
"Not originally, although some of my crew is. If you would like, perhaps we could trade information. I regret that such would not be free but I hear that you hold many spices and herbs and other foods that are quite interesting! I would be willing to give you information about the Expanse and who live hear for something you call... pizza? I hear Earth food is quite... exotic!" Everyone on the bridge smiled. One man's treasure is another man's junk. That was certainly true. She'd never think to trade valuable information just to get some exotic spices. Yet this man wanted such. She couldn't help but like the man, she didn't know why.
"I'd be happy to give you whatever you wish for the information. Thank you, it would be most helpful." Archer said with a kind smile. Halias nodded once again.
"Tell me, Captain, I'm curious. Why in the world would you wish to contact the Xindi?" She had known the question would come, it always did. But Archer kept the smile on his face.
"We're on a diplomatic mission. We have a lot to discuss with them." He said, for what she knew was the hundredth time. Halias nodded.
"I understand, well, we should dock. I do not wish to keep you waiting!"
Continue to Chapter 2
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One person has made comments
Wonderful descriptions! Will there be a part 2 soooooon??