Second Thoughts

By Eireann

Rating: PG

Genres: angst

Keywords: Columbia

This story has been read by 1417 people.
This story has been read 4100 times.


Chapter One

Disclaimer: Star Trek (plus all its intellectual property) is owned by Paramount.  No infringement intended. 

Summary: Possible missing scene from 'Affliction'. Trip has transferred to Columbia, and the reality is now sinking in.

Beta'd by Distracted, to whom I am very grateful, as always.

__________________________________________________________________________________

Well, so this was 'home' now.

Trip placed his duffle on the bunk and looked about him, wishing he could summon up more interest.

It was a mite bigger than his old place, though built along the same lines.  A mite more luxurious, perhaps; here and there aesthetics had been allowed to influence things along with functionality.  Some of the errors that had plagued Enterprise would probably have been addressed.  At a guess, Captain Hernandez wouldn't have to duck her head every time she walked around her ready room like Jon had to.  That said, the Columbia's captain was on the petite side compared to Jonathan Archer's strapping best-part-of-two-meters height.  She likely wouldn't have had any problem anyway.

The memory of the day Jon had realized that he'd have to spend his entire posting carefully navigating his way round his own ready room to avoid getting his head bashed on any of the inconveniently low bulkheads gave Trip a surprisingly deep pang. The cap'n had used some pretty strong language about it, and his report to Starfleet probably hadn't been particularly tactful either. 

Anyway, time to unpack and get settled in.  Then he could report to Engineering, get a feel for the engines, and meet his new crew before he reported to his new captain.  He was looking forward to the challenge.

Yeah.  He was.  Really, he was.

The engines - no problem.  He'd read up on all the modifications, he'd soon have them singing just like the ones on ... well, that was irrelevant now.

And the crew.  The crew, who didn't know him personally but would have gleaned from the infallible Starfleet grapevine that he'd left his own ship for personal reasons.  Left a ship where he belonged, where his crew adored him and he had the engines eating out of his hand, in order to step onto the top rung of their chain of command - right onto the fingers of whoever would normally have expected at least a chance to apply for the vacant place.  Sheesh, wasn't he going to be the popular guy for a while.

His face hardened a little.  His reasons were none of their business.  As for his second, they'd have to see how it worked out.  He was prepared to extend a little leeway until they achieved a decent working relationship, but he wasn't going to take any crap.  The captain had jumped at getting him because of his experience, and her senior officers were her decision.  He'd earned his place.  He was keeping it.

You just left your real place behind.  A traitorous voice whispered in the back of his mind.

Shut the hell up.  He opened his duffle.  It was pretty crammed.  A few of his bulkier belongings had been sent across by transporter; this was just his clothes and one or two other bits and pieces.  He'd rammed them in anyhow, desperate to get his closet cleared and the packing done.

The shirts ... the shirts had gone in last, with some vague idea of making them less crumpled that way.  He picked out the top one.  Even he thought it was a bit blinding, but he'd bought it anyway, mainly to rile Malcolm who had spent about half an hour listing its demerits.  At a guess, it would be a while before anyone around here had anything to say about his shirts.  At least to his face.  They'd probably say plenty behind his back.

Not much point remembering that now, whispered the voice.  You didn't give a damn for the stiff little Brit losing his only friend when you put your transfer request in.

What the hell.  Malcolm was a grown man.  He knew what the situation was; he hadn't said a word of blame, hadn't made any effort to dissuade him.  He'd shaken hands as they parted, uttered the conventional words and hoped their paths would cross again soon.  He'd even managed a smile.  Yep, that sort of crooked smile he usually came out with when he was trying to get away with some bull about how 'fine' he was.

You did a real great job there, Commander Tucker.  You deliberately pulled his defenses down and now you've left him alone.  But he'll be 'fine'.  Of course he will.  Yeah.

He hung the shirts in the closet, not even bothering to straighten them on the hangers.  He could hear the dry British voice commenting behind his shoulder:  'It's hardly as if their being creased is going to matter.  Nobody would dare look close enough to notice.'

And as if the thought of Malcolm wasn't bad enough, he couldn't stop seeing Jon's face either.

Being posted together had been their dream.  The trust between them had been unbreakable.  Even events like that disaster with the Cogenitor hadn't succeeded in shattering it; sure, it had taken damage - pretty severe damage, if he was honest with himself - but over time it had begun to heal.  As the ship's captain Jon had to shoulder the responsibility for some of what had happened, at least in his own eyes; had to bear some of the atrocious guilt.  It couldn't be expected that their relationship wouldn't be affected by something that traumatic, but slowly the wounds had started to knit.

And then the chance at heading a newer ship's engineering section had come along, and he'd jumped at it like a starving tiger.  'At a gazelle,' he thought with a wry grimace.  For that was how it looked.  He knew it did.  He'd had far, far too much experience at reading Jon's face to be fooled.  The shock in it had only been exceeded by the hurt.  After that, every word had rung as hollow as a drum.  Jon had tried to understand, because that's what friends do; but he hadn't.  He hadn't understood at all.  He couldn't.

Travis.  Travis hadn't understood either.  His smile had been almost as fake as Malcolm's.  The guy had done his best, but the big infectious grin had been reduced to a travesty.  Wonder how many of those great big cheesy grins you're gonna see around here.

Hoshi... Hosh' had been crying, though she'd put more cosmetics on than usual in a gallant effort to hide it.  She'd mustered up a smile that crumpled in the middle, and thrown her arms around him at parting.  So had half the people in Engineering, come to think of it.  Anna had turned up on that last morning looking like she'd cried half the night.  Hell, it wasn't till you left somewhere that you finally found out how much you belonged there.

Phlox.  The Denobulan had taken his farewells with a face that was so sorrowful it looked simply unnerving.  He'd found a few positive things to say about new challenges and new faces, but the whole thing had sounded like just another sample of the doc's incurable habit of trying to find a bright side to even the most calamitous situation.

And they hadn't understood why he was leaving.  Why he had to leave.

Because a gorgeous Vulcan who hardly came up to his chin had gotten hold of his heart and torn it into tiny aching pieces.  Because he couldn't stand it anymore, getting up every morning and seeing her and talking to her and listening to her and knowing that she didn't feel the same way about him as he did about her.

Because if he couldn't have her, the next best thing he could think of was to save himself that daily torture and put space between them.  Light years' worth of space, so that sooner or later the memories would fade and the pain would dull somehow.  And that was the only hope he had to cling on to, because this wasn't going to go away.  His heart was never going to mend.  He'd just have to learn how to live with the grief and the anger and the helpless sense of failure.  Columbia wasn't a challenge.  She was a refuge - a port found too late in a storm that had sunk him with all hands.

He sat down on the bunk. 

He'd given up the ship where he belonged in exchange for one where he would never be much other than an interloper.  He'd given up on his friends.  He'd given up on his crew.  Worst of all, he'd given up on the one woman who meant everything to him. 

She didn't want him.  As far as she was concerned, he was an experiment.  All that passion, all that rapture - an 'experiment.'

He put his head in his hands and groaned.  He didn't want to believe that she had any idea of how that word had lodged in his heart and eaten it from the inside out.  How he'd tried vainly to salve the agony by calling her every name he could think of with the prefix 'heartless Vulcan', not meaning a word of any of them.  But if he had used words he didn't mean in the frantic search for an escape route, it was dawning on him now that she could have done the same.  And slowly the suspicion was growing on him that that was just what she had done.  And he'd swallowed it - hook, line and sinker.

Emotions - anathema to any Vulcan.  And if there was anything that a relationship with a human was going to abound in (especially if he had anything to do with it), 'emotion' was going to be pretty damn near the top of the list.  She would suddenly have had a whole load of them dumped on her.  And if he knew her, as he was beginning to suspect he did, better than she knew herself, she'd have instinctively pushed them away. And him with them - collateral damage in a reflex damage limitation exercise.  Vulcans were so used to keeping their emotions penned up and crushed down that they just didn't know how to handle them when they got loose, how to think through the consequences of the first course of action to suggest itself.  In effect, whether she'd admit it even to herself or not, she'd panicked.

Aw, this was just wishful thinking.  Maybe he was panicking a bit himself, trying to invent excuses for not seizing the chance he'd been given to rescue this beauty of a ship from a bunch of incompetent deskbound warp-specialists who'd take the best part of another six months to get her ready if they were left to their own devices.  He'd promised himself he'd do it in a week.  And he didn't care if his new crew didn't like his history or the way he worked or the way he wanted the engines calibrated or the way he brushed his hair or, come to think of it, any damned thing about him.  They were just going to have to put up with him.  He'd promised his new cap'n ... his new captain ... that he was going to deliver her ship, and he was going to do it no matter what.

And in the meantime, a certain Vulcan could just relax and forget about him.  If she could.  Which a small part of him (okay, a very large part of him) very much hoped she couldn't.  Because in between doing whatever he had to in order to fulfill his part of the bargain with the Columbia's commanding officer, he sure as hell wasn't going to forget about her.

He heaved a sigh.  It wasn't the sort of sound that might have been expected of a man granted the opportunity of a lifetime.  It pretty well matched the look he cast around the cabin where he sat.  It wasn't 'home'.

He was beginning to suspect that it never would be.

 

The End

 


Comments:

Distracted

In response to member comments (and in view of further chapters with major TnT content) I have moved this story to the TnT section. Enjoy!

Weeble

You nailed it at least to me. Please a sequel or a parallel. I wonder what T'Pol is thinking, hmmmmm.

Cogito

Oh, poor old Trip. It's finally sinking in what a hideous mistake you've made. They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder and it's pretty obvious that's worked for you, but I wonder what's going on in that Vulcan mind right now? We know that you end up back home before too long, but it'd be interesting to see what happens on Enterprise in the meantime. And interesting, too, to know just what happens during those whitespace encounters while you're away.

You've captured the pain and confusion perfectly - and the regret. Let's hope there's some requiting to follow. :)

panyasan

I wished you would have showned a bit more of Trip-Malcolm friendship, maybe a memory of a conversation between those two, but I liked that
you named everybody important to Trip, including the woman why he left. We don\'t know how T\'Pol said goodbye to Trip, but maybe his leaving her out is telling.
I liked how you protrayed the feeling of not home and how this time gives Trip to have some space and clear his mind about his situation with T\'Pol. Sequel pretty please?

Asso

I really think it worthwhile for me to say here what I said already in the forum, because this pretty little piece deserves it.

Certainly you can say all you want, but, for me, this story is definitely gratuitous angst free. There is love. Only this, I would say. Love, along with its pangs.
And it's a lovely story.

Alelou

Okay, here's MY second thought.  I'd love to know why Trip is suddenly having this insight into T'Pol.  Did she say something or do something before he left that could potentially betray her feelings?  We heard how all the others parted from him, but not her.  Just a thought...

Alelou

Angst, yes, but surprisingly hopeful angst -- he's already on to her.  I don't think this belongs in Main Engineering, really.  Fundamentally, it's still a TnT story at its heart, and a very lovely one.  You can already see the kernel of the decision to go back, though he hasn't consciously figured it out yet.

I had a little trouble with "You deliberately pulled his defenses down and now you've left him alone." I just don't see Trip being that conscious of something like that.  (And I'd switch this out of italic but it won't let me.) I also question whether he is really likely to anticipate being considered the interloper forever, given that they haven't even started their voyage yet.  But other than that, I think you hit all the notes perfectly.

I'm very glad you're so prolific!

You need to be logged in to the forum to leave a review!