His Only Option

By Lt. Zoe Jebkanto

Rating: G

Genres: drama family missing scene

Keywords: Columbia Lorien

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Disclaimer:  Anything Star Trek I do not own: more aptly, it probably owns me.

Summary:  Looking back from NX02 Columbia, Trip knew that leaving Enterprise had been his only option…  That is, until he gets some unexpected advice from an even more unexpected source.

A/ N: This story takes place during the Season Four episode “Affliction”. 

 

The comedian Flip Wilson often used to say “The devil made me do it.”  Well, I hadn’t planned to backtrack to write about Columbia’s  short-term Chief Engineer, but I think anybody whose ever dashed to the nearest desk to get words on paper or processor will understand what I mean when I say “Trip made me do it!” 

 

Thanks to Adm. OhBoy! Archer for the first two read-throughs and for asking some really good, hard questions.

 

 

28 November, 2154

NX02- Columbia

 

Leaving Enterprise had been his only option.

 

Trip had told himself that at least three times between stepping off the lift and clunking the smaller of his travel cases down on the bunk yesterday morning before beginning his shift.  Now here he was, starting up that same old song again this afternoon, and the door to these quarters on Columbia hadn’t even finished hissing shut behind him!

 

It was time to quit that monotonous silent singing and start paying mind to the lyrics.

 

Leaving Enterprise had been his only option.  Got it? 

 

Only option!

 

Only… 

 

It seemed more like exile.

 

Yeah, okay, right.  Self imposed exile.

 

It wasn’t seeing that case still waiting where it landed by the personal work station last night, untouched except for the side compartment containing his comb, toothbrush and change of uniform that brought on the idea.  It wasn’t the bare walls of the place or the naked shelves above the bunk.

 

They only mirrored the ache of emptiness inside him.    

 

So did the large trunk, now sitting neat and unobtrusive just inside the door. 

 

But it was seeing that thing waiting there that had finally put words to the ache.  Grief, loneliness and, self-imposed or not, exile. 

 

That trunk said more clearly than anything else so far that he was a stranger here.  It was how hotel employees back in Florida, out in San Francisco, on Mars, as far away as Risa left luggage.  Convenient, yeah, easy to find, but no further into the room than necessary to activate the door’s locking mechanism behind them.  Set in plain view yet out of the way because whoever put them there had no clue where they’d be wanted.   

 

While he was on duty today, that trunk full of memories had been brought in and set there by some crewman who didn’t know a thing about the joys or sadnesses carried inside it.  Didn’t know anything about the new chief engineer except his name and maybe that of the ship he’d last served on.

 

Unless perhaps there was something to those  rumors that said he was a sharp-tongued, autocratic taskmaster.

 

Still, it had been a real nice gesture.  Someone could have just as easily posted him a message saying that the thing was down in Cargo Bay Two and could be claimed at any time.  Maybe when he met for dinner with Captain Hernandez tonight, he could learn who’d made it, then find an opportunity to say thanks.

 

Why would an act of kindness turn that low, grinding ache within him into a rising lump in his throat instead of easing it? 

 

Sighing, he glanced from the trunk to the case by the work station.  The tossed-aside look of the thing wasn’t helping his mood any.  Scooping it up, he sat down on the bunk and set it beside him. 

 

God, he was tired

 

That shift had gone on for days, hadn’t it, not hours?  Just like yesterday’s?

 

Weird perception.  It was only that everything took longer here because he wasn’t in sync with his new team yet, right?   Of course, it didn’t help that he’d slept like hell last night.  He’d tossed and turned, discovered every lump in the mattress, stared at the ceiling or the dim shapes of his surroundings, and reminded himself over and over about the rightness of what he was doing.

 

Leaving Enterprise had been his only option.

 

He’d done exactly the same things the night before last too, back in his old quarters. 

 

Insomnia or not, he’d thought he’d be able to make things work out okay down in Engineering.  They hadn’t.  Probably because the adrenaline rush he’d been half expecting-

 

(make that more like relying on)

 

-had never kicked in.

 

This transfer should have had him overjoyed!  He was getting to serve as the Chief Engineer to both…

 

(who would have believed it, both!)

 

of Earth’s first two NX class vessels!  What greater opportunity could there be for a warp jockey anyway? 

 

So, why couldn’t he stir up more excitement over starting this new stage of his career? 

 

Yeah, okay, there had been that familiar tug of curiosity to learn how the proposed schematics of the NX02 translated into solid circuitry, consoles and conduits.  The pulse, pulse, pulse of a warp drive would always be the echo of his heartbeat.  But where was that sweet, overflowing eagerness that drew him down to Enterprise’s engine room even before stopping by his quarters to drop off his gear almost four years ago now?

 

Come on, Tucker! Enough!  Get a grip!

 

He’d told himself that probably fifty-

 

(How ‘bout let’s make that a hundred)

 

-times these last two days. 

 

Get a  grip on your focus, a grip on the way you speak to your crew, on your patience, on your temper!  These people haven’t served with you before!  They can’t be expected to know how you work or how to read your mind!  You don’t know this ship either, even if it looks almost like ho-  That is… um… Even if it looks almost  like Enterprise.

 

Now his second shift was over.  Here he was, back in these…

 

(No, not “these”, but his)

 

…new quarters!

 

He reached for the case beside him on the crisply made bunk. 

 

His!

 

His bunk in his new quarters.  He’d better get a start on organizing them, even if they were no more welcoming now than they had been yesterday.   

 

His decision had been  made and, wrong or wrong, he’d give this new assignment his best.  This ship, this crew, Starfleet itself deserved that.  So did his sense of integrity and self respect.  Those had already taken a major hit when he requested this transfer without giving his commanding officer any reason for wishing to leave. 

 

That formality he could have lived with. 

 

It was seeing that shocked, almost disbelieving look in Jonathan Archer’s eyes and knowing that the captain was also his oldest friend that had had him walking from the room feeling like a betraying coward.

 

Just who did he think he’d been protecting right then, anyway?  Himself?  Or… her?  

 

It was too late to do anything about it right now.  Someday he wanted to-

 

(let’s make that needed to)

 

-make things right with his old friend.  Meantime, he’d meet with Captain Hernandez

for dinner and find out just how many of his new crew had already requested transfers of their own after working with him and his impatient demands, his barked out orders and his short fuse.  He’d give her his apologies tonight, give the same to the engineering department tomorrow, and make a renewed effort to get himself under control. 

 

He hadn’t done so great with that back on Enterprise lately but he was damned well gonna manage it here!      

 

But “here” was an uncertain term, wasn’t it, when he kept finding himself slipping into that brilliant white space of daydreams and discovering he wasn’t alone there? 

 

T’Pol had told him the whiteness was her meditation place.  Well, why didn’t she have the decency not to go extending it all the way to Columbia where he’d been taking those few tired moments to rest his eyes down in Engineering?   If that wasn’t bad enough, she’d given him that stern, high-eyebrowed look of hers and said  he needed to leave!

 

Leave?  Right.  Hadn’t he just done that?  Left his home of four years so he could get away from…

 

Well, in large part… her.

 

It was the one way he could think of to end a relationship that kept going in hopeless circles.  He’d known she recognized an elemental chemistry between them, but let himself believe it was becoming something more, that she’d started to care for him, too.  Enough anyway to risk nurturing their relationship to see whether it might grow. 

 

Maybe it had never been anything more than wishful thinking and a lot of hormone induced hoping on his part. 

 

That sweet night of lovemaking in her quarters back in the Expanse had planted an already eager seed.  The sight of Lorian, their son in an alternate time-line, who had his dad’s eyes and T’Pol’s ears, nurtured it.  And the way she kept coming to see him in sickbay after he and the captain were rescued from a collapsing mine during a recent mission, really got him believing she was becoming open to the possibility, but…     

 

Over and over again, reality kept pushing itself in between him and those hopes.

 

The morning, after their lovemaking she’d called it her “exploration of human sexuality”.  When he’d expressed his concern for her over the death of her mother, she’d dismissed it as unnecessary.  And her part in that rescue, which he had absolutely no memory of whatsoever, as well as her concern for his recovery had simply been, as she had put it “in the line of duty”.

 

Yeah, leaving Enterprise had been his only option.

 

It wasn’t just to get away from the pain and confusion of running into her every day, sitting across from her at briefings or in the mess, working beside her on the bridge or in engineering, looking into her lovely, distant gaze, or hearing her clear, calm voice.  They were a part of it, yeah, but… 

 

A lot of his decision to transfer was so he could get away from that crazy, dangerous stuff  all those things did to him.

 

The recurrence of that insomnia he’d believed a thing of the past was bad enough.  Then there were the pendulum moods that swung between desire and frustration, between hope and hurt, until the effects of his on-going, one-sided love for T’Pol had about driven him to…

 

Well, to distraction.   

 

There was no- absolutely no- room for that when it came to someone in his position.

 

Phlox had said Trip’s calculation error while fine-tuning a telepresence apparatus during the recent conflict with the Romulans was too small to have created medical problems for anybody.  But Trip had overseen setting up that equipment, which damned well made its operation his responsibility.  That kind of mistake could have…

 

(should have!) 

 

been caught with more focused concentration.  There was no room in a life-risking endeavor for error-causing distractions or attractions, or an engineer who was subject to them!  The sight of that small, slight Aenar girl, Jhamel, shaking uncontrollably after her attempt to use the device was something he wouldn’t soon forget.

 

It was time to face facts, to resign himself to the idea that this thing between him and T’Pol was over, done, finito.  He didn’t know if it made things better or worse, realizing it had never even really begun.

 

That was when Phlox had taken him aside and told him there was no cure for certain matters of the heart, except time.  Here he was, taking that time to get himself back to some kind of normal.

 

All in all, it really was for the best he was gone from Enterprise.

 

And pretty soon she’d be gone too.

 

Hmm, by that did he mean the ship…? Or T’Pol?

 

It didn’t matter. 

 

Neither did that damned empty ache that kept telling him he’d never love another woman the way he loved her.

 

Get a grip, he repeated the silent command to himself.  To turn that thought into a reality he circled his fingers tight around the handle of his travel case.

 

Gripped.

 

He glanced at the trunk by the door.  That one was way too big to deal with now.  There was only an hour before his dinner with Captain Hernandez.  But that was enough time to quit sitting here nursing this bout of the miseries, open the smaller case, start setting up his new quarters and cleaning up his old attitude. 

 

Pressing his thumb against the I D plate, he listened for the faint click of the bag’s fasteners to spring free, then felt the gentle push of the lid against his hand.

 

One by one, he began to lay its contents on the bunk, already picturing their new positions around the room.  Here was his favorite photo of him and his sister Lizzie as kids in the Florida sunshine.  That would go above the bunk as it had back…  there.  Next came the one that used to sit beside it- he and Jonathan scuba diving, back when they both held lower ranks and worked together on the Warp Five Project. 

 

God, he was gonna miss his old friend, his long-time captain.

 

It was a bitter thing, sacrificing that long, trusting relationship for another that only existed in his mind.  One more regret he must learn to live with, but leaving Enterprise really had been-

 

(Yeah, yeah, yeah!  How many times had he told himself this now?  A hundred and one, or maybe a hundred and two?)

 

Tucked near the edge of the case was a small, reddish piece of rock from his first walk on a world other than the one he’d been born on.  Not quite sure where to put that yet, he pressed it briefly within circling fingers, then let it roll off his palm, back into the case.  figuring out a good spot for the Frankenstein monster action figure that came next would be a lot easier.

 

That was followed by hard copy volumes from his growing up years: a collection of Faulkner he’d received from his Aunt JoEllen, the well worn and well loved War of the Worlds and Father of the Transporter that had come from his mamma.  Beneath them he discovered another gift, also in hard copy.  This one was much more recent: the packet of specs and upgrades that either his alternate timeline self or his son had designed for that other Enterprise, probably saved as rare paper-printouts in case their poor, wonderful old rattle-trap ship suffered a data-dump.  They’d been presented to him by Lorian the last time they’d spoken.

 

Where should he put this?  The books he could shelve up there with the pictures, but he wasn’t quite sure where to put the packet.  It was too battered, too irregular in shape to stand without flopping over.  Nor was it a picture or a pebble to form part of a display, though its significance ran just as deep.  There was something almost eerie about the thing, a sort of ghost presence, a haunting echo of pride, grief and unsolved mystery that kept it more a treasured relic than a casual reference.  Up until now, between the escalating crisis with the Xindi and the turbulent events surrounding Enterprise’s return to Earth, there hadn’t been time to give it the respectful attention it deserved, though more than once he’d taken it out of its drawer in order to touch its cover, or gather it in his hands while he pondered the possibilities that had brought it into his possession.

 

When Enterprise successfully negotiated that corridor in the Delphic Expanse without being thrown into the past, but Lorian’s ship, that battered, century-old survivor of its first passage through, didn’t arrive at the designated rendezvous, all that could be done was speculate on the ship’s fate. 

 

The captain wondered whether, because the causality loop had been avoided, any of their descendents who’d lived their lives on that earlier Enterprise since the moment its  first attempt went wrong had ever existed in the first place.  T’Pol, with her customary logic had countered “Then why would we remember them?” 

 

Trip had weighed those questions many times as the hope of encountering Lorian and his crew again began to fade.  Those people must have had an existence!  It wasn’t only ties of the heart, of family and relationship that argued for it.  Their presence in the Expanse, in his life, in the captain’s, in those of the whole crew, had held a purpose!  Enterprise would never have been able to traverse that corridor if not for their help!

 

Moreover, T’Pol’s argument had been borne out as far as Trip was concerned, by the simple fact of this packet now weighing solid within his hands.

 

Lorian.  Despite the conflict between the crews of the Enterprise past and present, he’d felt a real kinship with him, discovered a father’s pride, even though his alternate timeline offspring was probably old enough to be his grandfather.

 

His offspring and T’Pol’s.

 

The captain had said he’d spoken with her: with that same T’Pol who’d come to Trip’s quarters only hours before his transfer here asking whether his leaving had anything to do with her.  But when Jonathan met with her in the Expanse last year, she was far along into Vulcan old age.  He’d even mentioned that she had asked about him. 

 

At least the two of us managed to get together someplace!

 

That thought brought back the ache he’d been trying to shake free of.

 

Impulse told him to slip the packet back into the travel bag. 

 

Forget about it, forget about her!  

 

But he wasn’t here to run from his past, right?  Only to put it behind him and start a new life.  One where hopes and imaginings didn’t interfere with his ability to function!  Like it was during those early days on Enterprise before he and T’Pol began spending time together, before that night when the two of them made such sweet love and…

 

Okay, enough! 

 

He was gonna get up and in a calm, rational manner, carry that packet across the room and stick it in a drawer in the cubby by the personal-

 

(Wait! That was to say,” his”! Remember that!  His!!)

 

-the cubby in his personal work station, where he could get back to it when he organized the storage area.  He’d go and lay it in there right now, first thing.  Lay it where it would be safe.  Lay it flat on the bottom where it would eventually be buried beneath all the other stuff he was going to acquire as part of this new life on Columbia

 

Not running from the past, huh Trip?

 

Despite his intention, the muscles of his legs weren’t gathering themselves.  He remained motionless on the edge of his bunk, the packet resting in his hands.  Somehow, alone in this anonymous room he found himself hesitant to break yet another connection with his past.

 

He would take a moment- only a moment- to release the magnetic sealer that held the packet closed, then have a look through the first two or three pages before meeting up with his new captain.  Let himself remember a part of his former life that, though it held an ache of old sadness, it was a clean, uncomplicated sorrow, with no messiness of confusion or regret. 

 

The title on the cover said “Engineering Repair and Upgrade notes, begun 2036”.  The words were hand written, not computer printed, in Terran English and -

 

(How weird and kind of creepy was this?)

 

-the size and style of the clear, looping back-hand letters was exactly like his own. 

 

Well, why not? 

 

He couldn’t help a rather bemused grin. 

 

It was the other me that wrote that!

 

The dates beneath  were written in a smaller, tighter, more precise hand, presumably Lorian’s. “Compiled and completed 2153”.

 

God, Lorian had been a good kid… Well, a good man, a fine leader, honest, loyal and committed to his ideals. And one damn fine engineer!    

 

The grin widened. Lorian had also been hard headed and stubborn as hell.

 

Hmm, wonder where he got traits like those  from, considering  the parents he’d had!

 

Trip lifted the battered cover with careful fingers.  Turning to the first page, he shivered as he saw more of the looping letters, this time in a hurried, half-careless scrawl.

 

My God! That really  was me!  I wrote these words, more than a hundred years ago, but I’ve never read them before today!

 

“After almost a month’s searching, our deuterium supply has been replenished after trading a Phanairan freighter a plasma flow regulator and two evaporation recapturing mesh panels from the hyponics lab.  The grade wasn’t up to our standard intermix specs, so I was required to reconfigure, using this ratio…”

 

A formula followed.

 

He could see how that equation would work!  Depending on what constituted the next step, all he (that other, long-ago he -would have needed to do was-

 

Stop!  He couldn’t let himself get any more caught up in this!  He needed to get ready for dinner in the Captain’s mess.  He could get back to this later.  It was great to have something he could finally look forward to and…

 

He checked his chronometer. Good!  He had time for a couple more paragraphs, just to see which direction that equation might take him.

 

The next step in the formula was one he never would have thought of!  Well, of course not!  He wouldn’t have needed to think of it!  He hadn’t ever been confronted with the kind of shortages that would have necessitated creating any sort of intermix even slightly resembling it, but still…  He could see how it would work, if the temperature of the plasma was…

 

He turned the page.

 

And forgot all about the formula.

 

His throat tightened. 

 

This wasn’t an original part of the packet.  It hadn’t been fastened in.  Instead, somebody had laid it carefully between the leaves.  It wasn’t a description of structural modifications or intermix formulae.  It was a recorded image.  

 

Lorian, no more than hours old, was peering out of the picture, blue eyes wide beneath the sketchy suggestion of blonde brows.  With a finger shaking a little in its attempt at gentleness, Trip traced the pictured line of one delicate pointed ear just showing above the edge of a blanket.

 

Beneath that picture was another.  T’Pol sat with a wide-eyed three or four year old Lorian leaning close beside her on a bunk not so different than this one.  T’Pol’s head was tilted, one eyebrow lifted as she studied something he was pointing to on a data PADD.  A third image showed Lorian at a gap-toothed six or so, sporting a totally un-Vulcan-like grin as he sat beside Trip, their legs dangling from atop a ladder leading to an engineering catwalk.

 

Amazing!  He could see traces of both himself and T’Pol in that bright little face.  He had her ears, yeah, but the angles of the child’s cheekbones and chin were also his mother’s.  The forehead and the set of the eyes came straight on down from Charles Tucker numbers one, two and three.  And  that nose was the image of Lizzie’s at that age!

 

What changes would he see in his other self’s son at maybe nine years or ten, as the soft, rounded angles of childhood began to sharpen and the small, slight bones lengthened to pre-teen gawkiness?  Which parent would he favor more then?  Which one at twelve?  Or at fifteen, after his alternate self was already, in some unknown manner, supposed to have died?

 

He shivered slightly as the thought of only moments ago recurred. 

 

How weird and kind of creepy was this?       

 

Not creepy enough to keep him from following the trail of his curiosity beyond the page in search of that next image.

 

Trip found himself looking at another page, unbound and handwritten.  The words on it were not in his own familiar curving script, nor in Lorian’s precise and economical one.  The careful lettering was easily legible, despite a slight unevenness to the strokes, as if made by a hand that was not quite steady.

 

This writing was also entirely familiar.

 

It was T’Pol’s.   

 

Lorian:

 

Regret is an emotional state which serves no logical purpose, except perhaps, to advise one to review an error in judgment, and then only when circumstances permit it to be rectified.  Though our recent endeavors failed to stop the Xindi weapon from completing its journey to Earth, I believe the attempt was made using all this ship and crew had to offer.  I sense  you do not share this belief: that you harbor regrets you are either unwilling or unable to convey at this time.   

 

Still, it would be unwise to allow the need to rectify the source of those regrets to close your mind to potential options.

 

Your idea as to how that Enterprise which is still under the command of Jonathan Archer can avoid traveling into the past a second time carries a miscalculation with a twenty two per cent chance of dooming both his ship and the mission our two vessels share.  I have seen your reluctance to entertain any ideas other than your own, and have heard your emotion driven  arguments against my proposal, but as we approach the coordinates where our vessel’s path will intersect with his, I urge you to reconsider the option of telling Captain Archer of the risk. 

 

Withholding information to manipulate outcomes can result in unforeseen consequences, especially when driven by a preoccupation with covering or correcting an action one regrets. 

 

While I do not know the nature of your regrets, and though our situations differ greatly, I recognize parallels between our experiences.

 

 Mine concerned a fascination with and later a three month addiction to Trellium-D during our journey  in the Delphic Expanse.  Your father and I had been spending much time together, culminating in sexual intimacy.  When he began expressing the depth of his feelings for me, I rejected the option of trusting him with either the truth about the damage to my emotional control, or that many of my surfacing feelings revolved around him.  Instead I denied there was any personal significance to our interactions. 

 

I convinced myself that would put a quick, clean and simple end to  all but our professional relationship along with the extreme emotional tumult I was experiencing.  Trip  recognized my untruthfulness, but was unaware that I was frightened by newly aroused, scarcely controlled emotions, or of my regret for creating the situation through my experimentation with a substance I knew to be dangerous to Vulcans. 

 

He gave me opportunities to be forthcoming with him.  When I was not, he became confused, hurt and angry, a reaction I had not foreseen.  Our relationship became more, not less tumultuous as he first began challenging me to admit my attraction to him, then distancing himself from me by putting an aura of feigned indifference between us. 

 

I do not know what would have happened if our ship had not stranded us in the past where we were eventually forced to confront our feelings.  What I do know is that your father was already precious to me before we entered that corridor. 

 

Perhaps, when we intercept our original selves, I will have the unique opportunity of counseling the younger T’Pol to consider pursuing the option I rejected and not wait to trust in Trip’s care and concern for her.  I am unsure whether speaking with her will rectify the regrets I still carry for the pain I caused him by hesitating so long to do so.    

 

What consequences might ensue for them if she travels the same course I did there is no way to ascertain, especially if our paths along the timeline diverge.  I only know in this reality, the words that I opted not to speak when I first knew the truth of them, that would have told Trip I loved him, cost us much time we might have shared.  Ultimately, they also denied you the chance to have more than a child’s memories of your father.

 

What I withheld from Trip primarily affected only the three people in our family.  What you consider withholding from Jonathan Archer would affect the eighty three people resident on his Enterprise, with ramifications that could grow to encompass all the peoples of Earth.    

 

Like Trip, the Jonathan Archer I knew so long ago is a man worthy and deserving of trust.  If you regret some action you have taken or failed to take as commander of this vessel, do not do as I did and compound one regret with another.

 

T’Pol

 

Raising his eyes, Trip shook his head.

Amazing!  Completely mind-boggling!

 

T’Pol- the young woman he’d known for almost four years, had composed this note as an elderly woman he’d never met, writing from an ancient Enterprise before it met up with the ship was twice his home.  The first time was somewhere around a century past, and the second only ended two days ago. 

 

He’d had more than one encounter with temporal phenomena but trying to take in the this duality in all at once was enough to set his head spinning and something deep within him to trembling…

 

Okay.  This letter was written before he’d ever met their son.  Before a desperate Lorian stole components from engineering and almost brought the two Enterprises to the point of battle with each other because he was unable to see past what he considered his only option for stopping the Xindi…  

 

Only option…

 

Trip knew no more than T’Pol what regrets drove Lorian’s actions, only that her recognition of them had been right.  The point was Lorian had been able to look beyond that only option of his.  Together with the captain, they devised a plan that got Archer’s Enterprise through the corridor without triggering a second causality loop.  And…

 

Wait a minute!

 

Outside his focus on untying the temporal knot was the realization that something was tugging at his attention.

 

Not the Xindi.  Trip knew they had stopped the weapon.  Starfleet was even now looking for way to formalize diplomatic relations with that distant world.  It was-

 

T’Pol!  She’d mentioned him!  Said he was worthy of trust and…

 

What the hell was she doing with Trellium-D anyway?  That stuff could be lethal to Vulcans, could destroy the emotional control that held their fierce, passionate, potentially violent natures in check!  She could’ve hurt herself, hurt herself badly, and for what?

 

When he next saw her, they’d have to have a talk about this!  Except…

 

Damn!  She wasn’t here!  Or, rather, he wasn’t there! 

 

Talk about keeping emotions in check! 

 

He had to think.  This letter was written more than a year ago.  The addiction had lasted three months.  She must’ve come to terms with the substance and the emotions it released…  Hadn’t she?

 

He skimmed the jittering page for some clue, but was stopped by the sight of his own name written in her fragile but still familiar and elegant handwriting. 

 

your father was already precious to me before we entered that corridor….

 

He’d been precious to her as long ago as that? 

 

Had she known it before she’d begun experimenting with the Trellium-D, or had she used it so her emotions could surface enough for her to examine and understand them?

 

Oh, God, no wonder his head was spinning and his hands had gone cold!

 

Precious!

 

Had she risked herself in order to understand what she felt for him?   He didn’t know.  Couldn’t ask her!  Even if that was only a small part of what had compelled her, it changed everything!  How could he have expected her respond clearly to something she was only beginning to grasp?

 

Prickling cold shock was spreading all through him, along with horrible, slamming regret as he found that other thing she’d said.

 

How much she loved him!

 

How long had he hoped to know the truth of those words?  Hoped, despaired. Questioned.   Hoped again.  Even after he’d transferred here he’d still hoped, hadn’t he, as much as he’d told himself there had never been anything real between them?  Why else would he run into her in the white space of his daydreams?

 

She was right.  He hadn’t known.  Not for certain about the love, not at all about the regrets that kept her from expressing it. 

 

If only he’d realized!

 

If only he’d given her… given them… more time!  Then he wouldn’t be sitting here on this sterile bunk in these stark-walled quarters as his ship, his home, his oldest friend and the woman he loved prepared to warp away, out of Earth’s orbit!  He wouldn’t be counting the number of times he’d been trying to convince himself that-

 

Leaving Enterprise had been his only option!

 

Shaking his head, he fumbled with the pages and prepared to close the packet.

 

Trip?

 

He blinked as it grew heavy in his hands.

 

The cold and the pervasive shakiness reminded him of the fatigue he’d experienced down in Engineering right before the need to close his eyes had overwhelmed him.  Just to close his eyes a moment and…

 

That was when the daydream had come in spreading whiteness.  T’Pol had been there.  She’d told him to leave and…

 

This time there was no closing his eyes.  No whiteness.  No vision of T’Pol.

 

But for just an instant, he could almost have sworn he heard her voice.

 

Trip?

 

And then it was gone.  He found himself staring down at the still open packet on his lap and the last words the future T’Pol had written to their son.  

 

Do not do as I did and compound one regret with another.

 

Do?  Not? 

 

But if only he hadn’t…

 

Compound one regret?

 

…transferred here, then…

 

With another!

 

…then he…

 

Well, then he wouldn’t have stopped to recall what Phlox told him about the set-up of the telepresence equipment, would he?  Or reminded himself hat the miscalculation had been too small to create problems?  Without looking back at those memories, he wouldn’t recognized he could put that incident behind him along with his regret over the distraction that might have had a part in it. 

 

He wouldn’t have contrasted his first day here with the day Enterprise launched and remembered what normal should- or could- be like for him again.  As much as he loved that ship, he couldn’t have done that over there.  For that to have happened, leaving Enterprise had been his only option.

 

With gentle fingers that still shook just a little, he closed the pages, then the magnetic sealer and realized that he was almost smiling.

 

Okay, T’Pol, I got the message.

 

He would release his regret over taking the option to transfer.  At least he’d try.  He’d remind himself that like Lorian and the crew of the other Enterprise, this exile- no, this chosen path- had its purpose in his life. Furthermore, while he was here he would-  

 

What he would do was get off this damn bunk!  He had to hurry!  This uniform had to go!  Half the grease in Engineering had transferred to the front of it!  Then he would -

 

-go have dinner with Erika Hernandez.  They could enjoy a good meal and review his scheduled plans for the last few performance evals in the launch preparations of Columbia.  He would do his best for his new captain and crew as they got ready for the shake-down cruise.  He’d find his equilibrium again by losing himself in the, thrumming, joyful pulse, pulse, pulse of a new warp-engine.

 

That was going to be a beautiful thing.    

 

And out there, amid the stars, wherever Enterprise was bound, T’Pol would gain some time for herself too.  There’d be no pressure from his hopes and hurts, his desires and despairs.  Knowing at last that what he’d sensed between them was true, he was sure his love would be strong enough to free her to take time to work through her own regrets about the Trellium-D addiction and the results of it.   As much as he was going to miss her, he wanted her to have an opportunity to journey toward the future and the liberating wisdom that he had found written in her words.

 

Trip turned back to the case beside him on the bunk, pulled out a change of uniform and still smiling, got to his feet. 

 

He was singing that same old silent song again.  But as he told himself for the hundred and second (or maybe by now the one hundred and third) time, the lyrics had a happy lilt.

 

Leaving Enterprise had been his only option.

 

That was, at least, for now!


Comments:

Reanok


This is a wonderful story. I like how much Trip Matures in this story and I really like him reading the other diary written by the other Trip&tT'Pol&Lorian.I really likew this story alot. Bravo!:D

Cap'n Frances

Beautiful story. I loved Trip's growing fascination, understanding and hope as he discovered what he had been given.

Alelou

I had a hard time getting through this because of a 101 distractions, but I'm glad I kept coming back because I really, really liked the ending. I like that instead of being filled with crushing regret at his discovery, he is buoyed by a new sense of purpose. This is our Trip.

Also, I'm really glad he's still not late to dinner with Captain Hernandez. :p

 

framework4

:)

Well done. Very well done. Now if we can have some more.

Transwarp


Trip's journey from despair to hope was brilliantly done, because I was *there* every step of the way.  I shared the pain of his exile, and I shared the the joy of his discovery of Lorian's photos and T'Pol's letter.

This is extremely well written.  Thank you!

Lt. Zoe Jebkanto

Weeble:

     You sure we aren't in a secret mind-meld? 

      You exactly honed in on my reactions as this was getting written... that Trip was totally blinded to T'Pol's feeings by his own pain, that the encounter with Lorian was a real heart/mind tangler and especially:

"Maybe this letter is what helped him across the wire back to Enterprise"-

     It exactly was!  Thanks for the response. 

Weeble

not sure what to say oter than i enjoyed it. I was tickled by the "kid" pictures and can't imagine what went through Trip's mind looking at a child he hasn't had, but met. While we got to see T'Pol's reaction during their last discussion Trip mostly looked away; he really didn't know, blinded as he was by his own pain. Maybe this letter is what helped him across the wire back to Enterprise.....Keep writing its terrific.

Lt. Zoe Jebkanto

Thanks for the kind comments- they mean a lot.  I'm glad and grateful you've enjoyed the story that "Trip made me write" :D:p:D

Linda

Great introspection.  The letter was a good plot device.  And the last line: "at least for now" gives hope. 

Asso

Good.
Who knows why, this reminds me something.;)

Eireann

Vibrantly, powerfully written, and a joy to read.  Trip does a lot of maturing in this story (in one sense of the word), accepting that sometimes separation is not a bad thing for a relationship - and certainly not for one that has become as difficult as that between himself and T'Pol.

I'm so glad he found that letter, and that Lorian evidently treasured it enough to keep it.  A lesser child of lesser parents would probably have destroyed it for the hard truths it contained.

Loulah

Sometimes the simple stories are the best.  One person alone with his thoughts, in four empty walls with his personal effects and their memories locked away in cases.  

 

The little details really stood out like Trip pressing his thumb on the ID plate - there was a lot of depth to this story which just added to the enjoyment x x

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