Wary

By Lt. Zoe Jebkanto

Rating: PG-13

Genres: angst episode rewrites general

Keywords: Mirror Universe

This story has been read by 470 people.
This story has been read 811 times.


Disclaimer:  I do not own Star Trek or its related intellectual properties (in either Universe) and did not write this story for profit, but for entertainment purposes only.   (I don’t think my Mirror counterpart did either, but there’s no accounting for what they do over there.)

 

Summary:  Even with a distraction like T’Pol around, aboard the flagship of the Terran Empire, it is advisable to always remain a little… wary.  Maybe especially then.

 


Wary.

 

That’s what Tucker had been from the moment T’Pol came into Engineering.

 

Even before that.  Ever since word came down from the bridge that she was supposed to assist him in converting the cloaking device from the Sulibahn ship in the cargo bay so it would interface with Enterprise.

 

Tucker checked the schematics on his console’s display, then sharpened its focus to the circuitry area he was working over.  Those instructions could raise a few hundred questions. Right now he wasn’t gonna wonder about them.  He’d find out later when the job at hand, and keeping his guard up, didn’t take all his attention.

 

With T’Pol around, it was work just remembering to remain…

 

Wary.

 

He didn’t have to name the slow, tightening coil low in his guts, or the energy currents  that jittered through every nerve and capillary of his hands and turned them clammy.

 

They were bad enough when she approached with that long, leggy stride of hers, picked up a hand scanner and a set of tools and positioned herself at the work station beside him.  But the closer she’d come, the stronger the sensations got.

 

He could’ve called them wariness.

 

Yeah, right.   If he had half a brain going anyway, since he couldn’t trust T’Pol any

further than he could toss a shuttle-pod at normal gee, but…

 

Truth was, they were more than that.  And it wasn’t only her he had to be wary of.

 

Not that he had any trouble spinning a lie if he could find some advantage to it.  As long as it wasn’t himself he lied to.

 

Doing that could be way, way too dangerous.

 

At least as dangerous as letting show what lay beneath the adrenaline speeding up the pulses thrumming in his ears. Or letting one word slip about what she did to him.

 

He had to be wary of his reactions to her.  His desire for her.

 

Come to that, he better damn well remember not to wipe the moisture on his palms down his uniform front.  She was so observant, even as she stood there, spiraling cording through nimble fingers before securing it in place that she’d probably ask why he’d done it, either in words or with that small, elegant arch of her eyebrow.

 

He couldn’t have that any more than he could let her suspect he’d come to…

 

The coil in his gut tightened.

 

He swallowed the bitter taste of the thought before it could be completed and watched his own quick, sure hands guiding a micro-fuser over a new circuitry junction until its tiny indicator light signaled the job was done, then checked the radiation meter.

 

Normal readings across all bands.  Good.  After what had happened to him in this very room, he was a fanatic about those radiation meters.

 

Picking up the micro-fuser again, he reinforced his earlier work, then adjusted the schematic display and configured the position of the next junction.

 

T’Pol’s sleeve brushed his as she adjusted the placement of a small cable.  Beneath the blue of his uniform, his arm rippled in gooseflesh.

 

Careful now, Tucker.  Wary, remember?

 

Those half-great, half-awful prickles had nothing to do with the Sulibahn cloak.  At least the crazy jitter was only on the inside.  His grip on the fuser was rock steady.

 

He set aside the tool and reached for another, at last allowing the movement to be the excuse for a swift, side-eyed look in T’Pol’s direction.

 

Why did this thing with her have to be so damn complex?

 

It was more than liking the look of that long hair tied loosely back so that just the tips of those pretty little Vulcan ears peeked through sometimes.  More than relishing the view of feline-trim midriff showing between her uniform’s abbreviated blue top and hip hugging pants.  Or the memory of how warm and smooth that skin had been beneath his hands, those nights in her quarters when the pon farr was upon her and…

 

Some of it was her brilliant, decisive mind and her steadiness under pressure.

 

Even more, it was something he didn’t have words for, about how she carried herself.  Proud.  Not like somebody who came from any slave planet he’d ever heard of.  That attitude challenged him, yeah, to pit his will and his words against hers, but also it…  Well, damn it all, it touched something very deep inside him.  Something old.  Something so carefully buried that he’d all but forget for long periods of time that it had ever been there.,   Something that looked beyond both her cool aloofness and that simmering volcano of passion and…

 

Just how long was it until her next pon farr came around again?

 

Cut it out, Tucker!

 

Time to apply sealant to the newly fused circuitry and forget the body talk!  That’s all it was, after all.  That coil and jitter.  Simple body talk that could get him into a world of trouble unless he remembered…  Remembered to be…

 

Wary.

 

Anyway, if it had only been the urgency of the mating drive that filled those nights with him and T’Pol, he could’ve dismissed the memories.

 

Well, no, forget that.  Not dismissed them.  That’d be a waste.  He’d have continued to relive them as some of the hottest, wildest, most satisfying encounters of his life so far.  Something never, even in his greatest imaginings up til now, to be equaled…

 

Or, if he was a sane man, repeated.

 

She wasn’t human, so he didn’t fool himself he could gage her motivations with the astuteness that was a basic survival tool for those who served on the Terran Empire’s flagship.  But when he had her in his arms, he’d sensed a certain vulnerability about her during that time of that intense, driving need.  Something that wanted, needed, more than this life had offered her so far…

 

It was that damn suggestion of vulnerability which had started tender words sneaking into his mental vocabulary that had no business there.  Words he was sure never to speak.  Any more than he’d let her catch him glancing side-eyed at her like this.

 

Good thing she was working to his left or he couldn’t manage the glance without giving himself away with a turn of the head.  The delta radiation that had turned the right half of his face into a ravaged landscape of keloid scars had pulled the outer half of the eyelid down, obscuring the outer corner of his vision.

 

Maybe having her there really wasn’t a good thing.  On his right, the recognized risk would have outweighed temptation.

 

But…  Man, she was gorgeous!  He couldn’t kid himself that the low down, tightening coil really had anything to do with wariness.

 

He ran another scan.  Made an adjustment.  Checked.  Good.  They could run a preliminary diagnostic in maybe five minutes.

 

“Sealant,” said T’Pol’s impassive voice near his left ear.

 

He passed it to her, noting the Vulcan warmth radiating from her skin as her fingers passed beneath his.

Was there anybody aboard Enterprise who guessed about the T’Pol that lived behind that poised veneer of hers?  God, Vulcan or not, she could have had her pick of any man on this ship to help her ease the burning of pon farr.  And yet…

 

She had chosen him!

 

Him, with the ruined face that he sometimes took an almost savage, grinning pleasure in startling new crewmembers with.  Better to do that than to admit, except to himself sometimes when he was still shocked looking in the morning mirror, that he wasn’t… quite… immune to the horror or revulsion in their eyes.  Especially in those of pretty, young women who, once upon a time, would have considered him attractive.  At least he had his career, the power of his position, the sight in both eyes…

 

Hell, he still had his life.  He had to be grateful for that.

 

He released the sealant, turned to note the tool was securely in her hand and…

 

Realized what he wasn’t seeing. Not pinned to her uniform, not settled next to her on the work-surface.

 

The anger rang cold in his voice, covering the pang of fear with the sound of an almost lazy contempt for her neglectfulness.  “Didn’t you forget something?”

 

She barely looked his way, though those questioning brows raised.

 

“Biggs!  Get the Commander a radiation meter!”

 

Biggs, who had good reason to know the sharp edge of Tucker’s temper, hurried to comply, almost dashing across the room to slip the small device into T’Pol’s hand, She turned it over in her palm, then lay it on the console beside her.

 

“You don’t wanna end up like me, do you?”  Tucker leaned in close so his face was only inches from her own, where she couldn’t help but see every ridge where flesh had melted, the places where it puckered tight over the bones, the half-fused eyelid.

 

She didn’t recoil, only paused a moment to look at him with those impassive amber eyes.  Those huge luminous eyes in the middle of that perfect, beautiful, undamaged face.

 

How could she not recognize the danger when the evidence was right in front of her?

 

“I’ve absorbed so much delta radiation…”  he leaned closer, driving his point home  with slow, deliberate sarcasm.  “That my grandchildren’re gonna glow in the dark…”

 

“Flux coupler,” said T’Pol, holding out an expectant hand as if he hadn’t said a word.

 

He paced, drawling every word for emphasis  as he spoke of the dangers of radiation.  Didn’t she get it?  Didn’t she care she was risking herself?  She only raised a brow that could be as sarcastic as his tone and suggested he try for a promotion!

 

There it was, that challenging, stimulating battle of wills, of words.  He felt that coil tighten, the jitters run like currents in the wake of his fear and his fury.  And his desire.

 

Maybe, he smirked, cozying close so she couldn’t miss the insinuation, she could help him get that promotion.  He’d done her a favor once, hadn’t he?

 

“I thought we were never going to discuss that,” she said.  He caught it then, that pride and vulnerability that flickered a brief light on those stealthy tender words lurking inside.  There might have been a moment’s regret for what he’d said.  But whatever emotion he’d heard in her voice, seen in her beautiful eyes, was there- and gone- in an instant.

 

It could hardly have been called a favor, she commented drily,  since he seemed to have enjoyed himself.  Several times if she recalled.

 

If…?  She recalled?  Yeah, right!  He hadn’t been the only one there enjoying himself!

 

Maybe speaking those two almost taboo Vulcan words would remind her.  Leaning a hand on the console, he spoke close to her ear.  “So… how long til your next pon farr comes round again?”

 

Maybe two heartbeats of silence and…  Something flared on the display.

 

It came across the console’s readout barely a nanosecond before he saw it surging through the conduit from the far side of the room.  It sped toward them, faster than the surprise of it could fully register.  An energy build-up snaking blue-white over the floor.  Growing brighter.  Streaking toward the circuitry they’d been working on as unstoppable as lightning flashing down the protecting rods back at his grandma’s when he was a kid.

 

Reflex had him spinning away from T’Pol, instinct and training taking over.  Even as he shouted for his crew to cut off connections, his hands were shutting down pathways, then yanking out circuitry, ripping away the careful work of just moments ago as energy erupted in a cascade of sparks.

 

Then he was flying through the air, driven by the surging blast of power, skidding on his back and coming to rest against a bulkhead.

 

Gasping for the breath that had been knocked out of him he pushed to his elbows.  Already he was running his first visual check of damage to equipment or personnel.  Crewmen were battling through momentary surprise, hurrying to damp flash-flames and scan for chain reaction surges.  Through dissipating sparks he saw T’Pol near the console, standing amid a scatter of tools, data PADDs and charred circuitry inlays.  A no longer needed flame damper hung from one hand.  Disconnected cabling dangled near her feet.  After a moment she stooped and, with smooth efficiency, lifted it back onto the workstation console.  Her face, as she straightened, showed only its usual calm.

 

No suggestion of surprise.  Not even a hint.

 

Well, what did he expect?  Frustration?  Dismay that the installation of the Sulibahn cloak would be delayed hours?  Or days?  She was Vulcan, damn it!  Born and bred to the notion emotions were supposed to be controlled.  Suppressed!

 

But some were automatic, instinctive.  Part of the mechanisms of survival.

 

There should have been at least an echo of surprise.  Eyes still a little wide from staring into the face of danger.  Muscles  only starting to relax as the emergency was brought in hand.  Something.

 

Unless…

 

For her there had been no surprise.

 

He scrambled to his feet, staggering only the first step or two as adrenaline propelled him to the nearest diagnostic station.  Was that energy surge due to an accident?  Or somewhere along the relays had the connections been…  Sabotaged?

 

Displays flashed across the monitor.  Conduits, junctions, couplings, circuitry…   Images flicking, one after another, beneath his unhesitating fingers.  The thrum of pulses was there in his ears as he crept the image sequences back, back, back over the work of seconds, minutes…  There was no question what he would name the emotions fueling them now, or the jitters running beneath his skin.  At least the hands tapping in commands were still rock steady.

 

Good.  Some things were best hidden.  Hadn’t he just been warning himself about that?  He was the chief engineer here.  If he couldn’t find a solid, functional reason for the energy surge, the captain would be very, very unhappy with him.  So would the head of security.  If Major Reed was unhappy, he made sure the object of his unhappiness was more so, by setting up a little appointment with Doctor Phlox.  The coil in Tucker’s gut grew cold as he watched another two, three, four images flick by.  Nothing obvious yet.

 

He drew a steadying breath and waited for the fear, rage and adrenaline pouring through him to steady.  More images and time signatures were displayed.  Whatever had gone wrong might’ve been started hours ago.  Still nothing obvious.   Not a good sign, as it must have been buried deep, deep within the workings of Enterprise’s equipment where few people that he knew of had both access and knowledge to reach.  Forrest, maybe, or Archer, though he questioned their levels of technical skills.  Perhaps, but not as likely, Reed as he had more pressing interests of his own .  That left T’Pol…  Or himself.  And he damn sure would’ve had no cause to court that kind of danger.

 

But T’Pol wouldn’t have set him up to risk punishment from higher up the command chain like that.  Would she?  For what reason?  Still… if she’d had nothing to do with it, shouldn’t she have shown at least a little surprise?

 

Damn it!  This diagnostic could take a lot of uncertain hours before he knew the source of the energy surge.

 

He found her off to his right, crouched, still near the console, gathering together cords and circuitry boards together.  He didn’t try to disguise the turning of his head this time, but stared at her in silence until she looked up.  He wanted, needed her to see him looking at her.  Maybe even to read the question in his lopsided gaze.

 

Though her unblinking eyes met his, then held for several seconds, if there was any answer to be found there, it was unreadable.

 

As far as he could toss a shuttle-pod at normal gee, right?  Hadn’t he told himself something like that?

 

What about that pride, that vulnerability he’d sensed as he held her?  Was it real?  Or only the hope of a man who hadn’t seen revulsion in her eyes when she looked at him?

 

Not breaking eye contact with her, he scowled, then lifted his hands from the diagnostic displays and with slow deliberation, wiped his palms down the front of his Imperial Starship uniform.

 

If she had done nothing, the motion would be meaningless.

 

If she had, even with her suppressed Vulcan emotions, she’d lived long enough among humans to read the anger and disgust in the gesture and understand it was directed at her, not the equipment, and to speculate on what it could mean to use or to cross Charles Tucker,

 

It could be hours before the diagnostic revealed if the damage was innocent or intended.

 

She had that long to learn exactly what it meant to be…

 

Wary.


Comments:

Weeble

I normally avoid Mirror stories well cause, ya know.. I am glad I started reading before I figured out it was a Mirror story. It was spell binding. It held me, the reader and did not wish to let go. I sequel is required!

Linda

Gosh, this is beautiful.  I love the weaving into it, the fact that MU Trip realizes his relationship to T'Pol is more than mere lust.  The details are great - the thoughts of Trip  and the technical stuff.  Great job!

Eireann

You already know my opinion on this story but it's always worth a second read, not to mention a third and fourth!  The sense of danger breathes through every moment of this marvellous tale - Tucker is inescapably caught between his suspicion of T'Pol (amply justified, as we see later!) and his desire for her.  His fascination is as dark and dangerous as the MU itself.  In my opinion, T'Pol makes a real mistake when she gives in to the desire to humiliate him by telling him she's used him as her cat's-paw; this is not a man who forgives and forgets, particularly not given the appointment with Phlox that Archer's subsequent suspicions earns him.

You have such a gift for atmosphere, it's really awe-inspiring.

panyasan

This is a brilliant tale. Dark, because of the MU. but so full of emotions of a man who tries to live in a dark world and loves a Vulcan woman. 

Asso

Here there is indeed a great ability to build a story around the thoughts.
Remarkable. Truly remarkable.

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