Hands

By Lys

Rating: PG-13

Genres: drama

Keywords: Xindi

This story has been read by 639 people.
This story has been read 985 times.


Rating: PG13
Disclaimer: Paramount owns Enterprise. I'm only borrowing the characters.
Summary: What went through Trip's mind during Azati Prime?

A/N: I really want to thank Dinah for her help, support and great job at betaing. I couldn't have finished this without her.


"Give ‘em hell, Cap'n."

Trip was at his station on the bridge. He'd wanted to be there to say goodbye to the Captain. They could only hope he'd be able to carry out the mission and destroy the Xindi weapon.

T'Pol wavered slightly and turned briskly on her heels. "I'll be in the ready room," she whispered.

Trip frowned and watched her leave the bridge. What's wrong with her? he thought. There was an edge in T'Pol's voice. Never before had she displayed so much emotion on the bridge and it worried him. She had been acting strangely for some time. It was almost imperceptible, but he was so attuned to her moods, that he couldn't miss it. What he had witnessed here was a near emotional breakdown for the Vulcan woman.

Maybe the mission's finally taking its toll on her. If I know her, she's trying to regain her control before coming back onto the bridge. he thought, trying to convince himself. But he couldn't deny that that argument sounded weak. He was only fooling himself. He resolved to talk to T'Pol later, privately. He tried to focus his attention on the engineering reports he was studying. His team had taken care of everything. The engines were in excellent condition. Nothing needed his attention.

Great. I could use some distractions right about now, but no, everything's running smoothly.

Trip surveyed the bridge crew. They were all as still as statues, eyes riveted on the viewscreen where the red giant looked like a huge cyclopean eye spitting fire. No one made a sound. His eyes fell on the captain's chair, devoid of any occupant. He felt a lump forming in his throat and quickly averted his eyes.

Nervously, Trip began tapping his fingers on his console's keyboard as his thoughts turned to T'Pol. What is she doing in there? His fingers picked up the pace as he fought to control his anger and anxiety. He glanced back at the ready room. Why isn't she waiting with us on the bridge?

"Commander."

Trip jumped and spun around in his seat.

Malcolm was studying him with a stern look. He pointed toward Trip's restless hands with a movement of his chin.

Trip lowered his eyes, sighed and the tapping stopped.

Since they had reached Azati Prime, his hands had had a life of their own. He couldn't seem to control them anymore, unless he was focusing all of his attention on that task or was concentrating on his work. It had been the same in the insectoid shuttle. He had been jumping up and down, hands flying over the keyboard, until he had seen the weapon.

He shuddered.

It was huge. He couldn't begin to imagine how powerful it could be, how much destruction it could bring. He had seen the results of the attack on Earth and that had only been a probe – a probe that had killed seven million people, a probe that had killed Eli… No! screamed his mind. No! Don't think about her, not now.

His right hand clenched and unclenched convulsively. He felt Malcolm's eyes on him. He stiffened in his chair and looked at the chronometer on his computer.

Ten minutes. It's only been ten minutes.

Unable to stay still any longer, he stood abruptly and went to the turbolift. "You have the bridge, Lieutenant."

Malcolm nodded, carefully watching Trip with a worried gaze.

Trip went straight to Engineering, grabbed a PADD and flew out of the room past several surprised crewmen. He almost ran all the way to the armory. He'd decided to make himself useful and try some quick modifications to the phase cannons. Malcolm had told him that they had been pretty ineffective against the insectoid ship that had attacked them a few days ago. He had made good use of his sleepless nights and come up with a way to upgrade them. There were plenty of Xindi ships above Azati Prime. It was doubtful they'd let them go unharmed after the destruction of the weapon.

If the Captain's successful and destroys it. he thought bitterly.

Trip only slowed down when he reached the armory. As usual, the place was swarming with activity. He took a deep breath and made a beeline for the hatch on the far corner. He opened the door, went down the stairs and reached the computers controlling the phase cannons in a few steps, grateful that the sight of a slightly disheveled Chief Engineer didn't disturb any of Malcolm's crew.

Alone. He was alone. He craved a respite. Leaning against the bulkhead, he slowly slid to the floor and put down the PADD. He bent his legs against his chest and put his elbows on his knees. He lifted his shaking hands to eye level.

"What am I gonna do with you?" he begged. "I can't work if you're shaking like this. It's driving me insane. I'm an engineer, I need my hands."

The shaking didn't stop. He felt a sob building in his chest. Swallowing hard, he tried to keep his emotional turmoil at bay.

"There have been so many deaths. Why? Why another sacrifice?" he whispered. He'd gladly trade one of his wayward hands to have the Captain back. Hell, he wanted to go on the mission to keep his friend safe, all his friends. And Earth too.

It was pointless. His hands were unresponsive. He couldn't control them anymore. He had to accept that fact, just like he had to accept that the Captain wasn't coming back. It would be impossible to escape the devastation that would follow the explosion. No one could survive it. Seven million people hadn't survived the destructive power of the first weapon. Lizzie hadn't survived it either. His memories brought him back to the day he had seen the remnants of the first weapon at Starfleet Headquarters.

The probe was perhaps three or four times as tall as I am, no more. How many times bigger was the weapon I saw under the water?

He didn't know. Seeing that giant dark sphere, lying on a vast pedestal deep down in the ocean, had been a shock for him.

Shaking his head, he tried so hard not to think about Lizzie. The nightmares were back. Every night, he woke up drenched in sweat. Every night Lizzie screamed and screamed and screamed until the wall of fire engulfed her. Each time, he was forced to stand by helplessly, unable to reach her, unable to save her. He couldn't even ask Phlox for sedatives. He wasn't ready to explain to the good Doctor why T'Pol and he had stopped the neuropressure.

T'Pol.

He suppressed a bitter laugh. How blind he had been. He'd thought T'Pol was his best friend when all along, he'd only been an experiment. "A damn lab rat," he muttered under his breath.

And now she'd fled to the ready room -- away from him, away from the crew.

The same way he had fled himself. Trip's eyes widened What have I done?

He had a job to do. Now more than ever before, he had to lead by example. He wouldn't betray the Captain. Not after Archer had used his parting words to tell the crew how proud he was of them.

"I swear, Cap'n, we'll be worthy of you."

Standing up, he reined in his rebel hands, grabbed his discarded PADD and made his way back to Engineering. Before he reached his destination, however, he decided that there was something he needed to see again.

It wasn't long before he reached the command center. The scans he and Travis had brought back were still displayed on the screen. The picture of the weapon was taunting him. Engrossed by his contemplation, he walked toward the main console. He let down his PADD and pushed a button. The weapon spun until it revealed its core and the explosive matrix. That was the cause of all his sorrow.

This is insane, Trip thought. That thing is twenty times bigger than the probe – maybe more. His right hand went to his mouth and he started biting his nails absentmindedly. After several minutes of contemplation in front of the screen, Trip was quickly brought back to reality when he bit one nail too deep. Go back to Engineering, Tucker. Take your tools, find something to hit. Take something apart and put it back together again. Keep your hands busy. Stay with your crew. They need you. Don't let them down. Sucking on his sore thumb, he went to the intercom. "Tucker to the bridge."

"Go ahead," answered Malcolm.

"Any news?"

"Not yet."

Trip glanced back to the screen. The Captain had been away for over an hour. He felt a knot forming in his stomach. They couldn't fail now – not when they were so close.

He turned back to the intercom. "Where's T'Pol?"

"She's in the ready room."

Trip stared at the intercom. What the hell is she doing in there?

"Commander?" Malcolm sounded worried. "Trip?"

Trip suddenly realized that he hadn't answered back. "I'll be in Engineering, Malcolm. Tucker out." His right hand was again clenching and unclenching on its own. It was unnerving.

He took a last look at the screen before leaving the command center. The green pattern on the display seemed harmless. It was almost like a giant Christmas tree ornament, but it was something far more sinister. It was a weapon of mass destruction, the most powerful one that had ever been designed. The probe had made a deep wound on Earth and a deeper incision in his heart. Now this horrible weapon was set to claiming another victim. He picked up the PADD that was lying on the console and threw it at the screen. The PADD broke instantly and its shattered remains fell on the floor.

"I've lost Lizzie! Now it's the Cap'n. Who's next? Answer me!" he yelled.

He stormed out of the room, clutching his throbbing hand. His toolkit remained forgotten outside the door. On his way to Engineering, he tried to calm down. Relax. You won't do the crew any good if you're jumping out of your skin. Be calm. Breathe.

It was in moments like this that he was grateful T'Pol had taught him those breathing techniques. It had been hard to learn, requiring countless hours of practice, but now it was almost innate, like it had always been written in his genes. If only his right hand had not decided to secede from his body. He glowered at the rebel limb. It was going to drive him nuts if it didn't stop shaking before the end of the day.

When he reached the door to Engineering, he took a few moments to compose himself. Then, ready to face his crew, he opened the door and went to work. He saw relief on many faces when he showed up. His place was with his crew. He was proud of them.

 


Trip wiped the sweat from his face. He'd been working for more than half an hour and had his hands back in control. Anxious for news, he headed for his office. Maybe he'd missed a com from the bridge. He switched on the computer and the screen came to life.

No news.

The knot in his stomach came back and he felt the familiar clenching movement in his right hand. Damn it!

He went to the intercom. "Tucker to the bridge."

"Go ahead," said a tensed voice.

"Malcolm?" Trip raised his eyebrows. "Where's T'Pol?"

"She hasn't left the ready room."

"Any news from the Captain?"

"No," Malcolm answered briefly.

"I'm on my way." Trip turned off the intercom and headed for the bridge. He wasn't looking forward to the task ahead of him. He had to tell a Vulcan that she was acting illogically.

He squared his shoulders. He'd do whatever it took, but he wouldn't let the Expanse and the Xindi steal another person he loved without a fight. He didn't know what T'Pol felt for him…if she felt anything for him. How could he be sure with a Vulcan? But deep down, he knew that he cared deeply for her. She had helped him when he needed it the most. He would repay that favor, no matter the cost.

Whatever she's doing in the ready room, she can do it at her station, he thought edgily. I'm not gonna let her stay cooped up like that. The crew needs her right now.

A few minutes later, he was on the bridge. At his silent question, Malcolm once again shook his head. Trip lowered his eyes, turned around and pressed the chime on the door to the ready room with a shaky hand.

"Come in."

 


Trip replayed the scene in his mind. Once again, T'Pol had hurt him. He thought he was prepared for anything she could throw at him, but no. This was worse than a lost friendship. This was worse than being an experiment. She didn't respect him anymore. She had sought his advice in the past, but now, all she did was dismiss his offers to help. He couldn't believe it.

Since she'd sent him packing, he'd spent his time pacing on the bridge. He was doing his best to try and ignore the closed door of the ready room and the Captain's empty chair. He was also trying to ignore the worried gazes Malcolm and the rest of the bridge crew were exchanging. He knew he had to calm down, but he couldn't just yet. Hands clasped behind his back, he was desperately trying to adopt a composed stance.

Get out! Who does she think she is? I'm trying to help her and that's all I get for my efforts. T'Pol, what the hell's going on with you?

Trip shook his head. There was no point in trying to figure out T'Pol's moods, but he couldn't help feeling that there was definitely something off with her behavior, something he couldn't put his finger on yet.

Vulcans are supposed to suppress their emotions, and here I am, stuck with a moody one! Why do I even care? She doesn't give a damn about me.

That was it. He wasn't the one she cared about. Unmercifully, the events of the day came back to him: T'Pol not even batting an eyelash when he'd offered to pilot the shuttle; T'Pol with her eyes locked on the Captain when he'd made his farewell; T'Pol on the verge of a breakdown when she'd left the bridge; T'Pol stubbornly refusing to make eye contact with him in the ready room, but barely suppressing a sob when he told her the Captain wasn't coming back.

Trip sighed. He had lost her.

"Commander."

Trip turned abruptly and faced Malcolm.

"You're wearing a hole in the deck plating," Malcolm stated, a worried expression on his features.

Trip stared at Reed for a moment and then, without saying a word, retreated to the situation room. If he couldn't find peace, the least he could do was spare his friends. What would be the point of staying with them on the bridge if he couldn't be the reassuring presence they needed?

He leaned against the table in the middle of the room and took deep, calming breathe. Despite his best efforts, he was clinging so hard to the edge of the table that his knuckles had turned almost white. He pulled away from the table abruptly and glowered at his rebel hands.

You really don't want to cooperate either, do you?

He looked back toward the bridge and saw Hoshi intently listening for any word from Archer. How long had it been since the Captain left? They still had no news, no indication that the weapon had been destroyed. They couldn't wait any longer. They had to do something, anything. But what could they do while their acting captain was hiding in the ready room? He had to convince T'Pol that it was time to take her place on the bridge. But would she listen? Or more to the point, would she listen to him?

Trip went up to Malcolm. He had made up his mind. Maybe T'Pol would listen to the Lieutenant, since she was intent on turning down everything he had to say.

 


What's the hell's wrong with her?

On his way back to Engineering, Trip tried to block out the memory of T'Pol striding down the corridor on her way to the shuttlepod. He'd never seen her like that before. She'd actually yelled at him.

He gritted his teeth. The woman had made her opinion very clear. She didn't want to have anything to do with him. They were back to square one. Years of carefully building their friendship had vanished. He was angry with her, and yet he couldn't stop worrying about her. That's why he had chased her through the corridors, trying to knock some sense into her pretty head. She was behaving illogically, even by human standards. It reminded him of the time when they'd found the Seleya, and she'd been exposed to Trellium-D.

"The Trellium!"

Could there be a leak in one of the remaining containers of Trellium in cargo bay two?

When all this is over, I'll check the containers. he promised himself.

He couldn't think of another explanation. If it was the only way to have the logical and cool T'Pol back, he'd get rid of the Trellium-D. He couldn't hope for more right now, not after the emotions she'd displayed.

Stop being stupid! She used you, and you're asking for more.

Trip ran a shaky hand through his hair. Now he was angry with himself, for being so head over heels for a woman who took pleasure at hurting him repeatedly. Maybe they were both losing their minds. What else could you expect in the Expanse? Tense relationships and strange behavior seemed to have become as much a part of their lives as the anxiety and stress of the mission. No wonder it had led to a clash between them. Maybe they were all losing their minds.

Even if we can save Earth, we can't save us. The Vulcans were right, the Expanse destroys everyone. We won't come back untouched…if we come back at all.

He shuddered. That thought was frightening. The Captain had asked them to be explorers. It was what they were meant to be. But could they be true explorers if their souls were full of resentment and bitterness – the destructive legacy of the Expanse? They'd never be able to embrace the joy of discovery, the exhilaration of first contact. They'd never again have that childlike wonder at setting foot on an unexplored planet. The Xindi had won. Maybe Earth would survive, but at what cost? If they had lost all curiosity and the need to explore the universe, they had lost their humanity. That was a heavy price to pay.

The first strike hit the ship at this moment and sent him flying into the bulkhead. He got up a few moments later, slightly dazed. There was smoke coming from a ruptured circuit. The deck shook once again under another blast.

Trip regained his balance and ran to Engineering.

With the constant rocking of the ship and his always uncooperative hands, opening the door had been a difficult task for him, but finally he was in amongst his crew. The world, his world, could fall apart around him, but now he was where he was meant to be.

 


Engineering had turned into hell. Smoke and fire filled the place. The crew was bravely fighting a lost battle against coolant leaks and sudden fires. Trip had long ago swapped his hyperspanner for a fire extinguisher. The ship violently rocked against the Reptilians' attack. Nothing else could be done.

"Everybody out!" yelled Trip in the middle of the chaos.

When the crew was out and the door was closed and secured, Trip dropped the extinguisher. He looked at his crew and saw their tired faces. He grabbed one crewman as her legs buckled. Noticing that several people were injured, he shouted, "Help me get these people to sickbay!" Nobody moved. Now that they were out of Engineering, the reality of their situation was finally beginning to sink in. Some of his people were trembling and he could also hear sobs. He shoved the crewman he was supporting into Rostov's arms and yelled, "Get these people to sickbay! Move!"

As he watched them shuffle down the corridor toward the relative safety of sickbay, Trip knew that some of his people were missing, but he didn't have time to think about the casualties now. He had to try and reach the bridge. He hurried to the turbolift. When he realized it wasn't working, he made his way to the nearest access tube. Before he started to climb the ladder, he glanced at his hands. They were finally still…deadly still.


Comments:

Hummingbird2

Very nice!

Guest
I can't believe that no one has commented on this yet. This story is amazing in exploring the perspective of Trip; and the suspense, the metaphorical shaking hands, all of it was a great layering for a fantastic read.

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