Earth Divided

By ginamr

Rating: PG

Genres: adventure au drama family romance virtual season

Keywords:

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Star Trek: The Continuing Voyages of the Enterprise
A Virtual Season 5 Series-Revised

By Ginamr

Rating: PG-13

Disclaimer:
Only new characters and plots are mine. The original characters belong to Paramount. I receive no monetary reward for my work; my only reward is the joy of creating.

Author's Note: I know I keep changing which canon details I'm including. I've decided for certain to throw out the fact from TATV that Trip and T'Pol ended their romantic relationship after Terra Prime as well as the fact that Trip dies in TATV. So this is your warning: what you're about to read might throw some canon you've been shown by B & B out the window.

Translation: koishii means darling in Japanese

Also, North Atlantic Time (I can't find the real name, but NAT is for the Bahamas) is one hour behind Mississippi (or Central) Time and Mississippi is two hours ahead of San Francisco (Pacific Time). I'm fairly certain.

 


 

Interesting tidbit-These are ages of Trip, his siblings, and his parents at the time of this story:

Charles (Dad)--63 years of age
Catherine (Mom)--60 years of age
Katie--39 years of age
Trip--35 years of age (he just turned 35 on October 10th of 2155)
David--33 years of age
Lizzie--31 years of age (how old she would have been anyway)

 


 

Last Time on Star Trek: Enterprise...Intelcraft, Inc.

 


5.13-Earth Divided

Story One of Two

 

Summary:Trip, David, & Mae lose a close friend to the violence of the xenophobic rallies. But Starfleet is hiding something. The three investigate and bring to light secrets that expose Romulan spies as well as bringing to light over century of deceit that could break apart United Earth irreparably.

 


 

Earth-Bahamas-Little Exuma-Gunhillbay Beach Villas

December 3rd, 2155-0000 hours North Atlantic Time

 

Trip's eyes opened and he looked at the old-fashioned digital clock. It read 12 am. Out the window, the moonlight reflected off of the dark sapphire blue waves as they crawled up the beach, then slid back into the sea and crept up the beach once more. Sighing, he turned his attention toward the fully-clothed woman in his arms, stroking his fingers gently through her short, brown hair.

 

A loud snore from the sleeper sofa caught his attention and he looked toward the door, grinning. On the cushions lay Malcolm in a tangle of limbs, shifting in his sleep to get comfortable. Ever the gentleman, Malcolm had given Ael the bed in the next room while he took the couch.

 

Hearing an intake of breath near his ear, he returned his attention to T'Pol and saw that the pad of his index finger was brushing over the tip of her ear. He chuckled softly, feeling through the bond that she wasn't asleep, and repeated the gesture. Sure enough, her eyes opened and he found himself staring into their grassy green depths.

 

"I didn't mean ta wake ya," he whispered, moving his hand to gently cup her chin.

 

She brought a hand up, brushing the tips of her fingers over his cheek. "I was not asleep." She paused, gazing at him concernedly. "What is troubling you?"

 

His grin faltered slightly. "I'm just worried is all."

 

Her brows arched slightly. "Unless the Admiral discovers our whereabouts, nothing will happen until we are prepared for it to happen."

 

He shifted slightly to get closer to her and leaned his forehead against hers, sighing. "It's a little hard to accept...ya know?"

 

She gazed at him tenderly, sensing his frustration through the bond. "No, I don't. My observations concerning this matter are purely objective."

 

He paused, the expression on her face in addition to her support through the bond letting him know that she would listen if he wished to explain. "A part of me...a big part of me...didn't want Malcolm ta be right. If he was, it would mean that we'd been led around by a leash. It frustrates the hell out of me ta think that everything that we've been told for the last six months has been a lie."

 

Her hand on his cheek slid to the hand that was cupping her chin and she gripped it tightly in a gesture of support. "The issue will no doubt be resolved before too much damage is caused."

 

He grinned wryly. "And if it isn't, everythin's goin' ta hell in a hand basket." He chuckled at her perplexed expression. "We're in a whole heap of trouble," he clarified.

 

Her features softened and she inclined her head in agreement. The two simply stared at one another for several moments before Trip brushed his lips over her forehead. "Ya go back ta sleep. I'm goin' ta let Mae know that we made it alright." Trip felt her concern through the bond and smiled. "Don't worry. Nobody knows where we are. Not even my folks. I just want ta let her know that we're okay."

 

She nodded and closed her eyes, shifting in the bed to get comfortable as Trip stood and moved toward the monitor.

 


 

Earth-Bahamas-Little Exuma-Gunhillbay Beach Villas
December 3rd, 2155-0007 hours North Atlantic Time

Trip sighed, staring at the face of Mae Tucker on the monitor. Now Mae, ya know I can't tell ya where I am. I've explained that.

Mae sighed and looked downward, nodding. Yeah, Trip. I know.

He frowned, noting his sister-in-law's weary tone. What's wrong, Mae?

The red-haired woman swallowed roughly before looking up to meet his gaze, her eyes filled with tears. It's Billy.

He froze. What about Billy? Is he sick?

She shook her head and drew in a deep, shuddering breath. He's dead, Trip. The Terra Prime rallies... Her voice trailed off. Trip stared at her, shocked. It seemed like just yesterday that he and Billy Cook were kids playing out by Bartholomew Creek.  He saw her visibly straighten before she continued. The Cooks told Mama Monday mornin'. She's scarcely left her room for two days. 

Trip grimaced, remembering when his dad had told him the same thing about her right after Lizzie's death. At the time, he'd been too lost in his own grief to help his mom with hers. He'd be there for her this time, even if it took two flights and three hours to get there.

Do they know what happened? he asked.

Mae shook her head. They...the doctors...think that the fire from an energy weapon that hit him caused a heart attack.

Trip sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. But that's not what you think, is it?

Again, she shook her head. David and I think that the protestors were deliberately gassed. Of course, the only people that know that for certain are the higher-ups at Starfleet Headquarters who gave the order and the others that witnessed it are being kept quiet by Starfleet. Her expression as she spoke was one of loathing, almost hateful. 

Trip paused. I'm headin' there. Stay in the house. Ya should be safe in Moss Point until I get there. Don't tell Mama that I'm comin' yet. It could blow my cover. Just keep an eye on her.

Mae grinned. Ya act like she's goin' ta run around gettin' herself inta trouble if I let her leave the house.

He frowned. It isn't her findin' trouble that I'm worried about. It's about trouble findin' her.

 


 

Earth-Bahamas-Little Exuma-George Town Interplanetary Space Port
December 3rd, 2155-0521 hours North Atlantic Time

Trip gazed out the window, watching shuttles land and passengers climb aboard them as he sipped the strong black coffee he'd purchased from a vendor 700 meters down the walkway. The atmosphere was mostly clear with sparse cloud cover dotting the pre-dawn sky. At the next gate over, he saw people beginning to exit through the doorway, being greeted by their loved ones as they did so. He looked at the marquee and it read Arriving from: Lunar Colony One...Flight 3241.

The last passenger out the door was a young woman who stood stiffly as she walked. From this distance, Trip couldn't see much of her with the exception of her medium-length, straight brown hair. She looked in his general direction and hesitated only a moment before moving toward him.

As she got closer, her features became more defined. She looked as stern as an old matron, though Trip figured that she wasn't more than 28. Her sapphire blue eyes were intense and focused, her face taut with determination. Trip looked around and noticed that the only unoccupied seat was right beside him. He moved the bag he'd set there so that she could sit.

A stout, unshaven man slid into the seat before she could reach it, cradling a briefcase in his lap. She stiffened and glared at the man, then turning on her heel and preparing to walk away.

"Excuse me, but I think that the lady wants ta sit down," Trip drawled.

The little man harrumphed. "So do I," he said sharply.

Trip narrowed his eyes at the man and straightened in his seat. "The lady wants ta sit," he repeated.

Glaring at Trip, the little man stood abruptly and moved toward the other side of the seating area, grumbling under his breath. She slid slowly into the seat and turned toward him, smiling warmly. "Thank you. That was very kind."

He grinned. "No problem, ma'am." He extended a hand. "I'm Charles Tucker, by the way. Everybody calls me Trip." She took his hand in a surprisingly firm grip and raised an eyebrow at him. He chuckled. "And it isn't because I'm accident-prone. I'm the third Tucker man in a row ta be named Charles. Trip is short for Triple."

She laughed softly, smirking. "Ah, I see. Emily Montgomery. A pleasure to meet you."  Her blue eyes met his with frank admiration, and her grip lasted considerably longer than was strictly polite as she smiled at him invitingly.

Trip's eyebrows shot up. "If I didn't know any better MissMontgomery, I'd say ya were makin' a pass at me."

She wrinkled her nose. "Call me Emily, please. When you call me Miss Montgomery, it makes me feel like an old matron." She paused and smirked. "And if I am making a pass at you, Mister Tucker?"

His smile faltered slightly. "I hate ta disappoint ya, Emily, but I'm married."

She sighed. "Typical. All of the handsome gentlemen are always taken." She halted and her eyes widened. "Wait. Charles Tucker, the Chief Engineer of Enterprise?" Trip nodded and an excited grin crossed her features. "Of course! I should have recognized you sooner with all of the pictures that Maddie's been sending me! We've been out of contact for a short time due to some business I had to take care of off-world, but..."

He frowned, the name Maddie ringing a bell. But no matter how hard he tried he couldn't produce the face or the surname. "Maddie?"

She nodded. "Malcolm's sister. I'm their cousin." She looked around, her brows furrowing and he wondered who she was looking for. "Where is Malcolm anyway?" she asked.

He hesitated. "I'm not supposed ta say."

Her eyes widened and a look of concern crossed her features. "Is he in some sort of trouble?"

Sighing, he ran his hands through his hair. "He's...safe." He put a finger to her lips to halt her next question before it could even come out of her mouth. "Look, the less ya know, the better."

Again, she nodded, worrying her lower lip between her teeth. "Well, he's safe. That's all that matters, I suppose."

The two sat in silence for a moment before a deep, masculine voice echoed over the loud speaker. "We will now beginning boarding for Flight 2945 to Jackson, Mississippi. Please wait until your row is called and line up single file in front of the door. Also, have a form of photo identification ready with your ticket." Trip turned in the direction of the voice, knowing that since he was toward the back of the transport, he would be one of the first to board.

"Now boarding rows 10 through 15," the voice called.

Trip stood and grabbed his bag. Looking over he saw her do the same and he grinned. "If I didn't know any better, I'd say ya planned this."

Her cheeks flushed slightly as she tried to lift her bag. The flush deepened when he raised his eyebrows. "I barely managed to carry it off the shuttle the last time."

He shook his head, grinning, and slid the strap of his bag onto his shoulder before reaching down to lift hers with very little effort. Giving her a cheeky grin, he turned and walked toward the oddly short line. Once he reached the front, he handed the tall, dark-haired man his ticket and his Starfleet identification card.

The steward checked his ticket and identification before handing both back to him. He frowned when he noticed Trip had two bags with him. "I'm sorry, sir, but we only allow one carry-on bag per passenger."

"This other one is the lady's," he countered, indicating Emily beside him.

She smiled and nodded. "This gentleman was kind enough to help me carry it."

The steward paused for a moment and then nodded, taking her ticket and identification. He checked them over just as he had done with Trip's before handing them back to her. "You folks have a lovely flight," he added with a smile.

Trip extended his free hand, indicating for her to go first. She grinned broadly, inclining her head in thanks as she walked ahead of him. He followed after her, chuckling softly to himself.  

 


 

Earth-Bahamas-Little Exuma-Gunhillbay Beach Villas
December 3rd, 2155-0701 hours North Atlantic Time

Noting the absence of Trip's soft breathing next to her, T'Pol's eyes opened and she found the mattress beside her empty. She sat up, searching the room for him. The night bag that he'd set beside the bed two evenings ago was gone and his stack of data pads was missing from the table. "Lieutenant Reed," she said sharply. 

Reed came instantly awake, startled, and nearly fell off of the sleeper sofa as he tried frantically to sit up. "'S going on?" His gaze moved instantly to T'Pol, who was now extricating herself from the bed covers. "What is it?"

"Commander Tucker's belongings are absent," she replied.

 


 

Earth-Bahamas-Little Exuma-Gunhillbay Beach Villas
December 3rd, 2155-0721 hours North Atlantic Time

T'Pol stared out the window deep in thought as Reed spoke to Wilkes on the monitor. Trip's sudden disappearance made her wonder where he had gone. It was logical to assume that since his belongings were missing that he'd left of his own will. She hadn't even heard him packing.

Thank you, Wilkes. We should be able to find him from here, she heard Reed say and turned toward him just as the screen darkened.

She arched her eyebrows. "Am I to assume that you have discovered Commander Tucker's destination?"

Reed nodded, grimacing. "It seems that he caught a flight to Jackson, Mississippi at 0715 hours this morning."

"Why would he go there?" Ael asked as she emerged from the bathroom with a towel wrapped around her to preserve her modesty and another towel binding her hair.

T'Pol's eyebrows arched higher as she noted Reed's stunned reaction to this display. Before Ael could take another step, Reed turned away and held out a white bathrobe, clearing his throat. The young woman smirked and took the robe, slipping it over the towel and tying the ends together.

Once again T'Pol was drawn to the strange, decorative body art on the woman's arm. She recalled from her reading a custom that had been very common among humans during the 20th and 21st centuries, the custom of decorating their bodies with art that they believed symbolized them. Ael's body art was curious, as she'd never seen anything like it on Earth.

"As I was saying..." Ael began. "Why would he go there?"

Reed frowned. "He does have family in Moss Point, I believe." T'Pol inclined her head in confirmation. "Maybe his mother or father is ill."

T'Pol paused, her expression thoughtful. "Perhaps. However, they both seemed quite well upon my visit to their home 93 days ago." 

Reed paused and shook his head. "Given the circumstances, his motivation isn't as important as the fact that he could be in danger. If Greene finds him..."

"Maybe that's why he went," Ael said behind them.

T'Pol turned to find the woman staring at the monitor, which was now tuned to the news. She hadn't even realized that the monitor had been reactivated.

"Moss Point was mentioned a moment ago," Ael added.

A familiar name on the screen caught T'Pol's eye and she strode forward, rewinding the newscast before freezing it. "William Cook," she offered. A blonde-haired young man with a round, boyish face and deep brown eyes stared back at them from the upper right corner of the screen. The other two frowned. "One of Commander Tucker's childhood companions. He mentioned him in relation to his brother's wife, Mae. This news story lists him as a fatality of the Terra Prime protests."

Reed grimaced, pinching the bridge of his nose and sighing. "Bloody hell," he muttered. A tense silence hung in the air between them before Reed entered a command that pulled up the flight schedule for the George Town Interplanetary Spaceport, the nearest airport. He scanned the schedule, at last finding a flight to Jackson, Mississippi. "There's another flight to Jackson in an hour and a half."

Ael frowned. "Well, we can't show up looking like this. If Commander Tucker's trip to Mississippi caught Greene's attention, he might have his guards waiting for us. We need disguises."

Reed nodded in agreement. "We'll pick something up at that clothing store on the way."

Ael changed and the three hurriedly packed their belongings, making certain that they didn't leave behind anything important before heading down the stairs toward the lobby.

 


 

Earth-Moss Point, Mississippi-Home of Charles and Catherine Tucker-Kitchen
December 3rd, 2155-1315 hours Central Time

Trip held the frying pan over the heat of the stove with one hand while reaching into the drawer beside him, looking for a spatula.

"Mae, where are the spatulas?" he called, grunting in frustration as he noted the catfish in the pan was beginning to turn black.

A moment later, he gave up and shoved the drawer closed, removing the now-burning catfish from the fire. Mae arrived in the kitchen, covering her mouth just as Trip was turning off the burner. Trip glared at her, knowing that she was laughing at him. "I work aboard a starship. I rarely have ta cook for myself," he said defensively.

Mae laughed, shaking her head, and moved toward the stove. "Now will ya let me help ya?"

Trip rolled his eyes and sighed. "How does a turkey sandwich sound?"

Mae snorted, shaking her head. "Trip, you're as stubborn as a mule when it comes ta askin' for help." She reached for the pan of catfish, examining it. "This looks salvageable. Just scrap off the burned part and put a lot of the sauce on it."

Charles Tucker emerged through the front door and paused before laughing. "Ya tryin' ta make mama's catfish again, son?" the older man goaded. "I haven't been able ta figure out myself how she makes that dish taste like the best thing on God's green earth."

Trip chuckled. "That's because, pop, ya don't have a cookin' bone in your body."

Charles snorted. "And you do? I'll tell ya, son, that just about everyone cooks better than you."

As he used a fork to slide the catfish onto the plate, he looked over at his father with an eyebrow arched. "Now ya won't be sayin' that once ya've tried this. It can't be all bad."

Charles' expression grew somber and he looked between Trip and Mae. "How's your mama doin'?"

The smile slipped from Trip's face and he sighed. "She came down ta welcome me home, but she hasn't been down since. Mae says she's been in her room all morning." He paused staring at the now-full plates, his gaze flitting to the tray sitting near the sink. "I'm goin' ta take this up ta her. Y'all go ahead. I'll be down in a little while."

Without waiting for a reply from the other two, Trip placed one of the plates and a glass of lemonade on the tray before heading upstairs to Catherine's room.

 


 

Earth-Moss Point, Mississippi-Home of Charles & Catherine Tucker-Charles & Catherine's Room
December 3rd, 2155-1322 hours Central Time

Trip paused in the doorway and looked into the room to find Catherine sleeping. He slipped inside and quietly set the tray on the desk, covering the food with the extra plate he'd brought up. He then moved to exit the room, wincing when his foot came into contact with the solid wood of the armoire, rattling the half-open doors. She didn't wake and he sighed in relief, edging around the armoire and exiting the room.

"She's been asleep for fifteen minutes at least," whispered a soft, feminine voice behind him.

He turned to find Emily behind him and he smiled weakly. "Thanks for talkin' ta her. She needed that. Talkin' about other things always helps her get her mind off of things."

Emily nodded, her lips tilting upward slightly. "My pleasure. Your mother really is a darling." She paused. "And it's the least I can do in return for her letting me stay with you all until I can get my hotel reservations straightened out."

"I made catfish," he said jerking his head to where the tray sat on the desk. "There's more downstairs."

She arched a brow, smiling. "You cook?"

He rubbed the back of his neck, smiling sheepishly. "Sorta."

"What does 'sorta' equate to?" she asked.

He paused to consider her question. "If ya don't mind it bein' a little burnt," he replied at last.

Her eyes sparkled with humor. "Well, sort-of-burnt catfish sounds a great deal better than my mother's sort-of-burnt liver casserole. Do you think your father and sister-in-law will leave any for us?"

Trip chuckled. "We'd better get downstairs quick. Pop seemed really hungry..."

He extended a hand, indicating for Emily to precede him. Instead, she grabbed his arm and dragged him along next to her.  As they walked, he arched his eyebrows at her.

"A lady can only take so much," she offered by way of an explanation. Trip chuckled as he walked beside her toward the kitchen.

 


 

Earth-Moss Point, Mississippi-Home of Charles and Catherine Tucker-Front Porch
December 3rd, 2155-1511 hours Central Time

He sat on the swing of the front porch sipping the freshly-brewed coffee as he listened to the sounds of the evening wind rustling the trees. The world was still, with not a critter in sight, one of the signs of a pending rainstorm. He looked up at the cloudy sky, the sound of distant thunder reaching his ears.

A ring of laughter echoed from the kitchen and he turned his head, smiling when he saw Emily sitting at the table with Charles and Mae.  They'd started a Pinochle game an hour ago. He chuckled softly to himself when he saw Emily jumping up and down in her seat with an excited expression on her face.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a black 2152 Greville pulling into the drive and he turned toward it, frowning. The Greville was a luxury hovercar. Surely no one from around here owned one. He set the iced tea down on the table and descended the steps from the porch. As he approached the front gate, the hovercar pulled to a stop and the ignition was turned off.

His eyes widened slightly when the passenger door opened and a woman stepped out. With her long, blond hair and form-fitting blouse and jeans, he scarcely recognized her as T'Pol. He felt her relief through the bond as her gaze locked with his and he grinned sheepishly when he realized how much he'd worried her by taking off like that.

"What are y'all doin' here?" he asked innocently.

This earned him a cold glare from Reed as the other man stepped out of the vehicle. "Protecting your sorry arse. It was bloody idiotic for you to leave off like that without telling someone where you were going. What if Greene had had his guards waiting for you at the airport?"

Trip sighed. "If I'd told ya where I was goin', would ya have let me go?"

Reed rolled his eyes. "Of course not. I..." He trailed off when he saw the 'exactly' look on Trip's face.

Trip heard footsteps behind him and turned to see Emily rushing up the drive. Before any of them could say a word, she was hugging Reed tightly, sighing.

"Thank goodness you're all right," she began. "Trip made it sound like you had hit men after you."

Reed pulled back and gripped her arms, looking at her stunned. "Emily, what are you doing here?"

At T'Pol's arched eyebrow, Reed cleared his throat. "Commander, my cousin, Emily Montgomery. Emily, I'd like you to meet my colleague from Enterprise, Commander T'Pol."

Emily extended a hand, smiling. "A pleasure."

Her eyebrow shot up even more and she took the woman's hand before turning to Trip, who smiled unflinchingly at her.

Emily paused. "As to what I'm doing here, I bumped into Trip at the George Town Interplanetary Spaceport on the way to Jackson for business. Unfortunately, the hotel lost my reservation and Mrs. Tucker was kind enough to offer me one of the guest rooms."

Trip heard a soft thud and followed Reed toward the back of the vehicle only to discover Ael sprawled on the ground. She exhaled a puff of breath, attempting to blow the hair away from her eyes. She grunted in frustration as she tried to lift the heavy bags. Trip stood unmoving, his expression hard, as Reed moved to help her up. He was surprised that the woman was still with the other two. He would have thought she'd be on a flight to Vulcan by now.

Moments later, they were walking up to the house with three sets of baggage. Trip walked behind the others, trying to come to terms with the discovery that the woman who had turned them over was still with them and was walking awfully close to Reed.

"Who is she?" Emily asked from his side.

Trip stared straight ahead, his features hard. "Ael," he said sharply.

Emily frowned. "Ael?"

Trip nodded. "I'm startin' ta wonder just what kind of game she's playin'."

A confused expression crossed her features. "How do you mean?"

He sighed. "I think she might be tryin' ta get on his good side."

She smirked. "Oh, yes. I noticed that he seems to quite like her."

Trip snorted. "Yeah, I'll bet," he muttered. "I never thought I'd see the day where Malcolm lost all sense over a pretty face."

"It wouldn't be the first time," she added with a sigh. At Trip's confused expression, she continued. "Vanessa Hillford, about four and a half years ago now. She was always fluttering her lashes at him. At the time, she was dating Percival Williams, one of Malcolm's rivals for the posting aboard Enterprise and was using Malcolm to make Percival jealous. Of course, poor Malcolm didn't know that." She sighed sadly. "He pulled together all of the money from his internship at the Academy to buy her this beautiful six karat diamond pendant. He was going to give it to her at dinner that night." A grimace contorted her features. "He waited and waited and waited. An hour after when she was supposed to meet him, she called to tell him that she was carrying Percival's baby and that she'd be marrying him in two months." 

Trip's brow furrowed for a moment before his eyes widened in realization. "The day Malcolm boarded Enterprise."

Emily nodded, smiling weakly, and he felt a sharp pang of sympathy for the Armory officer. "I didn't know," he said, not knowing how else to respond to such a heart-breaking story.

She sighed. "I only know because I found him sulking beneath the old willow in the backyard the next day with the necklace in his hand."

Trip's gaze slid to Reed, who seemed to be trying to put some distance between himself and the infatuated young woman. Trip hadn't even considered that Reed had been so emotionally distant upon coming aboard because he'd so recently had his heart broken. The Malcolm Reed that Emily had just described didn't fit with the man he'd come to know. He supposed that the reason that Reed hadn't told him was that it was still too painful to talk about. Even now, nearly two years after the attacks, he couldn't talk about Lizzie without tearing up.  As they reached the back door, he held it open, allowing Emily to step inside before following her inside. 

 


 

Earth-San Francisco, California-Starfleet Headquarters-Greene's Office
December 3rd, 2155-1512 hours Pacific Time

Greene glared at the dark-haired, rat-faced man on the screen. "You mean to tell me that you still haven't found them?" Greene said, his tone angry.

The ugly little man looked down and shook his head, grimacing. "No, sir. We haven't."

Greene reached for the glass that had once contained the disgusting Earth scotch and threw it hard at the wall, the glass splintering into thousands of tiny shards. "You incompetent snake! How difficult can it be to find two Starfleet officers and a Vulcan?"

"Harder than we thought, apparently," the man muttered.

Greene's gaze snapped back toward the monitor. "What was that, Centurion?" he hissed.

The man snapped to attention, meeting Greene's gaze. "We'll keep looking, sir."

"Good," Greene retorted, his eyes narrowing. "You know the consequences should you not find them."

A heavy fist came down on the controls for the monitor, ending the communiqué, and Greene stood, pacing. If he didn't find them soon, they would ruin everything. He turned back toward the now-black screen and glared at it before sliding back into the chair. It was time for more desperate measures.

 


 

Earth-Moss Point, Mississippi-Home of Charles and Catherine Tucker-First Guest Room
December 3rd, 2155-1751 hours Central Time

Reed lay back on the bed, staring at the ceiling as he attempted to plan their next move. But Hoshi's face continued to drift in front of his mind's eye and he found himself incapable of pushing the thoughts of her aside. He sighed, frustrated at himself for his lack of focus. His attention had been split and it was starting to interfere with his work.

He stood and begun pacing, hoping that the movement would calm his restless mind. He was concerned about her. He hadn't talked to her for several days, not since his final day aboard the Sanctuary.

Is she all right? he wondered. Did Enterprise make it back all right?

Nearly three weeks ago before he'd left, she'd given him the information on where she would be staying when she returned. Staring down at the information on that data pad, he wondered if she had since decided to stay somewhere else. She should have stayed with her parents. It was the most sensible thing to do.

Sighing, he set the pad beside the monitor and slid into the chair. He would try the hotel first, and then her parents should he need to. Within a few moments, he was speaking to the manager of the hotel where she had said she'd be.

To his surprise, they had a Hoshi Sato in room 233 who had been expecting his communiqué and said that they would transfer the call to her right away in addition to notifying her of his communiqué. The man didn't ask any other questions and seemed very cooperative.

Reed smirked, knowing that Hoshi must have either paid him very handsomely to keep this quiet and handle it without fuss or that she'd cursed him out thoroughly in several languages and had somehow managed to scare him into accepting the call with no questions asked. He leaned toward the former, knowing that she could be very convincing with the right persuasion.

Within moments, her face appeared on the screen, an excited smile on her face. Well, it took you long enough.

He chuckled. It's difficult to get a communiqué out when you're in hiding.

She frowned, her brow furrowing in concern. Why? What happened? Did Greene find you out?

He grinned wryly. Yes, as a matter of fact, he did. Unfortunately, I can't tell you where I am. It's too dangerous. If Greene found out that you knew... He shuddered. So, how was the trip home?

She sighed. A bit bumpy without Trip there to smooth out the engine's quirks, but Anna kept it pretty well under control. A teasing smile crossed her lips. We haven't seen each other for three weeks and you ask me about work?

Not exactly work...he began.

She smiled and sighed. I've missed you, she said softly.

His gaze locked with her, staring deeply into her bottomless brown eyes. A genuine smile formed on his lips and he found himself wishing that he could hold her. They'd been together a little over three weeks and he already found it difficult to focus when they were apart. He reached out a hand as if to cup her cheek, his grey eyes alight with affection. I've missed you, too, love. He grinned. This will all be over soon. I promise. And then it will be just the two of us.

She sighed, smiling wistfully. Suddenly, she looked away and he heard a feminine voice shouting in the background. Rolling her eyes, she turned back toward the screen. That'll be Em and Anna. They talked me into going with them to the 602 Club for a girl's night.

Good, he said, smiling. You should go out more often. He paused, leering at her. But do watch out for the alien men, Ensign. They can be rather sneaky.

She laughed. You would know, Lieutenant, she teased.

His eyebrows shot up. Why you cheeky little... he began.

A smirk crossed her lips. Face it. You like them cheeky, she retorted. His expression softened, becoming tender. She smiled bashfully in return. Goodnight, koishii. Be careful, she said softly.

He nodded, beaming. I will. Goodnight and have fun, love.

The screen darkened and he sighed, leaning back in the chair. From down the hall, he heard the call for dinner and stood, straightening his shirt and jacket before proceeding toward the kitchen.

 


 

Earth-Moss Point, Mississippi-Home of Charles and Catherine Tucker-Back Porch
December 3rd, 2155-2012 hours Central Time

Emily looked around to be sure that no one was watching her before she slid into the chair. Checking over her shoulder every now and then, she entered the commands into the portable monitor and within moments, Harris's face appeared on the screen.

Is he safe? Harris asked.

She nodded. Yes, but Malcolm and the others followed him.

A grimace crossed Harris's features. That could complicate things. Does he know you're with Section 31?

Sighing, she shook her head. I don't think he suspects. She paused, her brow furrowing. I hate lying to him, sir. Don't you think it would be better for him to know? It couldn't cause any harm.

Harris shook his head. Not yet. I don't want him to know I'm having him looked after. He likes to take care of himself.

She grinned wryly. Yes, sir. More than you know.

Keep an eye on him, Harris said, pointing a finger at her. Don't let him get into trouble.

Yes, sir, she replied with a nod and the screen was black again.

She slipped the device into her pocket just as a voice called out behind her. Turning abruptly, she found Reed standing there. The two stared at each other for the longest time before Reed enveloped her in a tight hug.

"In case I didn't say so earlier, it's good to see you," he whispered.

She smiled. "It's good to see you, too, Malcolm."

He pulled back and slid into the chair next to her, leaning his arms on his knees with his hands clasped together in his lap. "So...how are you?"

She waved a hand glibly. "Same old, same old." She paused, smirking. "What's the deal with the brunette...Ael, I believe Trip said her name was?"

A frown crossed his lips and his brows drew together. "What did he say to you?"

Her eyebrows arched and she shook her head. "Don't change the subject. Are you attracted to her?"

Reed gaped at her. "Well, I...yes, she's attractive, but..." he trailed off.

Her brows arched higher. "But?"

He flushed. "I'm...taken."

Emily straightened in her seat at this and her smirk grew.  "Who is it?"

Reed turned away, the flush deepening as he shifted in his seat. "I shouldn't have even..."

"Who?" Emily demanded. She fought back a string of giggles as she noted the adoring expression that suddenly crossed his features. They must be serious, she thought. "Neither one of us are leaving this porch until you tell me all about this lady friend of yours. You're obviously very enamored with her," she teased.

He cleared his throat, still not quite meeting her gaze. "Her name is Hoshi. She serves aboard Enterprise with me," he replied at last.

Emily laughed. "Fraternizing? That's not like you, duckling."

A grimace crossed his features from his childhood nickname. He'd earned it from all of the times she'd tried to teach him to swim, every one unsuccessful.

"It's not..." he began, before trailing off again. They sat in silence for several moments before he met her gaze. He smiled weakly. "Damn the regulations. She's worth breaking the bloody rules."

A soft smile crossed her lips and she nodded, pausing a moment. "She must be very special."

He nodded. "I think she is, yes." A wistful smile spread over his lips. "She's absolutely brilliant."

"So...when do I get to meet her?" Emily asked.

Reed paused. "I was going to bring her by around Christmas."

Emily's eyebrows shot up. "To Southampton?"

He nodded. "Her parents are expecting to meet Mother and Father soon. I thought it might be best if they found out before Mr. and Mrs. Sato arrived."

She stared at him, mouth slightly agape. "You proposed to her, didn't you?"

He looked up, startled. "Well, I..."

Emily laughed. "Are you SERIOUS? How long have you been together?"

Reed flushed. "Four weeks," he mumbled. He held up a hand to cut her off. "I only proposed because if I hadn't, her parents would have married her off to someone else. We're not getting married right away. I've already told her that if she ever wants to slow things down, that I'm all right with it."

She shook her head, still staring at him. "So you're engaged to a woman you've been with for about four weeks..." She paused. "Have you even told her that you love her yet?"

Reed looked at his hands. "Not yet."

"My, duckling, you do work fast," she teased.

Sighing, he buried his face in his hands. Emily was taking the news rather well. He imagined that his parents wouldn't be nearly so pleased.

His father would want him to marry Patrick McKinley's daughter from Bath. Stuart had been promising McKinley since Malcolm had been old enough to walk that the two would marry when he'd reached a high point in his career.

His mother would just stand submissively by while Stuart bellowed about family honor. As if it wasn't going to be horrid enough, his whole family would be there to hear his father degrade him. If Hoshi could survive Christmas with his family, then she was most definitely the woman he'd been waiting all of his life for.

"Bloody hell," he muttered. "This is going to be horrific."

Emily squeezed his shoulder reassuringly and Reed looked up to find her smiling at him. "No, it won't. Because I'll be there, too."

A weak smile crossed his lips and he nodded. "Thank you."

She laughed. "No trouble at all, duckling. If I can put Quincy in his place for nearly drowning you, surely I can stand up to Uncle Stuart."

Reed grinned wryly. "You're braver than I am."

Sighing, she stood. "Let's go in, shall we? It's getting rather chilly."

The two then stood and walked toward the back porch door, entering the Tucker home quietly so as not to disturb the others.

 


 

Earth-San Francisco, California-602 Club
December 4th, 2155-0002 hours Pacific Time

The music boomed loudly in the background as Em Gomez, Anna Hess, and Hoshi sat at a table in the far corner of the sweltering room talking.

"That's the rock he gave you when the two of you visited you parents?" Em shouted over the music, a stunned expression on her face as she stared at the six karat diamond on Hoshi's left ring finger.

Hoshi flushed, smiling sheepishly. "Yes. He thought it would impress my father."

"So..." Anna began, smirking. "when's the wedding?"

The flush in Hoshi's cheeks deepened. "Anna! We haven't even said 'I love you'!"

Em's eyebrows shot up. "And why not? Nick and I said it within a week."

Anna elbowed her giggling. "Yes, but the two of you jumped each other's bones the moment you were alone."

In revenge, Em grabbed a handful of peanut shells and threw them into Anna's hair. Still giggling, Anna slapped at her hands, shoving her away. As the two were squabbling, a waiter came up behind Hoshi with a Long Island iced tea and she took it, offering a gentle smile. Sensing that he was about to ask her on a date, she held up her left hand, smiling apologetically. He frowned and strode away, looking disappointed.

Em sighed in exasperation. "At least dance with them," she said.

Hoshi shrugged, smiling sheepishly. "I don't really want to." Em and Anna looked at one another, grinning, and Hoshi frowned. "What?"

The two women burst out into laughter. "You, my dear, are most definitely in love," Em taunted.

"Em!" Hoshi chastised.

Anna smirked. "You talk about him ALL the time," she added.

"I do?" Hoshi asked shyly.

Em nodded, wrinkling her nose. "I just can't imagine Malcolm Reed...my boss...as being romantic. Frankly, it's making me nauseous to even think about it."

"Well, he IS hot," Anna conceded with a smirk.

Em grimaced in disgust. "Anna Elizabeth Hess!"

Anna shrugged. "I can say it. It's true."

"You said the same thing about Commander Tucker, if I recall," Em said, eyebrows raised high.

Anna shook her head. "I said he was GORGEOUS. There's a difference."

Hoshi grinned impishly. "I saw him shirtless once. If we hadn't been in decon with the Captain and Malcolm..." She trailed off, letting the other two finish the thought on their own.

Anna giggled madly and raised her glass. "To our fiancés. Long may they..."

"Be virile," Em finished with a grin.

"Says the pregnant Lieutenant," Hoshi teased.

Em poked her tongue out. "Oh, you soon will be, too, Hoshi Sato."

Anna smirked. "I agree. A man like that just CAN'T be sterile."

Hoshi's cheeks colored. "Back off, Anna, before I tell your boss what you REALLY think of him," Hoshi said, waggling her eyebrows suggestively.

A pink flush spread to Anna's cheeks as the other two giggled madly. "You dare and I'll tell your darling Malcolm about your glimpse of Trip."

Hoshi paused. "You keep my secret, I'll keep yours."

Anna nodded. "Deal."

"So..." Em began. "Who's up for another round of dancing?"

 


 

Earth-Moss Point, Mississippi-Home of Charles and Catherine Tucker--Second Guest Room
December 4th, 2155-0752 hours Central Time

Trip smiled and moved closer to T'Pol, wrapping his arms about her waist so that they were spooned together with her back against his front. She'd slipped into his bed a few hours before, saying that it would give them both a better nights' sleep.

He wondered if she'd caught glimpses of his nightmares through the bond and then used the bond itself as an excuse to comfort him. Regardless, he found himself unable to sleep as he stared down at her calm features. She was as beautiful in sleep as she was awake.

Reaching out a hand, he brushed a strand of hair out of her face and brushed his lips gently against her cheek. He felt her shiver and grinned, kissing her nearly bare shoulder. Her eyes opened a moment later and she turned toward him, her gaze locking with his.

"Can you not sleep?" she asked, her brows drawn together in concern.

"Don't want to," he said softly, brushing his lips against hers. "Don't want to miss a minute of this...of you."

Her features relaxed and she returned the caress, sucking his lower lip gently between hers. He smiled, pulling back to look into her eyes as he ran his fingers through her hair.

"Breakfast," a feminine voice shouted from the kitchen.

Trip sighed and buried his face in T'Pol's neck, remaining like that for several moments before standing and slipping on his gray sweatpants and navy blue shirt.

"Ya go ahead. I'll be there in a few minutes. We should try ta be discreet around mama. Besides..." he said, running a flat hand over his stubbled cheeks. "I need ta shave."

T'Pol inclined her head and slid from the bed, slipping her robe on as Trip made his way down the hall toward the bathroom. She waited another few moments before exiting the room as well and headed toward the kitchen.

 


 

Earth-Moss Point, Mississippi-Home of Charles and Catherine Tucker-Kitchen
December 4th, 2155-0752 hours Central Time

As she approached, she heard three voices that she didn't recognize. One of the voices was female, well-spoken and elegant. The second was male, rather deep and with an accent very similar to Lieutenant Reed's. The third voice was child-like, male, and very excited if his enthusiastic greetings were any indication.

She arched an eyebrow, finding herself overtaken by curiosity. As she stepped into the kitchen, she discovered the owner of the feminine voice. A tall, slender female with auburn hair piled atop her head and deep blue eyes stood perfectly erect in a sleeveless, silk cream-colored blouse and black skirt beside an equally tall, trim male with dark russet hair and emerald green eyes near the counter.  The male wore an expensive-looking charcoal grey suit paired with a subdued and tasteful tie, and didn't appear particularly pleased, his gaze narrowing. She wasn't certain if it was her entrance that had caused this reaction or Charles, who was hugging a young boy with honey blond hair dressed in a suit much like his father's. The young boy looked in her direction and grinned excitedly.  

"Grandpa, a Vulcan!" the boy shouted excitedly, pointing at T'Pol.

Charles glanced up and offered her a smile of greeting before turning back to the boy somewhat sternly. "Didn't your mama and daddy ever tell ya it's not polite ta point?"

The boy looked at his hands. "Sorry, Grandpa," he mumbled.

Charles grinned. "It's all right, boy. Just remember that."

The boy nodded vigorously and turned toward T'Pol. "I'm James. It's a pleasure to meet you, madam," James said, extending a hand.

She looked at the boy curiously for a moment before gripping his hand firmly. Just as she was about to introduce herself, Trip entered the kitchen behind her and she felt his anger through the bond. Straightening immediately and releasing the boy's hand, she gave Trip a puzzled glance and followed his eyes to the auburn-haired woman, whose features were tight with repressed anger.

Trip's eyes shifted to the man next to her, nodding in acknowledgement of his presence. The man's features softened and a small smile crossed his lips as he nodded in return.

Again, Trip stared at the auburn-haired woman, standing stiffly. "Katie," Trip drawled, fighting to keep his temper under control.

She let out a sniff of indignation, her eyes now locked with his. "It's Katelyn." Her voice dripped with contempt as she spoke.

The two stared at each other for the longest time, tension filling the room with each passing moment. "Good of ya ta finally come home. I didn't think ya'd be back."

She arched a brow mockingly. "It would be childish to let a little disagreement keep me away."

Trip snorted. "Ya sure as hell didn't come back when Lizzie died. Why are ya here now?"

T'Pol noted a flicker of hurt in the young woman's eyes before she stiffened. "I have just as much right to be here as you do, little brother," she said acidly. "I'm here for mother. I don't care what you think of me being here. I have every right to speak with her."

His eyebrows shot up. "The hell ya are. Besides, the last thing mama needs right now is ta see you. Ya upset her enough the last time you were here."

"Trip," Charles warned.

T'Pol saw Trip glance at his father and stare hard at him before closing his mouth, his lips tightening. Without another word, he stormed from the kitchen, slamming the door hard behind him. She looked toward the female called Katie to see a smug grin on the other woman's face. She arched her eyebrows at the woman, her gaze admonishing, before following Trip out onto the back porch.

 


 

Earth-Moss Point, Mississippi-Home of Charles and Catherine Tucker-Back Porch
December 4th, 2155-0752 hours Central Time

When at last she found him, he was running his hands through his hair with his gaze locked on his feet. He was still agitated, though not as severely as he had been in his sister's presence.

"You never told me you had an older sibling," T'Pol offered, breaking the silence between them.

Trip grinned wryly, shaking his head. "Can ya blame me? She's a spoilt brat."

She arched an eyebrow. "Did you not say something similar about your brother, David?"

He sighed. "This is different, T'Pol. Ya heard her in there. She's ashamed of us."

Hesitating, her brows furrowed. "That was not my impression." Trip gaped at her. "She was upset by much of what you said."

Trip snorted. "Of course she was. She knows its true, that's why. She hates bein' told that she's wrong. Always has."

"You are much the same way." She held up a hand to halt his protests. "You are obstinate and do not like being corrected."

He shook his head. "T'Pol, she said it. Her exact words: I'm ashamed ta have Tucker blood in my veins and it'll be a cold day in Hell before I ever come back here."

T'Pol paused, puzzled. The young woman whose eyes she'd looked into mere moments before didn't fit with the woman Trip was describing. "Is it not possible that the circumstances now are different than they were that day?"

"She won't ever change, T'Pol," he replied bitterly. "As much as I want her ta, she won't."

Her eyebrows arched. "You still care for her."

He scrubbed his face with his hands. "Of course I do. She's my sister. Just because I'm mad at her that doesn't mean I wouldn't feel terrible if somethin' happened ta her. Lizzie got on my nerves sometimes, but it still nearly killed me ta lose her." He smiled weakly. "That's what family's all about, ya know? Unconditional love. Your parents and your siblings love ya no matter how nuts ya make them."

She felt a small smile threatening to spill over her lips and strode toward him, placing a comforting hand on his shoulder. When he looked up, she saw a couple of small tear drops in the corners of his eyes. She lifted both hands to his cheeks and mimicked a gesture he had once demonstrated on her, brushing the droplets away with her thumbs. His smile widened and he leaned forward, brushing his lips against hers.

"What occurred that you are so resentful of her?" T'Pol asked, her brow furrowed.

The smile slipped from Trip's features and he cleared his throat. "You're sure ya want ta hear this?"

She nodded. "Perhaps it will be of assistance to speak to someone about your grief. I'm willing to listen if you wish to speak of it to me."

He hesitated. "Katie and Mama used ta fight all the time because Mama wouldn't buy her this wool jacket or that designer purse. She hated that we didn't have the money ta spend on expensive things and blamed Pop for it. She always used ta shout about him bein' too lazy ta get a real job." He shook his head. "Pop and Mama made a damn decent livin' with that ol' general store."

A wistful smile crossed his lips. "I remember how every summer Mama would take us out ta the mango groves in the field behind the house and we'd spend all day pickin' them for her famous mango marmalade. I remember one summer when I was 13 that I threw a mango at the tree Lizzie was standin' next ta and it exploded. It got into her hair and all over her dress."

He chuckled. "She chased me all the way back ta the house and gave me a good swat in the back of the head. That and she didn't talk ta me for a couple of days afterwards. But when I said I was sorry, she forgave me just like that. I got a hug so damn tight, she nearly popped my eyeballs out of my head."

The wistful smile slid from his features as he continued. "Well, one day around the time Katie turned 26, she and Mama got into a real big fight. I think I was about 22 at the time and I was back from the Academy visitin' with my family before I took my first postin' with the Warp Five team. The next mornin', I walked into the kitchen and found Mama cryin'. When I asked what was wrong, she said Katie had taken off with all the money she'd earned at the Barker & Ridgewell Law Offices in Miami. Katie had left a note sayin' that she was leavin', but didn't say where she was goin'."

"About two months before Enterprise was supposed ta launch, Mama planned a family get-together ta celebrate me gettin' the Chief Engineer position. Katie showed up with her husband, John Alcott, the man who was standin' in the kitchen next ta her and their son, James, who ya met in there, too. Mama wasn't too pleased with her, but she didn't say anything because she was just happy ta meet her grandson."

He sighed. "Things went all right for most of the party. Hell, I was gettin' along good with John. He was talkin' about the old 2145 Hansel convertible he'd fixed up ta give ta James when he was old enough to drive. We were laughin' about somethin' when I heard Mama in the house shoutin'. I listened for a minute and heard Katie shoutin', too, about how Mama had married a country hick. She also crassly added how Mama should have married Grady Barnes like granddad had wanted her to. Barnes was a rich sonavagun and had offered for Mama about the same time that Pop did."

"I saw red when I heard her callin' Pop a hick and charged in. Just as I came in, Mama slapped Katie right across the face. That was the first time I ever saw Mama lay a hand ta her, though I figured that she'd deserved it plenty of times before. I hadn't realized John was right behind me, but when I saw that sonavabitch moving toward Mama like he meant business, I grabbed his arm and turned him around. Next thing I know, my knuckles were throbbin' and covered in blood."

He shook his head. "It took Dave, Pop, and Uncle Harry ta get us off of each other. I came away from it all with a swollen lip and a black eye, but John wasn't so lucky. They ended up goin' ta the hospital after Katie did her dramatic bit. She about pulled her kid's arm from his socket draggin' him away," Trip concluded.

T'Pol arched an eyebrow. "How were you aware of her husband's injuries?" she asked, curious.

"He contacted me a week later and told me," Trip replied, smiling slightly. "He told he was sorry and that he felt stupid for actin' the way he did. He also said he'd had a lot of fun at the party and wished me luck with my postin' on Enterprise."

Her brow furrowed. "You and your sister have not spoken since the incident?"

Trip nodded. He was about to say something else when a loud scream of rage exploded from the kitchen. The door flew open and James stumbled out, nearly tripping over his shoelaces. His shoulders were slumped and he had a scowl on his face.

"Hey, what's goin' on in there?" Trip asked.

 "Mother hit Grandmother, Grandmother struck Mother, Father tried to pull Mother away, but she punched him, and when Uncle David tried to restrain Mother, she smacked him as well," the young boy droned, sounding rather agitated. 

"Damn," Trip muttered. "It sounds like a brawl in there." He sighed and turned to T'Pol. "Keep an eye on James while I see if I can break it up."

The boy glared at his uncle's retreating back and rolled his eyes. "I'm 12. What kind of mischief can I get into?" T'Pol's brows arched, but she did not comment. He turned back and stared at her for several moments, his gaze intense. She held his gaze despite how discomforted she was by having him looking at her in such a manner. She felt as though she was unclothed and her features were being intensely scrutinized. "Are you and my uncle involved?"

"In what way?" she asked coyly.

The boy smiled. "You are, aren't you? It's the way he looks at you. That's how Father looks at Mother."

She paused. "Trip and I work together and share a bond of friendship. We aren't..." she began.

The boy shook his head, still smiling. "He certainly doesn't look at you as simply a friend."

 


 

Earth-Moss Point, Mississippi-Home of Charles and Catherine Tucker-Kitchen
December 4th, 2155-0801 hours Central Time

Just as Trip entered the kitchen a glass figurine came flying his way and he ducked just in time, the figurine sailing out the door and shattering on the concrete behind him.

"Hey!" he shouted. David had John in a choke hold with Charles trying to pry him off and Catherine was in the other corner with Katelyn tugging at her hair while Mae tried to pull the two apart. None of the others responded. He spotted his father's old EM pistol and grabbed it, switching the safety off before aiming it at the ceiling and pulling the trigger. The others halted and covered their heads to protect themselves from the falling pieces of plaster.

Trip grinned sheepishly at the stern expression on his mother's face. "I'll fix it later, Mama. I promise." Turning the safety back on, he set the weapon back on the counter and turned to the others. "Now that I've got your all's attention, everybody take a step back and cool your jets."

Katelyn pulled away from her mother and crossed her arms defiantly, pouting. David was at last letting go of John, though he still looked like a bull that had seen red.

"Y'all ought ta be ashamed of yourselves," he said, eyebrows furrowed. "Is this the kind of example ya want ta set for your kids?" He motioned at the doorway, indicating Seth, Carrie, and Katy all looking on with wide eyes and awed expressions on their faces. "I step out for one minute and it turns into the Pleasant Valley War."

"What is the Pleasant Valley War, Unca Trip?" Carrie asked.

Trip grimaced and hesitated. "I'll explain it ta ya when you're older, darlin'."

In truth, he had no intention of explaining it to her. It'd been a blood feud in Arizona between the Grahams and the Tewkesburys back in the mid-1880's that'd lasted nearly a decade with a lot of bodies piled up on both sides. His friend, Billy, had given him an old paperback book about it before he'd moved to San Francisco.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Katie open her mouth to protest and he turned toward her, his expression angry. "Not another word, Katie," he snapped. "Ya've said enough."

He sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose as what he'd said to T'Pol reeled through his mind. That's what family's all about, ya know? Unconditional love. Your parents and your siblings love ya no matter how nuts ya make them.

His features softened as he looked at his younger brother. "I was thinkin' we could have steak and potatoes for lunch. Why don't ya run to the general store and grab the things we'll need?"

Dave stared at him for several moments and then, sensing his brother's attempt to separate them so that they could all settle down, he grabbed the keys from the counter and strode from the kitchen. Moments later, the turning of a car engine slid in through the window followed by the fading crunch of gravel.

Trip's gaze then slid to his mother and then to his father. "Pop, why don't ya take mama ta her room and patch her up?"

Charles smiled weakly and nodded, helping his wife stand before leading her down the hallway.

Trip watched them go, sighing and shaking his head. At last, his gaze fell on his brother-in-law. "John, why don't ya check on T'Pol and Jamie? I'd like ta talk ta my sister."

John hesitated a moment before inclining his head and stepping out onto the back porch.

Once again, he looked at Katie, frowning, and then touching his fingers gently to a cut above her eye. He pulled his fingers away when she winced and sucked in a breath. He moved toward the cupboard next to the sink to retrieve a first aid kit and when he turned around, Katie was standing beside him. He then opened the kit and pulled out one of the towelettes, dabbing at the cut. She tensed for a moment from the sting, but then relaxed.

Concentrating on the cut above her eye, he was reminded of one of his fights with her. He hadn't hit her, but he'd shouted at her until she'd burst into tears. The whole thing had started because he'd accidentally walked in on her and one of her boyfriends kissing. He'd only been ten at the time and hadn't understood why she'd been so mad at him.

She'd called him all sorts of names, among them "Peeping Tom". He'd tried to explain to her that he hadn't meant to interrupt her and that he'd had no idea that she was there in the first place. He'd only come to the barn to play with the puppies.

She hadn't listened and had started shoving him to the ground. Each time, he'd just stood up and taken another step back to get away from her. He would have run, but he'd figured she'd chase after him and catch him anyway. Finally, he'd had enough and had started shouting at her. She'd burst into tears and had run back to the house. When he'd gotten there, his father had been waiting in the doorway.

"I didn't hit her, Pop, I swear. I accidentally walked in on her and Jamie, and then the next thing I know she's shovin' me and shoutin' at me. I got sick of it and yelled," he'd said, before turning to his sister. "I'm sorry I yelled at ya, Katie, but I don't like bein' shouted at and shoved. I get enough of that from Danny Driscol at school."

Of course, that had been good enough for his father and Katie had screamed, "He never gets punished because ya like him better." She'd then stormed upstairs and remained locked in her room for the rest of the day. He was drawn out of his reverie by Mae speaking.

"It's a sad day in the Tucker household when Trip is the voice of reason," Mae muttered, shaking her head as she exited the kitchen.

Katie smiled weakly. "Who are you and what have you done with my little brother?"

Trip couldn't help the weak smile that spread over his features at the tease in his older sister's eyes. "I've changed since the last time we talked. Out in the Expanse, being too rash could mean losing people." His smile faltered slightly. "I guess ya could say I found out the hard way."

Pausing, he dug in the kit for a bandage. "It's tough ta lose a daughter, Katie. It tears ya apart." He sighed. "We had a daughter...T'Pol and I. The baby girl from Paxton's broadcast. She was ours."

He swallowed roughly and fought back the tears, then looking back at his sister to see a startled expression on her face. He smiled weakly. "For just a few minutes, I knew what it was like ta be a dad. I loved her on sight. I loved her so much that when Phlox told us that there wasn't anythin' he could do ta save her, I would have traded my own life for hers if I could have."

Katie simply stared at him and he saw the sympathy in her eyes. "Do ya remember when Mama and Pop got inta that big fight? You, me, and Dave all hid out in the barn so we wouldn't get in the way. Me and Dave were scared half ta death because we hadn't ever seem them so mad," he said.

She smiled weakly. "I'm surprised you remember. You couldn't have been more than four at the time."

He paused. "Do ya want ta know what I remember the most about that night? Ya held us. Me and Dave both. Ya protected us and told us that everythin' was goin' ta be okay." He sighed, taking her hands in his, and looked directly into her eyes. "What happened ta the big sister that watched over us that night, Katie? Where'd she go?"

She sighed. "I wanted more, Trip. More for myself...more for my children." Shaking her head, she tightened her grip on his hands. "I never meant for it to turn out this way. I was angry and I said some stupid things." The corners of her lips turned up slightly. "I want to make up for them. I came back not just to apologize to Mama, but to apologize to you and Dave for abandoning you. You're my little brothers and you deserve better than to be treated like white trash. You're both so much more than that. Daddy and Mama are, too. You all just choose a different lifestyle is all. You're just as good as John's family. In fact, you're better. You're my family."

"It's goin' ta be a long road back, ya know," he said, his voice soft and rough.

She nodded, a somber expression on her face. "Yes, I know. And I can understand. I was absolutely horrible to you all." She grinned wryly. "I wouldn't blame you if you chose not to forgive me."

Trip laid his hands on her shoulders and shook his head. "I can't forget...but with time, I can forgive. That's what family's all about. Unconditional love. They always love ya no matter how much ya get on their nerves. You're my sister, Katie. I may not like ya all the time, but I'll always love ya."

A small smile turned up the corners of her lips and she hugged him tightly, burying her face in his shoulder. "Thank you," she whispered.

He hugged her back for a moment before pulling out of the embrace and gripping one of her hands, smiling. "Now...what do ya say you join me, Dave, and Pop for a Pinochle game after lunch?"

She nodded. "I'd like that."

 


 

Earth-Moss Point, Mississippi-Outside the Moss Point General Store
December 4th, 2155-1324 hours Central Time

John paced at the behind the store, his brow furrowed. The Tuckers were nice people, he knew. He'd gotten along better with Katelyn's brother than with his own brother. He was having second thoughts about giving Greene the information that he'd gathered. Trip just didn't seem like the type to betray Earth. John had only exchanged a few words with Lieutenant Reed, but he sensed that Reed was much like Trip in that his loyalty never wavered.

Even the Vulcan woman seemed genuine in her intentions. As much as he despised Vulcans, something about her was different. He'd seen the sparks between her and his brother-in-law. The two were obviously attracted to one another. He could understand Trip's reasoning perfectly. After all, though the woman was Vulcan she was very attractive. The Vulcan woman's reasons were less obvious. Vulcans didn't love. Everyone knew that.

He looked up when he heard someone clear their throat and he found himself face to face with Grady, one of Greene's hired spies. His throat tightened and his pulse rate increased.

"You Blue-blood?" the tall, beefy man asked, using John's codename.

He nodded. "I am."

The man smirked. "So...what've you got on the traitors?"

John paused. "One of them is my brother-in-law. They're all staying at my mother-in-law's place." A data pad was thrust into his hands and he skimmed it. "Your boss thinks that they might be planning another break-in at Starfleet Headquarters?"

Grady nodded. "And he wants you to track them. He needs to know their flight number and when they're leaving so that he can arrest them at the gate before they can hop the flight."

Pausing, John stared at the data pad for several moments and frowned.

"Can we count on you?" Grady asked.

John nodded reluctantly. "Yes."

Grady chuckled, slapping him on the back. "Good man. We'll be waiting for your communiqué."

The man then walked away, leaving John standing there his features contorted with guilt. He'd turned in family and what was worse was that he didn't even know if Trip and his friends really were traitors.

TBC...

 


Comments:

Asso

This one is among my favourite chapters. It's dense and tense.
But... this friendship - this very peculiar friendship, judging from all tendernesses they give each other - this friendship between Trip and T'Pol... will it gain one day the open air, finally?;)

WarpGirl

I just finished all of the parts put up at HoT and I have to say you have some really interesting ideas. Your interpitation of the events leading to the Romulan War are unique and quite plausible. So congradulations on that accomplishment because the Romulan War is something I'd be terrified to tackle. I have to say I'd like to see a little more detail in character development, the highlights of the characters and their relationships are very good, but I find myself wishing for a little more setup. I also think your Tucker family is unique, but I'm not sure a little mom 'n pop General Store is realistic in the 22nd century. I live in an area where they used to be previlant now there are almost none left. I can't imagine any being open in the 2150's. That's just my opinion so don't take it seriously. Anyway great work I can't wait for more.  

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