Water

By Escriba

Rating: PG

Genres: angst challenge general romance

Keywords:

This story has been read by 456 people.
This story has been read 675 times.


Disclaimer: Star trek Enterprise characters belong to Paramount. I wish they were mine. Oh, the fun I could have had...

Spoilers: This is set between "Storm Front II" and "Home", so I assume you've watched the entire third season.

Summary: Technically Trip invited T'Pol to Club 602.

Archive: Ask and you shall receive.

Thanks to: Alelou, who has patiently edited it. And to Aquarius, who provides us with a new word every month.

 

Author's note: This is a response to February "Water" challenge and is mostly a happy ending story, with a little angst, but not entirely related to Trip and T'Pol's relationship. Anybody who has read other stories of mine knows this is light in comparison. This story not only contains my take on what could happen before "Home" with our lovely couple, but also tries to explain why in "Similitude" T'Pol calls Masaro a "she", but in "Terra Prime" we discover is a "he".


 

"Water? Plain water?"

 

T'Pol nodded and wrapped her arms across her chest more tightly -as if she was trying her best to touch nothing- while looking warily at her surroundings.

 

Trip sighed.

 

This was his fault, of course. In a way. In a very cruel way. When he had invited Archer for a drink in the Club 602, he'd known he wasn't going to come. Jon was aware that it would be awkward for the engineering staff. But T'Pol had misunderstood his words and thought she was invited too. Trip had laughed, but hadn't corrected her, so you could say that technically she had been invited. But he had assumed she wouldn't attend, that she would realize that it wasn't such a good idea.

 

Well, guess again.

 

T'Pol had come. Trip was laughing at one of Rostov's jokes when he saw her, standing in the entrance, wearing tailored trousers, a white silk shirt and the face of somebody waiting for a proctology exam.

 

Kelby asked, "What the hell is she doing here?" and Trip decided it was perfect timing for getting up and greeting her. The fleeting look of relief she directed at him almost melted Trip. He led her inside and toward the bar. She followed him obediently, but held her arms tighter to her body as the number of people surrounding her increased.

 

Once at the bar he asked her what she wanted to drink and she asked for...

 

Water, plain water.

 

Oh, shoot me now...

 

"Don't you want anything else?" he offered, trying to sound casual instead of desperate. "Iced tea? A juice?"

 

T'Pol did another covert survey of her surroundings. "No, water."  A pause. "Thank you."

 

Trip suppressed his laughter. For some obscure reason, T'Pol always said "thank you," even when it wasn't really necessary. It was almost a pet word for her.

 

"So... water," he said.

 

"Yes."

 

"How about water with lemon?"

 

T'Pol looked at him as if he had added, "And cocaine and some Orion slaves doing a lap dance?"

 

"Just water," she said with the same tone she would use to say, "Raise it exactly 1.52 degrees or we will explode."

 

Trip rubbed his palms on his jeans, smiled and turned to the bartender. He asked for the water while he tried to silently express with his eyes, "This isn't my idea, it's hers, I'm not that pathetic."

 

The bartender complied. Trip could read in his gaze, "You're doing it for her, you are that pathetic."

 

He sighed and gave the glass to T'Pol. But even that she couldn't do like other mortals. She took and held the glass between her two hands as if it were a sacred object. T'Pol looked at him first, then she directed her gaze further on, over his shoulder, and looked at him again with an arched brow. "Shouldn't we join the others?"

 

Trip felt the same unpleasant chill he felt when his fifth grade teacher had threatened to talk to his parents if he didn't confess where her purse was, while the class bully behind that same teacher made gestures of threatening to cut his neck if Trip did so.

 

He turned to look at his comrades. They were doing their best to say no with any part of their bodies they could without being caught at it by T'Pol.  Trip mouthed a clear "I'm sorry" and extended his arm to the Vulcan as a gesture to accompany him. He saw Masaro empty his glass in a gulp. The rest seemed paralyzed.

 

Oh yeah, it was going to be great...

 

As he led T'Pol toward the group, he put a protective arm around her, while maintaining at least ten centimeters from her body at all times, of course. All he needed was some drunkard running into T'Pol. He kept his eyes on her. He remembered suddenly a tale his mother told him when he was a child, the story of Orpheus, who went down to Hell to save his wife. Trip understood Orpheus for the first time: he knew he would also turn around to look at T'Pol, just to see those hazel eyes and see whether they were directed at him. T'Pol owned the most magnetic gaze he ever had witnessed.

 

And so, inevitably, he barged into Hess.

 

"Sorry, Anna, I wasn't paying attention," he said.

 

"Not to me, at least," she joked.

 

Rostov suppressed his laughter, but he couldn't help snorting into his glass.

 

T'Pol positioned herself between Rostov and Trip and spent some seconds inspecting the group. It looked exactly the same as when she reviewed her Science team. People busied themselves by scrutinizing their drinks. Kelby straightened his collar absently. T'Pol's gaze lingered in Masaro more than in any other. He was a new member of their crew and they had invited him to celebrate that, as much as to cheer him up. T'Pol was absolutely oblivious to all this, of course, since it wasn't official yet and Trip could imagine her wondering what the hell he was doing there.

 

"Well, what were you talking before we came?" Trip asked cheerily, in an attempt to lighten the mood.

 

Twenty sideways glances told him T'Pol had been the theme of conversation.

 

Then, Kar (Kallistratos Karakidis, but nobody called him that), the youngest member of their team, asked timidly: "What is she doing here?" The others glared daggers at him. "I mean... I thought this was just for Engineering."

 

The glares became quizzical and moved to Trip.

 

"Commander Tucker invited me," T'Pol said.

 

Vulcans and their damned honesty.

 

"But as I now see, it was a gesture of courtesy, not meant to be followed.   I misunderstood. I will depart as soon as I drink my water."

 

T'Pol and her damned candor.

 

"You don't have to do that," Trip said.

 

"It is obvious that I'm bothering your team."

 

"It isn't my team," Trip answered, exasperated. "Not right here, not right now. They are just a group of friends. We are a group of friends. You can stay." He directed at the others a glare that read, "Extra hours to anybody who says otherwise."

 

"If this is not your team, then it is not you who decides that," T'Pol pointed out.

 

She was right. Why was she always right?

 

Trip searched for any support.

 

He found nothing more than bowed heads, cold stillness and shamed silence.

 

"Perhaps it is best if she goes," Masaro said. There was an icy detachment in his voice. "Wouldn't she be more comfortable among her own kind?" He turned to her. "Wouldn't you be more at ease at the Vulcan compound?"

 

T'Pol straightened, but said nothing. That was her typical response when somebody tried to belittle or patronize her. But Trip was furious. Yes, Masaro's attitude was typical, and thus, appalling. His entire life he had heard Humans complain about Vulcan aloofness, their superiority complex. "Nobody cares about Vulcans because Vulcans care about nobody," was a common motto. And when one of them dared to worry for them and decided to sacrifice herself for Humanity's sake, how did Humans react? By making her feel like a damned bug. OK, T'Pol might not be fun company in a bar, but she didn't deserve that kind of comment, not after being on the Xindi mission with them.

 

"C'mon, guys," he said, "She's part of our crew. One of us."

 

The others remained silent. Trip was about to lose all hope when Rostov jumped in.  "T'Pol, can I call you T'Pol?"

 

"It is my name."

 

"What are twenty lawyers in a car at the bottom of the sea?" he asked.

 

"Uncomfortable?" T'Pol said.

 

An expectant silence. Then Rostov guffawed. "She can stay."

 

As if his laughter and his declaration had been an acceptance signal, the rest of the group relaxed. Kar even stopped looking like somebody who was about to be court martialed.

 

"What are twenty lawyers in a car at the bottom of the sea?" T'Pol asked.

 

Rostov laughed even harder. "She's a riot!"

 

Hess bent toward T'Pol to provide the answer. "A good beginning." 

 

T'Pol blinked. Twice. She didn't understand the joke, but she was too proud, too Vulcan, to ask. Trip could see the wheels in her head working at top speed. At last, she reached a conclusion. Her mouth twitched, just a millimeter, and her face showed a fleeting embarrassment. She threw Trip Stare Number 15, which meant Barbaric Humans.

 

Trip smiled. A patronizing T'Pol was the usual T'Pol, and the usual T'Pol was a good thing.

 

The usual T'Pol didn't talk much, of course. It was something that always surprised Trip: T'Pol could be surprisingly chatty, as he had discovered in the neuro-pressure sessions. When she was relaxed and in a calm atmosphere, she was really nice and enjoyable. But in public, among a big crowd? Worse than the average Vulcan. She could make Soval look like the soul of the party.

 

Fortunately, Rostov was the man for those situations, even more than Trip himself. He talked, he joked, he laughed- he nudged T'Pol.

 

"Tell us, T'Pol, do you know any dirty secret from the Vulcan Embassy? Is some old high-ranking government official doing it with the secretary? Any illegal trafficking in Andorian porn? Is Soval a cross-dresser?"

 

The group was torn between laughing or gulping scared. T'Pol stared at him blankly, then she turned to Trip.

 

"Cross-dresser?" she asked in a whisper.

 

"Mmmm..." How was he going to answer that? Damn Rostov... "A man... dressing like a woman."

 

"For what purpose?"

 

 "Aesthetics?" he tried.

 

T'Pol seemed to accept this. Her ignorance of some Human oddities was uncanny sometimes.

 

"No Andorian contraband of sexual nature," she went on. "And about the secretary, Deputy Director Skot is married to her, and he is three times her age."

 

"Ah, the old fox," Rostov said and winked at her.

 

Now, that was enough. It was wonderful that he was trying to integrate T'Pol into their gang, but the only one that could be that familiar with her was Trip! "And how is Natasha? You know, your fiancé?" he asked.

 

Rostov cracked a sardonic smile. "She's all right, boss, thanks for asking. In fact, she talked about you the other day."

 

"Really?"

 

"Yes. She thinks you need a girlfriend." Rostov directed at T'Pol the big smile of a car dealer about to make the sale of his life. "Don't you agree, T'Pol? A girlfriend would improve his mood a lot."

 

T'Pol did a very human "I don't know why you're asking me" shrug with only one shoulder.

 

"It shouldn't be so difficult to find him one," Rostov went on. "He's kinda nice, even for an American. Don't you agree?"

 

Trip wanted to strangle Rostov.

 

"He is... quite agreeable," T'Pol conceded.

 

But not yet.

 

"Agreeable," Rostov repeated and looked at Hess. She looked back with a mischievous smile on her lips. "Maybe it's a euphemism."

 

"Like neuro-pressure?" Hess said. 

 

Oh, man, that was bad. The two of them were swallowing their laughter. They were teasing him about that like they used to do during the Xindi mission. As everybody on that ship had done, in fact. But at least, they'd had the common sense to do it behind T'Pol's back.

 

This couldn't get any worse.

 

"Neuro-pressure isn't a euphemism," T'Pol said. "It is the term used to call the ancient Vulcan technique of manipulating the neural nodes of the body to achieve a complete relaxation."

 

Okay, it had just gotten worse.

 

"Oh, I bet it's ancient," Rostov joked. "As old as the birds and the bees."

 

"C'mon guys, that's enough," Trip said. It was too much, not just because they were making fun of the two of them, but because they were close to hitting home. Neuro-pressure had led to sex, after all.

 

"Sorry, Trip, but you're too easy," Hess explained, and she put a conciliatory hand on his shoulder.

 

"And you," he pointed at her and Rostov, "are too evil. I put the blame on the fact that you have too much spare time. But I'll fix that."

 

Rostov and Hess grunted their disapproval.

 

"No, no. No complaints," Trip went on. "That will teach you. You'll learn to be more like Kelby."

 

The person in question stopped talking to the colleague in front of him and turned his head toward Trip. "What about me?"

 

"You are serious and discreet and you never tease me. They have a lot to learn from you."

 

Kelby couldn't help a smug smile. Trip could sense T'Pol opening her mouth. "Constantinople!" he shouted.

 

It was a signal between them. A necessary defense mechanism, the result of the intimacy grown from the neuro-pressure sessions and T'Pol's straightforwardness. Trip had told T'Pol a great deal of personal stuff and the least thing he needed was her spilling any of it out loud. T'Pol was extraordinarily discreet and knew how to keep a secret better than a priest, but problems arose when T'Pol didn't consider something "a secret". His real opinions about his staff, for example. T'Pol couldn't understand why Trip would lie about it and stifle the complaints he might have against somebody. If you think he is an overconfident moron, say so -- that was her philosophy. Trip had tried to explain Human diplomacy to her, but it hadn't worked. So they had agreed to a signal in case that one of them (Trip, most of the time) needed to shut up the other.

 

Trip seldom used it because, as had happened right then, people looked at him as if he had lost his mind.

 

"It's called Istanbul," Kar said into the middle of the silence.

 

Rostov had a laughing attack. He almost choked on his Bloody Mary.

 

Could be worse. When T'Pol had first used the signal, it had surprised Archer so much that the dinner knife had slipped from his hand and almost hurt Porthos. It had led to an awkward situation too, since he and Trip had been discussing whether Vulcans were ticklish and Trip had confessed that they were more sensitive than he had thought, especially if one touched them in... and then T'Pol had shouted "Constantinople!" Archer could be dense, but not that dense.

 

But in Club 602, surrounded by his team, with Rostov laughing hysterically, any awkwardness passed quickly. The Xindi mission was over, Earth was safe and they were alive. It was time to drink and be merry.

 

Alive. They were alive. He took a mental picture of his crew smiling, with a little puzzled T'Pol at his side, and he stored it against any eventual hard times in the future. Then, he raised his glass. "I propose a toast!"

 

There was the sudden and comfortable silence of expectation, accompanied by some low laughs and hushes and crystalline clangs as some people shared their drinks to fill empty glasses.  Little by little, all the glasses were raised.

 

"To the success of the Xindi mission," Trip said and drank his Cowboy's Comet.

 

People exclaimed "Here, here!" and gulped down their drinks. Everybody  except Masaro.

 

"Success? What success?" he stormed.

 

He had stood up very straight, with his jaw clenched and his eyes red with a combination of fury, unshed tears and excessive alcohol. He looked extremely young too, and that sparked Trip's compassion. The poor guy had lost her sister in the Xindi mission. He could understand how that felt. Besides, he'd known Sophia Masaro; she had been a crewman on his team.

 

"We prevented the Xindi weapon from attacking and destroying Earth, that's a victory," Trip said.

 

"Oh, really? Some pats on the back, 'don't do it again' and that's a victory?"

 

Trip had a painful flash of Lizzie. "It wasn't like that," he hissed.

 

"It surely looks like it. They kill seven million of people and they simply get away with it." Masaro cracked a sour smile. "There are rumors about us signing a damn treaty with them."

 

Trip felt the little part of him that still didn't (and never would) forgive the Xindi punch him in the stomach. He wanted to answer back, but all his words were stuck in his throat.

 

"They were misled by the Sphere builders and are on the verge of a civil war as a consequence of internal disagreements among the different species," T'Pol said with her calm tone, the one that could stop an enraged bull on its track. It soothed Trip, at least. "An alliance at this precise moment might prevent a course of actions that could lead them to take up their offensive mind-set again. Which would, of course, be deplorable."

 

"I didn't expect anything else from Vulcans," Masaro said while he glared at her. "And especially not from you."

 

Upon their return to Earth, Trip had agreed to accept Masaro as Enterprise's  newest engineering recruit, even though -- or perhaps because -- he'd lost his sister to their mission. It had seemed a good idea at the time, a way to help Tommy to get over his pain, but now he wasn't so sure. He stepped forward and faced Masaro. "What does that mean?"

 

"Commander, don't," T'Pol whispered.

 

"Why are you defending her?" Masaro asked.

 

"Because she's one of us."

 

"One of -!"

 

"She was with us in the Xindi mission. She suffered like us."

 

"Suffered? She is Vulcan." Masaro was so close that Trip could smell the stench of alcohol. "What has she sacrificed? What has she lost? No Vulcan died in the Xindi attack."

 

"Actually, three Vulcan died," T'Pol pointed out calmly.

 

Her words seemed to hit Masaro like a slap. However, he recovered quickly and narrowed his eyes. "Any family member?"

 

"No."

 

He approached her. "I lost my sister."

 

T'Pol glanced at Trip. Her guarded expression lowered just for a second to let him see a profound sadness. "Commander Tucker's sister died in the Xindi attack as well."

 

Masaro let out a snort, between a sob and a real laugh. "My sister didn't die in the Xindi attack. Not in that Xindi attack anyway. You don't know who I am, do you?" T'Pol just stared at him. "I'm Tommy Masaro. My sister was Sophia Masaro."

 

Trip was sure he was the only one who noticed how her hands trembled and how her eyes enlarged before she assumed her usual aloof mask.

 

"But you don't give a shit about her, do you? The Xindi attacked while you commanded Enterprise, she was injured on your watch, but you feel nothing at all."

 

Trip threw a murderous glare at the other crewmen. Who was the idiot that had told Masaro that? They had enough of a sense of shame to lower their gaze. Exasperated, he turned to T'Pol again. She was standing very straight, facing Masaro, and seemed her usual cool self, but Trip knew better. Sophia Masaro's death had been a hard blow. She hadn't died in the attack, like the others; she had suffered fourth-degree burns and Phlox had had to put her into an induced coma. She had fought like a heroine for as long as she could, but her injuries were too serious and in the end she had died when they had caught sight of Earth. After everything had supposedly ended. T'Pol had carried off all the formalities personally, even though she didn't have to, with an attitude that looked to Trip like self-punishment. When Sophia's body was taken from Enterprise, T'Pol was there. Trip couldn't forget her face, so pale, and her gaze, so empty. That very night T'Pol had rung the chime to his cabin. To his bewilderment, she had asked him if she could spend the night with him. He hadn't had any reason, strength or will to refuse, and thus, she had slept beside him, so near that he could touch her skin and her hair tickled his nose. Although they hadn't had any kind of sex, Trip still considered it the most intimate moment they had experienced.

 

That turned the accusation of Tommy Masaro into a very cruel joke.

 

"Say something, damn it!" Masaro yelled.

 

Kelby put his hands on Masaro's shoulders. "C'mon, Tommy, that's enough."

 

Masaro tried to disengage himself from Kelby's grip. His stare never left T'Pol.

 

She is going to leave. Trip could see it clearly in her eyes. It was impossible to placate Masaro while he was so emotionally sensitive and T'Pol would never enter into a discussion where the only arguments would be personal insults. It was pointless.

 

"Ensign Masaro's death was deplorable," she said. Her voice carried a whispered melancholy. "I grieve with thee."

 

Kelby had to physically restrain Masaro.

 

"I think that the wisest idea right now would be for me to leave," T'Pol declared.

 

She looked at Trip as if she sought some kind of confirmation. Trip just nodded. What else could he do? He could force Masaro to go away, but he wasn't sure he could do that without a fight. He knew T'Pol wouldn't appreciate a testosterone display, even for her benefit. T'Pol gave her water glass to Rostov and bowed her head as a goodbye.

 

"I'll go with you," he offered.

 

"That won't be necessary," she answered and went away without adding anything more.

 

Trip watched her disappear into the crowd. 

 

Somebody tugged at his sleeve. "Boss, I think you should go with her," Hess said.

 

"I don't think she wants that right now."

 

"You don't know women a bit, do you?" She received Trip's scowl with a mischievous smile. Then she grew serious. "But even if that was the case, you should go."

 

"Why?"

 

Hess looked to either side before answering. "There is a... weird climate in the city. The Xindi attack hurt people deeply."

 

"She isn't Xindi."

 

"I know, but there is resentment against every alien. I've seen some posters in an alley... I think it may not be safe."

 

"She's right," Rostov said. He still held the water glass. "Go with her, just in case."

 

Trip glanced at Masaro. He had tears in his eyes and was being calmed down by Kelby. Trip shook his head and ran toward the exit. As he went, he was shocked by some of the cold stares he encountered. By the disgust in those stares.

 

Once out, he headed the way he thought T'Pol would have gone. He couldn't see her. He turned around then. He caught a glimpse of a white shirt in the other direction.

 

He raced after her.

 

"T'Pol, wait!"

 

She stopped and turned toward him. Her eyes were very open and there was surprise in them. And something akin to fear. "Commander... I told you I didn't need your assistance."

 

"I know, but..." He took a few breaths, in part because he needed it, in part to cover his embarrassment. "I didn't have anything else to do, you know? I think I could do with a walk to the Vulcan compound." He noticed it then. "Wait a minute, this isn't the way to the transportation station."

 

She averted her gaze. "It wasn't my intention to return to the compound... right now." She cleared her throat. "The night is agreeable and I thought a walk could be beneficial."

 

"Maybe it's better to go back to the Vulcan compound. I've heard some rumors about streets not being completely safe for aliens."

 

She was looking at anything except him. "I would prefer a walk."

 

Trip finally got it. T'Pol didn't want to return to the compound, she didn't want to be with other Vulcans.

 

Because she was a pariah now.

 

She had defied the Vulcan High Command, she had defied her own people, her own heritage, and gone with those pesky Humans to chase down the Xindi. And against all odds and probabilities, she had come back. She was a heroine. Worse than that: she had proved that she was right all along and the rest of the Vulcans were wrong. So now, since they couldn't exile her or punish her in public, they were doing something crueler: they were ignoring her, they were shutting her out.

 

Trip marveled a little at himself for understanding it, for understanding her so well. She was obviously influencing him more than what he thought. He almost smiled. "So, let's go for a walk then," he said out loud.

 

T'Pol seemed to be about to reject him, but then she tilted her head, stared at him quizzically and nodded.

 

They walked in a comfortable silence. He looked at her out of the corner of his eye as she walked in her usual way, with those precise steps and her hands clasped behind her back. Her shirt revealed a very appealing cleavage. Probably Lizzie would carp about her lack of jewelry, but it was fine for Trip.

 

They didn't talk and Trip had no idea of where to go, but somehow they ended in the Zefram Cochrane Memorial Garden. It was a nice place, with views of the bay, cute gravel paths well illuminated by lamps and benches on which to sit. Which they did, after wandering a little.

 

There were no words between them for a long time. The only sound came from the crickets.

 

T'Pol had her head bowed and was looking at her hands clasped on her thighs.

 

"Masaro is... He was hurt and drunk. I'm sure he didn't mean what he said." Trip wondered if his words sounded as empty to her as they sounded to him.

 

"I don't blame him. He was right. It was my responsibility. His sister, like the other eighteen dead crewmen, died during my watch."

 

Trip sighed, conscious that he had been holding his breath while she spoke. Yes, she was right, but on the other hand, she wasn't. This guilt trip wasn't like her. "You helped us to disable sphere 41. Without your help... In fact, the theory that the spheres were creating a disturbance in space was yours."

 

"That doesn't excuse my lack of focus when I was the acting captain."

 

"T'Pol..."

 

"No. I was highly unprofe-" She swallowed hard. "I was a fool."

 

Whoa! What? That wasn't her usual wording. That was... that was... Very, very wrong.

 

Trip could see T'Pol's fists on her tights. They were trembling. He had never seen her shake except in the last part of the Xindi mission, when she had begun to act as changeably as a damned weathervane.

 

"T'Pol, what happened to you in the Expanse?" He had wanted to ask her that for a long time. He had respected her privacy until now, but obviously she wasn't all right.

 

She clenched her jaws and refused to look at him. Trip was sure she wasn't going to answer and his shoulders slumped in defeat. He felt surprised when she decided to talk: "I lost control. I performed dangerous experiments and used questionable judgment. I broke my emotional barriers and ended by becoming a shameful excuse for a Vulcan. For any sentient being." She looked ill. "I hurt people. I hurt myself. I hurt... you."

 

She looked at him. The streetlamps' light drew psychedelic patterns on her suspiciously wet eyes. She seemed so small. Sometimes he forgot how petite she was.

 

"Everybody did questionable things in the Xindi mission. It... changed us."

 

T'Pol frowned, her face a vague mixture of relief and perplexity. "Why do you constantly offer your support to me, even when I have declined it at every opportunity?"

 

And that was the key question, wasn't it? Why did he do it? Why was he still talking to her? Why was he always following her like a puppy, seeking any attention he could get?

 

His sister Elizabeth had given the answer once: she had nicknamed him "Hound-dog Trip," because he was incapable of letting it go. It didn't matter what, abusive friends, insensitive girlfriends, opportunistic coworkers... He used to forgive everything, with no resentment. He was loyal and nice, and it gave him as much satisfaction as it did disappointment.

 

But he couldn't stop it.

 

Not when a friend, somebody dear to him, needed him. And not, especially, when that person was T'Pol, alone and trembling, looking at him as if he were a life jacket on the rough sea. The same T'Pol who fought her aversion to physical contact to help him; the same T'Pol who had allowed him to sleep on her shoulder one day, when it was late and he had worked so hard that he had immediately passed out; the same T'Pol who had explained to him her theory about micro-singularities using the peas on her plate; the same T'Pol who had given him all the information about Vulcan technology that she had; the same T'Pol who had offered her naked body to him, the same one who had moaned into his ear, the same T'Pol who had caressed his hair afterwards and stared at him lovingly and called him thy'la and then that same morning... that  morning... The same T'Pol who had put her hand on his shoulder when he had broken down about his sister and had said that she envied him and grieved with him and just stayed there, with him, as long as he'd needed, letting him cry and babble about Lizzie and never ever judging him.

 

 

"You... helped me," he said out loud. "You have no idea how much you helped me, when I needed it most. I can't let you down when you need me."

 

Trip heard her suck in her breath. A small sound, almost shocked.

 

"I appreciate... your offer," she whispered.

 

"But you don't need it," he guessed and didn't conceal the sourness in his words.

 

"No." She averted her gaze and nodded. "I do need it."

 

Trip needed two full seconds to grasp the real meaning of her words. When he did, he turned his head so violently that he actually heard a crack from his neck.

 

"But I will require time to open to you fully," she added.

 

Trip smiled a sad smile. Personal issues weren't easy, he understood that. And he understood also that the mere fact of T'Pol admitting she needed his help was a galactic leap for her. She had always been self-assured and self-reliant. Sometimes even proud. This had to be hard. But it felt more meaningful than when she had dropped that robe.

 

More lasting.

 

"I told you once, take all the time you need. And when you ask for my help, I'll be there for you."

 

Their gaze met.

 

"Thank you," she said, meaning it. "I will honor your trust, Trip."

 

"That's what friends are for."

 

"Is that all we are?"

 

 She caught him completely off balance. "Wha-what?"

 

She had reverted to her usual academic tone. "Our relationship is not merely professional, and from what I have learned from observing you and other Humans, 'casual sex' is not always casual."

 

"As I recall, it was you who called it 'an experiment.'"

 

"I called it 'an exploration.' It was you who assumed it was a synonym for 'experiment.'"

 

Ah, no, she wasn't going to win that discussion. "You told me you didn't want an intimate relationship."

 

She closed her mouth and looked as embarrassed as a Vulcan could look. 'Ha!' he exclaimed inside his head. Suddenly, he got it. He couldn't believe it. "You were lying... You were lying?"

 

"I believed it was a foolish path to follow at the time."

 

"And... And now?"

 

"Now nothing I once believed appears secure or immutable."

 

Trip's head was going to explode if he couldn't control the flood of contradictory ideas. A tiny part of him was warning him not to get his hopes up. But the greatest part of him was just trying to calm down and avoid making a fool of himself by betraying his happiness out loud. "And what..." He exhaled profoundly. "What does that mean?"

 

"I do not know." T'Pol straightened her shoulders. Decision illuminated all her face. "But I would like to find out."

 

Trip couldn't help smiling.  That was the T'Pol he knew. She could build a perfect world of denial with its own flag, currency and post service, and then destroy it as easily with one sentence. She hated half-measures.

 

"I would like it too," he said. Who would have guessed that happiness was so easy to achieve?

 

She nodded and he nodded. She turned her head away to stare at the sea and so did he. All their courage seemed to have disappeared with their last resolution. It was so like them, Trip thought. Silence was part of their relationship, as much as the banter. The banter itself was a way to cover everything they really wanted to say, waiting to be discovered. So, so many things left unsaid, like pearls at the bottom of the sea. One day he and T'Pol would be brave enough and they would dive hand in hand to take possession of them. And they would be amazed by their shape, shine and beauty.

 

Trip sighed. One day, maybe, but not yet. The sea was no more than an obscure shape, almost undifferentiated from the black sky. He had always liked the ocean. He was a Florida boy, after all. A curiosity arose in him. "T'Pol, have you ever seen the sea? On Vulcan, I mean, before you visited other planets."

 

She glanced at him once, then focused on the ocean again. "Yes, when I was six my parents traveled to the seaside city of Karash, in the province of Raal."

 

"Did you go on vacation?"

 

"Not exactly. Mother is Instructor of... You would call it Anthropology, in the Vulcan Academy.  She is an expert in the Awakening Era." She paused, as if she expected him to interrupt her. He said nothing. "She was investigating Falor's Journey, its creation and influences."

 

Trip did interrupt her this time. "Falor's Journey?"

 

"It is a Vulcan tale of enlightenment consisting of 348 verses. My mother used to read it to me," she added unexpectedly.

 

"The 348 verses? Whoa, your mother must be a fast reader!"

 

T'Pol's stare became stern. "Not the entire tale in the same evening."

 

"OK, OK, silly joke, I'm sorry. Tell me what happened on that trip."

 

And so, T'Pol began to narrate the story, as she called it, of "Three Vulcans, An Old Transport and A Sehlat Suffering Diarrhea." She told him about the first time she saw Karash against the azure ocean, about the whitewashed domes of the city, about the ancient and traditional water salesmen, about the narrow street of multicolored cobbled paving, about the unknown-until-then smell of the sea, about the strong shoulders of her father when he carried her on them. She told him about the happy memories of a distant childhood that looked more distant than ever.

 

But it didn't feel sad. Actually, it felt very good. It felt like the neuro-pressure sessions, with the grass as a mat and the stars as candles. The same intimacy and the same sensation that, more than their bodies, they were undressing their souls.

 

As the sunrise dyed the sky with the red tones of the future, Trip felt himself diving into T'Pol's soul.

 

And he smiled.


Comments:

Escriba

Awww... you're not fastidious, Asso. You want to make clear your opinion and I appreciate that. And maybe you're right about Trip being a little "feminine". I'm a woman, after all :D I think both Trip and T'Pol are a little on the edge of being OCC here, so no worries.

Asso

Ok, at last I, too, post a comment, finally.
You know, I'm not entirely into your perceptions, your Trip is slightly  - how could I say? - feminine? No, this is not the right term, but I think you're capable of understanding what I mean.  And T'Pol... well.. she's so T'Pol! :p

 I'm Fastidious? Yes, I'm. But, what do you want, when someone writes as good as YOU write, I can't help but being fastidious.:p
Anyway, thanks for a very wonderful story. :D

Mary

This was terrific. Now too bad the series didn't follow through on the theme. You showed them opening up to each other and admitting that there is "something" between them. I liked your version better.

The bar scene was so perfect. Of course T'Pol would quash the open cammaraderie that the "team" was enjoying because she only really  interacts with Trip. But Rostov to the rescue, his comments and jokes are perfect. I loved his rection to T'Pol's answer to the lawyer joke. Also interesting early insight to Terra Prime arc.

Thanks for writing

JadziaKathryn

This is absolutely wonderful. One of the best TnT stories I've read in a while, certainly. You've done such a lovely job capturing them. Very nice foreshadowing of the rise of Terra Prime - and I don't care if it's autobiographical, I'd love to see your story on Terra Prime! I also loved their code word - and Archer putting two and two together - and T'Pol's response to Rostov's lawyer joke.

anaM

Excelent story! I love how you touch  on so many subjects, lightly, with a few words, still giving all the information needed.

And I love that you express the subtle emotions between Trip and T'Pol so beautifully, as in this paragraph that is my favorite..

"She nodded and he nodded. She turned her head away to stare at the sea and so did he. All their courage seemed to have disappeared with their last resolution. It was so like them, Trip thought. Silence was part of their relationship, as much as the banter. The banter itself was a way to cover everything they really wanted to say, waiting to be discovered. So, so many things left unsaid, like pearls at the bottom of the sea. One day he and T'Pol would be brave enough and they would dive hand in hand to take possession of them. And they would be amazed by their shape, shine and beauty."

 I have to add here that I really like Kar and I'm curious to know how he came to Enterprise ;)

Linda

I really enjoyed this story.  It has tension and humor nicely woven with Escriba's distinctive voice.   I also liked the many mentions of Lizzie which flesh out her personality and relationship with Trip.  Lizzie, in spit of being gone, is still a character among the rest of the ENT characters.  Good job!

Escriba

Thank you so much for the reviews, guys! I'm in Heaven :D I'm glad everybody think the "awkward drinking situation" is actually realistic. I've tried to use my own experience here (being a teetotaler where I live is the hardest thing ever. Everybody thinks you're an alien :D )

By the way, isn't it strange that in a utopian future there are still lawyers? Isn't that impossible if everybody is happy? LOL!

Good points Dinah. The problem with one-shots is that you have limited space and time and there are things left unsaid. Trip's team didn't tell Malcolm anything because usually very small and close groups tend to "defend their territory", so to speak. And as easily as they could tell that incident, they could tell Malcolm other situations were T'Pol and Masaro worked side by side. I've always felt Masaro as a wasted character, a last minute resource to create surprise (since everybody suspected Kelby.) It would be such a great chance to explore some interesting issues. I created a full circle for Masaro (although I didn't write it ;) ) Hating is easy. Hating blindly is even easier. Discovering that what you thought is wrong is the hardest thing.

My dream (if I could call it that) would be to write the story of how Terra Prime emerged and took so much power. What happened on Earth in the 3rd and 4rd seasons, from an average person's POV. Because I think I could do it, because I understand how it could happen. But I fear it would become too autobiographical :p

PS: I've said this earlier. But I'm not going to write a sequel. Nu-hu. Sorry.

 

Dinah

Escriba, this story was absolutely fabulous!  It showed that T'Pol still wasn't fully integrated into the crew, even after all this time, which was perfectly understandable.  It also gave us some much needed background on Masaro.  I will say that this though.  Given his outburst in front of a lot of witnesses, he should have been at the top of Reed's list of suspects when the lieutenant was trying to find out who stole Trip and T'Pol's DNA.  And why was Masaro, then, so contrite?  Because of the baby? 

Anyway, getting back to the much deserved praise, this went a long way toward showing how Trip and T'Pol's relationship advanced to the point where she was comfortable taking him home to meet Mom.  You touched on T'Pol's continuing alienation from her own people, but you let Trip make the discovery.  Very nice and much more meaningful than if T'Pol had been the one to make the observation.  You showed that T'Pol still felt responsible for what happened at Azati Prime.  You also demonstrated Trip's continuing promise to be there as a confidant for her.  What in the world happened to all this openness and understanding in season four?

The dialogue was perfect throughout.  You really got across the feeling of a group of friends celebrating in a bar.  You brought in the xenophobia on Earth -- nice continuity.  And then you created a lovely, quite place for Trip and T'Pol to have a serious discussion.  This whole story was just about perfect.  Very well done! 

Ezinma88

What an absolute delight this story is Escriba. The first half had me actually laughing out loud.

"Trip could sense T'Pol opening her mouth. "Constantinople!" he shouted. It was a signal between them. A necessary defense mechanism... Trip seldom used it because, as had happened right then, people looked at him as if he had lost his mind."

But, there's light and shade here as well....You manage on a number of occasions to skillfully navigate a range of emotions without being heavy-handed.

I could go on and on with the quotes that I particularly liked.....

There's so much detail here. So much that could be explored....;)

framework4

Interesting tale. BTW Masaro, played by Josh Holt was on Enterprise in the Delphic Expanse.  See Damage (a season 3 episode)

BnB

When I read this I couldn't help but be wistful for what should have been, if only they had been sensible enough to hire you as a writer for the show.

 

Aikiweezie

Wow - that was right in every way.  I agree with the Middleman - there is a lot of room for good stuff before "Home" and you gave us some.  Thanks!

The Middleman

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I was sitting out on my deck this beautiful Sunday afternoon and opened my iTouch to Triaxian Silk to see if any new stories were posted and I saw your story right on top. I have to agree with Distracted: This is an amazing story!  I was riveted from the very first paragraph.  I was always interested in what Trip & T'Pol's relationship was like between the episodes "Countdown" and "Home" and your story is a wonderful fill-in of what we never had the chance to see on Television. I also wished that we had the opportunity to see the crew's attitude towards the romance between Trip & T'Pol (or Archer's reaction for that matter); Thank you for giving us that glimpse, particularly Archer's surprise about the tickiling . Please continue, I believe this could be an epic!

 

Alelou

This is not supposed to be in the Decon Chamber, but I'm glad to see it up officially.  You already know I think it's just a lovely story, a real turning point for Trip and T'Pol that begins with one of the most comically awkward situations ever.  It's also quite an ingenious explanation for the his and her Masaro references!

Pitseleh

Ok, I chose the exact same paragraph as Distracted as my favorite:

"Trip couldn't help smiling.  That was the T'Pol he knew. She could build a perfect world of denial with its own flag, currency and post service, and then destroy it as easily with one sentence. She hated half-measures."

Excelente historia, Escriba! Realmente estupenda. It was funny, sweet, sad, and a perfect example of TnT's relationship all the way. I'd ask for a sequel or continuation of some sort, but it feels right just as it is, so I can only ask for you to keep writing.

Distracted

And, umm... why is this story in the Decon Chamber?  I'd rate it PG-13 for mature references at most.  Certainly not R and most emphatically not NC-17, unless it's not done yet maybe? (She asks hopefully...) 

Distracted

Wow.  Aside from the occasional awkward grammatical construction this is an amazing story.  You've got the "outsider trying to join the drinking party" dynamic down pat.  (I know.  I've been in T'Pol's shoes before.  Very awkward.)

I think my favorite figure of speech is this one:

"Trip couldn't help smiling.  That was the T'Pol he knew. She could build a perfect world of denial with its own flag, currency and post service, and then destroy it as easily with one sentence. She hated half-measures."

The lawyer joke was pretty good too.  : )

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