The Explorers

By AuroraBorealis

Rating: G

Genres: family general humour missing scene

Keywords: Archer challenge planetary exploration

This story has been read by 553 people.
This story has been read 790 times.


Disclaimer: I do not own any of the star trek characters or anything.

Archive:  Yes.

Summary: Just little conversation around the fire between friends.

 

A/N- Thanks to my beta, Dinah, who actually beta-ed it more than once.

Admin's Note:  This is a unique story that rides the line between Trip/T'Pol and General Enterprise but I felt it had enough T/T to go into the Main Area.

 

This happened sometime after the Expanse, but not really at any particular time.  If you recognize the thing about the Vulcan survival ritual it's because it's been in like three other stories, none of which were written by me.  I don't know the names of the stories or anything, but if you wrote the stories I'm talking about, please give yourself credit.  I would but I don't remember the author's names either.  Sorry.

 

Hope you enjoy the story!

 


 

Archer was glad he had decided to let everyone take shore leave.  It wasn't expected, but after Ensign Morris's screaming match with Lieutenant Hess, which was the fourth report of similar instances, it seemed necessary.  The senior staff was the last shift, but the wait was worth it. 

 

This planet had wildlife very similar to Earth's own.  They had set up camp in an area full of lush, soft, dark green grass, next to a grove of trees with pretty pink blooms.  You couldn't see them as well in the dark, but they gave off a very pleasant scent that you could definitely smell.  It was the crew's first real chance to relax in a long time, and Archer was glad that they all seemed to be enjoying themselves.

 

Trip sat down next to Archer, his gaze quickly becoming lost in the fire.  Jon felt uneasy.  Yes, at one time he considered all of these people friends, but the Expanse had changed things.  He had decided early along in the mission that there was no room for second guessing.  A decision could not be questioned because of his personal feelings.  He had detached himself from his friends for the success of the mission and the protection of his crew - or that's what he told himself.  If he was honest with himself he couldn't say there weren't any other reasons.  He did it for his own protection too.  He knew that if it came to it, it would be easier to accept the loss of a crewmember than of a friend. 

 

There were times when Archer regretted his decision.  Trip, a man he had been friends with for years, had been alone during one of the most difficult periods of his life.  That was Archer's fault and he knew it.  He didn't really know how to change things, how to fix the problem of their deteriorating relationship, but he knew he had to try. 

 

"So... how are things going?" 

 

Trip looked at him like he had just sprouted forehead ridges.  "You know, you were never very good at small talk, Cap'n."

 

"I know.  It's just... It's been a while Trip, you know?"

 

Trip nodded then turned his attention back to the fire.  Both men were silent.

 

"I'm sorry."  Archer said abruptly. 

 

Trip seemed confused, "Bein' socially retarded doesn't really warrant an apology but-"

 

Archer shook his head, "No, Trip.  I'm sorry.  I'm sorry about everything.  I just..."  He couldn't seem to find the words so looked at the ground instead.

 

Trip patted his friend's arm. "Yeah.  It's okay.  I understand, Jon." 

 

Just for something to do Archer reached over to the cooker on the fire and picked up the tin pot of coffee sitting there.  He poured himself a cup and silently offered one to Trip.  Trip shook his head. 

 

"No thanks, Cap'n.  I don't think I'd go to sleep if I had some this late." 

 

Archer shrugged.   "Coffee never really had much effect on me," he grinned, "which I can't say is always a good thing." 

 

Trip nodded.  "I pretty much ran on coffee in the Expanse." 

 

"I know." 

 

"You know, this is a lot like the first planet we came to," Trip said, eager to change the subject to lighter matters.  He glanced at Archer and laughed.  "I guess you missed it, but there was something magical about the place.  It was our first real exploration."

 

Archer smiled at the memory then looked sadly into the cup resting in his hands.  "Yeah.  I guess we haven't really done much of that in a while."

 

"What?"

 

"Explore."

 

Trip stared into the fire.

 

"The Expanse forced us to be something else.  We had to be warriors... survivors. It was wrong."

 

"I know," Trip sighed.  "I think the Expanse changed everyone.  I just wish we had had more time to be naïve.  To think that every civilization we ran into was goin' to be friendly.  To do just what you were talkin' about... explore."

 

"We'll get our chance, Trip."  Archer paused to take a sip of his rapidly cooling drink.  "Things are starting to settle down again, and I think the original mission is going to be our priority for a while."

 

Trip smiled.

 

By then the rest of Archer's away team had joined them around the fire.  Hoshi and Malcolm were sitting next to each other chatting quietly.  Every now and then Hoshi would giggle and Malcolm would smile in return.  The firelight bounced off her sleek black hair and made her skin glow.  Malcolm seemed content to just sit next to her and enjoy her conversation. Archer knew how much they had both been through.  Even while she smiled, there was a sadness in Hoshi's eyes that hadn't been there before.  And Malcolm.  The Expanse had carved deep lines in the man's face.  If it came down to it, Malcolm had been under as much pressure as his Captain had.  Archer may have had to make the hard decisions but Malcolm was the man who had to make sure things worked out.  He was the man who was responsible for the protection of every man and woman on the ship, the Captain included.  The responsibility of each and every lost crewman fell to the two men equally. Even Travis had been affected.  The young kid Archer had taken from Earth looked older now, more tired. 

 

Travis was sitting to the left of Hoshi with a contented smile on his face.  He was a thousand miles away, somewhere amid the stars he was observing so studiously.  Archer smiled to himself.  You couldn't get that man out of space if you tied him to a tree. 

 

T'Pol had taken a seat next to Trip.  Well, not exactly next to, but she was in the space between him and Malcolm. Even though he had known her going on five years, it was still impossible for him to determine what his resident Vulcan was thinking.  She had been scrutinizing Hoshi and Malcolm for the last fifteen minutes and, while Archer saw nothing particularly interesting about their interactions, T'Pol obviously did.  Every so often she would glance over at Trip, whose gaze was locked on the flames in front of him. 

 

Despite her Vulcan demeanor, T'Pol had been affected like everyone else on the ship, but in a different way.  T'Pol was warmer than she had been.  It seemed almost like the Expanse had taught her that emotion wasn't always something you could turn on and off.  Sometimes it was necessary to deal with the circumstances around you.  Archer didn't mind the change.  He had, in fact, come to enjoy the more emotional side of T'Pol, but he knew that she felt the opposite about the situation.  To her it was something to try to control, something that was wrong, a personal failure of hers.  And Archer understood why.  The Vulcans had a hard enough time accepting a person of their race who had so closely aligned themselves with Humans, who had broken tradition more than one time, and who had sided with the Andorians on occasion.  This was just one more thing that would further alienate her people from her.

 

Archer found that he enjoyed the sense of camaraderie he felt around the fire.  Everyone seemed to be in this moment.  There were no command decisions, no one trying to kill them, at least not that he was aware of.  He hadn't just sat around a fire in some time.  He picked up a twig and rolled it around in his hands, and then he threw it into the fire. 

 

"You know I remember when I was young, my dad would always take me camping down by the beach," he began.  Everyone's attention was on him.  This had obviously become the campfire stories portion of the night.  "The weather was so nice in the summertime that we wouldn't even bring tents.  We'd just unroll a sleeping bag and fall asleep under the stars.  I used to dream of going into space on a ship with my dad's engine.  He always told me that if I had a dream that I believed in, I could make it happen." Archer smiled. "I guess he was right.  

 

"Well anyway, I remember one specific camping trip we took.  I got out of my sleeping bag in the middle of the night, because I had drunk a lot of water before we bedded down and...well you know.  So when I got back in, something had burrowed into my sleeping bag.  When I realized it, I jerked the zipper, but it stuck. I was so frantic to get out that I flopped around like a fish for a good two minutes.  My dad was laughing so hard that he couldn't help me."  Archer smiled at the memory.  "He never let me forget that I was afraid of field mice."

 

Trip and Mayweather smiled and Hoshi laughed.

 

"You know my dad used to take me camping too," Trip sighed.

 

"What do you mean 'used to'?  We went camping last time I visited your parents."

 

Trip glanced at his captain then went on.  "As I was saying we used to go camping a lot on my uncle's land.  I always loved it, but I think my favorite thing was this nice-sized bluff I used to climb all over.  Every time I went there, there was always something new to look at, some new gopher burrow or something."  Trip laughed and looked at Archer.  "You know that scar on my back?" 

 

Archer nodded and took a sip of his coffee.  "Yeah." 

 

"I actually got that one time when I was climbing.  I fell and landed on a rock.  I didn't wake up until it was dark out.  Mama was worried sick.  She didn't let me out of her sight for months." 

 

Archer laughed. 

 

"It seems that even as a child you had a propensity for injury," T'Pol said curtly.

 

Archer laughed again.  "What about you T'Pol?  You ever go camping?" 

 

T'Pol was silent for a time as though she was considering her answer.  "I never went camping, as you call it, but I did once complete a survival training session in the desert." 

 

She seemed surprised at herself for so easily falling into the human role of reminiscing.  It reminded her of how much she had changed.  In the past she would have added nothing to the conversation, instead she would have silently counted the ways this conversation was illogical and held no practical purpose.  However much she wanted to push away the fact that she was different than she had been, she couldn't.  In fact, if she was honest with herself, she guiltily cherished her little changes.  They had granted her the ability to become closer to a community of people whom she had come to understand and feel comfortable with, more so even than many of her peers on Vulcan.

 

"I hate deserts," Trip grumbled. 

 

"Vulcan children are expected to survive one week in the desert on their own.  It's a coming of age ritual.  It proves their worth to society." 

 

"That sounds kind of harsh." 

 

The slightest hint of a smile played at T'Pol's lips.  "Upon completion of the ordeal, there is a sense of accomplishment unlike anything else. It was an... invigorating experience." 

 

Archer had never heard T'Pol talk about her childhood before. In fact, Archer had never really thought about her having a childhood before.  Smiling to himself, Archer thought back to the beginnings of their relationship.  He was happy T'Pol had become comfortable enough with the crew to join in casual conversation.

 

"I did something similar when I was young," Malcolm said. 

 

"Really?"  T'Pol seemed surprised.  "I was not aware it was a human tradition as well." 

 

"Well, it's really not.  It's more like a Reed tradition.  When a boy in our family turns thirteen, he has to find his way home from a set starting point in three days.  My father and I went camping, and one morning I woke up and he wasn't there.  He had left enough supplies for me and a note that indicated that he expected me home in three days time.  It was a challenge. I got home late, but my father - one of only three Reeds out of a grand total of ten that had made it on time - was only a bit disappointed.  My mother was very proud and I learned some valuable survival techniques.  My father was convinced that it made me a stronger person and, honestly, I think it did, too."  Malcolm smiled tightly.  Everyone was silent for a beat. 

 

"You know I've always thought your family was a little strange, Malcolm," Hoshi said good-naturedly.  Everyone laughed except, of course, T'Pol.

 

"I never really went camping when I was young," Hoshi said thoughtfully, "but I was always outside.  In fact, at one time I was convinced that I could talk to birds." She laughed at the memory and Malcolm smiled, never taking his eyes off hers.  "Of course I couldn't.  I was very disappointed when I found that out.  I still remember that summer." 

 

Travis smiled and looked around the fire.  "Well it looks like it's my turn.  The only time I ever did anything that was even close to camping was when we were transporting live vegetation in Cargo Hold 4 and Ileana Muller and I snuck out and slept under the trees together."  Travis smiled broadly.  "She was my first real girlfriend," he said matter-of-factly. 

 

Archer smiled.  Sometimes Travis's youth poked through, reminding Archer of the all-smiles boomer that had boarded his ship for their first mission. 

 

"You were one deprived kid," Trip drawled jokingly.  Travis smiled and went back to staring out into black night above him.

 

The group talked for about an hour longer, and then all but Trip went off to their respective sleeping areas.  The two men sat together in silence once again, both looking at the dying fire.

 

"You know, Jon, I wasn't alone." 

 

Archer didn't say anything. 

 

"You know with Lizzie - I don't want you to feel that just because you weren't there that I had to go through that by myself.  I had people lookin' out for me." 

 

Archer nodded his head, "T'Pol." 

 

Trip was mildly surprised, "I didn't know you knew about her." 

 

"We may not have been talking like we used to, but I was still around.  I saw you two together, I know you, Trip.  It wasn't that hard to figure out."  He smiled at his friend. 

 

Trip nodded, "I just wanted you to know that I wasn't alone." 

 

"I know." 

 

Trip got up.  "Well, I'm gonna hit the sack." 

 

"Okay, see you in the morning, Trip." 

 

Trip walked off to his tent then about half way there he turned around. 

 

"Hey, Cap'n, you like your eggs scrambled, right?" 

 

"Yeah.  What about T'Pol though?" 

 

"Don't worry about it.  I brought something down for her.  Goodnight, Jon." 

 

"Goodnight, Trip."  Archer stayed sitting near the fire, until it was really nothing more than glowing embers, thinking about the night's stories.

 

It reminded him of something that he had long since forgotten.  The desire to explore was part of a person's soul.  It was something that couldn't be forced or pushed out.  It was always there.  It may be able to be shoved aside, but it was something that clung to a person's core, the very essence of a person's being.  Upon realizing that what he thought he had lost had really never gone anywhere, Archer grinned.  Suddenly the universe didn't look so black after all.

 

 

 


Comments:

Mary

The ability to say so much without  saying much. You got it in a nutshell. This was tender and emotionally healing , something all those scars of the expance needed. Thanks for providing.

JadziaKathryn

Fun! And I think I see some R/S undertones here, which is always nice in my book.

"You couldn't get that man out of space if you tied him to a tree." :D

Linda

This was a relaxing and enjoyable fic and tied up some loose ends among the characters.   I like to read the occassional fic where the tension is off since so many fics are driven by problems and tension.   This camping scene was a creative idea that I don't think anyone else has tried.  Oh, and you can talk to birds, LOL.  It is just that, well, it seems that birds have to learn human languages to accomplishi it.  ;)    Good job on this story! 

Dinah

I really enjoyed this story.  It shows how close and comfortable these people have become with one another.  It makes sense that they would help one another heal after their experiences in the Expanse.  Very well done, AuroraBorealis.

bluetiger

This was very nice. Sometimes you don't have to have harsh words and accusations to mend fences. The companionship of sitting around a fire swapping stories was enough. I'm glad Archer had a clue about Trip and T'Pol. Like Asso, I think you really hit the mark with Trip. He seems to be a very forgiving man. Very well Done.

Reanok

I loved thethis story it's nice to see the crew like this around a campfire on leve sharing stories like this.:D

Asso

Very cute. Personally I don't feel Archer so, but it would be very nice if he were like you draw him.;)

Trip is surpassing.:p

SavanaSahara

I loved this story! Short but sweet. Thanks!

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