"Commander Tucker Falls in Love" – Part 1
Rating: PG-13 (for language and sexual themes)
Author's Note: This was the first Enterprise story I posted (on ff.net only), but I wrote it before I owned the DVDs and I got stuff wrong. I wanted to fix those errors, and trim a little clumsiness, and then once I got into it a few new scenes demanded to be written. Think of this as a collection of missing scenes after Harbinger, e2, and Zero Hour, and during Home. Oh yeah: There’s also a moon garden in here that I suspect my subconscious ripped off from somebody.
Prologue: Exploring Human Sexuality His Ass
He hadn’t wanted to make love to her in the first place. That’s what he kept telling himself after she’d told him she was just “exploring human sexuality.”
First of all, it was stupid to get involved with a fellow officer. And it was even stupider to try to have any kind of intimate relationship with someone who was always claiming to have no emotions.
Even if that was obviously a great big load of hooey.
And also exactly how he’d gotten into this mess. She couldn’t quite hide her disappointment when he claimed he wasn’t jealous, and after that he just couldn’t stick to his story. Especially since it wasn’t true.
But that didn’t mean he wanted to have sex. Well, who was he kidding, of course he wanted to have sex – but that didn’t mean he was stupid enough to actually do it.
And while it was highly gratifying to discover he was attractive to someone as generally aloof and as generally gorgeous as T’Pol, it was also nuts. This wasn’t like her at all.
Was it possible the Expanse was really getting to her? Hell, that could be bad news for the mission. He’d have to keep on eye on that.
Of course that was pretty much what he did already – keep an eye on T’Pol. Who could blame him, right?
He sighed. What had he expected, that a little sex might actually allow him to get closer to a Vulcan? Maybe the Expanse was getting to him too.
So, okay, it was just sex. An “exploration of human sexuality.”
Looked at that way, Amanda probably would have been more fun. Not that he had time for that kind of thing with her, either. But a feisty MACO vs. an uptight Vulcan who couldn’t have had a whole lot of sexual experience?
Oh Lord, had he had sex with a Vulcan virgin? It sounded like a bad joke.
Probably not. It wasn’t the best sex he’d ever had, but it was far from the worst. Of course, knowing her she’d probably read everything there was on the subject back when she’d had that bug up her ass about them going to Risa. T’Pol was nothing if not thorough. And while technically proficient, the whole thing had gone a whole lot faster than he’d have liked. He’d high-tailed it out of there pretty fast, before she could throw him out. It wasn’t like she was going to want to hang out and cuddle.
Which was where Amanda probably would have been a better choice. She would have wanted to hang out afterwards. And yeah, maybe it was a little girly of him, but he could use a cuddle now and then. Especially now.
No way would T’Pol just lie around in a guy’s arms. Any more than she seemed interested in any encores. What did she think, that she could judge a guy on a first time? That was hardly fair. There was a species difference!
And he hadn’t wanted this complication in his life in the first place! If he could have said no, he would have! What’s a guy supposed to do if a naked woman jumps on him? Tell her to take a hike? How the hell was he supposed to work with her again after that?
So fine. If it was just a little exploration of human sexuality, he could just pretend it never happened. He probably shouldn’t even go for any more neuro-pressure sessions.
Damn. Just when he was really starting to enjoy them, too. Not just the therapeutic value, or the lovely views. He loved the conversation. He loved the sound of T’Pol’s voice when it was pitched low and soft. It had begun to feel like coming home at the end of a hard day.
He shook his head. Let it go, Tucker. This one had “no-win scenario” written all over it.
Trip buzzed T’Pol’s quarters. He hadn’t gotten around to telling her he wasn’t going to do neuro-pressure anymore, and then it came time for the regular session, and somehow his feet had just walked down the corridor and taken him to her door.
In fact, before that they’d also walked him out of mess hall and back to his quarters and into the bathroom to brush his teeth. And as long as his feet were just taking him places he’d figured he should wash them. And if he was going to do that he’d figured he might as well take a shower and change into some nice comfortable sweats.
He was wearing his red t-shirt. Amanda had told him it was a great color on him. If T’Pol told him to take a hike maybe he could go look for Amanda.
See, this wasn’t a no-win scenario at all – it was a no-lose scenario! Charles ‘Trip’ Tucker III could get some nice warm female attention any time he wanted.
His confidence dipped a little when she didn’t answer the door. Where the hell was she? He buzzed again. Finally, the door slid open. T’Pol was in her robe again. Her eyes were two deep brown pools staring at him. She didn’t say anything, just stepped back to let him in.
Any confidence he had left at that point flowed right down through those traitorous feet of his and disappeared into the deck. What the hell was he thinking? T’Pol could shred his ego into tiny little pieces of confetti without even wanting to, just from being clueless.
“Um, ya sure this is okay?” he asked. “I know it’s kind of awkward.”
“Vulcans do not experience feelings of awkwardness,” T’Pol murmured. “Please disrobe.” She gestured to the meditation mat on the floor.
“Lucky you,” he said. “I feel awkward enough for both of us.” He took his shirt off. “Which posture first?”
“We can begin with the feet.”
Thank God. It was the most collegial and the least potentially sexual, at least for him. He was no foot fetishist. On the other hand, once he had her left foot in his grasp he realized how cute her little toes were, how lovely the curve of her arch . . . He shook his head and tried again to focus.
She worked his foot and he breathed through it just as he had been taught. The discipline of Vulcan breathing really did help; soon he felt calmer, more centered.
“Why do you feel awkward?” she asked.
His stomach tensed. So much for calm and centered. “You really can’t figure that one out?”
Her brows furrowed. “You are uncomfortable because we had sexual relations.”
He smiled grimly. “Bingo.”
She looked apprehensive. “Why?”
He searched for the most logical explanation he could give her. “With humans that kind of thing usually changes the quality of the relationship.”
T’Pol appeared to be considering his statement while she worked on his foot.
“What about Vulcans?” he asked, and gave up any pretense of proper breathing. “Doesn’t a sexual encounter change anything between them?”
“Vulcans only have sexual relations with their mates,” T’Pol said, then clarified, “Their husbands or wives.”
She told him to lie face down, and he did, happily. He loved this posture: It was totally relaxing. It was easier to ask nosy questions too. “So you were supposed to save yourself for Koss.”
Her fingers paused in their work. “That is correct.”
“And then what? Have sex with him once every seven years?”
“So tell me, are you all set for seven years now? Or does it count if all you’re doing is … let’s see, how’d you put that again? ‘Exploring human sexuality’?”
“What we engaged in was hardly the pon farr.”
Had she just insulted him? But her manner didn’t seem calculated to offend.
She continued, “My mother once told me that Vulcan couples may choose to engage in intimate relations outside of pon farr, even though it would not result in any children. She said it was not entirely logical, but that it could be an agreeable way to experience the marriage bond.”
“We’re not married, T’Pol.”
“I realize that.”
Her tone was even drier than usual. He eyed her curiously, wondering if there was possibly more going on with her than she claimed. “So why me?”
“First, there appeared to be a mutual attraction. Second, I did not think you would object. Humans are known to choose sexual partners outside of marriage. In the time I have known you I have noted a number of liaisons with women across the galaxy . . .”
He scowled. “That’s not how you put it the other night. You said that Sim told you I had feelings for you. Feelings. You didn’t say Sim told you I’m happy to bang any piece of alien ass I can get my hands on.”
She looked a little confused by the colloquialism. “You’re getting emotional.”
“No kidding! You may not have any feelings about this, but I do.”
She rose to her feet, so he did too. She walked to the window to look out for a moment, then walked back to him. “What is it you want from me?”
He looked closely at her and decided that she really meant it. And that she really didn’t know.
And that she was afraid.
Suddenly he was ashamed of himself. He was doing exactly the same thing he’d done so many times before: trying to make an alien fit his own ideas. He was trying to browbeat a Vulcan into behaving like a human woman in love.
“Look, just forget it,” he said, and sighed. “You’d think I’d learn.”
“Commander?” she said uncertainly.
“You are who you are,” he said. “And I’m trying to make you be something else. I apologize.” He sighed. “I should go.”
“We have not completed the neuro-pressure session.”
“Maybe some other time,” he said. “Or maybe not. I’m not sure I can comfortably touch you anymore.” He swallowed over a sudden lump in his throat.
T’Pol looked stricken. Obviously stricken, as if she wasn’t even attempting to hide it. Something was not right here. He said, “Are you okay?”
She turned abruptly away. “I’m fine.”
“Should we be worried about you?” Trip asked. “Is it the Expanse?”
She turned back, her face schooled back into something closer to normal, though her eyes still looked too large in her face. “It is possible I have not been devoting enough time to meditation.”
“Another reason to let the neuro-pressure go. It’s been interfering, hasn’t it?”
She just stared at him, wide-eyed, which he took as a yes.
“Look,” he said, grasping for some way to leave matters between them on a decent footing. “Things are stressful enough right now, for all of us. Let’s just go back to business as usual. You know I’ve got your back, and I know you’ve got mine, same as always, even if we don’t always see things the same way. And maybe, when we’re done with this mission, we can check in again about this other stuff. What do you say?”
She looked at him for a long moment, then nodded almost imperceptibly.
“All right then.” He smiled tightly at her and resisted the urge to hold out his hand so they could shake on it. “Guess I’ll catch ya later, then.”
As he walked back to his quarters he realized what he’d said. Catch ya later. As if someday he actually could catch that mysterious Vulcan heart of hers for his own.
He shook his head. Even if by some strange twist of fate he could, that didn’t mean he should.
Trip grabbed a cup of coffee and a ration pack and sat down in the furthest chair at the furthest table at the furthest wrecked recess of the mess hall. He didn’t want company. He just wanted time to think while he fueled himself for another grueling repair shift.
Okay, so he and T’Pol had a kid who was 100 years old, or had been. Did Lorian even exist anymore? Technically he never had now, right? And in this timeline, as T’Pol had taken pains to point out, there was little chance he’d ever be born. Hell, there was little chance she’d give him the time of day.
She’d become a virtual recluse when she was off duty. But she was also undoubtedly in better control of herself, so perhaps the isolation was what she required. He should be glad for her – although he suspected she was lonelier than she let on.
But that didn’t mean he wasn’t plenty sorry for himself. It was obvious she had no more interest in neuro-pressure or any other non-work-related contact between them. His little attempt at checking in with her the other night had made that clear enough. Short of an overwhelmingly good reason like being hurled 100 years in the past, she clearly had no remaining interest in him at all.
Which was fine. He shouldn’t be interested in her anyway.
So he was kind of surprised when she picked her way through the mess hall and sat down next to him.
He didn’t say anything, afraid they’d end up in another argument like the last one, when he’d tried to engage her with talk about their future selves’ marriage and she’d rained on his parade and then stomped all over it and kicked the floats to pieces while she was at it.
It was really annoying how she could always wait him out. “What’d you get?” he asked finally, unable to bear the silence.
“Baked potato and cheese sauce.”
“Are you okay eating all this dairy?”
“The ration paks do not offer many vegetarian options.”
“Sorry about that. We should be getting the galley back in shape soon, if we make it past the rendezvous with Degra.”
“I will survive. Vulcan children drink milk.”
“There are no cows on Vulcan. They drink mother’s milk, or a synthesized version of it. But this does not seem to be causing any significant difficulties for me.”
“I don’t suppose Vulcan children are breastfed,” he said. “Probably not held all that much either.” The poor little buggers were probably systematically starved of affection from the moment they popped out.
“Infants are traditionally breastfed until the age of two.”
He raised his eyebrows in surprise. “That’s pretty long.”
“Vulcan children take longer to reach maturity. The parent–child bond is also considered very important. There is a great deal of physical contact between mother and child up until the age of five, when formal instruction begins.”
“What about father and child?”
“I believe that depends on the father,” she said. “From what early memories I retain, I believe my own father was not lacking in physical affection.”
Trip chewed his sandwich and wondered why they were having this conversation.
She tilted her head. “Judging from our interactions with Lorian, I suspect he had a better relationship with his father than with his mother.”
Trip snorted. “I wouldn’t say that. He shot me, and he nearly destroyed both ships.” He sighed. “I don’t know, T’Pol, it looks like maybe we screwed up that kid.”
“No doubt he was doing what he thought best.”
“That’s what the parents of problem children always say. I wonder what he ate growing up. I think he was a little shorter than me – maybe you wouldn’t let him have any meat.”
T’Pol looked pained. “Humans seem inordinately concerned with height.”
He smiled. “Well, there’s still a general belief that tall guys enjoy certain advantages. More likely to get the girl . . . to get the good job . . .”
“You appear to be of average height, and I have not noticed that you lack for girls. Nor is your job lacking in status.”
“You should have seen me in seventh grade, before I got my growth spurt. I wasn’t average then, I was a little pipsqueak.”
T’Pol tilted her head. “I believe I did see you. Sim did appear to leap quite suddenly from one size to another as he grew.”
Trip was nonplussed. Sim seemed to have loomed awfully large in T’Pol’s life for someone who was only on the ship a couple of weeks. “Seems like you were pretty close to him,” he said.
“There was hardly time for that,” T’Pol said. “But I suspect his knowledge of his lifespan accelerated his relationships with the people he cared about.”
It struck him forcefully that she actually described Sim’s relationship with her that way. He tried to imagine her ever telling someone else that he cared about her. It just seemed ludicrous.
There was something he’d wondered about for awhile. “Did you and he . . . ?”
“No,” she said, but then to his great surprise, added, “I wish we had. It would have pleased him, and there would have been no time for him to feel awkward afterwards.”
Trip was depressed to realize he still felt jealous of himself. “Regret can be a powerful motivator. Perhaps that’s what ultimately led to Lorian. It could explain a lot. It’s funny how things work out sometimes, isn’t it? Or don’t.” He sighed and drained what was left of his coffee. He needed to get back to work.
T’Pol merely looked pensively at him as he got up to leave. When he got to the door, she was already lost in a PADD.
He realized what she’d done: she’d called a truce – done what she could to repair their working relationship after their spat. Over the years she’d gotten smarter about things like that.
He couldn’t believe that Jon was dead. Another loss to pile on top of the others the Xindi had cost them, except that this time he couldn’t even hate the Xindi for it.
Well, he could hate the Reptilians. But somehow he just couldn’t summon the energy. The Insectoids had already apologized for their role in launching the weapon, and the Reptilians were blaming everything on one rogue general. They were probably just being cold-blooded snakes in the grass, but Trip’s cynicism was only a shadow of the full-bodied hatred he’d managed to carry around for so long.
This loss wasn’t like Lizzie’s. Jon had died doing his job, doing what he loved. He’d known the risks. It was completely different.
And yet it seemed that every loss for the rest of his life was going to feel just like Lizzie. Not just feel like it, but be it. Every loss dredged up all those unbearable feelings all over again, then just added a layer of new ones.
At dinner – was it really just a day ago? – he hadn’t actually intended to invite Jon and T’Pol to the 602 Club. Good manners had required him to make the invitation once he’d blurted out his plans. Assuming Earth survived – and he’d be damned if he was going to assume anything else – he wanted his staff to get a chance to cut loose and whoop it up. They were long overdue for it, and they wouldn’t be able to have much fun with the captain in the room. Even Trip planned to stay on the periphery once things got going, just make sure nobody got into trouble.
But Jon would have understood. If he’d shown up, it would have been early, just to make an appearance, raise a glass to his engineers, and then move on – and take T’Pol with him, if she didn’t understand the oppressive effect of a senior command presence in the room. Which she probably didn’t.
Not that Trip didn’t like the idea of buying T’Pol a drink in the 602 Club. He just didn’t want to do it with his entire staff there. Or Ruby.
And right now, frankly, he didn’t care if he never saw the place again. Not when Jon couldn’t be there. No Jon. No A.G. No connection to that part of his past anymore, except in his own head.
It was still so hard to believe this wasn’t just a bad dream.
His door chimed.
He got up and raised the lights in his cabin and opened the door. Technically, he was in bed, but he hadn’t even gotten undressed. He hadn’t expected sleep to come anytime soon.
T’Pol had Jon’s half-empty bottle of bourbon in one hand and two glasses in another. “May I come in?”
Trip nodded and stepped back to let her in and experienced an odd sense of déjà-vu as he watched her stride over to his desk.
She poured two drinks – one much smaller than the other – and gave him the larger one.
“To Jonathan Archer,” Trip said, and raised his glass.
“To Jonathan Archer,” T’Pol echoed, and they each drank. She grimaced at the taste. “I have noticed that you and the captain sometimes share a drink when you receive bad news.”
“That’s true, we do – we did. It was kind of you to think of this.”
“I hoped I would not be disturbing your sleep.”
Trip grinned. “Well, you know how good I am at that.”
“Perhaps a neuro-pressure session would help.”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” he said softly. “But thank you.”
T’Pol looked down for a moment, then took a surprisingly large gulp of her drink. “I should go.” She went to put her glass on his desk.
“I can’t believe he’s gone, can you?”
She turned back. She looked concerned. “You don’t believe he’s dead?”
“No, I don’t mean that. I just can’t take it in. It doesn’t feel real. I keep expecting him to hail us any minute.”
“Perhaps it is because he has escaped from so many other perilous situations before.”
“See, you’re still using present tense yourself.”
T’Pol said nothing. She looked exhausted. “Sit down,” he said. “Join me for awhile. There’s no rush, is there? The Aquatics still have to make up their mind whether they’ll take us home. From what Jon told me that could take nearly as long as it would take us to get there on our own.”
“I have been assured it will take no more than a few hours.”
“Then you have time to sit down. It’s customary, you know. When someone dies, their friends and family gather to remember them.”
“When someone dies on Vulcan, the family goes into ritual seclusion.”
“Then this is our ritual seclusion. Come on, sit down. Tell me your favorite Captain Archer stories.”
Somewhat to his surprise, she sat down on the bunk next to him. “I don’t believe I know any,” she said.
“Of course you do. Tell me about the first time you met him.”
Her head tilted. An eyebrow went up. “The first time we met, he said, and I quote, “You have no idea how much I’m restraining myself from knocking you on your ass.” This was in front of Ambassador Soval, Admiral Forrest, and several others.”
Trip laughed. “Are you kidding? He never told me that.”
“I did not consider it an auspicious beginning.”
“No, I’m sure not. I seem to recall Porthos freaked you out too, when you came aboard.” He smiled.
“Get freaked out. Yeah, I know. And then I tried to shake your hand. Another inauspicious beginning, huh? And now look at us.”
She clasped her hands and leaned forward off the bed, her posture screaming that she was perched for flight. He experienced a moment of intense pessimism: After all they had been through together, how likely was it to really mean anything in the end? Except for finally revealing her age, she was as elusive as ever. Even if she accepted a Starfleet commission, they might not even end up on the same ship, especially without Jon around to lobby for it. “Can I ask you something?” he said, suddenly determined to satisfy his curiosity while he could.
She turned her head slightly toward him and waited.
“Why would you want to ‘explore human sexuality’ before you’ve even explored Vulcan sexuality? Unless I’m wrong about that.”
“You’re not wrong.” Her voice was soft.
She glanced briefly at him, then returned to gazing across the cabin at the far wall. “I believe you have become unduly fixated on that one unfortunate phrase. As I said before, I’m sorry if I offended you.”
He grimaced. “The phrase isn’t what I found offensive. I’m just not sure what happened. Either it’s as you said, and you used me for sex merely to satisfy an impersonal curiosity, or you lied to me about why you did it. And I still don’t know which it was.”
She swallowed, still refusing to look at him. “I behaved badly. I apologize.”
“I didn’t bring it up to get an apology. I can let it go, either way. I just want to know why you did it.”
“Why?” she asked sharply.
He licked his lips nervously. Why not tell her? He might never have the chance again. “Because it matters to me. Look, I realize this is probably not anything you want to hear, but lately you’re pretty much all I think about.”
Crap. He took a shaky breath. “Don’t worry about it. If I know it’s just me I can work harder on getting over it. You . . .”
But by then she had crawled into his lap and stopped his lips with hers.
It took him a second for his brain to catch up to what was happening and kiss her back. He couldn’t believe how good it felt, even in the midst of grief. He was alive and she was alive and she was in his arms, and it felt as if finally, finally, the universe had righted itself.
She drew back and looked at him. Trip couldn’t stop smiling. With renewed self-confidence he said, “Promise me you aren’t just exploring human sexuality.”
“I promise,” she said, and descended on his lips again.
He wrapped his arms around her, pulling her tight, and explored her bourbon-tasting mouth. Further discussion could wait. Mourning Jon could wait. Everything could wait for this.
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