“We’ll Always Have Vulcan”
Author’s Note: It might be really lame that a good chunk of this is actually word for word a scene from the episode, but it was the only way I felt I could set up what follows. I just hope it goes over well.
Trip focused on his work. It was all he could do not to look at her. It was all he could do to keep the painfully hollow feeling from taking up residence in his chest, where his heart should be. It had been easy at first. With this latest emergency popping up, there had been plenty of work to keep him occupied, which kept him away from her.
She was standing right next to him now, making the little nook often called his "office" in Engineering seem much, much smaller. It wasn’t T’Pol’s fault, but Trip still resented her presence. It made it just that much harder for him to concentrate on what he was supposed to be working on. Just remembering to breathe was difficult enough, but doing things as complicated as the latest sensor modifications was damn near impossible. Still, it was all he could do not to look at her, especially as she reminded him of what a great team they could be when they worked together on the solution to the latest threat to the ship or the planet, or whatever the hell else needed saving.
Trip sent mental curses at his captain and friend for damning him to this living hell.
It’s not his fault. How could he know? Trip scolded himself for thinking such dark thoughts, only to find himself thinking them again. How could he not know!? I mean, it’s not like we weren’t being overt about it. A trip to Vulcan, going home to meet her mother, and then having her come back married to another man out of the blue!
He hoped his internal turmoil wasn’t making its way to the surface. The last thing he needed was for T’Pol to be concerned with what he was going through, especially because she was the cause of it. He set his face in a stony expression that would make a Vulcan proud, except for the one standing right next to him now.
He focused on the sensor readout in front of him. It gave him an excuse not to look at her.
“Target the directional array on grid four five nine,” Trip heard her beautiful voice say.
He didn’t know how, but he could feel her eyes on him, and he felt his heart sink despite all his efforts to focus on the work at hand. He could swear that he felt her pain, but he brushed it off as just his imagination.
God, you’re bein’ pathetic, Trip scolded himself. Just like you to be blamin’ her for feelin’ sorry for yourself.
He could hear her light footsteps now, working their way around the small workbench, taking the long way to the smaller monitor that was behind him. In better times, he might have amused himself with wicked musings of what she might be looking at, but now … now he just wondered what she was thinking.
No, I gotta focus on the work. The Cap’n’s counting on me… on us to get this done…
“How are your parents?”
Trip’s stony expression faltered.
Now that came out of left field.
“They’re fine,” he slowly started. “They moved into a new house in Mississippi. It's not like the old place in Panama City, but it's pretty nice.”
Trip was surprised at how easily he’d opened up to her. He grew more cautious, and curious.
“Why do you ask?”
He made sure to avoid actually looking at her, afraid that he really would open up to her, and pour his heart out.
That’s the last thing she needs he decided. There’s enough on her plate as it is.
“You haven't spoken of them recently,” she replied. “In fact, you've said very little since I returned from Vulcan.”
She stood next to him again, but this time she was standing in the corner, next to the large monitor he wished he could just leap into right now. He could see her looking at him again, staring straight into his soul. It took every once of willpower he had not to return her gaze, to look upon her lovely face, into those amazing eyes.
“There hasn't been a lot of time to catch up,” he blurted out. Already he regretted it.
Technically it was true, but while partly it had been because of this latest emergency constantly interrupting what few conversations they’d managed to have, he’d also been making a point of keeping busy since he’d gotten back from Vulcan.
“You also haven't joined us at the captain's table since we left Earth,” she pressed him.
He pretended to keep working, as if they were making idle small talk and nothing else.
“What are you trying to say?”
He knew exactly what she was trying to say. He just didn’t expect her to come right out and say it.
“You've been avoiding me.”
His thoughts briefly noted the irony of those words coming from her sweet lips, but he quickly slammed the door on that train of thought. This conversation was becoming extremely uncomfortable.
“Well, maybe I have,” Trip admitted with a hint of defensiveness.
God I wanna look at her…
He turned his back on her and moved to another monitor to check the sensor calibrations for the umpteenth time. He knew it was cold of him, but it was all he could do to keep himself from looking at her.
“But you got to admit, it's a little awkward.” He qualified his earlier statement. “I mean, you're married.” And I don’t carry on relationships with married women.
“I know you did it to help your mother.” He stole a glance at her, allowing himself a moment of weakness to make sure she was okay. “But it's going to take me a little time to adjust.”
There was that pain again. It felt like someone was trying to tear his heart out. He tried to focus on the sensor calibrations.
“I'm still adjusting to it myself,” came her voice from behind him.
As much as it hurt, he wanted her to know that he wasn’t mad at her or anything. He knew that she wanted his support, but he also knew that he couldn’t give it to her because just looking at her was almost too much. Didn’t mean he wasn’t going to at least give her a little bit of the support she needed, even if he couldn’t manage much. If he could stand there and watch her give herself to another man, the least he could do was give her a word or two of encouragement. He felt his chest tighten in anticipation.
“This is going to sound strange,” he started. “But as tough as it was watching you go through with the ceremony, I was proud of you for what you did.”
He’d tried to look her in the eye, to let her know that there was true meaning -feeling- behind his words, but he couldn’t do it for very long. He kept going between her dark, hazel eyes, and some imaginary point a million light-years past the bulkhead. He hoped that she’d derive at least some comfort from his words. He did, at least. He was only dully surprised to find himself standing next to her again, looking up at the large monitor and the sensor map it displayed.
“Yeah, I guess it's probably for the best.”
Sour grapes. Such an ugly term, even if it was completely accurate. But if it made T’Pol feel better, then Trip would live with it.
T’Pol looked at him with mild confusion. “What do you mean?”
She probably would have been less confused if he wasn’t looking at the sensor readout. Trip worked up the courage to look at her again.
“Come on.” He tried to play it off as nothing, as if what he was about to say was completely practical. “It's not like we would have made an ideal couple. A Vulcan and a human? Romeo and Juliet probably stood a better chance.”
What about Lorian? What about his parents?
The monitor chimed, interrupting his thoughts to let him know that the sensors had detected something.
Saved by the bell… He felt guilty for thinking that, but at least he wouldn’t have to find out if T’Pol had been thinking the exact same thing he had been.
“Subspace distortion. Zero point four light years,” T’Pol reported, even though Trip could see it for himself.
Guess she didn’t believe it either. Back to business.
“There's no sign of a warp trail,” Trip protested. Part of him wanted it to be nothing. After all, they were here now, and they were talking to each other. Maybe this could be a good thing.
“They might have concealed their engine emissions,” T’Pol pointed out.
Trip almost thought this might lead to one of their famous arguments, the ones he’d confessed to T’Pol’s mother that he’d enjoyed. He quickly nipped it in the bud.
Trip reluctantly keyed the comm. panel. “Engineering to Bridge.”
“Go ahead,” replied Captain Archer.
“I think we've found him, Captain.” Trip eyed the sensor readout, still not entirely convinced that they weren’t chasing a ghost.
“You don't sound a hundred percent sure.”
Trip stole another look at T’Pol, hoping that it didn’t look too pleading. Fortunately, she was working on resolving the sensor contact.
“It's the best we've got,” was all Trip could say.
“Send the coordinates to Mister Mayweather.” Archer ordered him.
Trip was sure that if time hadn’t been of the essence, his old friend might have pressed him a little more. He still might, at dinner tonight.
If I go…
The comm. panel gave a dull “beep”, letting him know that his connection to the Bridge had been closed.
“I’m transmitting the data to the helm now.”
Trip let himself look at her again. It was almost as if she’d sensed his mood, despite his best effort to keep a neutral expression.
T’Pol didn’t reply, busying herself with the sensor information Trip knew she’d already sent to the Bridge.
Guess I deserve that, Trip thought bitterly to himself.
He couldn’t help but notice how much deeper the lines in her face were since the last time he’d really looked at her, on Vulcan. She’d already looked unhealthy then, but she’d explained to him why. He’d been there for her then, let her pour her newfound emotions out on him. The two months between the end of their mission into the Expanse and their trip to Vulcan had been the best he could remember in a long time. It had almost seemed like they were an honest-to-God couple, even if neither of them could quite wrap their heads around what exactly their peculiar relationship meant.
It wasn’t surprising that she looked even worse now. After all, she’d been through a lot more than he had, what with the whole shotgun wedding and all. He hoped he hadn’t added to any of the stress she was going through. He also wished she would eat more.
You might even get your wish if you’d actually go to Cap’n’s Mess with her…
Trip turned away from T’Pol again, and found a tool to fidget with on his workbench. His thoughts drifted back to that terrible day, when he’d stood there and watched the woman he loved marry another man. He closed his eyes, and remembered how her lips had felt against his cheek. She’d defied Vulcan custom, and shown everyone there where her heart truly lay. It had made what he was about to witness bearable. It killed him inside, but he knew that she needed him to be there for her. He could tell by the way her voice cracked as she thanked him for being there that she was almost at her breaking point. It had made him want to kill a certain architect.
Trip’s grip tightened on the tool he held in his hands when her voice interrupted his thoughts again.
“Are you coming to dinner tonight?”
Trip thought about it. He wanted to, but he didn’t want to.
Does that make any sense?
He turned in her direction to answer, but carefully avoided making eye contact with her. “I’ve got a lot of things to do… But if I get done with everything, I’ll stop by.”
He had no intention of going to dinner; he’d eat long after everyone had gone to bed for the night. He knew that T’Pol didn’t buy it either. She looked down at the floor, and clasped her hands behind her back.
“I hope to see you there tonight.”
With those words hanging in the air between them, she quickly made her way out of Engineering. Trip watched after her, and hated himself for lying to her. All he could do was fidget absent-mindedly with the device he still held in his hands and think of happier times. The past three years went by in a blur. There had been many moments that he would cherish for the rest of his life.
He’d been excited when T’Pol had invited him to come with her to Vulcan. She was the only one he wanted to be with. His own family had grown distant ever since Lizzy’s death, so he had no real place to call home. Besides, there was something to be said for being brought home to meet her mother, at least by human standards. Even though he couldn’t quite say for certain what they’d had, he had still felt completely comfortable with her, and he knew that she was completely comfortable with him, too. There were doubts, as even then it was obvious that she hadn’t said a word to her mother about him and that she still didn’t seem to want to admit to being romantically involved with him. He’d rolled with it, just happy to be able to spend what he hoped would be some quality time with her. He’d even had some fun teasing her as they’d arrived at her mother’s house on Vulcan, but it had gotten much more awkward from that point on.
T’Les was definitely an intimidating woman. Trip remembered thinking that he definitely knew where T’Pol got her stubborn streak from – the way those two had argued was unbelievable. Doing it in front of him was just the icing on the cake.
He’d looked forward to seeing the sights with T’Pol, but they ended up getting sidetracked. When he’d finally been able to get together with T’Pol later on, her heart definitely hadn’t been in it. He had known something was wrong, but it still broke his heart when she’d told him. He’d told himself, and T’Les, that he hadn’t known for sure that he loved T’Pol until then.
That’s a damn lie and you know it!
Trip sighed heavily as he reflected on his past with T’Pol. He’d known that he’d already felt something for her long before then. The neuro-pressure sessions that he’d at first resented became a welcome nightly escape. It wasn’t long before the two of them had opened up to each other. Some nights it seemed like they’d done more talking than neuro-pressure. And as confusing as T’Pol could be, he was sure that she’d felt something too, even though she vehemently denied it after their first time together. Finding the other Enterprise, and Lorian, their son, seemed to confirm it.
It had been a difficult time, and they’d helped each other through it, even though they’d been stubborn about it every step of the way. For a while, when the world wasn’t in danger of ending anymore, it had seemed like it had been worth it.
You’re a fool, Trip Tucker. You could’ve had her if only you’d had the guts to actually tell her how you felt about her when you had the chance.
Trip shook his head. Hindsight truly was an unforgiving bitch. She was married now, and that was that, because Vulcans mated for life. He knew he just had to deal with it, and move on with his life, but being on the same ship and seeing her every day, a constant reminder of what he’d lost, wasn’t helping any.
Whoever said it was better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all deserved a lickin’, even if he was right, Trip thought bitterly to himself. Especially because he was right, the bastard, stating the obvious like that…
In some ways, he wished that he never had fallen in love with T’Pol, because he wouldn’t be going through the terrible pain he was feeling now. But then he wouldn’t have any of the good memories he had either, and he wouldn’t trade anything in the world for them. He sighed heavily.
At least we’ll always have Vulcan.
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