Author's Note:Thank you to all who come to read my stories! I know things have been a bit jumbled up; it will get better next month; this month's stories are part of the Blogging from A-Z April Challenge. Writing alphabetically AND chronologically was one more challenge than I could handle this year!This is a missing-scene story that occurs between the ending of The Aenar, when Trip requests a transfer to Columbia, and the opening of Affliction, when Trip and T'Pol speak. Spoilers for these episodes.
Trip was quitting.
The knowledge was a jagged pain in T'Pol's soul. It was sharp as fragments of obsidian shaken from the cliffs of the Forge, when there was a major seismic disturbance of the tectonic plates.
She watched him as she spoke to the third candidate to assume his position, Lieutenant Kelby. The conversation was perfunctory, an excuse. Captain Archer wanted her to speak to Trip, but he was at the far end of the warp core casing. It was not possible to be further from her position, and still be in Engineering.
"I've got a lot of work to do," he'd said, when she entered and asked to discuss efficiency ratings with him. "And our next Chief Engineer is going to have to learn how to listen to Vulcans, so this is pretty damned efficient. I expect you'll find that agreeable." He'd given her no opportunity to say anything further, only left her there with the Lieutenant, and moved away at a pace that was not quite running, and she felt more shards falling within her.
Before she boarded Enterprise, she'd never thought in terms of human metaphor.
Perhaps she could dull the slicing edges of his utter rejection by refusing to see it in any other than Vulcan terms. Chief Engineer Tucker was transferring to another ship, and a replacement must be trained. As he said, she was assisting him with the process. It was both efficient, and logical that she do so. It was within the purview of her duties as Enterprise's First Officer.
But that was hollow solace, and did nothing to ease the pain of truth.
Trip wasn't transferring to Columbia.
He was quitting.
And it had nothing to do with which starship he served on.
Trip was quitting her.
She'd tried to speak on it, as Captain Archer had asked her to do, and for personal reasons she wouldn't discuss with anyone but Trip. But he wouldn't allow her that. He wouldn't open the door to his quarters when she signalled, and he avoided the Captain's table and even the Mess Hall, except during the busiest of hours, when there was no opportunity to speak privately. Her messages to him went unread. He had never closed her off from his life with such finality and totality.
T'Pol knew, beyond all logic and all doubt, that she was the cause of his impending departure. She could feel it in his stiff back, turned to her. She'd smelled it in his scent when he left her with Kelby. It was in the way he had walked past her on the way to the Mess Hall, when they were working on the telepresence unit. There was something he needed that she hadn't provided. Something she'd done that had, in human parlance, 'pushed him away'.
She hadn't known it was possible to feel the loss of someone so wholly, when they hadn't even gone yet.
But he had gone, in some indefinable sense.
Trip was transferring from Enterprise, but he had already quit her.
"Commander, are you all right?"
T'Pol started, and stared at the face of the young Lieutenant. It wore human concern.
"I'm fine, Lieutenant." But that was a lie. Did he suspect that? If so, would he know the reason for it?
If he did, he gave no indication of it, something for which T'Pol was most illogically thankful. He referred to the PADD she'd brought him, and she focused on putting her attention only on this conversation, even though the weight of Trip's stiff turned back, and the obsidian shards of her pain, threatened to crush her and slice her to nothingness.
Damn it, it shouldn't be this hard to let go of her. Even after she told him she'd been thinking about 'transferring auxilliary power to the deflector array' when she thought she was going to die at Sphere 41.
She hadn't been thinking about him - not at all, even though he was sitting right there at her station.
Why the hell couldn't he just take the hint? Why did he cling to every morsel she let him lick off her pretty fingers, as though he was no different than Porthos begging for cheese?
He knelt on the warp casing, pretending he had urgent business to take care of up here, but the truth was he didn't trust himself near her. He could smell her so clearly, and he knew by the edge of mineral heat in her scent that she wanted something from him.
"Like a damned seesaw with her, and it always has been." Oh, hell. He hadn't meant to say anything out loud; too big a risk that she'd hear it, even from this far away. Had to remember her damned Vulcan ears. And he didn't want her to have a clue how hard it was to keep avoiding her.
He just couldn't do this anymore. Every time they got close, she shut him out. Maybe she didn't know any other way to be, but his head and heart were all messed up from bashing over and over against that Vulcan wall of hers. Maybe he could take that for himself, but now that it had started affecting his work...
Phlox was right. No one had ever figured out how to have a romantic relationship with a coworker and not have all kinds of complications, let alone an inter-species romantic relationship with a damned Vulcan who had no clue how to date, wasn't ever going to tell him whether all she wanted him for was sex or if she might actually have something that might be called feelings for him, and who thought about diverting auxilliary power to the deflector array when her life was in danger.
Not to mention sticking her damned head in places that could get her killed, without even a thought for what the hell her dying would do to him.
Well, he was done. Even though it wrenched his heart out leaving her, leaving Jon, leaving Malcolm and Hoshi and Travis and Phlox. Leaving Enterprise; leaving the engines in the hands of someone else.
Even now, he had to fight himself not to turn around and go to her. He swore he could feel her watching him. She'd come to his door six times now. There were two dozen unopened messages from her in his inbox. She almost seemed to be stalking him, now that he'd finally decided that he was done with her.
Why the hell was she doing this?
She'd been absolutely clear. She didn't have time for him. She needed to study her damned Kir'Shara; needed to learn what it meant to be a Vulcan – like she hadn't been one her whole life. Why the hell did she need an ancient book to tell her?
Well, she could have her Kir'Shara. She could be the perfect damned Vulcan. But she couldn't have him.
He didn't care anymore.
So why the hell was he crying?