The End of Everything

By Thalia Drogna

Disclaimer: Enterprise doesn't belong to me, if it did then I wouldn't have cancelled it after only four series.

Rating: PG-13

Archive: yes, just ask first.

Spoilers: United, The Aenar and most of Season Three.

AN: Sequel to Contamination. Set after United and during The Aenar. More of Trip's thoughts on his relationship with T'Pol.

Oh simple thing where have you gone
I'm getting old and I need something to rely on
So tell me when you're gonna let me in
I'm getting tired and I need somewhere to begin

And if you have a minute why don't we go
Talk about it somewhere only we know?
This could be the end of everything.

Somewhere Only We Know, Keane

Lieutenant Reed arrived at sick bay to find Trip asleep. Reed wasn't surprised, Trip had only been moved out of Decon the day before and was still suffering from a severe case of radiation poisoning. The Romulans had tried to kill him and he was actually lucky to be alive. Reed sat down beside his friend to wait for him to wake up.

Trip stirred and opened his eyes, stretching as he did so. He blinked and noticed Malcolm beside him.

"Hi," said Trip, sleepily. "You been here long?"

"Just arrived," said Reed. "How are you feeling?"

"Well on the good side I'm not puking my guts up every half hour," said Trip. "On the bad side, Phlox is still treating me like his own private blood bank, and the anti-radiation meds keep sending me to sleep."

"You sure it isn't just that you're worn out after everything that you've been through? You've had a rough few days," said Reed.

"Yeah, I feel like I've been put through the wringer," said Trip. "What's been going on while I've been out of it?"

"Not much so far. The Tellarite ambassador has gone back to his home world and the Vulcans left a few days ago. There was a lot of boring talk about future co-operation should this marauder ever pose a threat again, but whether they meant it is another matter. Shran's decided to stay around to help us track it down."

"How's his antenna doing?" asked Trip, with a smirk.

"It's a small stump at the moment and his sense of balance is completely thrown without it," said Reed.

"Seems kinda weird that losing an antenna would cause so much trouble," said Trip.

"I guess Andorian antennae are like our inner ears, they tell them whether they're upright or not. I can tell you've never had an inner ear infection," said Reed. "Anyway Phlox says it will grow back over about six months."

"Did T'Pol make any progress with the data that we collected on the ship?" asked Trip.

"Actually the Captain has called a meeting for tomorrow to discuss our plan of action," said Reed.

"No one told me," said Trip, indignantly.

"You're still on sick leave," said Reed.

"But Phlox said I could get out of sick bay tomorrow," said Trip.

"To rest in your quarters, not go back to work. I don't think you realise just how close to dying you came. If we hadn't got out of that side chamber when we did then I might not be talking to you now. Phlox said another fifty rads…"

"Yeah, yeah. Another brush with death to add to my list," said Trip. "I'm not letting that ship get away and if that means that I go back to work then I'll do it. Besides going to a meeting isn't exactly strenuous, is it?"

Reed would have argued further, but he knew better than to try to talk Trip out of something that he'd already decided he needed to do. What harm could going to a meeting do?

Trip sat nursing his coffee. He tried to remember why he'd been so enthusiastic about coming to this meeting. He still felt sick and Phlox hadn't exactly been thrilled about releasing him from sickbay. To cap it off the one person that he'd been trying to avoid now sat at the head of the table describing her research. She hadn't come to see him once while he'd been in sickbay and that had hurt. Her mumbled protestations about her workload prior to the meeting hadn't fooled Trip, he thought he knew why she'd stayed away. He just needed to be sure now.

"The drone is being operated by a telepresence unit," said T'Pol.

The meeting snapped into perspective and Trip was wrestled into the present once more. T'Pol had Trip's full attention as she explained that there wasn't anyone on board the ship that Malcolm and he had been exploring. In fact by the end of it he was angry. Malcolm and he had risked their lives to try to find the people who were responsible for the drone and come up with nothing, now T'Pol was telling them that there had been no one to find.

"And the people running it are back on their home world, safe and sound. It doesn't seem fair," said Trip. He could barely get the words out. It really didn't seem fair. They'd been sitting at home watching him and Malcolm crawl over their ship, without endangering themselves even a bit. Trip stared into his coffee and wondered if he could be any more angry at the Romulans.

T'Pol was saying that she could produce another telepresence unit. Which meant that Trip's help would be needed and there went his week's sick leave, like Phlox had ordered. He could see the twelve hour shifts looming in his future. And a lot of time spent with T'Pol. He wasn't quite sure how he felt about that at the moment. Maybe this was his chance to discuss some things with her, get everything out in the open. He thought he knew where this relationship was headed, but perhaps he could confirm it.

Even now he knew he had feelings for the Vulcan. Real feelings. He did love her. He'd admitted that to himself some time ago but it was completely one sided. He'd been getting so many mixed messages from T'Pol that he hadn't known which way was up with her for a long time now. He'd slept with her, but then she'd told him it was an experiment. She'd invited him back to Vulcan to meet her family but then she'd married someone else. Finally, she had separated from her husband, only to tell Trip that she had no time for him. She had gone back to her Vulcan ideology of Surak's teachings. Found religion.

Trip just felt hollow. He hadn't meant to fall for her, and he certainly hadn't meant to fall for her so hard, but it had happened. Now he was wandering around like a love sick teenager. Pining after something that he could never have. He'd had a lot of time to think while he lay recovering from the radiation sickness and he'd come to the conclusion that this couldn't continue, one way or another he had to resolve this thing between T'Pol and himself. The only problem was that T'Pol didn't want to talk. He'd tried to explain to her that he needed to clear things up between them but T'Pol didn't seem to think that they had anything to talk about.

There were a few incidents that gave him the kick he finally needed to realise that his relationship with T'Pol was going nowhere fast.

First of all there had been the telepresence chair discussion. He felt dizzy as he got up a bit too quickly and T'Pol had showed concern, telling him that Phlox had said he shouldn't be back on duty. He knew he shouldn't be on duty. Hell, if Phlox had his way he would still have been in sickbay, resting under sedation while the remaining radiation left his body. Phlox was still insisting on regular blood tests to monitor the progress of the radiation poisoning, at least it was only once a day now. Trip had never been one to lie around doing nothing though so having an excuse to ignore the doctor's recommendations was his idea of a "get out of jail free" card. Of course he was paying for it, but then he'd expected that too.

What he hadn't expected was for him to bare his heart to T'Pol and for her to tell him that the only thing she'd thought about when death threatened was whether to transfer power to the deflector or not. It made him feel a complete fool for ever believing that she'd loved him. Maybe she never had. He knew what he'd thought about as the radiation increased and signalled his impending death. He'd thought about T'Pol, her lips, her body, her quick wit that she let so few people see. He'd wished he could see her one last time and just tell her that he loved her.

Later T'Pol had stopped him in the corridor to tell him that he was letting his emotions interfere with his work. He knew he wasn't. He would never let anything interfere with his work. If Malcolm had been the one who had proposed testing the telepresence chair then he would have said the same thing. He was the one who had put the damn thing together and should be the one to test his work. He could have fooled himself into believing that, if he hadn't know that it was a lie. He loved T'Pol and didn't want to see her hurt, ever. It was something dangerous that they were playing with here and he would never have wanted anyone he loved to be the test subject, but he had no choice. T'Pol was stubborn and, as first officer, technically outranked him. Her arguments were also annoyingly logical which didn't help his case.

The final straw was Phlox lecturing him on unrequited love being universal and having no cure. It was Phlox's fault! He'd been the one who had suggested neuropressure. Protestations about Trip having trouble sleeping didn't go over well, he was sure that Phlox had known what he was doing. It just made it all the more clear to Trip that he had to find some way to move on. T'Pol had ignored his worried looks and done her own thing as always. She knew how he felt and had chosen not to reciprocate. Trip respected her need to take time to look at her Vulcan heritage but he'd given her time and he was tired of waiting. At every turn she made it obvious that he wasn't important to her. Duty came first with T'Pol and it looked as if it always would.

He found himself performing tasks twice and going over everything again and again because he knew his concentration just wasn't where it was supposed to be at the moment. The amount of work that he did halved.

It was when he was taking apart the telepresence chair to give Phlox back his sickbay that he found a mistake. It was his mistake. No one else had worked on this system. He double checked just to be sure but, no, it really was there and he hadn't seen it. Ten percent! A ten percent phase variance and he hadn't caught it. It could have caused the problems that they had and he hadn't even thought to perform a diagnostic. If this carried on then he was going to kill someone. It wasn't safe for him to be around T'Pol any longer if this was the kind of thing that happened. He no longer had the luxury of time to think about things.

He picked up the padd and wrote a scathing report of his own performance. He read it through once, before forwarding it to the Captain and waiting for the inevitable summons for a reprimand. As he waited he knew he had to leave Enterprise, get away from the source of all his pain. She was eating away at him and if he let her then over time there would be nothing left of him.

He had the whole speech planned out but when it came to it, all he could do was mutter his request for a transfer. His voice suddenly had lost all it's brash boldness and he was left with a whisper. He'd expected the Captain to shout at him, condemn him for the terrible mistake that he'd made, but that didn't happen. Archer had checked with Phlox. Like the professional that he was, he wasn't going to reprimanded one of his men for a mistake that wasn't really as serious as Trip had portrayed. Archer wasn't going to let his friend martyr himself or get a permanent reprimand on his record for a mistake which no one else would have spotted. Archer recognised Trip's report for the self-condemnation that it was.

Trip had been approached by the Columbia at least twice to leave Enterprise and become their Chief Engineer. He didn't have any wish to leave at that point, his friends were on Enterprise and it was home. He hadn't given the post a second thought until recently, then the last request had come through a couple of weeks ago, just before his away mission to the drone. This time he hadn't replied immediately to say he wasn't interested, it had sat in his in box, waiting to be dealt with and looking at him. He had been surprised that he hadn't yet turned it down, but something had stopped him from dismissing the transfer so easily this time.

He uttered the words without any enthusiasm, knowing how his friend would take them. This had always been the two of them together, against the universe. Even when they'd had their problems, Trip had known that they would work them through and never contemplated leaving. Now, it was like Trip was insulting his Captain personally. But his position was untenable. He couldn't continue to see T'Pol every day, knowing that he would never be with her. Knowing that she didn't love him but he had given her his heart. Space was the only way he had of lessening the pain and space was at a premium on Enterprise.

People thought that Trip was a ladies man. In fact that was mostly incorrect, his honourable nature had stopped him more than once. He liked to flirt and be friendly, but he'd only ever had three serious relationships in his entire life. When he committed to someone, that was it. As far as he was concerned you gave yourself to one person exclusively. If he gave his body to a person then they also got his soul, which was what had happened with T'Pol. He had tried to brush their encounter off as a one night stand, but it wasn't and he couldn't fool himself into believing that it had been. It had never been like this with anyone else, he'd got over them all, eventually. T'Pol was special and that was why everything was so hard now. He couldn't believe that she didn't feel the same way.

But apparently she didn't feel the same way. So he mumbled his way through some half-hearted answers to the Captain's questions and then left as quickly as possible. He'd known the Captain's plan as he got down the decanter and a couple of glasses - talk it out with Trip over a glass of scotch, find out what's really bothering him, and he'd known that he couldn't do that at the moment. Everything was going to hell. He was leaving a ship that he loved and the look on the Captain's face told him that he felt hurt and didn't understand why. The Captain would approve his request for transfer because he knew Trip didn't want to stay, and Archer wouldn't want Trip to be unhappy.

He couldn't tell Archer the real reason behind the transfer request. Trip was very private about his personal life and he didn't want people finding out that he was pining for the Science Officer. He was sure that people would laugh at him behind his back for ever believing that he could have a relationship with a Vulcan. It was just downright embarrassing having to explain to your superior that you wanted to leave because you'd fallen in love with the First Officer and couldn't get past it. Malcolm was the only one who knew the truth, although there were enough rumours floating around that he was sure a few people would guess. He didn't want to get T'Pol into trouble either and he was sure that Archer wouldn't be pleased if he ever found out what had been going on.

After Trip left the Captain's quarters he headed down to Engineering and worked a straight twenty-four hours. It was only because Phlox tracked him down and told him to rest that he stopped then. It didn't make him feel any better, but it did tire him out so that he could sleep when he finally collapsed on his bunk. Phlox had lectured him on mistreating his weakened body but Trip couldn't have cared less at that point.

"You know you're an idiot," said Malcolm as he sat playing Go with Trip after he'd recovered from his twenty-four hour shift.

"Yes," replied Trip, without even looking up at his friend. That was the way this game was going, Malcolm would talk and Trip would give monosyllabic answers. Trip was also losing which was very unusual for him as the recognised Go master on Enterprise.

"Did you even stop to think that you have a lot of friends on board who are going to miss you," said Malcolm.

"Yes," replied Trip.

"Is that all you're going to say?"

"Hess has got a going away party planned for me next week in the mass hall," supplied Trip.

"I'm aware of that," replied Malcolm, as he placed another counter on the board. "What I want to know is why you're letting T'Pol drive you away from all the other good things that Enterprise has to offer?"

"Because I've got no choice," said Trip. He placed his black counter to secure an area of territory.

"There is always a choice. When people say they have no choice, they usually mean that they don't like the choice that they've made or they couldn't be bothered to work out what the other choices were," said Malcolm.

"I know what my other choices were and believe me this was the best of them," replied Trip. "I was getting complacent here anyway. I know the engine and all her little foibles like the back of my hand, it's time I shook things up a bit."

"But only a couple of weeks ago you were talking about high warp tests and squeezing another point five out of the engine," said Reed.

"I can do all that just as well on Columbia and they need someone with experience," said Trip.

"That's all a front and we both know it," said Reed. "You love this ship."

"The problem isn't that I love the ship," mumbled Trip.

"The Captain came and asked me if I knew why you wanted to leave," said Reed.

Trip's head snapped up. "What did you say?"

"I told him that you hadn't confided in me why you wanted the transfer. Which is true. I'm just making educated guesses as to why you want to leave, but I'm fairly certain they're on the money."

Trip sighed. "Yeah, they are."

"Throwing yourself into your work won't make your problems go away. What you did was stupid. You're still recovering from the radiation sickness," said Reed.

"It may be stupid but it makes the time go by faster," said Trip. "T'Pol told me that she has no time for me, so now I have no time for her."

"That's not the way to handle this and neither is running away," said Reed.

"With respect, Malcolm, I am not going to listen to relationship advice from the man who wrote to half the girls in San Francisco about how they'd got him all wrong," said Trip. "And I'm not running away, I just know when to cut my losses."

"I think you're making a mistake," said Reed.

"You can't run a ship with the Chief Engineer and First Officer arguing all the time," replied Trip.

"Why not? We did before," retorted Reed.

"It wasn't the same. Just drop it, okay?"

"Fine," said Reed. But it wasn't and he wasn't sure it would ever be fine again if Trip left. Trip was his friend, his best friend on the crew and if he left, he wasn't sure what he'd do. Probably get into a lot less trouble without his self-proclaimed partner in crime, but something in his life would be missing. "You know you called out for her while you were delirious," said Reed.

Trip looked up again and straight into Reed's piercing stare. "That's the problem, Malcolm, I called out and she never came."